Observer Reports

Safety & Public Works Committee, January 2019

January 9th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Jan. 4, 2019

Present: Council members Nancy Moore (chair), Juliana Senturia, Anne Williams; citizen members James Brady, Jonathan Hren, James Sammon, Austin McGuan

Others present: Mayor David Weiss; Director of Public Works Patricia Speese; Director of Planning Joyce Braverman; Chief of Fire Patrick Sweeney; Chief of Police Jeffrey DeMuth; police department administrative assistant Debra Messing

The meeting was called to order by Ms. Moore at 8 a.m.

Agenda—Committee actions:

1.  The minutes of the Dec. 7, 2019, meeting were approved without further discussion.

2.  The Planning Department presented a motion to add $3,750 for a total of $35,030 on a contract with Weber Murphy Fox (WMF) signed in July 2018 after a competitive RFP process to study renovations to the old fire department space in a wing of City Hall. The change order is covered by the 2019 capital budget. The fire department relocated to a new building on Chagrin Boulevard in 2005. Its prior space off City Hall was already in poor condition and has deteriorated. The city wants to consolidate the housing and building departments into a first-floor space more convenient to its frequent visitors.

WMF’s first phase of planning and cost estimates showed that the proposed budget of $450,000 would be inadequate. WMF will propose a two-year phased plan to renovate both floors of the space, with the first phase to fall within the original budget estimate. Ms. Braverman described the renovations to move walls, remediate asbestos and mold, and fix utilities as “minimal.” Ms. Moore said there was extensive water damage because of a leak in the roof. Ms. Senturia expressed surprise that the final cost may be closer to $1 million. Mayor Weiss pointed out that the cost would be amortized over the 50-year projected lifespan of the renovations. The motion passed unanimously.

3. The Public Works Department presented a motion for approval to seek a $5,000 zero-match grant from the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District for creation of public education materials regarding recycling. Discussion highlighted changes in the recyclables market and difficulties with finding destinations and processors for recycled materials, resulting in extremely limited options for disposing of potential recyclables. Specifications for what can still be recycled are complicated, thus the city wants to create educational materials for distribution to residents. Ms. Senturia suggested the city remind residents they can still “reduce and reuse,” as recycling options are increasingly limited. Ms. Speese said the city had for a time earned about $50,000 for recycling; now it is earning under $9,000, with corresponding additional costs for garbage. The motion passed unanimously.

4. Following discussion on the motions on the agenda, each department director provided an informal update. Police Chief DeMuth said, “We’ve never been safer here in Shaker Heights” because the crime rate for 2018 was almost as low as the historically low 2017 rate, including traffic accidents. Fire Chief Sweeney mentioned the planned distribution of smoke detectors. Ms. Speese described a shortage of skilled applicants and competition for labor with the expanding Amazon delivery service.

Mr. McGuan asked about Facebook chatter about gunfire and property damage on New Year’s Eve. Chief DeMuth said there was some property damage, but no evidence the gunfire occurred within city limits. He said other suburbs also experienced celebratory gunfire that night. In undated anecdotes, Ms. Senturia said her neighbor’s window was damaged by a bullet hole and Mr. Brady said a roofer at his home found several slugs had pierced his slate roof tiles. (Both of these individuals reside close to Shaker’s border with Cleveland.) Ms. Moore said the city had rescinded its gun control ordinances because of state laws as well as threats of litigation.

Ms. Braverman and Mayor Weiss described a long-term plan to renovate Lee Road “from border to border,” including utilities under the road and creation of a center turn lane. A grant application is pending for 2021 funding.

Ms. Moore adjourned the meeting at 8:50 a.m.

Annette Tucker Sutherland

Board of Education, December 2018

January 6th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
Dec. 11, 2018

Present: Board President Jeffrey Isaacs and members Bill Clawson, Lisa Cremer, Ayesha Hardaway, and Heather Weingart; Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Wilkins and Treasurer Bryan Christman

Mr. Isaacs called the meeting to order at 6 p.m. and asked for a moment of silence in memory of Woodbury Teacher Aisha Fraser.

The Board approved the minutes of the November board meeting.

  • Public comments: one person expressed concern about board communications; Lisa Vahey spoke about the Equity Task Force; and William Scanlon of the Shaker Heights Teachers Association said the union is setting up a trust for Aisha Fraser’s daughters. Mr. Scanlon, a teacher at the high school, also said the high school community needs to heal after the problems it faced last fall. Boulevard Principal Neal Robinson and a Boulevard student talked about what has been happening at the school.
  • Dr. Wilkins reported on the following: Onaway/Fernway students are participating in Fostering Hope, a Cleveland nonprofit that enriches the lives of children in foster care.  Lomond students will host a STEM Expo called Mission Moon thanks to the support from the Shaker Schools Foundation and Rockwell Automation for the after-school program FIRST LEGO League Jr.  Four seniors have signed letters of intent for college athletics. The cast of “Pippin” has been invited by the Board of Directors of the Ohio Educational Theatre Association to perform at a state conference – a first for Shaker students. The Middle School Robotics Club (in its third year) qualified for the state competition; Onaway’s principal Lomond’s assistant principal traveled to China in early November with the Chinese Bridge Delegations for American Principals sponsored by the College Board and the Confucius Institute. In early December, Dr. Wilkins also traveled to China with high school teacher Raina Li, and 2018 graduate Ose Arheghan represented the district at the 13th Confucious Institute Conference.
  • Shaker Schools Foundation Executive Director Holly Coughlin addressed the board regarding the imminent kickoff of the Fernway Forward Capital Campaign to raise up to $500,000 for Fernway School. Funds raised are earmarked for “extras,” including outdoor community spaces and play areas; a media center and design spaces; occupational therapy rooms; art and music rooms; and cafeteria/community space.
  • Director of Operations Dave Boyer and and a representative of Van Auken Akins Architects provided an update on the district capital plan and summer construction programs. Their handout reviewed costs and a timeline for the numerous projects.
  • An Instructional Technology update by John Rizzo, Director of Technology and Media Services, and team member Casey Aliff reviewed the K-4 Chromebook rollout project. Previously, a traditional classroom had two or three hardwired computers on desks plus a teacher’s desktop, and classes would travel to a central computer lab with 25-30 computers.  Now, for grades K-3, there will be 12 Chromebooks per classroom, so a 2:1 ratio plus a swing cart of 15 more to allow for 1:1 in a classroom.  For grade 4, there will be 24 Chromebooks in each classroom. All elementary computer labs have been phased out except for one at Lomond, and 328 desktop computers district-wide have been phased out. Next year, consideration is being given to having MS/HS students take a Chromebook home – the district will first work on how to make sure students have safe access to the internet and adult supervision. Note that these Chromebooks have a five-year life and are built for educational environments.
  • School enrollment update: Chris Rateno, Director of Student Data, presented an update on local, state, and national student enrollment trends. Lower birth rates will yield fewer kindergarten students. Cuyahoga County is showing a larger decline than Ohio’s average due to economic factors and the fact that it is an aging area. Shaker is estimated to be down 63 students per year (K-12), which matches the national and state decline.
  • All personnel updates and changes were approved.
  • Terri Breeden, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, gave a brief update and a proposal on staffing: Presently there are four elementary teaching positions that were not filled for the 2018-2019 school year. In looking at the declining enrollment trends, these positions will be abolished.
  • The following business item was approved: additional work on the Mercer waterline replacement.
  • The board had the first of three readings on 28 new proposed changes to board policies. Several of the board members made comments on various proposals and most suggestions were added to the proposals.
  • The board approved the day before Christmas and New Year’s off for all employees.
  • Treasurer’s report: Financially, the end of November showed a $235,000 favorable variance.
  • The district is converting its fiscal systems from USAS to Sungard with a target ‘go-live’ date of July 1, 2019. A training and conversion schedule has been set up.
  • There was a 69 percent passing rate for Ohio school district levies on the November ballot.
  • Mr. Christman also reported on Ohio House Bill 343 , which limits complaints of tax adjustment filings against a residential property.
  • The East Cleveland school district is in academic distress and the State Department of Education will be having its first meeting regarding that soon.
  • The board renewed its Medical Mutual of Ohio Medical and Hospital Services agreement and self-insured rates effective Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2019, and the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Dental Service Agreement. It also approved the Express Scripts prescription drug self-insured rates.
  • Mr. Isaacs gave a brief update on the status of the superintendent search: 30 meetings/focus groups have been scheduled, and 571 people completed an online survey on preferred characteristics of potential candidates.

The Board adjourned the public session at 8:14 p.m.
Holly Wang

City Council, Dec. 17, 2018

December 24th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Council Regular Meeting
Dec. 17, 2018

The numbering of items in this report corresponds to the item numbering of the meeting agenda. (Meeting agenda, minutes and presentations are available online at City of Shaker Heights website.)

 

Present: Mayor David Weiss; Council members Sean Malone, Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Julianna Johnston Senturia, Anne Williams, Earl Williams Jr., and Robert Zimmerman; Finance Committee citizen members Martin Kolb and Anthony Moore

Others present: Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Law Director William Gruber, Finance Director Robert Baker, Chief of Police Ed DeMuth, Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney, Public Works Director Patricia Speese, Planning Director Joyce Braverman, Recreation Director Alexandria Nichols, Information Technology Director Frank Miozzi, Human Resources Manager Sandra Middleton

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

Agenda—Council actions:

  1. The minutes of the Nov. 12 and Nov. 26, 2018, regular meetings were approved.
  2. Mr. Gruber recommended that Council confirm the mayor’s reappointments of Board of Appeals members Arun Kottha, Joseph MacDonald, Nancy Moore, and Earl Williams to new two-year terms beginning Jan. 1. The recommendation was approved.
  3. Ms. Braverman recommended that Council confirm the mayor’s reappointment of Architectural Board of Review member Sandra Madison to a new three-year term beginning Jan. 1. The recommendation was approved.
  4. Ms. Braverman also recommended that Council confirm the mayor’s reappointment of Board of Zoning Appeals/City Planning Commission member John J. Boyle III to a new six-year term beginning Jan. 1. The recommendation was approved.

Mayor Weiss then opened the floor for public comment regarding any of the agenda items. One resident came forward to express concern regarding agenda Item 10, the granting of a conditional use permit for the Loving Cup Academy daycare at 16500 Chagrin Blvd. The resident was concerned about the safety of children entering the daycare facility due to tow truck traffic approaching the adjacent post office vehicle repair facility.

  1. Ms. Middleton presented a recommendation authorizing a contract with McGowan Insurance for property and casualty insurance in the amount of $341,384 for the year 2019. This coverage includes automobile, general liability, property, public officials, law enforcement, fire department liability, employment practices, boiler and machinery, money and securities, computer and valuable papers, to name a few. A Request for Proposals was sent to four agencies that have specialized experience insuring public sector clients; only McGowan Governmental Underwriters, the incumbent agent, provided a proposal, with a 6 percent increase. The overriding reason given for the agent/markets withdrawal from the process was the state of the city’s dams on Doan Brook.

Mr. Malone commented that the Finance Committee had tasked an ad-hoc group to consider the lack of response to this request for proposals. Their judgment was the bid was in line with market costs with the improved coverage and that the situation would improve after all repairs were completed to city dams on Doan Brook. Mr. Roeder wondered what was needed to get better proposal response in the future. He also asked if small claims were now being tracked. Mr. Williams asked if other cities in the area with similar liabilities would work together to get more quotes. The city’s consultant, Daniel O’Brien, was present and told Council that recent flood loss claims nationwide due to hurricanes and other abnormal rain incidents had generally increased the aversion of insurance underwriters to cities with dams. The recommendation was approved.

  1. Mr. Gruber requested that Council adopt corrections on first reading and as an emergency in order to ensure the accuracy of Ordinance 17-91, which was enacted by Council on Nov. 13, 2017, and amended numerous sections of the Administrative and Health Codes of the City. The request was approved.
  2. Mr. Gruber requested that Council adopt corrections on first reading and as an emergency in order to ensure the accuracy of Ordinance 17-92, which was enacted by Council on Nov. 13, 2017, and amended numerous sections of the Administrative, Fire, Building and Housing Codes of the City. The request was approved.
  3. Mr. Gruber recommended that Council approve revisions to the city’s ordinances to ensure that certain sections of the ordinances are consistent and not in conflict with state law; to facilitate the administration of justice and the daily operation of various city departments; and to avoid practical and legal entanglements. It is recommended that these amendments be adopted on first reading and as an emergency to allow the prompt republication of the city’s ordinances with the updates, and to allow the city’s ordinances to come into consistency with state law as soon as possible. The recommendation was approved.
  4. Ms. Braverman requested that Council extend the moratorium on accepting applications for approval of Type A Day Care Homes for an additional 90 days to allow more time for the administration, Planning Commission, and Council to decide how to regulate Type A in-home day care operations going forward. On Oct. 9 this year, Council enacted a moratorium to prohibit the city from accepting applications for approval of Type A Day Care Homes for 90 days to enable Council to review current regulations and decide what is in the best interests of the community in the future. The moratorium went into effect on Oct. 10, 2018, when the resolution was signed by Mayor Weiss. Thus, the moratorium expires on Jan. 8, 2019. Mr. Williams asked if the Planning Commission was prohibited from considering new Type A Day Care applications during the moratorium. Ms. Braverman confirmed no new applications are considered during the moratorium. The request was approved, continuing the moratorium into early April.
  5. Ms. Braverman requested that Council approve a revised Conditional Use Permit for Loving Cup Academy, an existing childcare center at 16500 Chagrin Boulevard and that this ordinance be passed on first reading in order for renovation of the space to commence. Loving Cup Academy proposes to expand into adjacent commercial space in the building to accommodate additional before- and after-school care for children at this existing daycare center. The existing daycare use was conditionally approved in April 2004 with parking, access, and drop-off improvements required in the interior courtyard. An expansion of the daycare use into the same adjacent commercial space in the building was previously approved in 2006 for a different operator, but was not utilized by the current operator.

Mr. Zimmerman asked about the public comment regarding the safety of children during drop-off and pick-up in the courtyard. Ms. Braverman explained that the post office repair facility adjacent to the daycare center shared an access road with the daycare courtyard entrance, but did not share the courtyard parking area; in fact, post office vehicles are prohibited from entering the courtyard. Mr. Zimmerman asked if this affected the daycare’s conditional use permit. Ms. Braverman replied that maybe it did. Mr. Zimmerman asked if anything had changed since the conditional use permit was first allowed for the previous operator. Ms. Braverman answered it had not. Mayor Weiss said that the permit request is for the present operator. Mr. Malone asked if conditions could be added for approval. Ms. Braverman replied that conditions could be added and Mr. Malone recommended some safety conditions be added. Mr. Weiss remarked that added safety measures might best be achieved by changes in the access road. Mr. Roeder expressed concern about passing this on first reading without study. Ms. Braverman said that the post office facility provisional use could be revoked or Council could force compliance by post office vehicles. Mr. Williams asked that Council be advised of any discussion with the post office. Mr. Weiss reminded everyone that post office vehicles were not entering the courtyard and were in compliance, that the post office’s use of the access road did not affect the conditional use permit under consideration, and that the daycare operators were not the offenders. Mr. Zimmerman offered that he would approve with some stipulations. Mr. Roeder agreed with Mr. Zimmerman about stipulations. Ms. Senturia said that the daycare operators had considered child safety in the permit request by staging drop-off and pickup in the courtyard. Ms. Williams asked how long had a daycare been in operation in the location. Ms. Braverman said more than 20 years.Mr. Roeder shared that he is aware of the particular traffic area as he works nearby and it is worthy of further consideration. Mr. Zimmerman would like more study, for his personal comfort, but he would withdraw his motion with stipulations in order to have a vote. The request was approved with Mr. Roeder and Mr. Zimmerman voting no.

  1. Ms. Speese presented a recommendation to approve and authorize the execution of a Community Cost Share Agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) in the amount not-to-exceed $50,000 for the Fairhill combined sewer overflow (CSO). NEORSD notified Public Works that the outlet pipe for the Fairhill CSO had significantly deteriorated. The outlet pipe, located north of the Fairhill and Kemper roads intersection, discharges into Doan Brook and is owned by the city. NEORSD proposed a cost share for this replacement, since district flow is conveyed through the CSO during wet weather events. They are agreeable to paying 50 percent of the cost with a not-to-exceed $50,000. The recommendation was approved.
  2. Ms. Speese next presented a recommendation to accept a proposal and authorize a contract with GPD Group for design services for the Avalon and Strathavon Road Waterline Project in the amount of $53,622. Public Works applied for and received funding from Cleveland Water Suburban Water Main Renewal program to replace the water mains on Avalon Road (Fernway Road to Van Aken Boulevard) and Strathavon Road (Lomond Boulevard to Scottsdale Road). Cleveland Water Department (CWD) has agreed to pay for this project on the condition that Shaker Heights design and manage the project. CWD will pay the city the total costs of the design and construction. The recommendation was approved.
  3. Ms. Chaikin presented a recommendation to approve and authorize a contract with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) in the amount of $135,033 for 2019 and $155,041 for 2020, to handle health permitting, licensing, and enforcement under Ohio law, and to provide various health-related services to the city’s residents. Ohio adopted a requirement that all city health departments become accredited by the federal Public Health Accreditation Board by July 1, 2020, or lose necessary funding from the Ohio Department of Health. The city’s Health Department could not achieve public health accreditation without substantial additional resources and reorganization. Council voted on Nov. 13, 2017, to close its own health department and join the CCBH, effective Jan. 1, 2018, at a savings of $245,000 each year. The recommendation was approved.

2018 & 2019 Budget Ordinances:

Mr. Baker then shared a presentation with Council summarizing the actual performance of the city’s departments, individually and as a whole, compared to the 2018 budget. The major issue for 2018 was the $535,000 income tax receipts shortfall during the last quarter and the lack of understanding as to the cause. The consequence of the shortfall was that final 2018 revenue was less than 2017. The concern is whether this shortfall is temporary or a “new normal.” The city was fortunate that all departments except Recreation were under budget for their 2018 spending and the Police Department’s thorough but slow process filling open positions resulted in a $1.2 million windfall. This allowed an increase in transfers out from the general fund into other funds and maintenance of a creditworthy reserve fund. Mr. Baker’s theory, shared by others, is that the 2018 federal tax code changes have significantly delayed quarterly estimated tax payments by individuals not subject to withholding and that the true impact will be known only after April 15, 2019, which is too late for a temporary budget. The 2019 final budget is therefore fiscally conservative: income tax receipts are estimated to rise only 2 percent over 2018 actuals whereas expenses will rise 3.5 percent. This does not include a 2 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for employees and will leave the year-end 2019 general operating fund surplus at only $7,198.

Mr. Williams asked if the budget could be amended if the city comes up short. Mr. Baker replied that state statute requires that the city spend only what receipts would support. Mr. Malone said he was optimistic about revenue but concerned about the elimination of COLA in the budget; that perhaps we should defer some capital spending to pay COLA. He added that this situation highlights how dependent the city is on individual income taxes versus business income taxes.

  1. Mr. Baker introduced the first of the city’s budget ordinances with his request to approve the amendments to various 2018 operating budget General Fund transfers and advances and to adopt an ordinance amending 2018 appropriations on first reading and as an emergency. The amendments need to be made so that there is sufficient appropriation authority within department and fund budgets to pay all personal service and other expenditure costs. The budget amendments are being requested in order to amend appropriation levels so that all year-end expenditures post in the 2018 budget year. The impact of the recommended budget amendments is included in the fourth quarter budget projections. The request was approved.
  2. Mr. Baker introduced an ordinance making appropriations for the current expenses and other expenditures of the city of Shaker Heights for the year ending Dec. 31, 2019, and declaring an emergency. This is the 2019 Operating Budget ordinance.

Mayor Weiss said that the city administration and Council are very concerned about the lack of COLA in the 2019 budget. Ms. Williams voiced her great disappointment about the lack of COLA and her belief that other budget changes could be made in order to allow COLA. She will support the budget but wants to continue to search for ways to reallocate money. Ms. Senturia thanked Ms. Chaikin and Mr. Baker for their responsible modification of the budget in light of the revenue shortfall. She was disappointed, given that the city is limited to spending within receipts, that there was no COLA, yet the city would continue to budget to maintain a 33 percent reserve at year-end. She questioned why the reserve was not drawn down in order to restore the COLA; the city could rebuild the reserve when future revenue allowed. Mayor Weiss replied that the city needed to preserve its credit rating. He would agree using the reserve is a good idea if needed and worthy of future discussion. Ms. Moore said she thinks this is a responsible budget in light of the city’s historically conservative fiscal planning; as soon as the city realizes increasing revenue, Council should prioritize COLA. The ordinance was approved with Ms. Senturia voting no.

  1. Mr. Baker introduced an ordinance appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund to provide for the purchase of equipment for use by the Police Department, and declaring an emergency. The ordinance was approved.
  2. Mr. Baker introduced an ordinance appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund to provide for the purchase of equipment for use by the Fire Department and declaring an emergency.

Mr. Malone asked where the new fire truck lease payment was recorded in the budget. Mr. Baker replied the lease payment was included as part of the “other” line of the Fire Department operating budget. Mr. Roeder wished to know the actual yearly expense for the lease. Mr. Baker replied the lease is $130,000 per year and the lessor receives a favorable tax treatment because the lease is to a government body. The ordinance was approved.

  1. Mr. Baker introduced an ordinance appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund to provide for the purchase of equipment for use by the Public Works Department and declaring an emergency. The ordinance was approved.
  2. Mr. Baker introduced an ordinance appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund for the acquisition of equipment and various repairs and improvement projects for various city facilities and declaring an emergency. The ordinance was approved.
  3. Mr. Baker introduced an amendment to two ordinances appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund for the acquisition of equipment and various repairs and improvement projects for various city facilities by appropriating an additional $225,000 from the General Capital Fund for City Hall renovation and declaring an emergency. The amendment was approved.
  4. Mayor Weiss introduced a recommendation appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund to provide for the 2019 Street Resurfacing Program, and declaring an emergency. The recommendation was approved.
  5. Mayor Weiss introduced a recommendation appropriating funds from the Sewer Capital Improvements Fund to provide funding for the repair of mainline sewers, laterals, and culverts, and declaring an emergency. The recommendation was approved.
  6. Mayor Weiss introduced a recommendation appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund for the acquisition of equipment, repairs, etc., by the Recreation Department and declaring an emergency. The recommendation was approved.
  7. Mayor Weiss introduced a recommendation appropriating funds from the General Capital Fund for the purchase of information technology equipment, software, and licenses for use by various city departments and declaring an emergency. The recommendation was approved.

Mayor Weiss adjourned the meeting at 9:29 p.m.
Frank Goforth

Library Board, Dec. 17, 2018

December 24th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Library Board of Trustees
Dec. 17, 2018

Present: Board members Bertsch, Cicarela, Garrett, Gleiser, Katz, Meinhard
Absent: Williams

After a brief executive session, the regular meeting was opened at 6:50 p.m. Minutes of previous meetings were approved; there was no community comment.

President Gleisser reported on a meeting of the joint facility planning committee (library, schools, city) and a memo of understanding about sharing costs associated with hiring a consultant for $40,000. Initially all bodies will share costs equally. Mr. Gleisser also expressed thanks to library staff and supporters for activities in 2018.

The fiscal officer reported about a 4 percent rise in the Public Library Fund (PLF) receipts over the previous year and a favorable variance in expenditures as well, enabling transfer of $175,000 from operating funds to the technology fund and to the capital fund. The board approved the move, as well as the monthly financial statement and a temporary allocation measure to serve until a final budget for 2019 is approved (due by the end of March, by law). It also approved a 2.5 percent pay increase for all library personnel, including (by separate motions because they are under contracts) the library director and fiscal officer. There was discussion about possible alternatives for renovation project financing options, still in exploratory stages. Ms. Katz suggested beginning to organize a capital campaign, including offering naming rights.

Director Amy Switzer continued the theme by noting several year-end giving options available to supporters. A grant has been received for establishing an early literary outreach collection. The renovation project owner’s rep RFP is out, and action can be expected at the January meeting. The director expressed hope that there will be a number of qualified candidates interested in filling the opening for a new trustee.

Gifts were accepted and appropriated. The regular meeting was adjourned at 7:35 p.m. and the annual organizational meeting was called to order at 7:37 p.m. Current officers will continue in their posts and the fiscal officer was reappointed. The 2019 board calendar was approved; the next meeting will be Jan.28 at Bertram Woods Branch. Responsibilities of board members were reviewed. The board approved a measure to allow the director or designee to allow disposal of unneeded materials and a measure to allow the Library to accept materials without board action. The organizational meeting adjourned at 8 p.m.
Kathleen Hickman

Finance Committee, Dec. 10, 2018

December 24th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Finance Committee
Dec. 10, 2018

Present: Council members Sean Malone (chair), Earl Williams, Robert Zimmerman; citizen members Thomas Cicarella, Martin Kolb, Linda Lalley, Anthony Moore
Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Director of Public Works Patricia Speese, Human Resources Manager Sandra Middleton, Director of Finance Robert Baker, Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Malone at 7:31 a.m.

 Agenda—Committee actions:

  1. Me. Malone presented the minutes of the Nov. 19, 2018, meeting. The minutes were approved without further discussion.
  2. Ms. Speese presented a recommendation to approve and authorize the execution of a Community Cost Share Agreement with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in the amount not-to-exceed $50,000 for the Fairhill combined sewer overflow (CSO). The NEORSD notified Public Works that this outlet pipe for combined sewer overflow, located north of the Fairhill Road and Kemper Road intersection, discharges into Doan Brook and is owned by the city. NEORSD proposed a cost share for replacement since district flow is conveyed through the CSO during wet weather events. They are agreeable to paying 50 percent of the cost with a not-to-exceed $50,000. Mr. Malone wished to know if the work would include new sidewalks. Ms. Speese replied that the work area is between the sidewalk and Doan Brook, so only trees would be impacted. The recommendation was approved.
  3. Ms. Speese next presented a recommendation to accept a proposal and authorize a contract with GPD Group for design services for the Avalon and Strathavon Waterline Project in the amount of $53,622. Public Works applied for and received funding from Cleveland Water’s Suburban Water Main Renewal program to replace the water mains on Avalon Road (Fernway Road to Van Aken Boulevard) and Strathavon Road (Lomond Boulevard to Scottsdale Road). Cleveland Water Department (CWD) has agreed to pay for this project on the condition that Shaker Heights design and manage the project. CWD will pay the city the total costs of the design and construction. Mr. Kolb expressed surprise in the variance between bids for this design work. Ms. Speese echoed his surprise, but offered no explanation. Mr. Baker said that more than a decade ago, the city owned the water lines but transferred ownership to CWD with the stipulation that the city’s maintenance needs would be prioritized over other schedules. Ms. Speese remarked that since that time perhaps $20 million of repairs had been made whereby the money is transferred from CWD to the city up front and the city manages the design and implementation. Mr. Zimmerman expressed curiosity as to why the CWD had agreed to this arrangement. Jeri Chaikin interjected that this allowed income tax to be shared with CWD. Mayor Weiss wished to know if there was any risk CWD might balk at accepting anything other than lowest bid. Ms. Chaikin replied that the city has procurement authority, which saves CWD money for project management. The recommendation was approved.
  4. Ms. Chaikin presented a recommendation to approve and authorize a contract with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) in the amount of $135,033 for 2019 and $155,041 for 2020, to handle health permitting, licensing, and enforcement under Ohio law, and to provide various health-related services to the city’s residents. The State of Ohio adopted a requirement that all city health departments become accredited by the federal Public Health Accreditation Board by July 1, 2020, or lose necessary funding from the Ohio Department of Health. The city’s Health Department could not achieve public health accreditation without substantial additional resources and reorganization. Council voted on Nov. 13, 2017, to close its own Health Department and join the CCBH, effective Jan. 1, 2018, at a savings of $245,000 each year. Mr. Zimmerman asked if our health services had improved. Ms. Speese volunteered that the CCBH had provided training for Public Works employees regarding health impacts of storm sewers. Ms. Chaikin added that CCBH had specialists for many types of disease that impact public health. Ms. Lalley asked if the city had any mechanism to control CCBH costs—any comment or oversight authority. Ms. Chaikin said she would check, but added that the CCBH Advisory Council includes area mayors; she will inquire further. Mr. Malone asked if this increase was a “bump” or should it be expected every few years. Ms. Chaikin said the cost had been stable many years and the rise was mostly due to the recent state-mandated accreditation requirements. Mr. Malone asked if there were alternatives to using the county services. Ms. Chaikin answered that a city could either fund their own department or use the county services. Mr. Kolb reminded everyone the decision to suspend the city’s health department and utilize the CCBH had been debated extensively by City Council in 2017. Tom Cicarella remarked it would be helpful to find who had the power to control CCBH costs. Mr. Moore asked if the community understood the change from Shaker’s Health Department to CCBH services and how residents could get these CCBH services. Ms. Chaikin replied the City’s Health Services web page provided instructions on how to receive CCBH services and added that people who had used the city’s health services in the past had been personally notified. Mr. Moore added we should promote these expanded health services in coordination with the increase. The recommendation was approved.
  5. Ms. Middleton presented a recommendation authorizing a contract with McGowan Insurance for property and casualty insurance in the amount of $341,384 for the year 2019. This coverage includes automobile, general liability, property, public officials, law enforcement, fire department liability, employment practices, boiler and machinery, money and securities, computer, and valuable papers, to name a few. A Request for Proposals was sent to four agencies that have specialized experience insuring public sector clients; only McGowan Governmental Underwriters, the incumbent agent, provided a proposal, with a 6 percent increase. The overriding reason given for the agent/markets withdrawal from the process was the state of the city’s dams on Doan Brook. Mr. Moore complimented Ms. Middleton for the clarity of her report regarding the city’s dams. Mr. Williams added that insurance for the city had also increased due to lack of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance in some buildings and asked if claims had been filed. Ms. Middleton answered that no ADA claims had been filed, but the insurance increase would cover building upgrades should a claim be filed. Mr. Kolb wished to learn what claims were common. Ms. Middleton answered that personal injury and property claims due to auto and refuse scooter accidents were most common, and that there were some personal and property claims due to sewers and sidewalks. Mr. Williams said the city has “sovereign immunity” for some police and fire claims. Mr. Malone added the recent and ongoing Upper and Lower Lake dam repairs should affect insurance rates in the future. Mr. Williams asked if the insurance agents had received the Army Corps of Engineers reports on the new dam. Ms. Middleton replied they had. Mr. Cicarella recommended that the coverage increases, not just the overall 6 percent increase, be emphasized for City Council. The recommendation was approved.
  6. Discussion Item—Proposed 2019 General Fund Budget: Mr. Baker presented the latest update to the city’s 2019 Budget, which will be presented to City Council for approval at their final meeting of the year, Dec. 17, 2018. He offered some highlights:
    • The final RITA income tax distribution will occur the week of Dec. 10. Unfortunately, the trend since July has been down; in fact, the collection the first week of December was negative. He expects the month to be down $500,000-$600,000 compared to 2017. As has been discussed at previous Finance Committee meetings, his theory is that the 2018 federal tax code changes eliminating the state and local tax deduction are significantly impacting the collection of income taxes from those who estimate quarterly; withholding tax collections have not fallen. Conversely, RITA receipts in the first half of 2018 were higher than 2017, so a question is: will the 2018 shortfall be the new reality or will it be recovered in April 2019? In any event, the city will not know the answer until May 2019 and should budget accordingly. The Net General Fund end-of-year 2019 balance will shrink to $7,198 as a consequence of the 2018 revenue shortfall. This is “noise” level, leaving no room for surprises. The city’s reserve will decrease from 33.5 percent to 32.4 percent of expenses but the city will maintain an excellent credit rating.
    • The positive news is that Dec. 5 was the final date for 2018 payments to vendors/suppliers, so 2018 expenses are on the books and almost all departments spent under their 2018 budgets; only the Recreation Department exceeded its budget (by $200,000). The Police Department was significantly under budget in 2018 due to challenges filling open positions but is now at full strength for 2019.

Mayor Weiss said that some 2019 Budget Book items that had not historically been funded were now removed in order to maintain a positive 2019 General Fund balance, and transfers from the General Fund to Capital Funds during 2019 would be reduced by $1.7 million compared to 2018. Mr. Moore asked if the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for city employees was budgeted. Ms. Chaikin replied that any COLA increase for Public Works employees, retroactive due to the 2018 contract extension, was not included and any COLA increase exceeding 2 percent was not budgeted. Ms. Lalley asked if the city was being too conservative, given the public perception that the economy was good and people were earning and spending more. Mr. Weiss said these budget changes were not permanent, only temporary. Mr. Baker added that Ohio statute allowed only 90 days for “temporary” budgets, meaning a permanent budget must be adopted by April; however, as the city would not know the full revenue impact of federal tax law changes until May 2019, a “temporary” budget was not an option. Mr. Kolb questioned why we would not see revenue until June. Mr. Baker replied that RITA would not know actual tax receipts until May and would not credit the city before June. Mr. Kolb asked if the budget would be revisited in April. Mr. Baker replied that it would. Mr. Zimmerman commented that it was the most responsible action to be conservative at this time. Mr. Moore agreed it would be most fiscally responsible, but it did not match the public perception of a good economy, so perhaps the city needed to choose a “softer” description of the situation. Mr. Williams commented that the city was still trying to maintain a governing style from the time when estate taxes could be collected by the city, but we now had to concentrate more on income tax revenue, which will take time. Mr. Cicarella supported Mr. Baker’s theory regarding the federal tax law change driving the revenue shortfall in 2018, but questioned if it was merely delayed until April 2019 or permanent. Ms. Chaikin questioned whether the shortfall should be taken out of 2019 expenses or Capital Fund transfers. Mr. Malone agreed it was important how this was presented at the City Council meeting on Dec. 17.

Mr. Malone adjourned the meeting at 8:43 a.m.
Frank Goforth

City Council Work Session, Dec. 3, 2018

December 24th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Council Work Session
Dec. 3, 2018

(Meeting agenda, minutes and presentations are available online at the City of Shaker Heights website.)

Present: Mayor David Weiss; Council members Sean Malone, Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Julianna Johnston Senturia, Anne Williams, Earl Williams, and Robert Zimmerman; Finance Committee citizen members Martin Kolb and Anthony Moore
Others present: Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Finance Director Robert Baker, Law Director William Gruber, NOPEC Executive Director Chuck Keiper, NOPEC Relationship Manager Nicole Sweet, NOPEC Marketing Director Dave Jankowski

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

Agenda

  1. NOPEC (Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, the nonprofit that negotiates electricity rates for Shaker Heights residents) gave a presentation to Council on its 100 percent Green Energy Rate. Mr. Keiper told Council that NOPEC was looking to conduct a two-year pilot program on electric car sharing in Shaker Heights. NOPEC will provide the vehicles for what was described as a “cutting edge” plan. Shaker is one of five sites throughout Cuyahoga County selected for this pilot program.

The new 100 percent Green Energy Rate was discussed. Mr. Malone wanted to know how much per year the price differential between the plans amounted to. Council was having a difficult time figuring out the costs from the hand-outs NOPEC distributed at the meeting. Mr. Keiper noted that everyone wants 100 percent green energy until they look at the cost. NOPEC is offering five new products with a 100 percent renewable content option.

Public comment regarding the NOPEC presentation was given by Norman Robbins, who found in the past that the default (you have to opt-out) option is what 99 percent of people choose. He mentioned that the former mayor, Earl Leiken, let people know about the green option and few people chose it. He asked that the 100 percent green energy rate be made the default opt-out option. He noted that the cost of the 50 percent green energy option and the 100 percent green energy option were essentially the same, but whereas the 50 percent option offers a default opt-out option, the 100 percent does not. He asked NOPEC to consider making the 100 percent green energy option the default opt-out option.

  1. Proposed Revised 2019 General Fund Operating Budget and General Capital Budget: Mayor Weiss remarked that it has been an “interesting process” trying to project a budget with imperfect information. He said the revised budget was the best guess in light of current volatility and uncertainty and it’s unlikely that there will be any resolution to this uncertainty until well into 2019. The revised budget was described as an “unofficial temporary” budget. All of this volatility stems from the daily variability in RITA collections. At the macro level, collections are down substantially, and at the micro level there is constant fluctuation on a day-to-day basis. The budget will get modified in the second quarter of 2019.

Mr. Baker then began discussing his portion of the Revised 2019 General Fund Operating Budget Presentation (available on the city’s website). He reiterated the significant change in revenues and said the city was significantly behind in revenues this late into the year. Similar cities have had similar issues (Rocky River’s revenues were described as “dropping like a rock”), whereas other cities such as Bay Village have seen no drop off. Solon’s revenues are down, but they are cushioned by business and commercial taxes. Mr. Baker wasn’t sure if revenues were being impacted by the change in the new federal tax law (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017), which limits the deductibility of state and local taxes, among other things. Mr. Zimmerman asked if the decrease in revenues was similar to the drop in 2007-08. Mayor Weiss said that we won’t know if the SALT (State and Local Taxes) reduction is the culprit until April-May. Mr. Baker said that there aren’t any big changes in Shaker. People aren’t leaving. But RITA isn’t giving any explanation, much to the finance director’s consternation. If it is SALT, the revenues will come in April-May, but it could be delayed another month.

The only way to make up for the decreased revenues this late in the planning process is to reduce expenditures and transfers. The proposed revised budget includes expenditure reductions and asks that Council “hold tight” as the scenario plays out. The following reductions were proposed: no COLA increase (the original budget called for a 2 percent cost-of-living increase), elimination of a consultant, a cut in researching tax relief and in a pilot project for a Lee Road streetscape plan. There are also reductions in transfers to the General Capital Fund.

 The next steps involve continual monitoring of income tax revenues, reconsidering changing to part-time to full-time positions; a delay in filling vacant positions; and the preparation of a revised 2019 Budget effective July 1, 2019, based on January-June revenues.

Ms. Senturia remarked on the challenge the decrease in tax revenue represents in deciding what to choose to eliminate or pare back. She suggested that the city may need to borrow more for pressing capital needs and to make more room for debt service in the capital budget. She said not offering COLA didn’t feel right to her and that the tax relief research project and videotaping Council meetings would be better cuts. Ms. Williams was troubled by the COLA recommendation as well. Mr. Malone suggested exploring options for delaying capital projects rather than decreasing COLA. “The situation is unprecedented and it is hard to move the needle on the operating budget at this point,” Mayor Weiss said. He added that the city can go back and restore the spending cuts as revenues increase.

The revised budget will be presented for adoption at the Dec. 17, 2018, City Council meeting. The meeting adjourned at 9:08 p.m.
Audrey Morris, Observer

Board of Education, November 2018

December 3rd, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
November 14, 2018

Present: William Clawson, LIsa Cremer, Jeffrey Isaacs, Ayesha Bell Hardaway, Heather Weingardt
Also Present: Dr. Stephen Wilkins, Interim Superintendent; and Bryan Christman, Treasurer; Architectural Consultants from Van Aukin Akins

The meeting was heavily attended, filling the upper cafeteria at the high school to capacity. Board President Jeffrey Isaacs  opened the meeting by reading remarks addressing the concerns raised at the Nov. 8 community meeting regarding ongoing personnel issues at the high school. The board acknowledges the emotions and frustrations of those attending, and recognizes a need to be fair and sensitive to both students and teaching staff, he said. Mr. Isaacs detailed a number of board actions taken, including dismissals and taking student complaints seriously by investigating matters–while also expressing the value they place in the teachers. Mr. Isaacs further noted the board’s support for established district processes in dealing with privacy and personnel matters. On another matter, the board has engaged Ray & Associates to help with the search for a new superintendent. The board letter/remarks can be read on the shaker.org website. The board is interested in hearing community feedback  and encourages communication through the site: board@shaker.org.

Woodbury Principal H. Danny Young formally opened the meeting with the help of 6th grader Anjum Reddy, who read a short essay on what she especially appreciates about being a student at Woodbury. He praised Fernway Principal Chris Hayward’s team for their positive presence at Woodbury.  New clubs are continuing to be formed and 47 percent of 5th and 6th graders are involved in a club or after- school activity.  A “Critical Frames” protocol is being utilized as part of Woodbury’s IB program.

The October minutes were read and approved.

Public Communication: An unusual amount of time was allotted for public communication to the board. General policy is that the maximum amount of time allotted is 30 minutes. Public comments addressing the board lasted 70 minutes, with 18 people addressing the board.  SHHS teacher Dr. Morris  represented the Shaker Heights Teachers Association in support of the English teacher who is currently on a leave of absence. Two educators expressed support for their colleague, and spoke to the dedication and excellence of teaching staff.  Others voiced support for  students who initiate complaints.  Comments included those made by community members, alumni, parents and former parents. On another important matter for the district, several Fernway parents, students (two second graders), and members of the Fernway neighborhood urged the board to approve a generous budget for an enhanced school building and spoke to the constraints of the old building.

Honors and Recognition: Dr. Wilkins commended the hockey program and their fundraising successes. The High School Art Club created a chalk wall for the Van Aken District. The MAC scholars continue to excel. Lia Gomez-Perez and Kevin LaMonica (our own 2018-19 Legacy Fellow!) were recognized by the College Board under the National Hispanic Recognition Program – only 5,000 students out of 250,00 qualify for this honor.

Equity Task Force Update: The task force has continued to meet without consultative support. A draft of the Shaker policy has been completed. In December there will the first reading of the policy following a review by the Policy Committee. Several board members thanked the task force for its hard work.

In a related matter, SGORR successfully organized a “Rapid Response” Forum at the High School with more than 150 students and community members in attendance.

Fernway Update: The Finance and Audit Committee looked at the budget options. There was clarification of what has been commonly referred to as the “preferred plan,” which is a $5 million option. This option would be a complete plan upgrade, including all outside site work, a complete cooling system, and a gymnasium addition–which many parents stated a desire for, given prior space constraints.  The insurance coverage for Fernway amounts to $14.6 million dollars. The board unanimously voted to approve the $3 million option while considering the potential of two phases of improvements. The district will look to the future for additional funds from various sources, including savings from possible bond expenditure funds, $1.3 million previously allocated to Fernway, future operational savings from capital funds, and possible fundraising opportunities.  The $3 million option allows for all interior educational spaces with significant improvements. It does not include any site work, which would cost an extra $750,000 to $1 million.  The architects will work to maximize all options. Principal Hayward will be consulted to prioritize needs. Interim Superintendent Wilkins is currently looking into other funding sources and possibilities. The contractors are suggesting that work could be completed in 14 months. Dr. Wilkins thanked the Fernway community “for their passion and advocacy.”

Facilities Construction Update: Continued work at the High School, Middle School, Woodbury, Boulevard, Lomond and Onaway include ADA, security and structural upgrades. At the high school,  water-main line improvements will address water pressure problems and the north parking lot will need repair.

This observer had to leave at 8 p.m. before the meeting adjourned.
Anne Batzell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City Council, November 2018

December 3rd, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Council Meeting & Work Session with Finance Committee
Nov. 26, 2018

Present: Council members Tres Roeder, Sean Malone, Nancy Moore, Juliana Johnston Senturia, Anne Williams, Earl Williams and Rob Zimmerman; Mayor David Weiss, CAO Jerry Chaikin, Law Director William Gruber, Finance Director Robert Baker, Finance and Administration Committee members Linda Lalley and Martin Kolb

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Weiss at 7:03 p.m. Mr. Weiss offered the city’s condolences to Aisha Fraser’s family, children, and co-workers. He requested a moment of silence to honor Ms. Fraser.  He also reported that Officer Adam Flynt, injured at the crime site, is recovering.

Item 1:  Mr. Roeder was appointed as an affiliate trustee of the Board of the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. Ms. Moore and Ms. Williams previously served in this role.

Item 2:  The minutes of the Oct. 9 and Oct. 22, 2018, meetings were approved.

There was no public comment on agenda items.

Item 3:  Police Chief Jeffrey DeMuth presented a proposal for the acceptance of funds from the Cuyahoga County OVI Task Force for additional traffic enforcement patrols. Chief DeMuth indicated that the contract had been renewed and that the funds have been included in the police operating budget. He requested that the agreement be approved on first reading with a suspension of the rules as an emergency measure due to the timing of accepting the grant. The suspension of the rules and the service agreement were approved unanimously.

Item 4 : Joyce Braverman, Director of the Planning Department, requested approval of a Conditional Use Permit for two units on one lot as part of an infill located on Hildana Road.  The City Planning Commission has approved the permit with conditions.  Mr. Zimmerman commented that the Planning Commission was pleased with the plan and infill and recommended approval.  Ms. Braverman requested a suspension of the rules as an emergency measure due to the timing of construction. The suspension of the rules and the Conditional Use Permit were unanimously approved.

Item 5: Ms. Braverman presented an application for a Cuyahoga County Supplemental Grant for Van Aken District Busway Improvements. This grant money would help improve pedestrian and transit rider safety in the busway area. This grant does not require a local match.  Grants will be awarded in January 2019.  Ms. Braverman indicated that the City Planning Commission and the Finance Committee have reviewed and approved the request to file the application.  Sean Malone asked for clarification that at some point in the future, the RTA is planning line improvements in the area; however, the scope of those improvements is not yet known. Ms. Braverman requested a suspension of the rules as an emergency measure due to the timing of permit application.  The suspension of the rules and the grant application were unanimously approved. Mr. Williams wanted to make a note on the record that the Planning Department is diligent in looking for outside sources of funding.

Item 6: Recreation Director Alex Nichols presented the contract proposal for Senior Transportation Connections (STC) services for rides for senior residents. A study of the use of the service revealed that over 4,000 trips have been taken this year (as of September 2018). The majority of the trips are for medical appointments and it seems to be a valued service for Shaker’s seniors. STC requested a rate hike and the Recreation Department negotiated a lower rate hike. The cost to users will remain the same this year.  The Finance Department has identified this as a critical service for our residents. The contract has a cost “not to exceed” $100,000.  Mr. Roeder asked if ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft had been considered.  The ridership has remained steady and the seniors appear to be staying with STC. Mr. Malone stated that the Finance Department has approved this with the stipulation that the contract could be terminated early if other services become available and more cost-effective for the city. Ms. Moore wanted to commend Ms. Nichols on negotiating and not accepting the higher rate increase. Ms. Nichols requested a suspension of the rules as an emergency measure due to the timing of contract approval.  The suspension of the rules and the grant application were unanimously approved.

Item 7: A proposed liquor permit for Bottles on 25 LLC, located at 3441 Tuttle Road, Stall #301, did not require action because Council did not object to the permit.

Mayor Weiss adjourned the Council meeting at 7:28 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m. opened Council’s joint work session with the city’s Finance Committee.

Finance Director Bob Baker indicated that the proposed budget is preliminary due to uncertainty in November revenue collections. Currently, revenue collections are running below budget and it is not known how much less the collections will end up below projections. The Finance Department is closely watching reported revenues from RITA and will update the budget projections as more numbers come in.

Ms. Chaikin presented the total capital budget, which is currently proposed to be $8. million. The sources of funding were discussed and include using the General Fund, Sewer Capital Fund, and state- issued loans at 0 percent–as well as NEORSD grant money for sewer work.

Police Chief DeMuth requested funds for the annual replacement of vehicles. The Police Department has a regular replacement schedule to ensure that the police have working and reliable vehicles.  The proposed $262, 000 is to replace six vehicles per year.  Mr. Zimmerman asked if they looked at using hybrid vehicles. The chief replied that the additional cost could not be justified by the savings in fuel costs.

Ms. Braverman presented a joint request from Planning, Public Works and Police for traffic and pedestrian improvements at Warrensville Center Road and Shaker Boulevard. The funding would include a Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative (TCLI) grant of $200,000 and a city match of $173,000.  The work will include closing access and reworking the lanes at these intersections. Chief DeMuth requested $30,000 for the Chagrin/Lynnfield Pedestrian Improvement plan.  Following citizen requests for assistance and a traffic study, the police have identified some traffic-calming measures that could slow/organize traffic and identify pedestrian pathways. Ms. Chaikin clarified that if funding is received for both projects, public meetings will be held before the work is completed. The chief agreed that the plans are conceptual and subject to change following public input. Mr. Roeder asked the chief to explain how projects are selected. The chief stated that signal studies, traffic patterns, and pedestrian studies are performed as well as a review of traffic accident data. Ms. Williams asked for the timing of the TCLI grant. It is due in December. Mr. Zimmerman asked when they may look at the Warrensville Center and South Woodland intersection. The chief responded that the cost estimate is over $100,000 and would involve reworking traffic to reduce the number of streets entering Warrensville (possibly make Almar one way). He indicated that they did try the less expensive change in light timing and it did not work. Both Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Malone indicated that they feel traffic calming is a priority for residents and it is a quality-of-life issue for them.

Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney requested $10,000 to continue the department’s breathing air cylinder replacement program. Approximately 14 bottles per year have been replaced in order to keep the air cylinders up to date. The 2001 Pierce Fire Engine is due for replacement. The Fire Department has negotiated a seven-year lease/purchase agreement that will spread the cost $117,000 per year, over the term of the lease. Mr. Williams asked for the life-cycle of the fire truck. Mr. Baker said expected life is 10 years. With care, the Fire Department has extended the service life to 15-20 years.

Public Works Director Patricia Speese presented requests to replace a mower ($15,000) and a Leaf Vac ($50,000).  Public Works also asked to replace a 2006 Packer Truck ($175,000), scooter ($30,000), snow plow ($10,000), 2002 dump truck ($125,000), mechanics lift ($20,000), and 2000 aerial truck ($130,000), which are all at the end of their life. Photos were presented to show the decay of the vehicles and the need for replacement. Linda Lalley questioned why so many vehicles needed to be replaced.  Ms. Speese responded that replacement has been deferred with maintenance and these vehicles have gone long beyond their service life. Mr. Roeder asked if Public Works has ever looked at sharing equipment with the school district.  Ms. Speese said that Public Works uses them during daylight hours and would not have time to share them. Ms. Chaikin said that the city is talking to the schools about having the schools mow city fields that are near the schools.

Public Works also requested $2 million for street resurfacing, which includes ADA ramps, curbs, and street large-area repairs.  Public Works is working with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District on a Northeast Quadrant sewer liner project, which requires $1.5 million as well as $500,000 for other capital repairs. When sewers are being updated, Public Works is making comprehensive repairs and upgrades to sewers, trees and laterals before resurfacing.  The Huntington Road project has a cost of $850,000, with $425,000 coming from an NEORSD grant. Cleveland Water Department has plans at Avalon and Strathaven in 2019 with 100 percent funded by Cleveland Water.

Director Braverman presented the combined two year budget for City Hall and Former Fire House renovations to update the space and consolidate employees at City Hall.  Phase 1 is second-floor renovation for Building and Housing as re-allocate space on the first floor.  Phase 2 will be reconfiguring the first floor.  Mayor Weiss stated that spreading the project over two years seemed to be the most efficient approach.  Cost for Phase 1 is $225,000 (plus $225,000 from 2018) for $450,000 total.

Public Works Facilities Management requested $130,000 for the generator replacement at Stephanie Tubbs Jones Community Building.  The building is the emergency shelter for the city and needs to have a working generator in case of emergency.  The Police Court Elevator needs modernization for $80,000.  Fire Station 2 also needs a generator replacement of its 43-year-old generator for $75,000.  The Service Center yard needs pavement work for $150,000.  The Transfer Station which stores that salt has structural issues and will be fully evaluated in the spring once it is emptied of salt.  The estimated cost for structural work is $400,000.  The Shaker family Center exterior painting is peeling and needs to be scraped and repainted for $60,000.

Recreation Director Nichols presented requests for $5,000 to restain Around the World Playground to seal the treated lumber and improve the life of the equipment.  Pool replacement lines at Thornton need to be replaced at $5,000 and the pool building heaters need to be replaced for $10,000.  Further upgrades at Thornton include electric Zamboni overhaul ($20,000), Picnic area shade structure and slab replacement ($25,000), replacement of pool slide ($75,000) and Ice Arena Cooling Tower ($60,000).  Trail improvement is needed at the Town Center Trail ($30,000).  Councilman Malone asked that Recreation Department evaluate the trail at Lower Lake for any needed improvements as well as baseball fields that are annual not in shape when baseball starts.

The Information Technology Department requested $38,000 for updated Windows software as well as $36,000 for computer workstation replacements.  The city buys through the State Cooperative Purchasing Program.  Hardware storage equipment is needed for $50,000.  The police and courts data is kept on secure hardware storage equipment.  Director Baker presented the request for a timekeeping scheduling system that will work for Police, Fire and Public Works.  This system will be integrated with the current payroll system used by the city.  This system will save time from manually maintained schedules that are currently used.  The System costs $95,000.

CAO Chaikin presented a proposal for public meeting live streaming from the second story of City Hall.  It will include integration with the website and will include links to documents that are presented at meetings.  This will include cameras in the council chambers.  The Live Streaming System is $51,000.

Projects funded previously or with other sources: Waterlines at Avalon ($1,100,000), Green Lake and Lower Lake (NEORSD, $2,002,391), Warrensville Center Streetscape (NOACA grant $1,500,000, State Capital Budget $490,000, City Match $487,376), and Fairhill Combined Sewer Overflow ($75,000).

Mayor Weiss restated that the budget will have to be reduced based on new revenue estimates as those become available. Councilman Zimmerman asked the process.  Mayor Weiss state that the admin will come back with recommendations for additional cuts.  Council will review and approve as approrpriate.  Mayor Weiss said he hopes to continue to look for outside sources of funding.

Mayor Weiss opened the meeting to public comment on the proposed budget.

Sara Schiavoni of Morley Road requested that the city revisit South Woodland and Warrensville Center Road. She acknowledged that the full project is estimated at $125,000 however on $34,000 is required to get the updated signal box that could ease the timing of lights.  This intersection had 6% of city accidents (52 accidents) in a recent study.

A resident from Trayham road stated that she would encourage the city to implement the traffic calming measures at Lynnfield.  She also thanked the council for a timely replacement of the stop sign near Shaker Family Center.

9:10 pm public comment period was closed. Mayor Weiss reviewed the sunshine calendar.  The budget discussion will continue 12/3.

9:12 pm Mayor Weiss moved the council into executive session.
Sarah Divacarla

Library Board of Trustees, November 2018

December 3rd, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Library Board of Trustees

Nov. 19, 2018

 

Present: Trustees Gleisser, Bertsch, Meinhard, Cicarella, Williams, Garrett (7 p.m.)

Absent: Katz

 

The meeting was called to order at 6:38 p.m. Minutes were approved for two meetings, one a joint meeting with the Cleveland Heights/University Heights Library Board.

 

Meghan Hays gave a presentation on the local history collection, planning for which was begun in 1994. It opened to the public, with foundation funding, in 1998. Ms. Hays has been local history librarian since 2004. It benefits from a number of partnerships with local public and private entities and includes over 10,000 photos, all Shaker Heights yearbooks, scrapbooks, maps, and other materials. Online it can be accessed via Shakerlibrary.org/local-history.

 

President Gleisser appointed board members Katz and Williams to the nominating committee. He also reported on initial meetings of the facility task force, with representation from the city, schools, and library. It is intended to develop a coordinated plan for facility development in Shaker Heights. Monthly meetings are anticipated in 2019, and will be open to the public and listed on the Sunshine Calendar.

 

The fiscal officer presented a report indicating revenues above budget and expenditures slightly below budget projections. Financial statements were approved by the Board.

 

A resolution to request advance of property tax for 2019 was approved. This is a standard procedure. Also approved was a statement of 2019 pay ranges, taking into account a new minimum wage (per State of Ohio). Several candidates for municipal advisor have been interviewed and one selected, to help with bond sales, etc. dealing with the large Library renovation project.

 

Director Switzer spoke about preparing an RFP for owner’s representative for the project, interviews to be held in January. She also presented the Library technology plan for 2019, which was approved by the Board. The community engagement report noted, among other items, that 506 preschool children had been visited by library personnel in October.

 

Gifts were accepted and allocated. There was a discussion of charitable giving and development (the Library has no development officer).

 

Meeting went into executive session around 7:45.

 

Finance Committee, November 2018

November 30th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Finance Committee
No. 19, 2018

Members Present: Council members Sean Malone (chair), Nancy Moore, Earl Williams; citizen members: Martin Kolb, Linda Lalley
Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Police Chief Jeffrey DeMuth, Principal Planner Ann Klavora, Director of Recreation Alexandria Nichols, Director of Finance Robert Baker, Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian.

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Malone at 7:31 a.m.

Agenda—Committee actions:

The minutes of the Oct. 15, 2018, meeting were approved.

Chief DeMuth presented a recommendation to enter into a service agreement with the Cuyahoga County OVI (Operating a Vehicle when Impaired) Task Force to accept and appropriate grant funding for Federal Fiscal Year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018, for use toward additional traffic enforcement Grant funding in the amount of $9,500 is being offered by the County OVI Task Force, administered by University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital Rainbow Injury Prevention Center. Nancy Moore asked if this operation would focus on weekends and holidays. Mr. DeMuth said yes, it would prioritize Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings and holidays.

Earl Williams wondered if the use of Uber and Lyft mobile applications had reduced OVI offenses. Mr. DeMuth had no data on this impact. Tom Cicarella remarked that government grants were not free, so what was the city’s cost for the grant. Mr. DeMuth replied the only requirement was to reduce OVI offenses and file a yearly report of the result. A motion to approve was passed unanimously.

Principal Planner Ann Klavora presented a request for the Finance Committee to recommend Council authorization of a $50,000 grant application to, and acceptance of a grant from, the Cuyahoga County Department of Development 2019 Supplemental Grant Program for Van Aken District Busway Improvements. The existing station area facilities are inadequate. Sidewalk connections are incomplete and parking lot access is confusing. Conditions are very harsh and unwelcoming to transit riders due to the large amount of concrete without landscape relief, lack of shade from summer sun, and lack of protection from wind, rain and snow. The dedicated busway offers only three shelters for bus passengers, and shelter space is frequently inadequate for passenger loads. There are no other weather-protected or shaded waiting areas for passengers. The Shaker Heights Development Corporation applied for and received $50,000 to make streetscape improvements at the Lee/Hampstead Intersection last year.

Earl Williams understood that the RTA had no money to do this anywhere in their system. Ms. Kalavora confirmed RTA did not have the funds to make improvements. Linda Lalley wanted to know who owned what property at the Van Aken Station. Ms. Klavora explained RTA owned only the track right-of-way, the city owned the busway and the single-row parking lot level with the busway, and RMS owned the double-row elevated parking lot adjacent to the stores. Ms. Lalley asked if future RTA plans might impact this project. Ms. Klavora said that RTA had long-range goals for the Blue Line Terminus and had applied for federal grants. Tom Cicarella wondered aloud if winning this grant would disqualify thecity for other grants. Ms. Klavora said in her experience, there is no disqualification. Jeri Chaikin injected that grants have different sources and different criteria, even from the same source, so there was not a risk. She continued that the source of this fund is casino revenue. Sean Malone added that Shaker had been very successful winning grants. He next asked if the busway improvements would include a restroom. Ms. Klavora stated that was part of an ongoing discussion. Marty Kolb inquired if the tracks would be extended to Eaton’s headquarters in Chagrin Highlands. Mr. Malone said this was not feasible due to cost. A motion to approve was passed unanimously.

Ms. Nichols presented a proposal to approve a contract with Senior Transportation Connections (STC) for the provision of senior transportation services for calendar year 2019 with a cost to not exceed $100,000, with the provision that the city can terminate the agreement during the year if the city opts into the Community Partnership on Aging Model, and if the city researches Medicaid reimbursements for transportation services. Between 150 and 250 people register for this service annually and most use it for medical appointments, shopping, volunteering, banking and other transportation needs. Although not all registered people use the service, STC transports senior residents on over 4,000 one-way trips per year. This is the same amount that was approved for 2018.

Earl Williams inquired if the number or type of rides would be cut if the cost exceeded $100,000. Mr. Nichols replied that the number of rides would not be cut; there are incentives to supply group rides, and individual rides cost more while group rides cost less. Mr. Williams wondered if the city might have to increase the budget if the cost exceeded $100,000. Ms. Nichols added that ridership was slowly decreasing each year, so she felt comfortable with the budget, but that, yes, if necessary, she might return to Council to increase the budget. Nancy Moore remarked she did not remember a negotiation on prices having been done before, asking what caused this and how hard was the negotiation. Ms. Nichols answered that after receiving an increase in the quote, they had negotiated a reduced cost for medical rides. Ms. Moore continued, wanting to know if the city limited the cost to seniors. Ms. Nichols confirmed the full cost was not passed to seniors and that medical trip cost-sharing could increase. Ms. Moore asked if discretionary shopping/personal trip cost sharing could be increased instead in order to dissuade them. Ms. Nichols replied that most shopping trips were group trips, by resident preference. Marty Kolb noted that resident cost sharing was by donation, not mandatory. Ms. Nichols confirmed that cost sharing was not mandatory. Linda Lalley wanted to know what limitations were set for qualification and why “community building” trips (Library and STJ building) were falling so much. Ms. Nichols replied the only qualifications were Shaker residency and age over 65, and there were limits on routes, distance and purpose. She continued that most riders were much older and without automobiles, but did not know the reason for the fall in community building ridership. Jeri Chaikin added that STC had recently completed a plan to coordinate the costs for all the cities they served. Mr. Kolb asked if the $100,000 was already in the operating budget and Ms. Nichols replied that it was. A motion to approve was passed unanimously.

Director Baker then introduced two discussion items for consideration by the committee: a) the 2018/2019 Revenue Projection and b) the General Fund Reserve Policy.

Mr. Baker reminded committee members that at the Nov. 12 City Council work session, he had remarked about the significant reduction in income tax receipts since summer, and November receipts received last week were down another $800,000 from his estimate at last week’s Council work session. Some other cities he contacted had noticed the problem and others had not, but when the others checked they found the same had happened for them. Tax-withholding payments had held steady, but individual quarterly estimates were down significantly. This situation corresponds with individuals who are self-employed and/or small business owners, of which there are many in Shaker. In some cases, estimated payments had not been made in June or September. Tom Cicarella suspected that people who estimate, such as he, had been advised by accountants to use the “Safe Harbor Rule” of the federal tax code to reduce the impact of the new tax law placed into effect this year, which reduces their 2018 taxes due next April. He would expect the same for December receipts.

Mr. Baker asked the committee members what they thought would be reasonable to expect going forward this year and budgeting next year. Nancy Moore stated she was glad we have a substantial General Fund reserve. Earl Williams wondered if the reserve was enough. Mr. Baker replied it was sufficient, that the low point of the 2008-2009 “Great Recession” was the only time it sank below 20 percent, but the city needs to now expect and budget for this new lower income-tax environment. Linda Lalley asked if the budget could be revised during the year and after first quarter. Mr. Baker replied that it could, but that tax receipts varied widely month to month and project commitments must be made prior to taxes being received; he does not want to wait and have to recover after June. Ms. Lalley agreed we do not have enough information to be reactive. Mr. Williams did not discount that we could be pleasantly surprised. Sean Malone commented it felt best to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Mr. Cicarella counseled the group to understand the reasons for the shortfall and plan for that rather than plan for the worst outcome. Ms. Moore reminded everyone that changes in the budget affected employees and services, so be careful. Marty Kolb asked if Council could wait until December tax receipts arrived. Mr. Baker reminded the committee members that the next Council work session was Dec. 3, before the next tax receipts, and any budget changes (recognizing Ms. Moore’s comment) had to be discussed with all departments to determine personal and services ramifications before a revised budget could be determined. The final Council meeting for budget approval is Dec. 17, and Mr. Baker re-emphasized that this must be done now. Ms. Lalley noted that the budget contained $10 million of General Fund transfers to other operating and capital funds—could the city take on projects with transfers back to the General Fund? Mr. Williams reminded the members that transfers are not reversible. Mr. Kolb remarked that transfers could be reduced and then added back later, but not taken back. Mr. Baker answered that capital transfers can happen at year-end only, but contracts would still be delayed. Mr. Malone asked what sort of things would be impacted if transfers were reduced. Ms. Chaikin replied that staffing delays would occur. Mr. Williams cautioned that sewer maintenance cannot be reduced. Ms. Moore warned that Shaker would certainly not want a flood just after reducing sewer maintenance. Mr. Malone suggested reducing the transfer now, but not the entire $800,000. Mr. Baker emphasized that departments needed a target to start updating their 2018 and 2019 budgets now, and said there are many pieces of this puzzle to fit together. Nancy Moore thanked Mr. Baker for his skill, his attention to details and urgency. Mr. Malone echoed his thanks to Mr. Baker.

Sean Malone suggested the Finance Committee discuss the General Fund Reserve Policy after the Dec. 3 City Council/Finance Committee work session. Robert Baker suggested waiting until January as the budget takes priority until year-end. He is also reluctant to set hard and fast rules for reserve levels, preferring to set a target value that is advisory rather than a set minimum or maximum level that demands definitive action by Council to reduce or increase tax revenue. He reminded the committee that the reserve balance only dipped below 20 percent during the 2008-2009 Great Recession. Linda Lalley commented that there is a small group of people who remember and understand the issues. She noted the response of other cities who had not yet noticed this problem, and recommended adding some guidance in other areas regarding recommended options for surprises. Marty Kolb added the new federal tax laws are very upsetting to local governments.

Sean Malone adjourned the meeting at 8:42 a.m.
Frank Goforth, observer