University Heights City Council meeting highlights 12-5-2022
DECEMBER 5, 2022, regular meeting
- Staff reports
- Mayor’s report
- Council member reports
- Food bank presentation
- Council actions
- Mayor and council comments
Present were Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan, Vice Mayor Michelle Weiss, and Council Members Barbara Blankfeld, Christopher Cooney, Justin Gould, Brian J. King, John P. Rach, and Sheri Sax. Also present were Kelly Thomas, clerk of council; Mike Cicero, asst. law director; and Dennis Kennedy, finance director. The meeting ran for a little over two hours.
The finance department reported on funds in hand, collected funds, projected collections, and expended and unexpended funds. Final budget adjustments will be ready for the next meeting as is traditional, as the final numbers have to be filed with the county. Vice-Mayor Weiss confirmed that $10,000 of the city’s ARPA funds have been earmarked for the Kosher Food Bank.
Police Chief Dustin Rogers stated that the department is trying to resolve an ongoing Facebook account problem and is planning a “Shop with a Cop” event this year.
Fire Chief Robert Perko said the house fire on Groveland was managed with quick response. The residents, two adults and eight children, were safe likely due to the working smoke detectors in the house. He said the fire department will assess any home in the city and provide both carbon monoxide detectors and fire detectors.
The service department said that tree pruning has begun, and the third pass of leaf pick-up is almost complete. Some citizens are complaining their leaves have not been picked up and claiming that trash removal takes precedence over leaf pick-up. The service department has two full-time and three part-time positions open.
Mayor Brennan reported that Thursday Dec. 1, John Carroll University (JCU) presented a three phase plan to the planning commission including the new fieldhouse as phase I. Phase II involves the property west of the main entrance to JCU and east of the BP station on Warrensville including the station and the parking lot behind it. JCU proposes a five-story mixed use commercial and residential building on the site. Tenants of the existing plaza that straddles Shaker Heights would be offered space in the new mixed use building; CVS has already accepted the offer. Upon completion of phase II, phase III would commence with the razing of the existing plaza and building a matching five-story mixed use commercial and residential building on that site. A parking garage is part of the plans. Mayor Brennan pointed out that JCU is the largest employer in University Heights and gives the city its name.
Mayor Brennan reported that the sustainability page of the city’s website has been updated. On Nov. 18, 2022, he met with proposed IT vendors.
The annual sock drive is ongoing. It includes donations of new socks, hats, and gloves, which will be distributed through the Lutheran ministry’s men’s shelter. All sizes are accepted.
Last week he attended the joint meeting of the Cleveland Heights and University Heights city councils, the CHUH library board and the CHUH board of education. The next joint meeting is set for March 15, 2023.
Finally, Mayor Brennan reported that the ribbon cutting for the new Heights Beverage at the former Midas Store will occur on Thursday Dec. 8, 2022, at 9 a.m.
Council member reports
Vice Mayor Weiss, who chairs the finance committee, reported that the final committee meeting will occur Dec. 8. The joint facilities and infrastructure committees will reconvene in January.
Food bank presentation
The mayor and council invited to the meeting Kimberly LoVano, director of advocacy and public education for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, who gave a presentation regarding the work of the food bank in this time of increased costs, decreased donations, and increased demand. She commented that in 2022, 1800 people in University Heights went to the food bank for emergency food access, up from less than 1300 pre-pandemic. Mayor Brennan thanked her for the presentation and the food bank for its work. He noted that, on a unanimous decision from council, the City of University Heights was awarding $10,000 of its ARPA funds to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
An ordinance to authorize a change in the office of the city engineer from Joe Ciuni to GPD Group was referred to committee for review.
Council approved the annual transfer of funds to the CIC. (Community Investment Corporation) on second reading and with Mr. Cooney and Mr. King voting no. Mayor Brennan spoke against the ordinance stating his administration would not support the transfer until CIC is restructured to work only on real estate as was intended when it was created. The current account for the CIC contains over $59,000 with one encumbrance for legal bills and a statement for taxes of $1,200. Asserting that no transfer is needed, the mayor said he would veto this legislation. Mr. Gould commented that despite Mayor Brennan’s demand for restructuring, his administration has not presented any plan for such action.
There was a first reading of legislation proposed to cover appropriations for the first quarter of 2023 should the budget not be passed by the end of 2022. As requested by council, the administration proposed a balanced budget and without mention of trash removal in Oct. 2022. Temporary appropriations such as this have been allowed since 2014. Vice Mayor Weiss, who chairs the finance committee, said she expects the budget to be presented for approval at the next meeting.
Council adopted legislation to purchase the property at 2308 Warrensville Rd, titled to Yeshivath Adath B’nai Israel, for the purpose of expanding municipal facilities. Assistant Law Director Mike Cicero advised this was the next step in the eminent domain process. The law department will be preparing an action for eminent domain within two weeks, as the owner has rejected the city’s offer to purchase the property.
Council accepted the award of an ARPA first responders grant based on the safety committee’s recommendation. This grant for $204,600 will go to physical and mental fitness and rehabilitation for the University Heights Fire Department.
Council approved expenditure of $38,550 for firefighter turnout gear based on the safety committee’s recommendation.
Council approved the expenditure for a third firefighter CPR machine for $18,388 on the safety committee’s recommendation. The machine can maintain chest compressions during an emergency call while first responder personnel are physically moving an individual into the ambulance. The city has two machines in its ambulances. This machine will be a back-up and will also be used as equipment on the ladder truck.
Council approved expenditure of $18, 645 for a police CAD (computer aided dispatch) and RMS (record management system) system for 2023.
Council authorized an agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) for work at Washington Blvd. and Silsby Rd. NEORSD will fund the full cost of the project.
Mayor and council comments
Vice Mayor Weiss initiated a discussion to return future meetings to the council chamber in city hall. She said it was preferable for council to conduct its business in its own space, especially as the chairlift making the chamber accessible has been certified. She also provided that anyone who could not physically access the chamber could participate remotely from the city hall annex using the portable equipment that was purchased during the pandemic. Mayor Brennan advised that while the chairlift was certified, it did not work consistently. He believed the law director needed to be involved to give an opinion on whether participation from the annex would meet all requirements. He further commented that nothing about the chairlift that had caused them to leave council chambers to begin with had changed. Mr. Cicero commented that the law department would be able to report on issues of access and potential liability should the chairlift malfunction by the next meeting. This matter will be added to the next meeting’s agenda.
Mr. Rach stated that the first meeting of the zoning code advisory committee was held on behalf of the economic development committee.
Mr. Gould confirmed that the safety committee recommended the expenditures previously voted on.
The next council meeting will be Dec. 19, 2022, 7 p.m. at Wiley School.
LWV Observer: Marilyn Singer.
Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website at: https://www.universityheights.com/council/
Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of University Heights” YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA82j5L_CkQxK9cXP_qrXvw/videos