LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS / University Heights City Council meeting
SEPTEMBER 5, 2023 - regular meeting
- Mayor’s report
- Staff reports
- Council actions
Present were Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan, Vice Mayor Michelle Weiss, and Council Members Christopher Cooney, Brian J. King, Threse Marshall, John P. Rach, Sheri Sax, and Win Weizer. Also present were Kelly Thomas, clerk of council; Luke McConville, law director; and Dennis Kennedy, finance director. The meeting ran a little over three hours.
In July, the mayor sent council a memo regarding the intention of Joe Ciuni of GPD Group to terminate their contract and professional services at the end of 2023. He will not attend meetings going forward and will forgo the stipend associated with meeting attendance. Mr. Ciuni had mentioned possible retirement, but two things hastened his resignation. First an ordinance passed in February substantially changed his role from providing to managing engineering services. The second was disrespectful and unprofessional treatment of Mr Ciuni and GPD by council members during meetings and on projects. No engineers at GPD are interested in replacing Mr Ciuni‘s position with University Heights. This ends a 45-year relationship between GPD and University Heights. The city will issue an RFP for a new city engineer. The mayor thanked Mr Ciuni and GPD for their service to University Heights.
The Waterstone Medical Building failed a building inspection due to its run down condition. As the owner wrote “take me to court” on the violation report instead of agreeing to work with the city to correct items identified, the issue was referred to the city prosecutor who issued a criminal complaint against the owner. He was found to be responsible for 122 citations, fined $122,000, and could face up to 18 months in jail. Jail time has been waived pending completion of the violations within a reasonable timeframe and to the satisfaction of the city.
The former Wiley middle school building failed seven state fire codes and 18 state building codes. It has been closed to any outside persons until these are resolved. After some work, the building passed subsequent inspections by the fire and building departments. Use of the building awaits issuance of a new occupancy permit.
The mayor thanked first responders and the service department for their work during and after the August 24-25 storm.
Finance Director Dennis Kennedy said the second half property tax collection was completed over the summer. There will be no tax increase for 2024.
Law Director Luke McConville said the bankruptcy and litigation hearing regarding University Square was scheduled for Sept. 5 to establish the timeframe for auction of the land parcels. The debtors filed a continuance, which was granted, to continue negotiations with Target and Macy’s. A new hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 12.
Service Director Allen Pennington said the August 24-25 storm required overtime to complete cleanup throughout the city. The department also did an extra food collection for those residents without power.
Economic Development Director Susan Drucker provided an update of businesses that have expanded and renovated properties over the summer. Knez Townhome development will plan open houses once initial units are completed.
Council authorized, on emergency, a managed services agreement with Starfish Computer Corporation. Council also approved emergency IT service from Starfish Computer through Sept. 5, 2023, in an amount not to exceed $1,252.50.
Council approved, on emergency, several resolutions for special assessments for tax year 2023 including for: 1) the Core Retail Parcel in the University Square Development, in the amount of $4 million; (2) construction, maintenance, repair, and cleaning of the city’s sanitary sewer system; 2) street lighting costs on designated properties at the rate of eighty cents per frontage foot; 3) planting, maintaining, and removing trees at a rate of seventy cents per frontage foot; 4) providing city services in nuisance conditions (lawn care) at various locations throughout the city. In a discussion regarding street lighting, it was noted that First Energy is changing street lighting to more efficient LED bulbs as lights are replaced.
On emergency, council amended appropriations over the 2023 fiscal year. This includes some increases for specific projects and events that came up since the approval of the budget.
Council approved a change order, not to exceed $8,000, for the 2023 Road Program with C.A. Agresta Construction to cover tree damage on Ashurst road in the August 24-25 storm.
Council approved, on emergency, extending the jail contract with the Solon Police Department for three years at the standing rate.
Council approved, on emergency, a contract, at a cost of $28,500, from SCS Engineers for consulting services to develop a plan to implement loose recycling. The approval was contingent on language to confirm which sections of the city are to be reviewed and which days the consultants will be on site. Council discussed the two citizen surveys, what the results really meant, and what the residents really want. Mr. Clooney voted no without explanation.
The next council meeting will be Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. At a Sept. 19 Committee of the Whole meeting the board of elections will speak on Rank Choice Voting.
LWV observer: Tanis Swan
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