City Council, Nov. 18, 2019

December 7th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Mayor David Weiss and all seven Council members were present: Sean Malone, Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Julianna Johnston Senturia, Anne Williams, Earl Williams, and Rob Zimmerman

The meeting was called to order at 7:05 p.m. by Mayor David Weiss.

The following are highlights of that meeting.

  • Proposed Tax Increment Financing on Wendy’s Property: Under consideration is a proposal to use tax increment financing (TIF) as a tool to promote additional development of properties on Warrensville Center Road and Chagrin Boulevard in the greater Van Aken District. The city can leverage the demolition and construction of the new Wendy’s restaurant at 3516 Warrensville Center Road by establishing a TIF and directing the proceeds into a fund for future development activities. Council is being asked to approve a TIF on the Wendy’s property and to authorize entering into a School Compensation Agreement with the Shaker Heights City School District. Earlier this month the Board of Education approved the TIF and authorized entering into the School Compensation Agreement.

A base value of the property is established at the time Council passes an ordinance authorizing the TIF. The increase in the value of the property over the base value creates the increment that is captured by the TIF. The property owner continues to pay the full amount of the “taxes,” but the additional monies are put into a fund for improvement activities. The type of TIF being authorized can only be used for public improvements in the geographical area of the Van Aken District to generally benefit the TIF property.

Council passed the ordinance unanimously.

  • Acceptance and Support of the Forward Together Vision Plan: The city is being asked to accept and support The Forward Together Vision Plan, “A Vision for Community Facilities,” in partnership with the school district and the public library.

The plan was prepared by the Joint Facilities Task Force with assistance from consultant “Planning NEXT,” through a collaborative process that included four public meetings, participation by nearly 800 people, and more than 4,250 individual comments and ideas. Key elements include an overview of existing facilities and connections; a collection of projects, processes, or programs suggested by the community to advance the future of Shaker facilities; and a list of the next steps to continue the collaborative effort beyond the Vision Plan.

The Planning Commission recommended establishing a structure format to ensure continued progress. Mr. Zimmerman stressed that the plan is a framework. Council passed the ordinance and accepted the Vision Plan unanimously.

  • Improvements to Public Land – GCRTA Blue Line Rapid Terminus Substation: Greater Cleveland RTA proposes to install an electrical substation building to power the Blue Line Rapid Transit line north and adjacent to the Blue Line Terminus Station tracks and the rear parking lot of the Upstairs apartment building in the Van Aken District. The Planning Commission and the Architectural Board of Review have both approved the project. Council passed the ordinance unanimously.
  • 2020 Cuyahoga County Municipal Grant Application for Chagrin – Lynnfield Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements: The grant application is for $150,000 with no local match required. Maximal award possible is $150,000 through a competitive Block Grant Program of the Cuyahoga County Department of Development. The request is to install enhancements at the Chagrin-Lynnfield intersection to make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross this busy Chagrin Boulevard location. The city was told in 2005 that the signal at the intersection was not warranted, and it was removed that same year. A second study in 2018 also indicated that a signal was not warranted. Sussex residents have requested its replacement since 2005. [The Ohio Department of Transportation performs these studies and makes these determinations.]

The $150,000 grant will be paired with the city’s other application for $50,000 through the county’s 2020 Supplemental Grant Program and with $20,000 in local dollars set aside in the capital budget to work on problems at this intersection. Council passed this ordinance unanimously.

  • Compulsory Retirement Age: City ordinances state that employees other than firefighters and law enforcement officers have no mandatory retirement age. Firefighters and law enforcement officers have a mandatory retirement age of 60. A new labor agreement includes language giving firefighters and law enforcement officers the right to request up to three 12-month waivers of the mandatory retirement age to extend employment to the age of 63, with a process ensuring continued physical and psychological fitness. City ordinances need to be changed to establish a procedure to request a waiver. In addition, code must be amended to authorize waivers for administrative firefighters and law enforcement personnel who are not subject to a collective bargaining agreement. Council passed this ordinance unanimously.  
  • Labor Agreement with Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association/Sergeants and Lieutenants Unit: Council is being asked to ratify the labor agreement for the 2019- 2021 contract. Wage adjustments are 2.25% in 2019 and 2020, with a wage only re-opener in 2021. Some other components of the agreement include “age, ancestry, and gender identity or expression” added to the No Discrimination article; a new section allowing sergeants and lieutenants to request up to three 12-month waivers of the mandatory retirement age to extend employment to the age of 63, with a process ensuring continued physical and psychological fitness; a new substance abuse policy that includes random drug and alcohol testing, including a test for nicotine; a new fitness and wellness program requiring a mandatory annual physical exam and fitness assessment, and the opportunity to participate in a Fitness Incentive test, the completion of which includes a $1,000 incentive payment; and a memorandum of understanding requiring a spousal third-party healthcare benefit survey. Council passed this ordinance unanimously.
  • Request to Appropriate Round Nine Funds from County Demolition Fund Program: In four rounds of funding, the Cuyahoga County Demolition Fund has awarded the city $375,000, $420,000, $440,000, and most recently $400,000 for commercial and residential demolition. Demolition is the tool of last resort, and the mayor tours troubled properties as part of the decision-making process. Council is being asked to appropriate the $400,000 in the General Capital Fund to carry out property demolition. The city will be reimbursed for 100% of eligible demolition expenses as the work is completed. This includes property clean-out, asbestos survey and abatement, and the cost of property demolition. Council passed this ordinance unanimously.
  • Recommendation to set new rates for the sewer system in Shaker Heights: The city has long established usage fees for its public sewer system. The last time the sewer use rate was increased was 2001. Since 2013 the revenues generated from those fees have been insufficient to pay for maintenance, infrastructure improvements, and debt service, so General Fund revenues have been used to supplement sewer fee revenues. Increased sewer user fees are now recommended to eliminate the General Fund subsidy. General Fund dollars exceeding $2.5 million are being transferred to the Sewer Fund, a shortfall that is no longer sustainable. The sewer fee proposal includes a new monthly fee in a fixed amount paid by each property owner and an increase in the MCF (1,000 cubic feet of water) rate. The new monthly fixed fee would be phased in over four years beginning in 2020. Council is being asked to put this ordinance on first reading to allow for more time for public discussion and understanding of the problem and the need for more local dollars. Final adoption is scheduled for Dec. 16, 2019. The ordinance passed unanimously.

The Council meeting was adjourned and a two-hour Joint Council Work Session with the Finance and Administration Committee on the proposed 2020 Capital Budget was held. [This observer did not stay for that session.] The final operating and capital budgets will be presented on Dec. 2. The adoption of the budget ordinances is scheduled for Dec. 16.

Jan Devereaux, Observer

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