University Heights City Council meeting

FEBRUARY 21, 2023, regular meeting


  • Agenda changes
  • Mayor’s report
  • Recycling ordinance
  • Other council action
  • City council reports
  • Staff reports
  • Committee reports


Present were Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan, Vice Mayor Michelle Weiss, and Council Members Christopher Cooney, Justin Gould, Brian J. King, John P. Rach, and Sheri Sax. Ms. Blankfeld was excused early. Also present were Kelly Thomas, clerk of council; Luke McConville, law director; Dennis Kennedy, finance director; and Joseph Ciuni, city engineer. The meeting ran a little less under one and one half hours.

Agenda changes

At the request of Mayor Brennan, council removed the ordinance establishing the compensation of the vice-mayor and members of council, as it had not been circulated prior to the meeting. 

Ms. Sax moved, without explanation, to place the recycling ordinance immediately after the mayor’s report. The mayor said taking this out of order was inappropriate as someone was present prepared to speak on the item. Nevertheless, council approved the move, with Mr. Cooney and Mr. King voting no.

Mayor’s report

Mayor Brennan incorporated the Feb. 15, 2023 State of the City report into the record.

Recycling ordinance

Council passed the ordinance for loose recycling services after voting to close a lengthy discussion and suspend the rules in order to pass it on first reading. Mr. Cooney and Mr. King voted nay on the procedural motions and on the ordinance. After this vote, Ms. Blankfeld was excused from the meeting. 

Although the subject of much prior council discussion, this was on the agenda as a first reading. Ms. Sax presented some background and clarification of work done since the 2019 solid waste survey. She said that the December 2022 data show little cost difference in moving to loose recycling when staffing is unchanged. A transition of equipment to increase the amount of recycling will be needed. Residents can opt in to recycle, which will require the administration to have a plan to educate citizens to avoid contamination of recyclables. The city will provide bins. The service director will decide bin size and how the service department will lift them. The city will need to maintain the opt-in list and store the bins it purchases. The service department will track the bins and opt-in residents.

Service Director Jeffrey Pokorny spoke in opposition. He noted that John Puchella, associate service director, had previously addressed council opposing this ordinance, which will require two more trucks and two more people to accomplish. The prior solid waste study did not just address recycling, but all refuse pick-up and the conclusion was that automation with curb side pick-up was the only way to be cost-efficient. As an unfunded mandate, the ordinance will cause other services to suffer and affect city responsiveness. Responding to a question from Mr. Cooney, Mr. Pokorny noted that the lack of additional trucks and personnel would require the city to have a transfer station (temporary waste site), but University Heights has no place for a transfer station. The service department has 20 unionized staff members, which include 17 drivers when fully staffed. Currently two full-time positions are not filled. When two more are added to meet the requirements of the ordinance, four positions will be open. The proposed ordinance requires a recycling truck to be on each route, but has no rules about the weight in the bins. The service department staff supports a curb-side automated plan.

Mr. Gould noted that, two budgets ago, council was disinclined to give two more people to the service department for curb-side pick-up. In November 2021, council passed a resolution that the method of trash collection would stay the same. He maintained that with this ordinance Council is moving off its past position of maintaining the status quo and changing to bins for loose recycling.

Mr. McConville said that council could adopt this on first reading by approving a motion to present it on emergency and suspend the rules.

Mr. King approved loose recycling as a goal but maintained that backyard pickup was not fiscally responsible. Mr. Pokorny also supported moving toward automation and away from manual collection. Mr. Rach said council was honoring the will of the people. Mr. Cooney expressed concern that adding two positions as required by this ordinance would cause even more service department positions to be unfilled. He also said there could be a potential $500,000 cost difference between this ordinance and curbside pickup. 

Ms. Weiss said that council has asked the administration for a plan to reduce costs. Ms. Sax said her figures were taken from payroll and the budget and that Mr. Pokorny had deliberately not responded to her request for real numbers.

Mayor Brennan maintained that this ordinance is contrary to expert reports, administration policy, and surveys and should not be passed. He said that council is responsible for funding, but this ordinance does not address how it will be funded.

Other council action

Council authorized the contract with Senior Transportation Services after a representative of the service explained the fuel escalator in the proposed contract. 

On Mr. Kennedy’s recommendation, council approved, with Mr. Sax voting nay, the engagement of Stefanik Iosue & Associates as labor counsel for 2023. There are ongoing negotiations with the service, fire, and police unions and the fees are at a favorable rate.

Council approved on emergency a series of transfers from the general fund as part of the 2023 budget. 

Council approved on emergency, with Mr. Rach abstaining, an ordinance to increase remuneration for the members of the Architectural Review Board. Mr. McConville noted that the legislation made the remuneration consistent with that of other committees. 

City council reports

Vice-Mayor Weiss reported that the Committee of the Whole discussed the issue of professional services at a meeting the previous week and will present RFQs (request for qualifications) for Jan. 1, 2024 at the next meeting.

Staff reports

Finance Director Kennedy reported that the 2022 audit has begun and the city received payment from the county for Cedar Road resurfacing. 

The fire department had received inquiries regarding hydrants and water mains on Warrensville Center Road and Saybrook Road and said these were Cleveland Water projects.

Mr. Pokorny noted that, as is traditional, the service department will again be accepting hazardous household waste and items for paper shredding on the Friday and Saturday before the change to Daylight Savings Time, i.e., March 10 and March 11.

Mr. Ciuni said that Cleveland Water will be doing water work on Northcliffe and one block of Saybrook.

Committee reports

The Community Outreach Committee will meet soon regarding bids for IT services.

The Finance Committee had a conversation with Mr. Kennedy to move cash to get more interest.

The Recreation Committee will meet soon regarding the pool, summer concerts, and public art.

The Committee of the Whole will meet within the next two weeks regarding facilities and infrastructure.

LWV Observer: Marilyn Singer.

Meeting packets, legislation, and other information can be found on the city website at:

Videos of council meetings can be viewed on the “City of University Heights” YouTube channel:

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Volume 16, Issue 4, Posted 9:58 AM, 04.02.2023