University Heights City Council meeting 1-17-23
JANUARY 17, 2023, regular meeting
- Public comments
- Mayor’s report
- Council actions
- Staff reports
- Committee reports
Present were Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan, Vice Mayor Michelle Weiss, and Council Members Barbara Blankfeld, Justin Gould, Brian J. King, and Sheri Sax. Not present were Christopher Cooney and John P. Rach. Also present were Clerk of Council Kelly Thomas, Asst. Law Director Michael Cicero, and City Engineer Joseph Ciuni. The meeting ran for one and three quarter hours.
John Pucella, assistant service director of University Heights, expressed his personal views on the recycling issue currently dividing the administration and council. He said that, while the current system need improvement, council’s proposal for backyard pickup of loose (instead of the current blue bags) recyclables in backyards is seriously flawed. The city has neither the equipment nor the personnel to adopt this proposal, which was based on council’s interpretation of survey results. He said there was insufficient personnel even if the city was able to fill two currently vacant positions. Also, for council’s plan, the city would need two additional trucks. Currently, trucks are out from 7:30 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. to pick up refuse, recyclables, and leaves. This includes two-hour round trip travel time to a recycling transfer facility in Twinsburg, a one and one-half round trip to the Glenwillow dump, and another two-hour round trip to Kurtz Brothers to dump yard waste for composting. Furthermore, road salt comes from an outside source and requires truck time. Collection of loose recyclables from backyards without additional people and equipment can’t be done without compromising other services such as snow removal, hazardous waste collection, work on the pool, leaf collection, road work, preparation for community events, and repair of city vehicles. Council Member Sherri Sax, who chaired the meeting that resulted in council’s backyard pickup proposal, said that this is what the community wants.
Mayor Brennan reported on the new Wellness Center that opened at Heights High in conjunction with MetroHealth. The new center provides urgent care and general service to students, their families, and staff. It is funded through ARPA and the governor’s emergency relief fund.
Mayor Brennan reported the deaths of Steven Ciuni on Jan. 4 and Judge K.J. Montgomery on Jan. 17. Mr. Ciuni had been the city engineer from 1973-1990. Judge Montgomery had served in the Shaker Heights Municipal Court, which also serves University Heights, from 1991 until Aug. 2021 when she resigned.
Council heard a presentation by Laura Kleinman of Senior Transportation Connection about the proposed contract to continue services for the city’s elderly. This non-profit service has existed for 18 years and has clients throughout the county. Its customers are municipalities who pay the fares for the residents, typically for medical and personal travel. Its 60 employees provide door-to-door service with its 54 all-accessible, eight-to ten passenger vans. In 2019, it provided 700 trips for 30 University Heights residents. In 2022 that number decreased to 400 trips for fewer residents, but numbers are starting to recover. The contract price has increased due to increased fuel, labor, and insurance costs. Ms. Sax asked for performance logs. Mr. Gould requested information about additional fees. Ms. Kleinman noted an error in the contract before council so a decision on the contract was tabled until the final contract could be reviewed.
Council approved the planning commission’s recommendations for the new John Carroll University Athletic, Wellness and Event Center. This action had been tabled in November for questions regarding safety requirements. Those questions have been resolved upon consultation with the University Heights police and fire departments. Changes made to the last site plan include sidewalk widening, access to a designated fire lane, and retention of the traffic signal on Belvoir Boulevard. John Carroll is hosting community events on Feb. 1 and Feb. 8 for construction at Fairmount Circle in phases two and three of their proposed projects.
The law department will be filing an eminent domain action this week for the property next to city hall. It is also pursuing a housing prosecution against the Cedar Taylor garage, which must be brought up to code within six months. The owner of a house on Groveland has pleaded guilty to 50 of 350 housing violations with a fine of $50,000 and six months to bring the house up to code.
The fire department under Captain Doug Robinson completed a three-week regional training for nine different departments for 350 people.
The service department is continuing tree pruning and all of the leaves have been removed from the Purvis Park parking lot.
Economic Development. The question of transferring the city engineer position to a corporation from a single individual is still under discussion and has been referred to the building subcommittee. Mr. Ciuni’s contract runs until Dec. 31, 2023 so there is time to enter into a competitive process.
Service and Utilities. At their Jan. 4 meeting, the committee made recommendations after review of the two trash pickup surveys. They recommend maintaining the current side door pickup, improving recycling, and maintaining the current staffing. They look to do away with blue bags and modernizing based on the will of the community. They will work with the law director as needed.
LWV Observer: Marilyn J. 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