Observer Reports

Safety & Public Works Committee, February 2017

February 9th, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Safety and Public Works Committee
Feb. 3, 2017

Present: Council members Julianna Senturia (chair), Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder; citizen members Austin McGuan, Brian Gleisser, Jeremy Paris
Also present: Mayor Earl Leiken, Chief of Police Jeffrey DeMuth, Dir. of Public Works Patricia Speese, Chief of Fire Patrick Sweeney

Chief Sweeney requested and received approval for three items:

  1. To waive competitive bidding and award a contract for $238,000 to Pierce Manufacturing for the mechanical refurbishment of a custom built 2003 Pierce Fire Engine.
  2. Acceptance and appropriation of $2,500 from the 2016-17 Ohio Department of Public Safety-Division of EMS grant for purchase of EMS medical supplies.
  3. Permission to apply for and accept any awarded funds from the 2017-18 Ohio Department of Public Safety-Division of EMS grant for equipment, training and research.

Ms. Speese requested and received approval for three items:

  1. Permission to apply for a Community Recycling Awareness Grant of $5,000 from the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District to pay for magnets imprinted with recycling guidelines to be inserted into Shaker Magazine.
  2. Permission to enter an agreement with Cuyahoga County to participate in its Shared Services Agreement. This allows sharing of resources, equipment, and personnel when appropriate.
  3. Authorization of an agreement between the city and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District to utilize the city’s Community Cost Share over the next seven years to reimburse the city for the construction of storm water management facilities at University Hospitals Management Services Center. The goal is to build an underground water detention system to alleviate serious flooding in the Northfield/Warrensville Center area. The funds will be used to pay debt service on the bonds the city will issue to replenish the Economic Development and Housing Reserve Fund that will initially be used to pay for construction of the flood control project.

Police Chief DeMuth requested appropriation of $10,000 from the State of Ohio Attorney General for continuing professional training of police officers. This and the aforementioned monetary issues were recommended for approval and will be forwarded to the Finance Committee and City Council.
Linda Lissauer

Board of Education, January 2017

February 1st, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
January 10, 2017

Board members present: Mr. Clawson, Dr. Davidson, Mr.Dykema, Mr. Issacs, Ms. Sutherland
Others present: Superintendent Dr. Hutchings; Asst. Superintendent Mr. Wilkins; Treasurer Mr. Christman; Chair of Finance & Audit Committee for the District, Mr. Peebles; consultant from Triad Research Group

Mr. Clawson, who had served an extra term as president of the board, stepped down. Mr. Dykema was unanimously elected president of the board. Mr. Isaacs was unanimously elected vice president.

Mr. Dykema allowed extra time for public comments in order to hear from the many residents who had thoughts to share, much of it concerning the district facilities plan. A number of parents/teachers advocated for an update of flexible furniture when considering future expenditures. Another substantial group of citizens spoke about the importance of the swimming programs and extensive use of the public pools in Shaker. (This interest was also a concern of residents surveyed by Triad Research Group.) Other resident comments regarded the heavy tax burden already carried by the community.

This meeting was a regular organizational/business meeting that covered usual matters, including the treasurer’s monthly finance and budget report; however, the major emphasis of the meeting and time spent was devoted to a thorough and lengthy discussion of the District Capital Plan Proposals, concluding with a vote by the board.

Prior to the vote by the board, detailed reports were presented by the Triad Research Group and the Finance and Audit Committee, a volunteer group of independent financial experts. Their reports were followed by earnest, specific questioning and an in-depth discussion by board members. Details of the reports to the board can be accessed at

Triad Research Group Summary (based on data gathered from 402 residents):

— Passing a $50 million bond issue would be possible, but would require a strong informational campaign.
— A greater percentage of voters (+ 8%) surveyed would support a $30 million issue that would pay for basic improvements to all the school buildings and the installation of modern safety and security systems.
— Voters are largely unaware of the need for school repairs and the improvement or replacement of the Middle School, so it will be important to tell voters about the conditions of the Middle School–the school that is in greatest need of repair, renovation and compliance with ADA standards.

The Decision of the Board:

—”Acting with the advice of its Finance and Audit Committee,” the board “voted unanimously to place a 3.76-mill bond issue and permanent improvement levy on the May 2 ballot to raise $30 million for the District’s most urgent and critical capital needs.” The board agreed “to put aside a $50 million option that would have included building a new Middle School.”
—The proposal going before the voters includes the “ issuance of bonds for immediate costs as well as a 1.25-mill permanent improvement levy” that will develop a stable funding source for future repairs and maintenance.

In looking forward, the board will be answering all questions put to it and encouraging the public to contact board members. There will be an ongoing effort to educate the public about the critical need to maintain the district’s aging schools and to avoid a crisis situation. Board members agreed they will be looking forward to developing possible partnerships with the City and the Library to address some of the needs of the school district, and the board will also be looking to the Shaker Schools Foundation as a possible funding source for some the “wishes” that no longer can be considered, given the adoption of a more fiscally modest plan.

Dr. Hutchings’ report was an appreciation for all the intensive work the board has done over the past two years. He further commented on the contributions of staff and consultants. Mr. Wilkins was mentioned specifically for his expertise in the area of financial guidance. Dr Hutchings said, “We have come a long way in two years and have really set our priorities.” He felt that the board, in coming to a difficult decision, had been fiscally responsible and politically astute.
Anne Batzell

City Planning Commission/Board of Zoning Appeals, December 2016

January 18th, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Zoning Appeals and City Planning Commission
Dec. 6, 2016

Present: Jack Boyle, Kevin Madison, David Weiss, Councilman Rob Zimmerman
Also present: Joyce Braverman, Dan Feinstein, Planning Department; William Gruber, Law Director

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Zimmerman at 7 p.m. The minutes of the Sept. 15 and Oct. 2, 2016, meeting were unanimously approved. Mr. Zimmerman read a proclamation honoring Kevin Madison, whose last meeting (after 20 years of service) was this evening.



A public meeting was held on the request of the city for review and adoption of the Van Aken District Connections Plan. The city has prepared a plan to develop a placemaking action plan that enhances the public realm, establishes the district’s identity and celebrates the district. The plan focuses on connecting the Van Aken District with the surrounding neighborhoods, incorporating pedestrian and bike circulation, a wayfinding signage plan, public art, green infrastructure and landscaping. The plan was prepared during a public process that included public meetings in June and September 2016. The City Planning Commission reviews city plans and studies and makes a recommendation to Council on adoption.

Mr. Boyle said that a cross street to the east side of the district, with a light, should be incorporated into the plan. At the public hearing, a resident asked if there would be a safe crossing from Winslow Road to the district. Ms. Braverman stated that it would be safer to cross at the lights located at Chagrin and also at Van Aken.

The global development club from the high school presented a park plan for green space at the district. A representative from the bicycle club asked that there be a plan for multi-modal transportation throughout the city.

As moved by Mr. Boyle, second by Mr. Weiss, the plan will be recommended to City Council.  The motion was unanimously approved.



Mr. Boyle recused himself from this case.

This was a continuation of a public hearing on the request of Dan Musson, designer, representing The Dealership, 3558 Lee Road, for a variance to the number and size of secondary window signs. The applicant proposes four secondary window signs facing Lee Road. The new window signs will read “The Dealership.” Code allows one secondary window sign on this building at a maximum of 6 square feet in size. The applicant proposes two smaller vinyl window graphic signs of 5.75 square feet and 1.6 square feet on either side of the door. The applicant also proposes two supergraphics of the letter “D” fabricated from semi-transparent vinyl window graphics. The supergraphics are 137.8 square feet and 30.8 square feet in size. There is one primary wall sign also proposed for the front façade; the sign is 8.4 square feet in size and meets code requirements.

There was no public comment at the hearing.

As moved by Mr. Weiss, second by Mr. Madison, the request was unanimously approved.


These two cases were reviewed together. A public hearing was held on the request of Abby Jackson, Aristotle Design Group, representing Gary Gross, 22649 Shaker Blvd., and Paul R. Keen, 22775 Shaker Blvd., for a variance to the fence location and height regulations in the front yard. The applicant and his neighbor purchased and split the lot between them. The applicants propose to fence each half of the new side yard with a 4-foot tall ornamental aluminum fence in the front yard. Mr. Gross’s fence is proposed to extend to 14 feet behind the Shaker Boulevard sidewalk. Code allows a front yard fence set back 50 feet from the sidewalk on this block and a maximum height of 3 feet. The new side yard will be completely re-landscaped and will include a 5-foot-tall privet hedge and 8- to 10-feet-tall hornbeam trees in front of the fence. Mr. Keen’s fence is proposed to extend to 30 feet behind the Shaker Boulevard sidewalk, and will also be completely re-landscaped to include a comparable privet hedge and hornbeam trees in front of the fence.

There were no public comments.

As moved by Mr. Boyle, second by Mr. Weiss, unanimous approval was granted for the Gross property, subject to staff approval of the landscaping. As moved by Mr. Weiss, second by Mr. Madison, unanimous approval was granted for the Keen property, subject to staff approval of the landscaping.


A public hearing was held on the request of Major Harrison, Brilliant Electric Sign Co., representing St. Dominic Church, 3450 Norwood Road, to the Board of Zoning Appeals for a change to a non-conforming sign. The applicant proposes to replace and enlarge an existing legal non-conforming sign on the building. The existing sign is one of three signs for the school on the property. The existing sign is 13 square feet in size. The proposed replacement sign is 26.9 square feet in size. The wall sign identifies the entrance to the Parish Center at St. Dominic School. It is located near the school entrance and is not readily visible from Van Aken Boulevard. Code allows a non-conforming sign to be replaced, but not enlarged to make it more non-conforming.

The Landmark Commission approved the sign at its October meeting. There were no comments at the public hearing.

As moved by Mr. Boyle, second by Mr. Madison, the request was unanimously granted.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:35 p.m.
Gail Gibson

City Council Work Session, December 2016

January 18th, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Council Work Session
Dec. 5, 2016

In a previous work session, Council had reviewed projections for a 10-year capital budget plan. The document was described as a planning tool that would allow Council to anticipate recurring and predicted needs for the next decade.

In this work session, heads of departments presented desired items for the capital budget of 2017. Total outlay was $5.58 million, of which $2 million would be financed by bonds, $3.0 million from transfers from the general to the capital accounts, $250,000 from the sewer capital fund, and $244,500 from the Shaker Town Center capital fund.

The Police Department requested a total of $446,000. This includes annual replacement of vehicles (six per year, which means the entire fleet is replaced every four years on an incremental basis). Also in the budget are funds for replacement of gas masks, development of a joint dispatch center, surveillance cameras for Shaker Town Center, and replacement of street name signs.

The Fire Department intends to replace one of the rescue squad vehicles (the rescue squad makes 2,200-2,300 calls each year), equipped with the latest technology. Also included in the request were funds for refurbishment of a 2003 fire engine and replacement of air cylinder breathing equipment. Fire Department total: $583,000.

Public Works has requested equipment replacement of a number of items, for a total of $480,000. Sewer projects are slated for $250,000. Public Works facilities management projects (including new roof and improvements to the community building, elevator and HVAC in city hall)) came to $719,000. Street resurfacing, which is to include resurfacing of Shaker Boulevard beginning in spring 2017), totals $2 million.

Planning Department capital budget requests include replacement of stamped concrete crosswalks and streetscape repair in the Shaker Town Center area, a traffic and signalization study for the Warrensville/Van Aken district, and a traffic study for the Lee/Van Aken intersection. Total: $349,500.

The Recreation Department has several projects planned centered on Thornton Park, as well as a removable football/soccer goal post, for a total of $100,000.

The IT Department (which serves all other city departments and facilities) has a number of requests for software maintenance and upgrades. The most expensive projects are public safety mobile computers ($240,000) and a new telephone/voicemail system ($300,000). Total for IT: $630,000.
Kathleen Hickman

Finance Committee, December 2016

January 3rd, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Finance Committee
Dec. 12, 2016

Present: Council members Nancy Moore, Sean Malone, Earl Williams, Rob Zimmerman; citizen members Martin Kolb, Linda Lalley, Brian Fitzsimmons
Also present: Mayor Earl Leiken, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Finance Director Dave Pfaff, Economic Development Director Tania Menesse, Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney, Public Works Director Patti Speese, Assistant Financial Director Cheryl Arslanian

The meeting commenced at 7:30 a.m. with approval of the Nov. 21, 2016 regular meeting minutes.

Agenda Items:

  • Authorized the application for and acceptance of a grant in the maximum amount of $50,000 from Cuyahoga County’s Storefront Renovation Program for the Lee Road Storefront Renovation Program.
  • Amended the Development and Use Agreement with Van Aken Shopping Center Ltd. to offer RMS Corp. a purchase option for 3393 Warrensville Center Road (former Qua Buick property) in the amount of $93,783.
  • Authorized the extension of time for the Shaker Heights Development Corp. to repay a $27,200 loan from January 2017 to January 2020. The interest rate will remain at 1 percent per year.
  • Approved an agreement to allow the City of Shaker Heights to join the Heights Hillcrest Technical Rescue Team (HHTRT).
  • Amended the 2016 appropriations ordinance.

Meeting adjourned at 8:50 a.m.
Patty Knoth

Library Board of Trustees, December 2016

December 27th, 2016  |  Published in Observer Reports

Shaker Heights Library Board of Trustees
Dec. 14, 2016

The library board accepted the amended facility options study and recommendation to renovate and upgrade both city libraries as its final document. Two reports, ” community feedback on Shaker Library’s Facility Options Study” and a final shaker library facility study report-2016-12-14 were added to the original draft document. The facility study information is online at

The next step is to determine the final budget and to propose funding means and tax level for community review. Preliminary financial projections were prepared as part of the study and the next thing the library needs to do is to develop the final budget for the project. The earliest they expect to be on the ballot is November 2017—not only because there is still a lot of work to do to prepare for the project, but also because the board respects the Board of Education’s current capital needs discussion and wants voters to have the opportunity to address each issue separately.

When the library board initially began studying the best way to address facility needs, its belief was that one new facility to replace two aging facilities was a good choice for Shaker Heights. Triad Research Group was hired to conduct a representative poll of registered voters in our school district. Although they didn’t know millage associated with options when the library first polled, they did know it was more expensive to keep both buildings than to have just one new facility designed as a library. A summary of the poll results:

  • 29% supported building a new Main Library and closing Bertram Woods Branch
  • 74% thought the Main Library should be preserved as an historic building
  • 72% supported updating and renovating both buildings
  • 64% said keeping Woods open was more important than building a new Main Library

The board agreed that the facility study resulted in a thorough, thoughtful analysis of the library’s options. They said that the library owes it to the community to fully explore the option of upgrading both libraries and then to give the community a chance to tell them if they support this option.

In response to the suggestion that the library seek inclusion with Cuyahoga County Public Library, the board noted that seeking inclusion cuts off the opportunity to explore other options and that it’s important to give voters a voice before irrevocably giving away an asset Shaker residents have spent the last 80 years building and supporting.

The board agreed that partnerships and close collaboration among the library, the schools, and the city is important. The need for partnerships and a shared vision for Shaker Heights were common themes in community discussions, including the board’s recent meetings with City Council and the Board of Education and its participation in the forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.
Eileen Anderson

Safety & Public Works Committee, December 2016

December 19th, 2016  |  Published in Observer Reports

Safety & Public Works Committee
Dec. 2, 2016

Present: Council members Julianna Senturia (chair), Nancy Moore, Anne Williams, Tres Roeder; citizen members Edward Long and Jeremy Paris; Mayor Earl Leiken, CAO Jeri Chaikin, Chief of Police Jeffrey N. DeMuth, Director of Public Works Patricia Speese, Chief of Fire Patrick Sweeney.
Also present: Law Director William Ondrey Gruber, Chief Prosecutor C. Randolph Keller, Recreation Director Alexandra Nichols, Health Director Scott H. Frank; residents Kathy Smachlo and Anne Cicarella, Public Works employee Brian Talarczyk.

Ms. Senturia called the meeting to order at 7:35 a.m.

Chief Sweeney reviewed the history of the various regional special rescue teams that respond to incidents involving high-angle rope rescue, trench rescue, confined-space rescue, and structural collapse. There have been two teams to date: the Heights Area Special Rescue Team and the Hillcrest Technical Rescue Team. Joint responses revealed differences in equipment purchases and personnel training. The area fire chiefs began more cooperative efforts and now seek to merge the two teams into the Heights-Hillcrest Technical Rescue Team to provide more complete, safe, timely, economical, and state-of-the-art service to area residents.

Each city will contribute; Shaker Heights would pay $7,500 the first year, decreasing over the next six years to $6,000 in 2022. The committee recommended approval of the agreement to the Finance Committee and City Council.

Mr. Gruber submitted a list of amendments to the codified ordinances for general offenses and traffic that will align the city’s ordinances with those of the state of Ohio. By incorporating state law changes, the city will be able to enforce these general offense and traffic laws in municipal court and thereby retain the fees. A list of the amendments will be available on the Safety & Public Works section of the city’s website, The committee recommended approval of adoption of the amendments.

The remainder of the meeting consisted of an informational discussion of the use of pesticides on public lands in Shaker Heights. Information was provided by Ms. Speese, Ms. Chaikin, and Dr. Frank. Public Works has two employees specially trained in the use of pesticides. No chemicals are used in areas used by children or where adults will likely have close contact with the ground, eg., playgrounds, trails, libraries, STJ building, outdoor skating rinks, and Thornton Park.

Your observer left the meeting still in session at 8:40 a.m.
Linda Lissauer

City Council/Library Board Joint Session, December 2016

December 19th, 2016  |  Published in Observer Reports

Joint meeting:
Shaker Heights City Council and the Shaker Heights Library Board of Trustees
Dec. 5, 2016

Present: Mayor Earl Leiken and all City Council members except Tres Roeder. Library Director Amy Switzer and Library Board members.

Mayor Leiken opened the meeting by referring to the Mayor’s financial task force, which has been charged by him with evaluating all Shaker Heights institutions (including library and schools) in light of the perceived high level of taxation in the city. The group suggested exploring a merger with the Cuyahoga County library system as a means to avoid ongoing and increasing costs of the current independent system. He noted that those findings in no way constituted a criticism of the level of services or management of the current system, but rather an attempt to control costs and take part in increasing the regionalization of services.

Ms. Switzer and Library Board members gave a presentation about the options available to address facilities problems and the process of evaluating those options. She noted that the process was not yet complete, but near mid-point.

Seven options were identified:

  1. Maintaining the status quo and dealing with facilities repair, which is estimated as $4.1 million at Main and $1 million at Bertram Woods branch
  2. Replacing the facilities with one new library
  3. Updating the facilities and doing required renovation and repairs
  4. Limiting operations
  5. Joint co-location with Shaker Middle School to replace one or more facilities
  6. Contracting and consolidating facilities
  7. Combining (merging) operations with the Cuyahoga County Library system

The library has conducted opinion polls of users and found over 70 percent satisfaction with present services and similarly large percentages in favor of continuing with two sites and in the present buildings. It has considered six criteria in evaluating the options and found the upgrade option (No. 3 above) to best fulfill those measures. Upgrade would involve expenditure of about $7.5 million, and require an increase in property tax of about $56/year for $100,000 valuation.

Ms. Switzer pointed out the intensive use of the library by patrons, far above the national average, as well as its functions in supporting the community in a variety of ways. Annual budget for the library system is $4.55 million, down from a high of $4.97 million in 2005.
Kathleen Hickman

Board of Zoning Appeals and City Planning Commission, November 2016

November 17th, 2016  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Zoning Appeals and City Planning Commission
Nov. 1, 2016

Present: Jack Boyle, David Weiss, Councilman Rob Zimmerman
Also present: Joyce Braverman, Dan Feinstein, Planning Department; William Gruber, Law Director

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Zimmerman at 7 p.m. The minutes of the Sept. 15 and Oct. 2, 2016, meetings were unanimously approved.



A public hearing was held on the request of Michael Khmelnitsky, Homes on Demand LLC, to the Board of Zoning Appeals for a variance to the fence location and fence height regulations for corner lots. The applicant proposed to install a 4-foot-tall black aluminum ornamental fence on this corner lot at Shaker Boulevard and Endicott Road. The fence is proposed to be located 10 feet off the Endicott Road sidewalk. Code requires that fences located in corner side yards not extend in front of the setback line of the principal building on the adjacent lot. The adjacent house on Endicott Road is set back 83 feet. Code allows a fence height in a corner side yard of 3 feet. The ornamental aluminum fence is proposed to be screened with a new privet hedge. The applicant is proposing the fence as part of their contract to sell this renovated house in order to contain the potential owner’s children and dog.

There was one question at the public hearing as to the exact location of the fence.

It was moved by Mr. Weiss, second by Mr. Boyle, and the request was unanimously approved, subject to staff approval of the proposed plantings along the foundation.


A public hearing was held on the request of Dan Musson, designer, on behalf of State Farm Insurance, for a variance to the number of signs in order to install two primary wall signs. The applicant proposed two primary wall signs on the front façade of this commercial building. One sign reads “Silas D. Buchanan” and the other “State Farm Insurance.” Each sign is 19.75 square feet in area. Code allows only one primary sign. The signs are proposed to be located on either side of the front entry. This sign project is part of a renovation to the front façade of the building, including new awnings, windows, roof moldings and landscaping.

There were no comments at the public hearing.

This is a new design which must go back to the ABR for review.

It was moved by Mr. Boyle, second by Mr. Weiss, and unanimously approved, that the variance be granted, subject to approval by the ABR.



A public hearing was held on the request of Juan Jiminez, 2957 Sedgewick Road, for subdivision of land in order to join a lot (732-10-004) to the lot where their home is located (732-10-003). The applicant recently purchased the lot (16401 South Woodland Road) at the corner of Lee and South Woodland roads. The applicant will demolish the existing house and improve the lot with landscaping to incorporate it into their back yard. Future plans for the lot include an ornamental fence, a pool and a pool house. This combined lot meets code requirements in the SF-1 Single Family Residential zoning district. Subdivision of land requires City Planning Commission approval.

There were no comments at the public hearing.

As moved by Mr. Weiss, second by Mr. Boyle, approval was granted unanimously, to be based on staff recommendations and report.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:30 p.m.
Gail Gibson

Safety & Public Works Committee, November 2016

November 16th, 2016  |  Published in Observer Reports

Safety & Public Works Committee
Nov. 4, 2016

Members Present: Julianna Senturia, chair; Council members Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Anne Williams; citizen member Edward Long; Mayor Earl Leiken, CAO Jeri Chaikin, Chief of Police Jeffrey DeMuth, Director of Public Works Patricia Speese, Chief of Fire Patrick Sweeney
Also Present: Police Commander Michael Rowe

Committee approved:

  1. Acceptance of a $9,476.82 grant from Cuyahoga County OVI (Operating a Vehicle Impaired) Task Force Court for use toward additional traffic enforcement patrols. Funds will pay overtime, including benefits, for hours officers work on zero-tolerance traffic enforcement, with a focus on crash-causing violations. Item will be forwarded to Finance Committee and City Council for approval.
  1. Ms. Speese’s request to award a contract to Michael Baker Int’l. for construction management services amounting to $219, 204 for the resurfacing of Shaker Boulevard. Funds will come from appropriations previously approved for Shaker Boulevard resurfacing from the western city limit to the eastern. Michael Baker was deemed the best of 12 applicants for administration of the project, beginning in spring of 2017.
  1. Hiring of QCI and appropriation of $30,625 for construction inspection services for the 2016 waterline replacement project on Ingleside Road (Van Aken to Parkland), Parkland Drive (Ingleside to Aldersyde), and Coventry Road (Shaker to Larchmere). Project will begin in early December. These funds will be reimbursed by the Cleveland Water Department, which now owns Shaker’s water distribution system. Lines on Coventry will be placed in the median to protect roots of mature trees on the tree lawn. The water lines are 100 years old.

Non-agenda discussion included a report that 536 cellphone-use-while-driving citations were issued in 2015; 533 have been issued this year through September. Also, seven of 200 applicants for police officer were hired.

The meeting continued after your observer had to leave at 9 a.m.
Linda Lissauer