University Heights City Council meeting highlights

MARCH 4, 2024 - regular meeting

  • Public comment
  • Mayor’s report
  • Department reports
  • Council action
  • Committee reports

Present were Mayor Michael Dylan Brennan, Vice Mayor Michelle Weiss, and Council Members Christopher Cooney, Brian J. King, Threse Marshall, John P. Rach, and Win Weizer. Sheri Sax was excused. Also present were Kelly Thomas, clerk of council; Luke McConville, law director; and Dennis Kennedy, finance director. The meeting ran about two hours and 20 minutes.

Public comment

Several residents spoke about the last Finance Committee meeting’s discussion regarding the Juneteenth event budget. Council members had questioned the size of the budget compared to other events and, in particular, the $15,000 for security. The residents who spoke shared some common themes: while recognizing a people and its culture, it was a time for all to celebrate freedom and democracy; in just two years it has become a premiere event for the city (with Dollar Bank donating $10,000 due to its success); and it is a national holiday. Residents said it should not be merged or conflated with other holidays as suggested. They noted that questions regarding the need for security implied issues regarding the type of music or attendees at the event.

A resident sent an email regarding the upcoming St Patrick’s day and the need for coordination between John Carroll University and the city for safety and prevention of property damage and disorderly behavior.

Mayor’s report

Regarding the public comment about the Finance Committee meeting, the mayor said he strives to represent all parts of the community and responds as needed when national and local issues arise that impact people in our city. The security budget was needed due to the two-time Grammy award winning featured musical act and the number of people attending. The only incidents in last year’s celebration were individuals needing medical attention from sun exposure. Council members who may have made racist comments should consider how their statements sound. Racism should not exist on council. 

Ms. Weizer responded noting that at the Finance Committee meeting, she had questioned the security budget as compared to that at other events, because, due to this year’s budget process, they had numbers only with no backup explanations. 

Mr. King followed up to say that Black history is American history, and the event is and should continue to be big. 

Department reports

Finance Director Kennedy said he will not have February numbers until the next meeting.

Law Director McConville has invited legal counsel for the developer of University Square to the next council meeting in order to discuss the bankruptcy matter.

Fire Chief Robert Perko said next week is Ohio Severe Weather Awareness Week and emergency broadcasts and sirens will be tested. 

Service Director Allen Pennington announced the spring household hazardous waste collection and paper shred event for this weekend.

Council actions

On second reading and as an emergency measure, council approved the 2024 budget appropriations with an amendment on the Juneteenth line item. Council had little time to review the budget, as it was not received until mid-February. Several major costs were added including the purchase of the building next to City Hall, expenses for loose recycling, and police department cameras that are license plate readers to track cars going city to city. (These cameras are being used across the country and contribute to a reduction in crime.) 

Regarding the Juneteenth event budget, Director of Housing & Community Development Geoff Englebrecht, pointed out that the planning committee comprises residents, small business owners, and several city employees and is open to anyone who would like to join. The security budget is still in place because the committee is looking for nationally known performers. In addition to the $10,000 grant from Dollar Bank, they are looking at other sponsorships or grants. Ms. Weiss said the 2023 security budget was approved because the park was not designed to hold the anticipated number of attendees and security was hired to ensure emergency readiness. The increase in the 2023 budget during the planning process was a concern and was due to the need for additional porta-potties and security with increased attendance. Mr. Cooney noted that an increase in anticipated revenue for this year would be a reasonable offset to the increased expense. It is a marquee event that has already received outside funding. Mr. Rach commented in general regarding event committees working within established budgets. Council discussed the $25,000 expense for branding, which includes additional signs, possibly electronic signs at Purvis Park and City Hall to communicate updates and news.

Council approved the seeking of bids for 2024 General Yard Nuisance Abatement Project.

Council authorized a contract with LNE Group in the amount not to exceed $30, 000 for Federal and State Advocacy Support for the City of University Heights. 

Council accepted a NOACA CFI (Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency Charging and Fueling Infrastructure) grant award of $87,000, with a 20 percent match of $17,400, to install four electric vehicle charging ports at Walter Stinson park. 

Council passed an ordinance to correct a scrivener’s error relating to Codified Ordinance Chapter 1424.

Committee reports

The Building and Housing Committee discussed two main topics at its meeting earlier today: 1) updating flow charts to clarify for residents the point of sale inspection process, and 2) the Safe Build contract consolidation.

The Economic Development Committee will meet Thursday, March 7 and discuss the demolition of a house and construction of a new house on the same property and the demolition of the Boston Market building to create a parking lot.

The Safety Committee will discuss Juneteenth event safety at its next meeting on April 1.  

The Service and Utilities Committee will finalize the recycling program at its March 6 meeting.

LWV Observer: Tanis Swan.

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 17, Issue 4, Posted 12:09 PM, 03.28.2024