Finance Committee, July 15, 2019

August 16th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members Present: Council members Sean Malone (chair) and Earl Williams: citizen members Thomas Cicarella, Linda Lalley, Martin Kolb, Anthony Moore

Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Director of Finance Robert Baker, Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian, Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney, Director of Public Works Patricia Speese, Director of Communications and Marketing Julie Voyzey, Director of Planning Joyce Braverman, Neighborhood and Housing Specialist Colin Compton, Acting Interim Director of Finance Frank Brichacek

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Malone at 7:33 a.m.

Agenda—Committee actions:

  1. Mr. Malone presented the minutes of the June 17, 2019, meeting for approval. Ms. Lalley commented that the minutes did not appear to accurately represent the full discussion regarding the reserve balance for the city. Mr. Malone asked that the recording of the minutes be reviewed and the minutes corrected; the vote for approval was tabled until the next meeting.
  2. Ms. Voyzey presented a request that the Finance and Administration Committee recommend approval of an amended contract with shark&minnow to develop new strategic photo and video assets for use in a digital media campaign to attract and retain residents in the coming years. The amendment is in the amount of $39,567. The total contract would now be $204,567 and run from Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 31, 2020. Funding would come from the Communications and Marketing budgets for 2019 and 2020.

Earl Williams stressed that the videos he has seen have been wonderful and effective, showing how the city has progressed. Mr. Kolb asked if the video would include the schools and library. Ms. Voyzey replied that the schools and library were important reasons why people choose Shaker and stay in Shaker; the video emphasizes the whole community and all aspects for all ages. Anthony Moore asked if the city had gotten any feedback from the real estate professionals. Ms. Voyzey answered that realtors are directing inquiries to our web pages and social media sites. Mr. Moore wished to know if anyone beyond our region is being reached. Ms. Voyzey replied that airline magazines and billboards are being utilized for this promotion. Ms. Lalley asked what percentage of the target audience was being reached by social media versus Shaker Life magazine; she is concerned about the difference in publishing cost. Ms. Voyzey said that Shaker Life magazine is actually very inexpensive, since the publishing cost is supported by advertising. Mr. Malone asked what guided the development of video content. Ms. Voyzey answered that results of the Triad survey of the community was used to target the subject of videos, while neighborhood leaders were sources of ideas and subjects of videos. The Memorial Day video had been a particular success. The request was approved.

  • Ms. Voyzey presented a request that the Finance and Administration Committee recommend approval to enter into a three-year personal service contract with Rory O’Connor in the amount of $60,000 per year for Operating and Editorial Consulting Services for Shaker Life magazine for the period beginning Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2022.

Ms. Lalley remarked that she loved Shaker Life magazine but worried residents felt we may be wasting money versus digital media. Mr. Malone said that the cost of Shaker Life magazine was only around $3,000/month due to its advertising income. Tom Cicarella added that many residents may also assume Shaker Life magazine is a burden on the budget because they are not aware it is almost completely supported by advertising revenue. Earl Williams asked if we promoted Shaker Life beyond the community. Ms. Voyzey answered that there were only a handful of subscriptions but it provides a vehicle for promoting Shaker in businesses and professional offices in the region, the magazine is additionally downloadable and gets viewed by potential residents and businesses outside the region. The request was approved.

  • Director of Public Works Patricia Speese presented a request that the Finance and Administration Committee recommend that the City enter into a contract with Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for the resurfacing of Warrensville Center Road and that the funds be included in the 2020 capital budget for street resurfacing. The City of Shaker Heights has received Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) funding through their Provisional Transportation Asset Management Program for the federal Local Public Agency Project (LPA), resurfacing of Warrensville Center Road from Fairmount Blvd. to Farnsleigh Road. The estimated project cost is $2,625,115 which includes construction and construction administration / inspection; design fees are not included in the aforementioned project cost. The design fee is anticipated to be $120,000 based on similar projects. Per NOACA funding, ODOT’s cap is $1,648,000. The City of Shaker Heights is obligated to provide $977,115 for our share.

Sean Malone asked if this included the renovation of the bridge over the RTA tracks. Ms. Speese responded that the bridge renovation is a different county funded project. Mr. Malone reminded the committee that this vote was not an appropriation but a vote to proceed with the project assuming it will be one of several street resurfacing projects in the City’s 2020 capital budget. Earl Williams asked if the gasoline tax were raised would the city get more money for this project. Ms. Speese replied that the gas tax is state money and this grant is federally funded, but that any increase in the gasoline tax could be used to fund other resurfacing projects. Linda Lalley asked if we were unsuccessful getting this grant would we not be able to fund additional street for resurfacing.  Ms. Speese replied that, yes, Warrensville Center resurfacing was a top priority and would directly reduce the funds available for other streets. The request was approved.

  • Ms. Speese presented a request for approval to apply and accept a Cuyahoga County Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant Program grant in the amount of $50,000 for the pruning of the large oak trees on Larchmere and Courtland boulevards and Brighton Road. The awarded municipality will need to contribute 5 percent matching funds toward their project, with the city providing $2,500 from the Tree Assessment budget, which does not have the funds to perform this work.

Earl Williams asked if the city would be able to sustain this in the future. Ms. Speese answered that the city would have to reapply every year for these additional funds. The request was approved.

  • Mr. Chapman presented a request to accept and appropriate $75,000 in grant funds from the 2019 Carol M. Peterson Housing Fund of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati. The city received approval in June to fund 10 households with up to $7,500 each in accessibility upgrades and emergency repair work. The purpose of this grant program is to provide low-to-moderate-income disabled and/or elderly (age 60+) homeowners in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee the opportunity to live safely in their current home. Properties must be owner-occupied, single-family homes to be eligible for grant funds.

Mr. Malone wished to know how the homeowner was reimbursed. Mr. Compton answered that the work is first approved by the lender and the city pays for all improvements, not the homeowner; when final invoices are received, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati reimburses the city. Mr. Malone asked how this program was promoted. Mr. Compton replied that property tax records, city inspection reports, and community association referrals are screened to identify potential recipients. Earl Williams remarked that elderly people in arrears with taxes are warning flags, that this is an excellent program. Mr. Kolb remarked that the need is obviously greater than 10 each year and wondered how the projects are selected. Mr. Compton answered that the lender has a set criteria for approval. Mr. Malone asked if neighboring cities were using this grant money. Mr. Compton answered that the Home Repair Resource Center in Cleveland Heights was the only other applicant he was aware of in the local area. The request was approved.

  • Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney presented a request that the Finance Committee approve and recommend to Council a budget appropriation of $20,000 to contract with the National Fire Protection Association to provide hot-works roofing construction safety training that is tentatively scheduled for September 2019. The community was heavily impacted by the fire at Fernway School. The cause of the fire was determined to be hot-works processes in which contractors use torches to apply a new roof. The fines imposed on the contractor will be used to recover the personnel cost to the Fire Department and will provide training to all members of the Fire Department and Shaker Schools maintenance staff.

Mr. Malone remarked that the general operating fund was sourcing the money before a court order was decided against the contractor, under the assumption the contractor would pay; he asked what would happen otherwise. Chief Sweeney replied that was true, but the contractor is a big company and he is confident. Earl Williams asked if the Ohio building authority will require training. Mr. Sweeney answered that he had reached out to major cities throughout the United States and found that Boston had recently suffered firefighter deaths due to similar hot-works roofing construction accidents, so that now Massachusetts requires this training; perhaps Ohio may require this in the future. Mr. Cicarella remarked that this training should be worthwhile even without reimbursement; have we reached out to the Shaker Library regarding this, considering they are about to make major renovations to their building? Mr. Sweeney replied that he had communicated with the Library. Ms. Lalley wished to know if this training would be required of all contractors operating in Shaker, not just the large commercial contractors. She was concerned how this would affect small contractors and whether they would choose not to accept work in Shaker. Mr. Sweeney replied that the Fire Department will facilitate training for all contractors and it only requires between 1 and 1½ hours. Mr. Cicarella remarked that the certification process might be valuable to contractors, as their liability insurance would be reduced. Mr. Sweeney replied that he had spoken with insurance companies and found there are many roof fires across the country due to this hot-works process. Ms. Lalley worried that this should be better communicated to contractors and residents. Mr. Kolb added that he sees a roofing contractor on almost every street in the city each year. Mr. Sweeney said that he did not want to be a burden on contractors, but the city was leading this effort in Ohio. The request was approved.

  • Ms. Braverman presented a request that the Finance and Administration Committee recommend to City Council to award a design/engineering contract to Euthenics, Inc., in the amount of $64,130 for the Shaker Boulevard/Warrensville Center Road Intersection Improvement Project. Funds for the design work are in the 2019 capital budget.

Mr. Malone wished to know the estimated time frame for this project. Ms. Braverman answered that the design would be complete in 2019 and the construction would complete in 2020. Mr. Cicarella commented that he is a bicycle rider and the north side of this new intersection on Shaker Boulevard would be frightening; he wished to know if a bike path could be routed through the landscaping. Ms. Braverman replied that, yes, this was in the plan. Mr. Malone asked if a westbound driver on Shaker Blvd. could make a right turn to get on South Park. Ms. Braverman confirmed that they will be able to do so. Mr. Malone voiced his concern that there were many issues that the city must take into consideration for such a busy intersection. Ms. Braverman agreed and informed the committee there would be two public meetings held to get feedback on this proposal before work was begun. The request was approved.

  • Ms. Braverman presented a recommendation to authorize the city to enter into a Purchase, Development and Use Agreement with Confluent Development in order to construct an 80-unit Assisted Living and Memory Care facility on the currently vacant three-acre parcel at 16800 Van Aken Blvd. The property is within the Shaker Town Center Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. Development of this parcel will contribute to TIF proceeds, which will be used to pay off TIF bonds. The project will have no less than 80 units, and preliminary plans show 98 units. The purchase price is $13,500 per unit and will total between $1 million and $1.3 million. The payroll is estimated at $1 million and real estate taxes are estimated at $500,000. The share of taxes that may be paid into the TIF district is estimated at $350,000.

Mr. Malone asked if, other than legal fees, there was any commitment of city funding this year. Ms. Braverman confirmed there was no commitment of funding in this request. Anthony Moore asked if the purchase of the land must occur before any commitment to this project. Ms. Braverman answered that no land would be transferred until the project is approved. Earl Williams asked if representatives of the developer, Confluent Development, would be available at the next City Council meeting. Ms. Braverman answered that they had not yet been asked to attend but she would ask them. Ms. Lalley asked if the developer managed this property after it was built. Ms. Braverman answered that another company would have to purchase and operate the property. Ms. Lalley continued that she had concerns the city might be left with an empty building. Ms. Braverman answered there would be “buyback” clauses at closing. Ms. Lalley and Mr. Williams both voiced the importance of requiring approval of the property operator, not just the developer. Ms. Braverman answered that this is not the final plan for this property. Mr. Kolb voiced his concern regarding the Chagrin-Van Aken-Lee Road neighborhood and the concentration of senior living developments in the area; he wished to know if this was part of a plan. Ms. Braverman answered that this was not a planned strategy. Mr. Kolb asked if the Avalon Station 2 plan had been abandoned. Ms. Braverman replied that it had been abandoned. Mr. Malone remarked that the city still owed money on the original Avalon Station 2 TIF. Ms. Lalley added that the tax receipts from the developer alone would not retire the TIF and the city needs taxes from the operator of this property in order to pay the TIF. Mayor Weiss remarked that the developer would not want a vacant building; they would also want to identify a reliable operator before they build. Mr. Malone added that Confluent Development may be a new company, but the people there are experienced; City Council might appreciate a summary of Confluent Development’s credentials to build confidence. The recommendation was approved.

  1. Mayor Weiss announced Director of Finance Robert Baker’s decision to retire at the end of July. A search for a new Director of Finance would begin immediately and Frank Brichacek, a Shaker resident and presently the Finance Director of Willoughby Hills, would be assuming the role of acting interim Director of Finance.

Mr. Malone adjourned the meeting at 8:51 a.m.

Frank Goforth, Observer

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