Observer Reports

Finance Committee, April 2018

April 29th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Finance Committee
April 16, 2018

Members Present: Committee members Sean Malone (chair), Earl Williams, and Robert Zimmerman; citizen members Thomas Cicarella, Martin Kolb, Linda Lalley, and Anthony Moore
Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Director of Finance Robert Baker, Director of Public Works Patricia Speese, Director of Planning Joyce Braverman, Human Resources Manager Sandra Middleton, and Council Member Julianna Senturia

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

Agenda—Committee actions:

  1. The minutes of the March 19, 2018, meeting were approved.
  2. Ms. Chaikin presented a request from Ms. Middleton asking that the Finance Committee recommend City Council authorize an appropriation of employee Flexible Spending Account forfeiture money in the amount of $5,027 in the Human Resources Department operating budget for the purpose of employee Lunch and Learn and Employee Recognition programs. The Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a benefit provided by the city that lets employees set aside a certain amount of their paycheck into an account before paying income taxes. The employee has the entire benefit year plus an additional 2½ months to use the funds toward qualified expenses. After that time, any remaining FSA contributions are forfeited. The request was approved.
  3. Ms. Speese presented her request to accept a proposal and authorize a contract for construction inspection services to GPD Group for the 2018 Street Resurfacing project at a cost of $34,200. The 2018 Street Resurfacing program is funded in the amount of $2 million and involves the resurfacing and inspection of 12 streets with the option for additional streets as funding permits. On March 23, the city three proposals for construction inspection services related to the 2018 Street Resurfacing project. The Request for Proposals (RFP) was sent to six firms and posted on the city’s website.

Ms. Lalley inquired about the long-term capital needs for street repairs. There had not been a separate and complete discussion of the city’s infrastructure plan and how that plan was to be financed. Ms. Chaikin replied that the 10-year capital fund set aside $2 million per year for street maintenance, $2 million per year for sewer, and $3 million per year for rolling stock and buildings. Mr. Baker interjected that beginning in 2010, when interest rates became exceptionally low, the city began using short-term notes to fund maintenance on streets. The city has had no debt service for these repairs since 2006. That will change in the future as interest rates rise. Bonds cannot be used for street maintenance as streets do not have a sufficiently long life. Mr. Malone added that a special Finance Committee meeting would be scheduled to review the infrastructure plan and how it is funded. The request was then approved.

  1. Ms.  Speese presented her request to authorize an appropriation of money in the Street Maintenance Fund to cover the county share of maintenance for several projects. In May 2013 City Council passed legislation authorizing the city to participate in the Countywide Preventative Maintenance Program through the Cuyahoga County Department of Public Works (CCPDW). As a result, Shaker is eligible for the two additional options now being offered by CCDPW under this program. The first is a road maintenance grant; the County will reimburse the city for materials for repairs of catch basins, crack sealing, manhole replacements and other miscellaneous maintenance items. The materials to rebuild catch basins on Warrensville Center, Coventry, and Lee roads as well as on Fairmount Boulevard qualify for this grant ($55,707). The second is the pavement maintenance grant, which is a 50/50 split between the county and city for an approved project in its entirety. The Fairhill Road resurfacing project ($249,040) qualifies for this grant.

Mr. Malone asked if this was the first year these grants were available to the city. Ms. Speese replied that this was the first year for the 50/50 grant. Mr. Kolb asked if the city’s portion of these projects was part of the $2 million-per-year street maintenance budget discussed in item 3. Ms. Speese confirmed they were, and that $500,000 had been set aside for Fairhill Road, so that $250,000 was now available for other street repair projects. Mr. Zimmerman wished to know the condition of Fairhill Road and whether was it critical to repair it this year. Ms. Speese confirmed Fairhill Road needed repair this year and was budgeted. Mr. Kolb was surprised Fairhill Road was a county road. Ms. Speese confirmed that it is. Mr. Malone asked to confirm we could repair additional streets with the budgeted funds and Ms. Speese confirmed so. Mr. Cicarella inquired if Fairhill Road would have been repaired by the county anyway. Director Speese replied that yes, the county would normally share costs 80/20, but the county was out of funds this year and Fairhill Road was probably seven-eight years later in their priority. Mr. Kolb wanted clarification that Fairhill Road would have been done by the city this year. Ms. Speese replied that yes, the Fairhill Road condition would not tolerate a wait of eight years. A motion was made and approved.

  1. Ms. Speese presented her request to accept a proposal and authorize a contract with Quality Control Inspection (QCI) for construction observation services for work within right-of-way. Historically, Public Works has spent an excessive amount of time responding to residents, following up with the utilities contractor on restoration, and ensuring maintenance of traffic plans are adhered to. Payment for construction observation would be at the expense of the utility company working in a right of way.

Mr. Malone wished to confirm the utility would pay the fee. Ms. Speese confirmed this. Mr. Cicarella asked if this was normal procedure. Ms. Speese remarked that too often utility contractor’s “clean-up” left many residents’ property poorly restored and many of them complained to the city. Mr. Malone asked what specifically had gone wrong on the Lee Road repaving project. Ms. Speese said that the contractor had closed Lee Road without informing the city so that traffic could be rerouted, had worked during quiet hours, and ruined lawns throughout the area. These inspectors, paid by the utility, would coordinate with city services, be the city’s “eyes and ears,” and protect city and residents’ assets. Mr. Malone continued to ask if Lee Road would be repaved this year to repair the poor paving done last year. Ms. Speese replied that further repair was necessary at Green Lake before repaving. Ms. Lalley wished to confirm how and who pays the inspector. Ms. Speese explained that the utility places a deposit with the city and the inspectors draw from this account. A motion was made and approved.

  1. Mr. Baker presented his request to authorize an appropriation of $850,000 from the Economic Development and Housing Reserve Fund for the ABA Insurance Services and McGlinchey Stafford “Vision Fund” loans. City Council approved Vision Fund loans for ABA Insurance ($500,000) and McGlinchey Stafford ($350,000) on July 25, 2016, and April 6, 2017, respectively. Funds were not appropriated for either loan, as they would not be expended until 2018 and beyond. These loans are for the Van Aken District and have two parts: upfront to prepare office spaces and yearly thereafter through the 10-year life of loan. The office build outs for both firms in the Van Aken District have commenced and upfront funds are expected to be requested for reimbursement between May and August 2018 ($250,000 for ABA and $200,000 for McGlinchey Stafford). This will leave $5 million in the Economic Development Fund.

Mr. Malone asked if these loans were approved in prior years. Mr. Baker confirmed they were approved. Mr. Moore asked if any prior loans had been written off. Director Baker answered that one prior Economic Development loan had been written off when the company’s office had moved to California. Mr. Moore asked the value of the lost loan. Mr. Baker replied that the loan was for $19,000 and $8,000 was written off. Mr. Moore inquired if a qualifier should be added to loan terms. Mr. Baker answered that a guarantee would likely cause these companies to choose other cities for their location; these loans are structured to attract new business and still have a low risk. Mr. Moore asked if that was the reason the loan is structured to pay back in two years. Mr. Baker confirmed that reason and added that these loans are usually paid back 2-for-1 over the loan lifetime. Ms. Lalley wanted to understand what happened to any profit from these loans. Mr. Baker explained any excess went back into the Economic Development Fund. Mr. Cicarella stated he has not seen this result with industrial tax abatement and asked if there was data to support this past loan experience. Mr. Baker said he will separately report the details to the committee. Mr. Malone stated he would also wish to see the data, as these two loans were larger than past loans. Mayor Weiss asked if the delayed loan payments were new. Mr. Baker replied, yes, prior smaller loans were paid out upfront. Mr. Kolb also expressed his concern that he would like to see more detailed and regular tracking for these larger loans. Mr. Zimmerman asked to see data for all these incentives. Ms. Lalley agreed with the desire for better tracking but applauded the creative use of these funds. A motion was made and approved.

  1. Mr. Baker presented his request to authorize the issuance and sale of $1.8 million of notes, in anticipation of the issuance of bonds, for the purpose of paying costs of improving streets as designated in the plans approved or to be approved by Council. The 2018 Streets Notes are consistent with past the city practice of financing street improvements. The notes are rolled over each year, and at maturity 10 percent of the original principal amount will be retired, so the entire issue will be retired in 10 years. The interest rate that will apply each year will be a one-year interest rate determined at the time of the rollover. Since streets are not a long-lived asset, notes are more appropriate financing than longer-term bonds. The entire note issue can be repaid on any maturity date, as was done for the 2010 road notes repaid in 2016.

Mr. Cicarella asked about any added fees for notes. Mr. Baker said there are fees paid by the city to the financial advisor while other fees are paid by the purchaser of the note. The request was approved.

  1. Mr. Baker presented his request to authorize “Then and Now” payment for the transactions on Exhibit A, a payment to Rea & Associates. Rea & Associates has a “letter of arrangement” to supply auditor services and last year the letter was mailed to Mr. Baker during his vacation, so he missed the payment.

Mr. Williams asked if this was a contract. Mr. Baker replied that Rea & Associates do not contract separately for each service but bills for services as needed by the city according to this letter. The request was approved.

  1. Ms. Chaikin introduced a new item requested at the April 9, 2018, City Council work session. There are two capital projects at City Hall to be addressed. The first project is an addition to the existing elevator upgrade in process. The second is a new project to repair and upgrade the basement, garage area and second floor of the area in city hall vacated by the Fire Station move. Ms. Braverman continued: The elevator addition is $70,000 to extend the elevator into the second floor space vacated by the Fire Department so that it may be repurposed in the future for city administration and/or public use. The second project would first require a $75k study of three options for the available basement, garage and second floor space considering the entire City Hall needs. The actual implementation cost for any chosen upgrade would be a separate future project.

Mr. Moore asked if the elevator to the second floor is needed if the space is not used by the public. Director Braverrman replied it would be necessary for access for employees as well as the public. Mr. Weiss stated that operating money must be spent to study options and capital for actual upgrades. Mr. Moore added that ADA compliance would be necessary for all uses. Ms. Chaikin warned the actual implementation cost may be triple the study costs. Mr. Malone wanted to know what other costs are expected. Ms. Chaikin answered the $70,000 is added only for the elevator. Mr. Williams asked what extent might this trigger for other ADA changes. Ms. Braverman replied that six or seven years ago there was an ADA complaint and City Hall was made compliant, but not the Fire Hall section of the building. Mr. Kolb remarked that the city could thus be facing significant costs for other changes. Ms. Speese said that the elevator addition would require four to six weeks to implement. Ms. Lalley said that she understood the combined Building & Housing office would move into the City Hall basement, according to the original restoration project. Ms. Braverman replied that Building & Housing would move to upgraded second floor space and an employee lunch room would be in the basement. Mr. Kolb wanted to know if there was room at “The Dealership” for Building & Housing. Ms. Chaikin replied there was no space left at The Dealership. Mr. Zimmerman remarked the proposal is for improvements and not rebuilding. Mr. Moore remarked it was sensible to request a full design for building usage rather than piecemeal. Mr. Malone summarized that the committee did not need to vote as this was not a formal agenda item but he would draft a memo to council members that the Finance Committee discussed the new item and there was support to recommend this to the council, but there was no formal Finance Committee vote.

Mr. Malone adjourned the meeting at 8:47 a.m.
Frank Goforth

Library Board of Trustees, April 2018

April 29th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Library Board of Trustees
April 16, 208
The meeting was called to order at 6:35 p.m. All board members were present except Mr. Gleisser. Also present: Library Director Amy Switzer and a number of staff members.
Minutes of previous meetings were approved, with minor corrections. Bylawss changes were approved, on recommendation of the board bylaws committee.
The fiscal officer’s report included nothing unexpected. Income is slightly ahead of usual, apparently due to taxpayers’ paying property taxes earlier to take advantage of changes in the tax code. Cash balances were explained in more detail. A five-year depository agreement was approved (per state law), and it was noted that it was not an exclusive arrangement, and other banks could be used also if there were reason to do so. Also approved was participation in a cooperative purchasing program to take advantage of discounts negotiated by the state. Cost of participation in the program is $100, with possible savings of a few thousand dollars.
Ms. Switzer reported attending the annual legislative day in Columbus for Ohio librarians, and speaking with a number of legislators. Also noted was a presentation on community outreach by Shaker library staff at a national conference, which was well-attended and well-received.
The board approved a new Clevnet contract, to go into effect at the beginning of 2019. The agreement has been under development since 2015. Clevnet began as a service of the Cleveland Public Library in 1982, and Shaker Heights Library was one of the first members. It has since grown to include 44 libraries; the new contract reflects the need to distribute decision-making functions more equitably and also to adjust the cost structure to take into account developments in use of new media and technology. It is anticipated that the cost of participation for Shaker Heights Library will decrease slightly under the new framework.
Quarterly use statistics show a continuation of the shift to use of electronic media. The Library offered more programs (up 4 percent) and attendance increased (up 9 perent). The passport application program is now fully operational.
The board accepted and allocated several memorial gifts before the meeting adjourned at 7:40 p.m.
Kathleen Hickman

Board of Education, April 2018

April 29th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
April 10, 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 meeting began with an update by Woodbury Principal Danny Young. The regular meeting followed:

  1. The minutes from the March 13 regular board meeting were approved.
  2. Recognition/Honors of Staff/Students: Five members of the first high school PenOhio team qualified to compete at the State Tournament May 19 at the College of Wooster. Mercer kindergarten student Liam Collins was the subject of a Fox 8 piece that honored Autism Awareness Month. High school students Noa Marcus and Sophia Geisler earned national medals (less than 1 percent of 350,000 submissions win) in the 2018 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Fifth grade teacher Chante Thomas-Taylor published her first illustrated children’s book. Senior Ose Arheghan was named one of 25 Young Futurists 2018 by The Root magazine. Ose will attend OSU on a full scholarship (and was our first Shaker League Chapter Legacy Intern), is a champion of the LGBTQ community, and was honored in the Social Justice and Activism category. The high school celebrated the 30th anniversary of its exchange program with Japan. The district honored with a proclamation the legacy of Dr. Robert “Doc” Schneider, retired music department chair and director of choirs, who recently died.
  3. Isaacs offered the opportunity for public conversation with the board: one person urged the board to be more transparent with respect to updating the district’s stance on gifted learning.
  4. An update on the Equity Task Force followed, given by several members of the task force, including student member Katrina Cassell. (It 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.) There will be opportunities announced shortly on community participation in equity workshops and training.
  5. Minority Students Achievement Network is a national coalition of multiracial school districts that come together to understand and eliminate opportunity/achievement gaps that persist in schools—an update was given by six high school students who attended a recent conference at Kent State. These students’ energy and passion about this conference was evident and they want to come up with a proactive action plan with a goal of increasing the GPA of minority ninth graders from 2.0 to 3.0.
  6. An update on the Gifted Policy status was given by Dr. Terri Breeden and Dr. Marla Robinson along with community team member Alex Liston Dykema. This updated policy covers annual identification of students who are gifted using an array of tools, the district’s plan for a continuum of services, written education plans, gifted education personnel, and annual report and accountability to the Ohio Department of Education
  7. Highlights of the facilities update by Dr. Stephen Wilkins, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations followed. Architects from Legat and Van Akins Aukins reviewed projects and their status by school building. A breakdown of the various projects with estimated budgets was shared along with the logic of combining bid packages to maximize savings.
  8. 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. Five staff members were recommended for continuing contract status (tenure).
  9. The board approved a resolution accepting the lowest responsible and responsive bid from Lakeland Management Systems for the high school and Onaway foundation and wall repairs and one for ABC Piping Co. for the boiler installation at the high school (and a change order credit that reflects the removal of chemical treatment components from these new boilers). The board also accepted a resolution approving the lowest responsible and responsive bid from Chagrin Valley Paving related to the parking lot improvements at the high school and Onaway.
  10. Revision of board policies: first reading of updated policy “Programs for Students Who Are Gifted” (no action). Third required reading of three: the following policies have been updated (covering Title IX 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). The board voted to adopt these policies.
  11. Treasurer Bryan Christman presented monthly financial 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-March are $4.9 million ahead of last year at this time, perhaps due to the changes in the tax laws and people trying to pay ahead. Included in other local revenue YTD is the receipt of $1.7 million of capital expenses (primarily the middle school flat roof and cafeteria ceiling projects) paid for by the General Fund prior to the issuance of bonds, now reimbursed from the bond issuance proceeds received in late December ($9.9 million bond anticipation notes). On March 28, we priced $20.1 million of bonds and on April 4, $8.395 million of bonds, proceeds of which will be used to refund the bond anticipation notes issued in December. In summary, the district’s overall finances are on target with expectations at this time.
  12. Superintendent’s report: Students of the Shaker Schools traveled during spring break. The largest group was 67 students from the high school choir and orchestra who performed in Greece, as well as two immersion groups, one to Costa Rica and one to Morocco. Dr. Hutchings reviewed with the board a plan for declining enrollment, with four options as far as attrition of staff and refilling (or not) open positions. Mr. Christman reviewed the financial considerations and savings with each of the four attrition options. The board asked questions of both and will study this topic and do more in-depth research in coming up with a direction to take.

The meeting adjourned at 9:25 p.m.
Holly Wang

City Planning & Board of Zoning Appeals, April 2018

April 29th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Zoning Appeals & City Planning Commission
April 10, 2018

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

Mayor Weiss called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. The agenda for this meeting and supporting documents may be found here.

The minutes of the March 6, 2018, meeting were approved with minor typo corrections.

BOARD OF ZONING APPEALS

 Louck Residence, 2979 Broxton Road

The homeowner requests a variance for fences at this Broxton and South Woodland corner lot. An ornamental fence is proposed to extend to 40 feet off the South Woodland Road sidewalk and screened with new bushes. Code requires corner side-yard fences not extend in front of the setback of the home on the adjacent lot, which in this case is 75 feet. A 6-foot-tall wood board-on-board fence is also proposed on the rear property line, screened by existing landscaping, though code allows only a 3-foot-tall fence. Staff recommends approval of the ornamental fence, and approval of the board-on-board fence as long as it doesn’t extend beyond the South Woodland Road side of the neighbor’s house. After discussion, the topic was opened to public comment; there were none.

Mr. Boyle moved to approve the ornamental fence as proposed and approve the board-on-board fence with these modifications: 4 feet tall from the 75-foot setback to the 65-foot mark, then 6 feet tall to the property line. Approval was unanimous.

McGlinchey Stafford

McGlinchey Stafford (a law firm) requested a variance for an increased letter size on a primary sign for their business to be located on the Warrensville Center Road façade of the C-1 building in the Van Aken District. Staff recommends approval because a code-standard sign would be extremely difficult to read on the third floor of the building.

Mr. Zimmerman expressed concern that only a month after the signage standards were approved, the board is being asked for a variance. Mr. Feinstein explained that there are only two other spaces in Van Aken where this question would arise, so no precedent is being set. After discussion, the topic was opened to public comment; there were none. Mr. Zimmerman moved to approve the variance. Approval was unanimous.

 CITY PLANNING COMMISSION

Wendy’s Restaurant – 3516 Warrensville Center Road

Linear Architects, representing MUY! Hamburgers, requested a Conditional Use Permit, site plan review, variances, and re-subdivision of land for construction of a new Wendy’s at the corner of Warrensville and Chagrin. A Conditional Use Permit is required for the drive-through, which includes two stacking lanes and access to Warrensville. Site plan review is required to demolish the existing building and construct a new one. Variances were requested to the rear buffer, shade trees, front-yard maximum building setback, and the number-of-signs requirements. Commercial Mixed Use district design standard variances were requested and include variances to parking lot frontage, percentage of clear first floor windows, arrangement of public space, and street context and franchise architecture. Re-subdivision of land is required to combine several parcels into one, including combining the vacated right-of-way at the corner of Chagrin Boulevard and Warrensville Center Road. A working group developed the proposal and staff recommends approval.

A representative from Linear Architects walked through the highlights of the plan, then Jim Moll, a representative of MUY! Hamburgers (the Wendy’s franchisee) answered questions. Mr. Boyle and Mr. Weiss had questions about the colors of the Wendy’s red “blade” sign that would dominate the front of the building. Mr. Moll said that they’re open to changing it to an architectural feature, such as stone, rather than the red brand color. He also noted that all newer Wendy’s use the blade at that standard height, and that this location would not have a monument sign.

Ms. Braverman noted that the board can’t approve the signage package because only the number of signs had been submitted, not the actual designs, which need revision. She also noted that re-subdivision of the land, approved at the March meeting, is still awaiting signature by the owner before it goes to County Council for their approval.

Mr. Boyle said that the site plan looked good, assuming the landowner signed the re-subdivision agreement.

The meeting was opened for public comment. Dan Carducci spoke, representing Shaker FV Holdings, which owns the property south of the Wendy’s location and is also the landlord to Wendy’s, the lessee of the underlying property on which the current Wendy’s stands and former operator of the Wendy’s. Shaker FV sold the business to the Wendy’s Company, which franchised it to MUY! Hamburgers. He explained that Shaker FV had only recently received the new plans, which require their approval and MUY! had proceeded without consultation, collaboration or approval. Shaker FV’s concerns:

  1. The site plan shows a grassy triangle for “proposed future,” which is separate Shaker FV land. When that and the adjacent Shaker FV property are developed, they would expect that requests for cross-access and utility sharing would be recognized. Mr. Carducci requested the information be added to the site plan.
  2. Carducci suggested that a grassy area on the current Wendy’s site might be used for parking in the future, if their adjacent property were developed, and requested it be noted on the site plan.
  3. Access to the alley to Lomond Road, behind the location, is being removed. Mr. Carducci asked if a study was done. He also noted that Shaker FV, the underlying landowner, was not consulted and may have a problem with the decision.

Mr. Weiss asked the staff about Shaker FV’s concerns. They responded that it’s inappropriate to add possible future use notations to a site plan. Any future development would need to be reviewed when presented. Mr. Carducci then stated that the existing lease with Wendy’s on the land mentions cross-parking and access, though the full lease is not on file with the city; only a memorandum of understanding is legally filed.

Mr. Weiss asked staff about shared utilities. Ms. Braverman responded that it would be a private agreement between the companies and doesn’t involve the city. Only sharing the sewer lines would involve the city, and that would be to assess if it’s suitable to handle both businesses.

Mr. Weiss asked about closing the alleyway. Ms. Braverman responded that it’s only one-way access at the Wendy’s property line, but is often used as a two-way street, making it hazardous. Furthermore, the redesign of the Warrensville-Chagrin intersection makes traffic at the light less congested, making the alley cut-through unnecessary. The alleyway is city right-of-way beyond the Wendy’s property line.

Mr. Drefuss-Wells asked staff about earlier plans Shaker FV had presented for the property. Ms. Braverman replied that the owner had presented plans and the city was satisfied, but the owners then decided they didn’t want to add additional building to the property. Mr. Carducci noted that if they had tenants for the property, they would develop it. They’ve had interest from other quick-service restaurants and coffee companies, but those companies are concerned about cross-access and visibility. Shaker FV is in favor of development, and that’s why they’re bringing their concerns to the city.

Mr. Moll shared that, according to Wendy’s corporate legal department, their lease does not require them to give cross-access to another business, though they often do. He also noted that MUY! management thinks the alleyway is a hazard and wants it closed. He added that if and when Shaker FV has a development plan for the vacant parcel, they are open to discussing possibilities but are not willing to put an agreement in place in advance.

Mr. Weiss recommended that there be a continuance until there is a final agreement between Wendy’s, Shaker FV and MUY! Mr. Gruber noted that this should include Shaker FV’s agreement to the re-parcel of the land and the right-of-way vacated by the city.

 O’Brien Residence – 18205 Shelburne Road

Residents building a new single-family house request a variance for a two-car parking pad in addition to a 3-car attached garage. Code allows only a one-car pad with screening. Also, the applicant is removing 26 trees and planting only 17 new trees. Code requires replacing all 26 trees. Staff recommends approval on both variances. The driveway includes a curve and landscaping that will shield the parking pad. Another 34 trees are being retained in the rear yard, and there is no room to replant all the removed trees. In addition, staff recommends requiring tree protection fencing be installed prior to the start of construction.

After presentation of the resident plan and discussion, the floor was opened for public comment.  There was none. Mr. Zimmerman moved to approve the variance per staff recommendation. Approval was unanimous.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority – Farnsleigh Blue Line Rapid Transit Station

Brian Temming from the RTA presented plans for re-construction of the Farnsleigh Road RTA station, including adding a handicap-accessible ramp and modifying the platform design, shelters, signage and landscaping to meet ADA accessibility standards, as well as a shelter over the handicap accessibility ramp that matches the other proposed shelter. The adjacent parking area would be resurfaced in concrete. Staff recommends approval of the plan with the requirement that the southern ground sign be improved with landscape similar to the existing landscape around the north sign location.

Mr. Temming responded to several questions about the nature of the landscaping, confirmed that there would be no change to the parking spaces in the resurfaced lot, that the only lighting would be inside the shelter, and that signage would be only directional, not promotional. The discussion was opened for public comment. There was none. Mr. Boyle moved for approval of the plan with the addition of improved landscaping. Approval was unanimous. The proposal will go to Council for approval.

City of Shaker Heights – Van Aken District Public Art Action Strategy

The Van Aken District Public Art Action Strategy was presented for review. Based on an extensive public process, the input was organized into a set of guiding principles to guide public art installations throughout the district. The plan was approved and will go to Council for adoption.

The next meeting will be May 7 in the STJ Community Building.
Lynn Lilly

City Council Special Meeting, April 12, 2018

April 29th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

City Council Special Meeting
April 12, 2018

Present: Council members Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Sean Malone and Rob Zimmerman; Mayor David Weiss, CAO Jerry Chaikin
Also Present: Chuck Keiper, NOPEC Executive Director; Nicole Sweet, NOPEC Relationship Manager; Stephanie George, Director, NextEra Energy Services; David Jankowski, NOPEC Marketing Director
Absent: Council members Juliana Johnson Senturia, Earl Williams, and Anne Williams

Called to order by Mayor Weiss at 6:06 p.m.

Mr. Weiss introduced the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) representatives who would give an update on the option for Shaker Heights membership rates. Shaker Heights had requested a 100 percent renewal option for customers who receive electricity from NOPEC.

Ms. Sweet provided background on the NOPEC program as well as the relationship with Shaker Heights. NOPEC is a nonprofit governmental entity formed in 2000 and has 220 member communities in 14 counties. NOPEC provides competitve pricing for members and returns funds back to the communities in the form of Energy Efficiency Grants. Shaker received $60,445 in 2018, as well as a $1,000 Community Event Sponsorship. Law Director William Gruber is the Shaker Heights representative on the council. The council sets up three-year cycles with members having the option to leave after a three-year commitment. This three-year cycle affects how they set up contracts, because they can only make guarantees for three years.

For their sustainability efforts, NOPEC has partnered with NextEra for gas and electric supply. NextEra is the largest owner and operator of wind turbines in the United States. Through their trust, EarthERA, NextEra uses funds to build utility-scale renewable energy. This process is different from most green initiatives that are post-generation of power. This model is called “future-spective” on renewables, and money generated is spent on locating and building renewable generation.

Currently, Shaker residents have a 50 percent renewable energy content at no additional cost. NOPEC and NextEra are in the process of developing costs for a 100 percent renewable energy content program that will be an “opt-in” program available to residents. The current plan is to announce the program mid-summer 2018. NOPEC is aware that if the cost is more than 2-3 percent of going rate, they will see a drop-off of customers. NOPEC will report back once the program is established. NOPEC has requested that the city assist in getting the word out about the program once the parameters are defined.

Following the NOPEC presentation, Ms. Chaikin presented two changes to capital projects at City Hall. The current elevator renovation was budgeted at $150,000 and is underway.  The plan is to extend the elevator to the 2nd floor of City Hall. There is a second plan to design and renovate the space left by the health department in 2018, budgeted at $250,000. The proposal is to combine the projects to get access to the third floor (former health department and former fire department). So, the new cost for the elevator is $150,000 plus $70,000, which will make the third floor much more usable. Proposals will be presented at the next City Council meeting and will also include a review of department space in City Hall to see if space usage could be improved. A proposal has not been developed yet; Ms. Chaikin wanted to inform Council that Planning, Building and Public Works will discuss this issue over the next couple of weeks. The changes would require public meetings to be held in Stephanie Tubbs Jones Building through July.

Meeting adjourned at 7:38 p.m.
Sarah Divakarla

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 Vanakendistrict.com. 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