Observer Reports

Board of Education, March 2018

April 1st, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
March 13, 2018

Present: William Clawson, Lisa Cremer, Ayesha Bell Hardaway, Jeffrey Isaacs, Heather Weingart; Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings; Treasurer Bryan Christman

The meeting was called to order by Board President Jeffrey Isaacs at 6 p.m. The agenda for this meeting can be found here.

The pledge of allegiance, led by Onaway students, was followed by a singing performance by two students from the musical production at the Onaway Little Theater. Onaway Principal Eric Forman also gave brief comments.

The minutes from the Feb. 13, 2018, regular board meeting were approved.

The Recognition/Honors of Staff/Students: Ninety-seven high school and 21 middle school students participated in the Regional History Day event, and 24 of these students will move on to compete at the April 21 State History Day championships; 39 were recognized for their achievements at the regional event. In its second year, the middle school Robotics Club had two teams that qualified for a state competition. Athletics: The high school’s boys’ basketball team advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2015. Two high school wrestlers competed at States; two women track athletes excelled at the State Indoor Track Championships.

Public comment: one person urged the board to consider implementing weather delays rather than school closings. One student thanked the board for showing support of student activism related to the walkout against gun violence and urged additional support of activism in other arenas as well.

An update on the Equity Task Force followed, given by three members of the task force: district employees Eric Forman and Michael Summers and community member Adam Roth. (The task force was established in June 2017 and is part of the ongoing five-year strategic plan on removing barriers to help all students achieve at a higher level.) Dr. Hutchings stressed that the community needs to talk about race; both the issues of race and equity need to be part of the next five-year strategic plan. When asked if any of the board members were surprised at the findings, Mr. Clawson said, “We all can do better.” He also said they were surprised by the belief of some residents that when one child is being advocated for, it is at the expense of others.

Security Supervisor Vic Farrell gave a PowerPoint presentation that covered the mission of the security team and reported on how security is implemented over the K-6, Woodbury, MS and HS buildings. A top priority is for security personnel to develop relationships with the students they serve. The security department has 25 staff members, who undergo training on subjects like health, human trafficking, gang violence, and restorative justice. Shaker’s security staff members are not armed. Mr. Farrell has tested a new app on his phone that allows him to lock down the high school remotely.

Highlights of the facilities update by Dr. Stephen Wilkins, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations followed. Five projects were bid out, totaling $2.25 million at a cost savings of $200,000. And additional eight more bid packages (totaling $3.5 million) will have been bid out by the next school board meeting. A breakdown of the various projects, with estimated budgets, was shared along with the logic of combining bid packages to maximize savings.

The majority of the items for approval on the published agenda involved action on personnel matters, such as new appointments, changes in assignments, temporary employees, special assignments and resignations, all of which were approved and are listed in detail on the published agenda. Dr. Lois Cavucci, interim director of human resources, has been hired as the permanent director and was introduced at the meeting.

The board passed a resolution approving the procurement of boilers for the high school from the D.B. Johnsen Co. The board also approved a resolution authorizing a fourth amendment to the agreement for architectural services with Van Auken Akins in connection with the replacement of parking lots at Onaway and the south lot of the high school; it expands the scope of these projects to accommodate any lighting changes affected by the replacement. The board also approved a resolution authorizing a first amendment to the agreement with Legat Architects in connection with asbestos/hazardous abatement consulting at the high school.

The board voted to appoint Tom Cicarella to the Shaker Heights Library Board of Trustees for a seven-year term (April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2025). Mr. Cicarella currently is serving an unexpired term ending March 31, 2018.

Revision of board policies – second required reading of three: the following policies have been updated (covering Title 9 and nondiscrimination on the basis of sex/sexual harassment, broadcasting and taping of board meetings, student transportation services, board policy development and adoption, co-curricular and extracurricular activities, interscholastic athletics, graduation requirements, English learners, and truancy).

Treasurer Bryan Christman presented financial monthly and budget reports and highlighted what is happening as far as the state budget and Shaker funding (details of each financial report are included as exhibits to the published agenda available online). Tax advances for January and February are $4.3 million ahead of last year at this time, perhaps due to changes in the tax laws and people trying to pay the full year’s real estate taxes ahead. Mr. Christman anticipated that the district would maintain its excellent ratings with Moody and S&P. Collection from the new bond levy started Jan. 1, 2018. The department is still analyzing updating its software. The board voted to adopt the Tax Rate Resolution for the ensuing year.

Superintendent’s Report: Recently, the Shaker Schools took a delegation of district leaders to Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., to learn about that district’s equity initiatives (12 years in the making). All Evanston students take Honors English and Honors Social Studies their freshman year and they earn honors credits by achieving a specific GPA. This trip validated Shaker’s work and reinforced that Shaker is on the right path to ensuring all of its students receive a high-quality education, the superintendent said.

Dr. Hutchings was looking forward to delivering his last State of the Schools address on March 15 to an audience of freshmen and sophomores. Planning is underway for an event in May featuring a one-on-one conversation between Dr. Hutchings and newsman Leon Bibb; Dr. Hutchings plans to reflect on his time in Shaker. Students will lead the protest honoring the Parkland victims on March 14, aligning them with national events that day, with full support of the board, superintendent and building principals at Woodbury, the MS and the HS. The Night for the Red & White was a successful event and it launched the Innovation Fund supporting STEAM (Art has been added to STEM) efforts in the district.

The board adjourned to executive session at about 8:04 p.m.
Holly Wang

City Council Work Session & Special Meeting, March 12, 2018

March 31st, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Council Work Session & Special Meeting
March 12, 2018

Present: Council members Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Sean Malone, Anne Williams and Rob Zimmerman; Mayor Earl Leiken; Law Director William Gruber; Economic Development Director Tania Menesse
Also Present: David Gilbert, President of Destination Cleveland and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission; Maura Garven, Manager of Strategic Initiatives; and Lisa Gold-Scott, Assistant Director of Law/Housing Attorney
Absent: Council member Juliana Johnson Senturia, CAO Jeri Chaikin

The meeting was called to order at 7:02 p.m.

Mayor Leiken introduced David Gilbert and explained that, while Destination Cleveland does not specifically address Shaker, it is important to see that Shaker’s future is linked to Cleveland’s future.

David Gilbert and his staff are conducting “listening tours” throughout the metropolitan area focused on learning how to bring visitors to Cleveland as well as determining issues local businesses may have in recruiting talent. They have interviewed 40-50 groups, including communities, developers, corporate partners and universities. Their mission is to make Greater Cleveland a destination location. The work is focused on changing perceptions, attracting visitors and assisting local businesses. Destination Cleveland is funded through a local hotel tax, which is governed by the state and administered by the county. There is an overlap between a place desirable to visit and a place desirable to relocate for work. Locally, Destination Cleveland is assisting with wayfinding (signage and orientation) in the Van Aken District.

Ms. Gold-Scott, city housing attorney, presented the history of the Fair Housing Act. This is the 50th anniversary of 1968 act. Shaker was among the first cities to adopt a related local ordinance and received a HUD grant at the time of adoption. Shaker Heights has a Fair Housing Review Board and conducts landlord training as well as informational sessions for real estate agents. The Fair Housing Act was amended after its initial adoption to include race, disability and religion. Shaker added ancestry and sexual orientation (above required federal level).

Council voted by affirmation to declare April 2018 as Fair Housing Month.

An emergency proposal was presented with a request to award a contract to relocate power poles at Farnsleigh Road and Van Aken Boulevard. This is the third proposal Council has received related to power issues at the intersection. Previously, the problem was thought to be a guidewire issue that was the responsibility of RMS (the Van Aken District developer). However, it was determined that the poles need to be moved and that is the responsibility of the city.

Council approved awarding a contract in the amount of $32,395 and to use funds earmarked for Road Reconstruction.

The meeting adjourned at 8:17 p.m.
Sarah Divakarla

City Planning Commission & Board of Zoning Appeals, March 2018

March 31st, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Planning Commission & Board of Zoning Appeals
March 6, 2018

Members Present: Citizen members John Boyle, Kevin Dreyfuss-Wells and David Weiss; Councilman Rob Zimmerman; Earl Leiken, mayor and chair
Others Present: Joyce Braverman, Director of Planning; Dan Feinstein, Senior Planner; William Gruber, Director of Law

Mayor Leiken called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. The agenda for this meeting and supporting documents may be found here.

The minutes of the Feb. 7, 2018, meeting were approved. A copy may be viewed here.

Agenda item 1 addressed creation of a Small Lot Infill Development (SLID) overlay district in the Moreland neighborhood. It was noted that these changes align with the designs developed in the Shaker Design Competition for innovative, energy-efficient, middle-income housing for specific lots that became vacant during the economic downturn. The SLID will co-exist as an overlay where areas of north and south Moreland are currently zoned for two-family homes, providing an option for landowners to choose to build two-family or SLID home designs.

The new zoning will permit two houses per traditional lot which may share a wall, the same setback from the street as traditional homes, and a maximum of a two-car garage per unit. Shared driveways must have permanent access easement. There is also an option for congregate dining, laundry, etc. The maximum size of a SLID lot will be one acre, which would be one-three traditional lots. Plans would follow the traditional Conditional Use/Process Review; however, application to the Landmark Commission will be replaced by administrative review, providing more flexibility in timelines.

In addition, changes to Commercial Sign Design Standards are proposed. They will be updated to address the quality of materials and design in keeping with the existing Commercial Mixed Use standards in this district.

During public comment, a citizen asked how the SLID boundary was drawn. The answer: It was continuous with the current two-family zoning, keeping housing density the same. This is a pilot program and could possibly be expanded further in Moreland or other neighborhoods.

The board voted to approve the changes. The issue will be forwarded to Council for action.

Agenda item 2 addressed re-subdivision of city-owned land in order to vacate right-of-way at 3516 Warrensville Center Road, the southwest corner at Chagrin Boulevard in front of the Wendy’s restaurant. This aligns with the change to the street and sidewalk at that corner. By state law, the vacated right-of-way is joined to the adjacent property (Wendy’s), which must agree to accept the vacated right-of-way. It is expected the property owner will agree and the parcel will become part of the upcoming Wendy’s redevelopment plan. The board voted to approve the change and the issue will be forwarded to Council for action. Warrensville is a county road and County Council action may be required.

Agenda item 3 addressed a re-subdivision of city-owned land on the east side of Warrensville between Scottsdale and Chagrin boulevards (in front of the post office and University Hospitals office building) to create a consistent right of way line and to accommodate future Van Aken District development. The board voted to approve the changes. The issue will be forwarded to Council for action. County Council action may be required since Warrensville is a county road.

Agenda item 4 took up the re-subdivision of the city-owned land at 3413 Warrensville, on the east side of the street, in front of the former Qua Buick lot. The request is to dedicate right-of-way on the southeast corner of Warrensville at Farnsleigh Road to create a consistent right-of-way and for Van Aken District development. The board voted to approve the changes. The issue will be forwarded to Council for action. Warrensville is a county road and County Council action may be required.

This being Mr. Leiken’s last meeting as mayor, he thanked the members and staff for their service. In return, Rob Zimmerman thanked the mayor on behalf of the group for his years of service and commitment.

The date of the next meeting is April 10, 2018.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:40 p.m.
Lynn Lilly

Library Board of Trustees Regular Meeting, March 19, 2018

March 31st, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Library Board of Trustees
March 19, 2018

Present: All Board members (Mr. Cicarella and Ms. Garrett were each a few minutes late), Library Director Amy Switzer and some library employees

The meeting was called to order at 6:36 p.m.

Half of the meeting was devoted to a presentation by Tania Menesse, head of the economic development office of the city of Shaker Heights, reporting the history and progress of the Van Aken District project. Details can be found at the website About 18 acres are under site control. The development, nearing completion of Phase 1, will include 103 apartments, about 64,000 sq. ft. of Class A office space, a 300+ space parking garage (parking will be free), and an array of retail spaces. Retail shops and restaurants will begin opening in July and August. The site will also include a public park. Developers have been aiming for coordination with RTA.

In official business, the bylaws review has been moved to the April meeting. Mr. Cicarella was congratulated for his reappointment to a seven-year term. The fiscal officer produced the monthly report, which was accepted (nothing exceptional), and the board adopted the budget for 2018 (having been working under a temporary budget since the beginning of the year, as the previous year’s accounts have been closed).

Ms. Spitzer reported that library personnel will be presenters at a national conference on the topic of community engagement. The Barbara Luton art competition opens March 25 with a reception. Arbor Day activities are being coordinated with the city. She also noted that she was pleased that health insurance increases have been held to 3 percent (for April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019). At the end of 2017, there was a balance of $142,000 in the endowment fund held at the Cleveland Foundation, 6 percent of which is available each year for distribution (this is not part of the budget).

Minor policy changes were approved. Gifts were accepted and personnel action reported (departures and hires).

The meeting was adjourned at 7:40 p.m.
Kathleen Hickman

Library Board of Trustees Special Meeting, March 5, 2018

March 7th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Library Board of Trustees
March 5, 2018

Present: All Board members except Mr. Cicarella
Also present: Library Director Amy Switzer and a number of library staff members

A presentation (via Skype) of the results of polling relating to the upcoming levy request was presented by Lake Resource Partners.

Phone survey (46 percent cell, 54 percent landline) of 241 registered voters conducted between Jan. 9 and 24 was presented. Initial responses showed 57 percent in support, 22 percent opposed, and the remainder undecided. Results indicated strong and broad-based support for the levy, with a slightly more favorable response from women, registered Democrats, and people living in the northwest part of the city. After questioners presented more detailed pro and con arguments, support rose to 61 percent, opposition to 26 percent, with 17 percent still undecided. Of respondents in the sample group (drawn from representative demographics), 92 percent had a favorable impression of the Shaker Heights Library. Presented with the possible option of joining the county library system, 61 percent were opposed and about 25 percent in favor.

Presenters noted the strong sense of local pride in the Library and the view that it is a key institution in the community and a valuable support to education.

Mike Thomas, of Lake Resource, concluded the presentation with guidance about the legal limits on board members and staff during elections. The role of the board is to educate the public, communicating the reasons for requesting the levy and its ramifications. But neither the board nor the Library may ask for votes. No Library resources may be used to ask for votes. As individuals, there is (of course) no restriction on freedom of speech. Mr. Thomas suggested that those in favor of the levy should 1) identify the problem, 2) identify the solution, and 3) speak and act in a manner to inspire community members to trust the prudence of board’s actions.

Meeting (scheduled to begin at 5:30, but in fact called to order at 5:55) adjourned at 6:50 p.m.
Kathleen Hickman

Board of Education, February 2018

March 3rd, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
Feb. 13, 2018

Present: William Clawson, Lisa Cremer, Ayesha Bell Hardaway, Jeffrey Isaacs, Heather Weingart, Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, and Treasurer Bryan Christman

The meeting was called to order by Board President Jeffrey Isaacs at 6 p.m. The agenda for this meeting can be found here.

The meeting opened with brief comments by Lindsay Florence, Mercer Elementary School Principal.

The minutes of the Jan. 9 organizational and regular board meeting were approved.

Recognition/Honors of Staff/Students: The Martha Jennings Foundation, a Cleveland-based organization that promotes more effective teaching in Ohio’s secular schools pre-k through high school, featured Shaker’s First Class preschool (at Mercer and Onaway) in a recent issue of its newsletter, Pro Excellentia. Art by two Fernway students (Zara Craig and Elliott Hannah) is being displayed in Columbus for a month at the State Teachers Retirement Systems Building.

Mr. Isaacs offered the opportunity for public conversation with the board: one comment was made about a resident’s frustration with the BOE’s communications and accountability.

An update on the Equity Task Force followed, given by Herlinda Bradley, its chair, and David Peake, co-chair. This task force was established in June 2017 and is part of the ongoing five-year Strategic Plan on removing barriers to help all students achieve at a higher level. The presenters stressed the importance of having a shared definition of equity itself and have worked toward a shared understanding and language. Note: school board member Ayesha Hardaway is a member of this task force. The task force is working on how to update the Shaker community.

Due to a high number of Shaker Heights Teachers Association (SHTA) attendees at this meeting, the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the SHTA was moved up in the agenda. The recommended action on approving the new three-year negotiated collective bargaining agreement between the SHBOE and SHTA, effective Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2020, was approved unanimously. Dr. Hutchings commented on the positive collaborative experience using interest-based bargaining to talk through the challenges of salary and benefits. He introduced and thanked the SHTA bargaining team, SHTA President Dr. John Morris and District Treasurer Bryan Christman.

The majority of the items for approval on the published agenda involved action on personnel matters, such as new appointments, changes in assignments, temporary employees, special assignments and resignations, all of which were approved and are listed in detail on the published agenda. Retiring at the end of this school year with a combined 88 years of service to our district are guidance counselor Eileen Blattner (47 years) and academic advisor Mary Lynn McGovern (41 years).

Highlights of the facilities update by Dr. Stephen Wilkins, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations: The BOE approved each of the following improved-project contracts reviewed by Dr. Wilkins: Fernway flat-roof improvements ($208,000 plus $21,000 contingency clause—note that all new roof repairs have a 30-year warranty); high school elevator modernization (repairing old parts, updating with newer safety features, $288,000); Onaway roofing improvements (correcting Jan. 9 resolution amount from $215,420 to $224,044 from a missed coating option).

The board approved a resolution authorizing the participation in the Ohio Schools Council Cooperative School Bus Purchasing Program for the 2018-19 school year as the BOE wishes to advertise and receive bids for the purchase of up to three school buses. The district’s goal is to replace up to four school buses per year (105 are in the fleet) to modernize and keep adding new buses to the rotation.

The board approved a resolution allowing the disposing of board-owned property valued under $10,000 that is no longer needed for school purposes: the Woodbury clock-face tower parts to be sold for $10 to the Shaker Schools Foundation.

Revision of board policies – first required reading of three. The following policies have been updated: those covering Title 9 and nondiscrimination on the basis of sex (including sexual harassment), broadcasting and taping of board meetings, student transportation services, board policy development and adoption, co-curricular and extracurricular activities, interscholastic athletics, graduation requirements, English learners, and truancy.

Treasurer Bryan Christman presented financial monthly and budget reports and highlighted what is happening as far as the state budget and Shaker funding (details of each financial report are included as exhibits to the published agenda available online). Two bond resolutions were adopted in accordance with the district’s bond issuance plan: issuance and sale this spring of series 2018A bonds of the remaining $20.1 million of the $30 million bond authority and long-term bonds to repay the short-term notes issued December 2017 ($9.9 million) that come due in July. This will minimize issuance costs and allow the district to maintain special “bank-qualified” status. Research is currently being done to replace the district’s antiquated state software system. A delegation from Shaker visited the Berea Schools to look at the Tyler’s Munis Enterprise Resource Planning System and HR/Payroll Module, used by many municipalities (including Shaker Heights) as well. The Munis system, however, needs some workarounds as it is not compatible with state software necessary for reporting purposes. A group will also visit a district using SunGuard K-12, a competing system that manages accounting, finance, procurement, human resources, payroll and other business functions. One idea generated from discussion would be for the Shaker district to create an RFP (Request for Proposal) detailing what functions it would like to see in a financial system.

Superintendent’s Report: Dr. Hutchings will deliver his final State of the Schools address to an audience of SHHS freshmen and sophomores as well as to community guests on Thursday, March 15, at 9 a.m.  This address will be streamed live to each school building and on the district’s website ( It will also be available for viewing on the district’s YouTube channel. Strategic plan update: In June 2015, the BOE adopted the district’s current five-year strategic plan, developed after a planning process that stressed community involvement and transparency (concluding in work driven by a 44-member strategic planning team composed of community members, students, parents, faculty and staff). The district is now in the fourth year of the plan, so it’s time to begin the process for developing the next strategic plan. In February, the district was to solicit requests for proposals from consultants to assist in the plan’s development. The board plans to review the requests in March, the same month it plans to announce an application window for a new strategic planning team. The goal is to have a 2019-2024 strategic plan presented for the board’s consideration in December 2018.

The board adjourned to executive session at about 7:52 p.m.
Holly Wang

City Council Regular Meeting, February 2018

March 3rd, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Shaker Heights City Council
Feb. 26, 2018

(Prior to the regular council meeting, there was a 6 p.m. executive session to discuss personnel matters.)

Present: Mayor Earl Leiken; Council members Sean Malone, Earl Williams, Tres Roeder, Juliana Johnston Senturia, Anne Williams, Nancy Moore, Robert Zimmerman
Also present:  Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Law Director William M. Ondrey Gruber, Finance Director Robert H. Baker, Chief of Fire Patrick F. Sweeney, Director of Planning Joyce Braverman, Economic Development Director Tania Menesse, Housing Commissioner William Hanson

The mayor called the meeting to order at 7:33 p.m. and announced it adjourned at 8:20 p.m.

The Fire Department will apply for a $25,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fire Prevention and Safety Grant to purchase photoelectric smoke detectors. It will also apply for a $13,300 grant from DHS through the Firefighters Grant funding program to purchase two training simulators.

Council approved:

  • A personal services contract with Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., for $117,207 for Farnsleigh Streetscape improvements
  • The City Planning Commission’s approval of permits for signage in the Van Aken District
  • A $100,000 Vision Fund forgivable loan that will allow the consulting and engineering firm, Mannik & Smith Group, to move into Tower East (the tallest building in the city, and the last building in the United States designed by architect Walter Gropius). Established in 2010, the Vision Fund was developed to remedy market imbalances and competitive lease rates by targeting businesses that will bring wage taxes to Shaker. Eleven loans have been disbursed so far, with two still pending to Le Chaperon Rouge and Shaker Rocks.Chair of the Finance Committee, Sean Malone, noted that the Vision Fund loans will generate positive returns for the city when portions of the Van Aken District open up later this year.
  • The sale of a city-owned condominium and garage space at 19101 Van Aken Blvd. for $1 to the Shaker Club Condominium Unit Owners Association in order to redevelop the property (which has been vacant for more than years and no property taxes have been paid since 2008) and renovate it in order to get it back on the market.

 Public comment on agenda items:

Sara Schiavoni expressed concern that three Vision Loans remain outstanding and that $105,000 remains uncommitted in the Vision Fund, and wondered if the city is trying to bring a grocery store into the Van Aken District. She expressed wonderment at what enforcement provisions were negotiated since there was no information in the Financial Committee meeting minutes.
Audrey Morris


Library Board of Trustees, February 208

March 3rd, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Library Board of Trustees
Feb. 19, 2018

Present: All Board members (though Ms. Garrett arrived only minutes before the end of the meeting), Library Director Switzer, and a number of library staff

Called to order at 6:35 p.m.

This short meeting included the president’s report. Mr. Bertsch and Mr. Cicarella were appointed to deal with a bylaw review, with results to be presented at the March meeting.

The fiscal officer reported on income and expenses, and responded to questions about timing of disbursements reflecting property tax payments. The county forwards payments monthly based on what it has received, with a final reconciliation usually made in September.

Ms. Switzer highlighted a number of activities at the library and noted the two branches of the library will be offering passport services. Applications will begin to be accepted in March (a “soft roll-out”). The library will receive fees for the service. Small policy changes were approved by the board. Ms. Switzer also reported that the local history project had already fielded 55 inquiries.

The board dealt with gifts and their appropriation and heard the personnel report.

There was some discussion of preparedness plans for the city’s libraries (in light of recent violent events) and liaison with fire and police forces. There was also a suggestion that security issues would need to be a factor in renovation projects, should the levy be approved by voters.

Meeting adjourned at 7:15 p.m.
Kathleen Hickman


Recreation Committee

March 3rd, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Recreation Committee
Feb. 7, 2018

Present: Council members Tres Roeder (chair), Sean Malone, Julianna Senturia; Lisa Cremer, school board member; citizen members Leta Obertacz, Ifeolu Clayton, Troy Neujahr, Dr. Terry Breeden; Alexandria Nichols, Director of Recreation; and Jeri Chaikin, Chief Administrative Officer

Mr. Roeder called the meeting to order at 6:05 p.m. Minutes of the Nov. 1, 2017, meeting were approved as written. Mr. Roeder welcomed the new citizen members, including several who are relatively new to Shaker. He noted that city committees are typically reorganized every two years. He also welcomed school board member Lisa Cremer, whose presence on the committee will deepen the collaboration between the city and the schools.

Goal of tonight’s meeting is to provide an overview of Recreation, its primary functions, its 2017 accomplishments, and a look ahead to 2018 budget highlights and initiatives – through a PowerPoint presented by Ms. Nichols.

The Recreation Department provides leisure time and recreation activities for residents and nonresidents of all ages, including child care, sports, and services for senior adults 50+.

Ms. Nichols began her overview by listing the primary department functions, which range from summer camps to school-age child care, to sports programs and the Office for Senior Adults and also include community events, field maintenance, and playground maintenance and supervision.

Among 2017 accomplishments were changes to school-age child care with the creation of full-time site supervisors – rather than part-time – to increase staff stability. Pop up fitness programs in some community parks were introduced and had a good response – and will be increased in 2018.

The Thornton Park Ice Rink is now 50 years old and proposals are being solicited for an engineering study to begin planning for the rink’s future. A teen afterschool program called The Getaway was created at Heights Christian Church. Mr. Roeder and Ms. Nichols reviewed the careful research done, in collaboration with the school system, the Youth Center and the Library, in an effort to make sure it would meet community needs. The program started in late fall, as a drop-in program five days a week from 3 to 7 p.m. Interest in the program is growing. The program is teen driven – a Teen Advisory Board will be created in 2018. On another front, a Community Engagement staff person will be hired in 2018 to build neighborhood involvement in recreation (for example, through pop up wellness programs).

2018 Capital projects for recreation total $412,000, including $280,000 for park improvements – a significant increase from last year. Most of the other capital expenditures involve improvements at Thornton Park, including a walking trail and the design of an improved pool entry. Community input will be sought on park capital spending.

An 11-page Recreation Department 2017 Action Plan was also circulated indicating program and function goals for 2017 and comments on their completion or progress.

Committee members asked about the total operating budget for recreation – about $4 million, with $1 million in city support. Seventeen full-time employees increase to 150 in the summer, including many part-time employees.

Ms. Nichols closed the meeting by alerting committee members to a future discussion topic: a review of field maintenance, including policies regarding the use of pesticides and herbicides.

The committee meeting was adjourned at 7 p.m.
Jan Devereaux

Finance Committee, February 2018

March 3rd, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Finance Committee
Feb. 20, 2018

Members Present: Council members Sean Malone (chair), Nancy Moore, Earl Williams and Robert Zimmerman; citizen members Thomas Cicarella, Martin Kolb, Linda Lalley and Anthony Moore
Others present: Mayor Earl Leiken, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Chief of Fire Patrick Sweeney, Director of Economic Development Tania Menesse, Director of Finance Robert Baker, Principal Planner Ann Klavora, Housing Commissioner William Hanson and Council Member Julianna Senturia

The meeting was called to order by Mr. Malone at 7:30 a.m.

 Agenda—Committee actions:

  1. Mr. Malone opened the meeting with introductions around the room for the benefit of new citizen members Tom Cicarella and Anthony Moore. He also shared with them the role of the Finance Committee within the city government.
  2. Mr. Malone presented the minutes of the Dec.11, 2017, Finance Committee meeting for approval. The minutes were approved.
  3. Chief Sweeney presented his request for committee approval to apply for the Fire Prevention and Safety Grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for fiscal year 2017. The department is requesting grant funding in the amount of $25,000 to fund the purchase of smoke detectors to be installed in the homes of Shaker Heights residents in need. Chief Sweeney apologized that due to short notice he had been unable to present this item to the Safety & Public Works Committee. Mr. Williams stated the FEMA grant originated before the last Congress and asked when the city might apply again with a longer lead time. Chief Sweeney replied the grant would normally have come up in May last year. Ms. Moore asked about the technology, specifically photoelectric smoke detectors. Chief Sweeney shared that the older ion detectors were not as reliable as photoelectric detectors and that many homeowners would remove a battery after a low battery alarm. The new detectors have 10-year batteries that are not accessible, so that the unit would be replaced by the fire department after 10 years. Mr. Malone asked how many people in Shaker had the new photoelectric detectors and Chief Sweeney estimated about 25 percent. Mr. Zimmerman asked how the department determined need. Chief Sweeney replied that the department does not usually challenge a homeowner who claims a financial need, but there is a waiting list for the units. Ms. Lalley commented that this is a micro grant; were there other grants with more dollars available? Chief Sweeney answered that smoke detection was a high priority for the fire department and that they had applied unsuccessfully for other FEMA grants. He also reminded the committee that a home safety survey was a requirement during the installation of the smoke detectors. Mr. Kolb commented he moved to Shaker in 1983 and the fire department installed their smoke detectors; his father was a fireman and impressed by the professionalism of the Shaker Fire department. The motion was approved.
    4. Chief Sweeney presented his request for approval to apply for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for fiscal year 2017. The department is requesting grant funding in the amount of $13,300 to fund the purchase of two training simulators. Chief Sweeney summarized the request for the committee. This request was presented and approved by the Safety & Public Works Committee on Feb. 2, 2018. Mr. Malone asked how much money was required for other materials when using the training simulators. Chief Sweeney answered that the simulators were designed to help firefighters minimize damage to a homeowner’s property when responding to alarms, so the damage was usually a door or window, not the frame or surrounding structure. The motion was approved.
    5. Ms. Menesse presented her request for approval of a Vision Fund Forgivable Loan of $100,000 to The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc., to build out 8,154 square feet in Tower East over a 10-year lease term. E2G Properties has signed a 10-year lease with The Mannik and Smith Group for 8,154 square feet on the fifth floor of Tower East; the firm has first right of refusal on all contiguous space on the floor to accommodate its growth plans. The lease is contingent upon approval of a $100,000 Vision Fund Forgivable Loan from the city. She summarized the request, emphasizing this lease would bring Tower East occupancy above 80 percent. The forgivable loan was reviewed by the Neighborhood Revitalization and Development Committee and recommended for approval. Mr. Williams asked how competitive the city of Beachwood was in attracting this tenant. Ms. Menesse stated Beachwood is usually very competitive and Highland Hills has also become very competitive, but that the attraction of walking to lunch at the new Van Aken District was a decision factor. Ms. Lalley asked if the Van Aken District had lease openings; Ms. Menesse replied that about 20 percent of Val Aken was still available to lease. Mr. Malone asked if the city had performance clauses in the loan contract; Ms. Menesse answered there are agreements regarding employee numbers and income tax projections. She added that only a couple of these loans had not met projections in the past and the city was compensated. Mr. Malone continued: were these loans comparable to the ABA Insurance Services loan? Ms. Menesse replied that the ABA loan was larger and required upfront payments–it is the largest forgivable loan to date. Mr. Cicarella asked who checked the information provided by the applicant regarding other bank loans, insurance, salaries, etc. Ms. Menesse stated that RITA records were checked each year to verify loan reports, and that the city was subordinate to any bank loans. Mr. Kolb stated he felt the program was fantastic but asked if any prior loans had been written off. Ms. Menesse answered that only one had been nonperforming. Mr. Kolb recounted the Vision Fund had made nine loans totaling $262,000, yielding $555,000 in tax revenue and wanted to know if all that went back to the fund. Ms. Menesse clarified that the original $262,000 went back to the fund but the remainder of the $555,000 went to the city’s General Fund. Mr. Kolb clarified that these were mostly small loans and Ms. Menesse stated most were around $25,000. Mr. Zimmerman asked that a performance spreadsheet of past Vision Fund loans be sent to the committee; Ms. Menesse agreed. Mayor Leiken then provided some background regarding Tower East for the new citizen members of the committee—how the building had been allowed to deteriorate under prior out-of-state owners and the city had stepped in to convince E2G, a local company and Tower East resident, to purchase the property. The loan was approved.
    6. Principal Planner Ann Klavora presented her recommendation to enter into a professional services contract for construction inspection and administration of the Farnsleigh Streetscape Improvements project with Greenman-Pedersen Inc. (GPI) for $117,207. The services include construction inspection and administration for streetscape improvements along Farnsleigh Road, between Warrensville Center and Van Aken in the Van Aken District. The selected consultant will act as the city’s onsite construction manager for the duration of the project and satisfy Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) requirements when federal funding is involved in a project. The tight schedule for the project prevented the presentation of this proposal to the Safety & Public Works Committee prior to the Finance Committee meeting. Mr. Williams asked if this referred to the south side of Farnsleigh Road, Ms. Klavora stated it was for both sides of Farnsleigh Road. Mr. Williams asked if the future plans for the city parking lot on the north side were considered and Ms. Klavora confirmed these plans had been considered. Ms. Moore inquired about the RFQ (Request for Quotation) process involved. Ms. Klavora stated the RFQ was mandated to follow ODOT format without variance due to the federal funding requested; all the bidders are familiar with the requirements. Ms. Moore continued to ask if the budget was negotiated and Ms. Klavora replied there are variations among bidders about the administration process and task hours but she expected the actual costs to come under the bid. Mr. Kolb wished to know what improvements will be made and Ms. Klavora answered the project includes sidewalks, landscapes and artwork per the Van Aken District plan. Mr. Zimmerman requested that a copy of the ODOT process be included for City Council members. Mr. Cicarella asked hypothetically what would happen if two bids were close—can other factors such as “local” be considered? Ms. Klavora stated the ODOT process does not allow local preference. Mr. Malone returned to the city parking lot plans and Ms. Klavora said they were allowing for a building on that property. Mr. Kolb moved to enter into an agreement with GPI and the motion was approved.
    7. Mr. Hanson presented his request for Finance Committee approval to sell the condominium at 19101 Van Aken Blvd. #529 and the associated garage space to the Shaker Club Condominium  Home Owners Association (HOA) for $1. The goal of this transaction is to restore this long-standing vacant unit back to productive use through renovation and re-sale to an owner-occupant. The city has not spent any funds to acquire the property but no taxes are being paid while the city owns the property. This request was unanimously approved by the Neighborhood Revitalization & Development Committee on Feb. 14, 2018. Ms. Moore wanted to know the housing office picture on condos in Shaker Heights. Mr. Hanson shared that there is weakness in the market for condos in buildings originally intended as apartments built in the 1940s and converted to condos in the 1980s. Recently purpose-built condos are doing well with the amenities new buyers desire. There are 1,124 condos in Shaker with 11 percent vacant. Mr. Cicarella asked if the city knew the Shaker HOA was interested in buying before foreclosure. Mr. Hanson replied the city knew the HOA was interested, otherwise the city would not have taken the property from the county. Mr. Cicarella asked if this was an ongoing plan for the city. Mr. Hanson said that it was not a plan, only tactical in this one case; there was no personnel support for this going forward. Mr. Williams wanted to know if it was the practice to allow properties to progress to foreclosure. Mr. Hanson clarified that the city has little ability to affect a foreclosure even when the city knows it is imminent. The city does have ongoing efforts in place to reduce single family home foreclosures, which is a priority. Mr. Malone asked why local rehab companies did not bid on the property. Mr. Hanson replied that there is little a rehabber can do to add value to a condo in comparison to options for adding rooms and other amenities to single homes. Ms. Lalley wanted to know what criterion is used to accept a condo. Mr. Hanson reiterated this was an exception case and there is no desire to repeat unless an HOA asks for help. Mr. Malone asked if the city wanted to do more and Mr. Hanson replied “not really.” The motion was approved.
    8. Baker presented the list of “Then and Now” approval requests and explained for the new committee members the need for and use of “Then and Now” certificates in order to pay invoices prior to goods or services being delivered. He then requested that the Finance Committee recommend to City Council that the “Then and Now” certificate presented for transactions on Exhibit A and related payments be approved. Mr. Williams asked if this process deterred vendors. Mr. Baker is not aware that the process is any deterrent; the suppliers are normally smaller businesses and local to Shaker, so they are better able to adjust their billing dates and avoid the process. Mr. Cicarella wanted to know when the goods or services are actually delivered, an example being oil or gas delivery. Mr. Baker said delivery could be before or after invoice date. Sometimes, particularly for larger companies, the invoice is sent immediately after the contract is signed. It is not usually tied to the actual delivery. Mr. Cicarella asked if there is some penalty levied by the vendors. Mr. Baker did not know of an example in his experience. Mr. Malone wanted to know if other cities followed the same practice. Mr. Baker shared that this is standard practice in Ohio and all cities follow it. Auditors require it. The transactions and payments were approved.
    9. Baker presented the unaudited 2017 financial results for the city and the 2018 budget. Revenues were above the budget and 2016 revenue, and operating expenses were less than 2017 and more than 2016, so that the city’s General Fund stood at 32.33 percent reserve. Mr. Williams asked what defines the General Fund. Director Baker replied the General Fund is supported by city operating revenues, separate from the Recreation and Economic Development funds, which have different revenue sources. Mr. Williams asked if the General Fund supported city employee pensions. Mr. Baker clarified that all city employees are either Ohio Public Employee pensioners or Ohio Fire and Police pension members. There are state mandates for contributions to these pension funds based on a percentage of employee salaries. These funds are separate from the General Fund and cities have no pension obligations after these contributions are made to the pension funds. The pension funds can change the contribution and benefit rates without any city approval. Mayor Leiken made a comment for the benefit of the new committee members about the General Fund’s 32.33 percent reserve funding level. Shaker Heights is one of only nine municipalities in northeast Ohio with a AAA rating, because of this reserve level. The reserve is higher than ever; expenses have gone down while revenue has increased since 2007.

Mr. Malone adjourned the meeting at 8:58 a.m.
Frank Goforth