Observer Reports

Joint Facilities Task Force, March 2019

March 31st, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Looking Forward: Thought-Leader Panel Discussion

March 26, 2019

Welcome: David Weiss, Mayor of Shaker Heights; Jeffrey Isaacs, President, Board of Education; and Brian Gleisser, President, Library Board of Trustees

Introductions: Felton Thomas Jr., Executive Director, Cleveland Public Library

Guest Speakers: Michele Pomerantz, Director of Regional Collaboration, Cuyahoga County; Evan Struble, Associate State Librarian for Library Development, State Library of Ohio; and Terry Schwarz, Director, Kent State University Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative

Moderated Q&A: Felton Thomas Jr., Executive Director, Cleveland Public Library

The website for the Forward Together initiative may be found at Forward Together. A video and slide presentation of the meeting are available via the Forward Together resources website.

Mayor Weiss opened the meeting by explaining the “Forward Together” initiative as a collaboration of the schools, library, and city to develop a “forward-looking strategy for our current and future community facilities and assets.” He cited several goals for the project: to “create a long-range vision for our community facilities, to be good stewards of our limited resources, to leverage our partnership and common goals between the three taxing authorities, and to build on our legacy of creative thinking about the best practices how to effectively and efficiently use our civic assets.” He characterized the Thought Leader discussion as the first step of many interactions between the planning group and the public. He asked the public to think beyond how our current assets are used and suggest ways they might be better utilized for the good of Shaker Heights, to listen, learn and dream.

Mr. Isaacs informed the audience there would be more community input sessions, the next sessions being Thursday, April 11, hosted at the Main Library at 9:30 a.m., and another the same day at the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Community Building at 7 p.m.

Mr. Gleisser challenged everyone to “dream big” and not only think about what might be done now, but what they felt might be needed 20 or more years into the future. He reminded everyone that he and Mayor Weiss were on City Council together 20 years ago when the discussion first began on what has come to be called the Van Aken District.

Each of the three panel members then made their presentations to the public audience, using the slide presentation and viewable on the video

Ms. Pomerantz said that public education in the United States has not really evolved in 200 years; the technology has, but the process has not. Teachers still lecture students, segregated by age and abilities, in separate rooms and/or separate buildings. She cited a forward-looking example at the Purpose Built Communities, particularly one located in Atlanta, noting another in Columbus, Ohio. She specifically did not advocate that Shaker adapt these models, but build our own model instead, using some of the practices of these groups, particularly the creative use of all public spaces for multiple functions.

Mr. Struble challenged the audience to “be aspirational” in their thinking. He further elaborated: think modular and variable in the use of shared space, consider every facility as a community meeting space for many purposes, accessible 24/7 and including outdoor as well as indoor spaces, and to think out of the box regarding the community services that may become common in the future.

Ms. Schwarz challenged the audience to agree on a set of values to be pursued, and referred to future city environments in general rather than the use of shared facilities. She spoke of three areas: smart cities, climate change and “degrowth.” She began by taking an inventory of what one has; its condition, its location and its remaining value. She then referred to autonomous devices and how these might be used to extend the value of assets by reducing congestion, better serving low income residents, creating jobs, etc. Ms. Schwarz recommended people read the Fund for Our Economic Future’s “The Two Tomorrows” report. She next reviewed some data about climate change specific to Ohio and how community facilities such as libraries, schools and recreation centers serve multiple functions for multiple constituents during extreme climate events. Finally, we should embrace the phrase, “The only sustainable growth is degrowth.” By this she meant growing less and best using what we have. She closed with a quote by Buckminster Fuller: “Our beds are empty two-thirds of the time. Our living rooms are empty seven-eighths of the time. Our office buildings are empty one-half of the time. It’s time we gave this some thought.” She singled out libraries for praise and emulation, as they serve multiple community functions.

Mr. Thomas then presented several questions from the public that had been collected during the presentation:

  • What do you see as opportunities for intersection?
    • Pomerantz: Shared facilities, from infant to senior services of all types in all facilities.
    • Struble: Break the territorial boundaries and be intentional about partnerships.
  • What is the most unique or creative idea you have seen recently?
    • Schwarz: Facilities that are multitasked and functions that change during a day.
    • Pomerantz: Areas are not considered “mine,”—a sharing mentality. Buildings that are accessible all day.
    • Struble: A trend toward the “human” library where knowledge is shared between humans directly rather than passively by books. Sharing of experiences and cultures.
  • What is the impact of physical space on your vision?
    • Pomerantz: She said to keep in mind that school buildings are built specific to grade bands with different functions, and while new buildings may be cheaper up front and easier to fund, they are “bare bones.”
    • Schwarz: Where do municipal boundaries end? These institutions are the civic glue that holds communities together. It may be uncomfortable, but sharing among neighboring municipalities should be considered.
    • Pomerantz: A variant is to share services among municipalities rather than physical buildings.

Mr. Thomas then invited members of the audience to approach the microphone with questions:

  • Property taxes are rising, where are the savings?
    • Pomerantz: The “Say Yes to Education” model, where common services offered by multiple taxing bodies are consolidated.
      • How do we get more people involved? Door-to-door?
        • Pomerantz: Local social media as well as personal communications are useful. These community meetings serve this purpose. Flyers in local businesses and community buildings.
      • What financial and/or social value have you seen placed on historic buildings? How/when should we invest in new buildings?
        • Schwarz: Don’t throw away what is useful and yet don’t preserve everything forever. Most buildings can be repurposed. Historic character is an attraction for Shaker.
        • Struble: Think about modular and interchangeable space inside a building. The State Library of Ohio is in a building previously used to repair mining equipment.
        • Powerantz: Understand what can and cannot be done with existing buildings.
      • Has leadership communicated a single problem specific to the community?
        • Pomerantz: State funding cuts have created financial stress on communities; these three administrations are taking the lead in order to get ahead of this major problem.
  • Is there an explicit or implicit overlap with economic development?
    • Thomas: Yes, a new initiative like this can be an economic driver for a community.

Mayor Weiss then thanked all of the community members present for their interest. A question to be asked here is, “What do we want Shaker to be in the future?” This has led the three taxing authorities to several conclusions: We can’t rely on what was done in the past to be successful in the future. We are maintaining an aging infrastructure multiplied by three, which is the genesis of this effort. The Joint Facilities Task Force is initially composed of members from each of these three taxing authorities, and they will recruit community members to work with them. Experts will be brought in as the process moves forward. The Joint Facilities Task Force will utilize every communications media available to attract residents to participate. The two meetings on April 11 are our next opportunity to get community input.

Frank Goforth

Speaker Biographies

Felton Thomas Jr. is the immediate past president of the Public Library Association (PLA) and was appointed director of the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) in January 2009. Prior to that, he served as director of Regional Branch Services for the Las Vegas-Clark County (Nevada) Library District and president of the Nevada Library Association. He has served on the PLA Board of Directors since 2012, and was named to the Aspen Institute’s Task Force on Learning and the Internet in 2014.

Michelle Pomerantz is the Director of Regional Collaboration for Cuyahoga County. She began her career as a classroom teacher in Cleveland before joining the American Federation of Teachers as Deputy Director of the Office of the President. Her experience at the national level gave her an understanding of federal educational reform policies and advocacy strategies. In her current position, she supports regional collaboration amongst the 59 communities and many stakeholder groups in Cuyahoga County. She is also responsible for advocacy at the state and federal level representing Cuyahoga County’s interests in securing equitable funding and policies that promote regional priorities. Through that work, she seeks to utilize collaboration to increase prosperity and educational opportunities for all residents of Cuyahoga County.

Evan T. Struble is the Associate State Librarian for Library Development at the State Library of Ohio. Previously he worked as a Library Consultant with the State Library. Additionally, he continues to work part-time for the Upper Arlington Public Library. He has also worked for the library membership organization OhioNET, Westerville Public Library, Otterbein University’s Courtright Memorial Library, and the Meigs County District Public Library.

Terry Schwarz, FAICP (a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners) is the director of Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. Her work at the CUDC includes neighborhood and campus planning, commercial and residential design guidelines, and ecological strategies for vacant land reuse. She launched the CUDC’s Shrinking Cities Institute in 2005 in an effort to understand and address the implications of population decline and large-scale urban vacancy in Northeast Ohio. As an outgrowth of the Shrinking Cities Institute, she established Pop Up City, a temporary use initiative for vacant and underutilized sites in Cleveland. In 2009 she received the Cleveland Arts Prize for Design. She teaches in the graduate design curriculum for the KSU College of Architecture and Environmental Design. She has a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Cornell University.

Library Board of Trustees, March 2019

March 31st, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

March 25, 2019

Present: All board members, Library director Amy Switzer, other Library employees. The meeting was called to order 6:35 p.m.

Minutes of the previous meeting were approved and a motion of appreciation for board member Carmella Williams was also approved. She has retired after seven years of service as a board member.

The major matter before the board was a motion to approve issuance of certificates of participation (COP), the financing vehicle for the library renovation project. This is the first official step that sets the project in motion. The board had previously selected bond counsel and other advisors. Several steps, including production of documents and bond rating (by Moody’s) will follow. It is expected the offering will rate in the AA range, similar to the bond rating enjoyed by the city and schools. Funds should be available in early June. Before that time, the board expects to select an architect (probably at the April meeting) and hopes to have a candidate for Construction Manager at Risk for the May board meeting.

In other matters, President Gleisser noted the forthcoming meetings of Forward Together (the city/schools/library facilities planning initiative), and that a committee had reviewed the board’s bylaws, as required. The fiscal officer presented financial data, with revenues and expenditures on track, and noted development of the state budget and how it might affect library funding. The board approved establishing a new holding fund for management of library renovation project monies.

Ms. Switzer reported that there is video available on the Forward Together website, spoke about Library participation in History Day activities, and announced the opening reception for the Barbara Luton Art competition on March 30. Several Library policy revisions were presented, some of which dealt with protection of privacy of Library users. Those measures remained on first reading, with some board members asking for additional information and review. Health insurance coverage has been renewed at a 3 percent increase (no increase in dental insurance premiums). Information was provided about the Shaker Heights Library endowment fund held through the Cleveland Foundation; those wishing to financially support the Library were encouraged to make use of it. A new service – a garden seed library – is being established this spring.

Gifts were accepted and allocated; staff additions were announced. There was a short discussion of crisis management measures and training for library staff. The meeting adjourned at 8:05 p.m.

Kathleen Hickman

City Finance Committee, March 2019

March 29th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

March 18, 2019

Members Present: Committee members Sean Malone (chair), Nancy Moore, Earl Williams, Rob Zimmerman; citizen members Thomas Cicarella
Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Director of Public Works Patricia Speese, Assistant Fire Chief James Heath, Senior Economic Development Specialist Katharyne Starinsky, Sustainability Coordinator Michael Peters

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

Agenda—Committee actions:

  1. The minutes of the February meeting were approved without further discussion.
  2. Assistant Fire Chief James Heath presented a request for approval to apply for the 2019-2020 State Board of Emergency Medical, Fire, and Transportation Services Grant. Additionally, the Fire Department is requesting approval to accept any funds that would be awarded by this grant application. The grant is administered by the Ohio Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Medical Services, and is to improve and enhance EMS and trauma patient care in Ohio through the provision of grant funding for equipment, training, and research. The amount of the grant would be $3,000, Chief Heath said.
  3. Ms. Speese presented a summary of the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District (CCSWD) 2019 Solid Waste Management Plan Update. The CCSWD serves the community through programs designed to promote and increase recycling, thereby reducing solid waste sent to landfills. The newest plan update includes three new initiatives: the district would evaluate whether there is interest in establishing a municipal yard-waste contracting consortium to help communities manage leaves and brush, and obtain longer contracts and stable pricing; the district will develop a Multi-Family Housing Recycling Guide that offers instructions, best practices, and case studies for multi-family housing recycling programs; and the district will conduct a study to assess the need for a scrap tire transfer station to provide local drop-off options for scrap tires. Ms. Speese recommended that the plan update be ratified by the city.

Mr. Zimmerman said he had read in the New York Times that China is no longer accepting plastic and paper for recycling and wondered if this was related to our recent changes in what we could accept for recycling. Ms. Speese said it was. Representatives from Los Angeles had told her at a conference that they had previously earned $3 million a year for their recycled material but were now spending $20 million a year to get someone else to accept it. She heard similar stories from Portland, Ore., and other large cities. Paper and cardboard are still money-makers, she said. The cost of screening plastic and glass for contamination is prohibitive, as over 35 percent is not cleaned properly. Shaker employees screen as they collect the recycling buckets, which is why the buckets are small. Ms. Moore said Philadelphia incinerates waste and the air pollution is awful. Ms. Speese added that using landfill is much cheaper than other options. Mr. Malone asked if anyone from Shaker attends the county’s sustainability committee meetings. Ms. Speese answered that we do. Mr. Malone said he was encouraged by the multifamily residence initiative. The recommendation was approved.

  • Ms. Speese next presented a request for approval to enter into a contract with Solar Testing Laboratories, Inc., for 2019 Construction Inspection Services at an estimated cost of $73,625, or $50 per hour, with the option to renew in 2020 and 2021. Shaker Heights sent Request for Proposals (RFPs) to six consulting firms for construction inspection services on Jan. 7, 2019. The general scope of work included providing full-time construction inspection for road resurfacing, waterline replacement, sewer improvements, and other projects as requested by the city. Public Works received three proposals and Solar Testing Laboratories was the low bid. Public Works interviewed the team from Solar Testing Laboratories on Feb. 21, 2019, and found them to be qualified.

Mr. Malone wished to know if the city always used a construction inspector. Ms. Speese replied that the city had used several different companies for inspection of work but that this was a first contract for Solar Testing Labs. Mr. Williams asked if QCI was doing the inspection work for the Dominion gas line construction and Ms. Speese confirmed this. The request was approved.

  • Senior Economic Development Specialist Katharyne Starinsky presented a request that the Finance and Administration Committee approve a Vision Fund incentive in the amount of up to $80,000 to Align Capital Partners, who intend to lease 4,500 square feet in the Van Aken District for 10 years. Align is a growth-oriented private equity firm making investments in business-to-business specialty manufacturing, distribution, and business services companies. The Economic Development plan, adopted by City Council in November 2010, called for the implementation of tenant incentives to make it financially feasible for businesses to expand their operations and locate new offices in Shaker Heights. This incentive requires that businesses meet agreed-upon payroll and income tax targets within a set time frame to ensure that the city realizes a return on its investment. The Vision Fund has since made 10 loans, totaling $362,000; the loans have stabilized office buildings in Shaker Heights and yielded $653,000 thru 2018, representing a return of 2:1 on the city’s funds. Funds for this incentive are available in the 2019 Economic Development Department budget.

Mr. Zimmerman asked if Align had approached the city for assistance. Ms. Starinsky confirmed that they had. Mr. Zimmerman recommended that the city emphasize that Align is a unique professional business for Shaker and we should publicize this win. Mayor Weiss added that the city should also publicize that one of the firm’s principals and another employee are Shaker residents, and that the Van Aken District office space is now 100 percent rented. The caveat is that this business is very young, but the city’s assistance is “pay as you go” rather than all up front. The mayor asked rhetorically if Shaker could have landed this business without a loan: the answer was probably, but now the city has the tenant and the payback for Vision Loans is good. Mr. Zimmerman remarked that Beachwood also provides incentives for new businesses. Mr. Malone asked how much money is still available in the Vision Fund and can we “claw back” payments if milestones are not met. Mayor Weiss replied that there is not a “claw back” clause in this contract because the city is making the loan in stages rather than all up front. Mr. Malone asked if we had clawed back loans before. Ms. Chaikin replied that the city had successfully recovered funds from companies that had left Shaker before the loan terms had been met. Mr. Zimmerman confirmed there are risks with the loans, then he asked Ms. Starinsky to prepare a summary of past loans for Council. Mr. Malone asked if we had success with Vision Loans other that at Van Aken District. Ms. Starinsky replied that we had successful loans at other Shaker locations. Mayor Weiss added that the city is saving funding for Vision Fund use at the new tower planned for the Van Aken District. Mr. Cicarella praised the creativity of applying 5-6 year “pay as you go” funding for Vision Loans. The request was approved.

  • Ms. Chaikin presented a request to recommend to Council the approval of a grant application to the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council in the amount of $55,958 toward the $150,000 generator replacement and electrical service upgrade project at City Hall. NOPEC’s Energized Community Grant Program provides funds to help member communities implement energy savings or energy infrastructure measures. In 2018 the city received $60,445 in grant funds, which were applied to the $95,000 replacement of the original boiler in the Police/Court Building at 3355 Lee Road. For 2019, $55,958 is available but Council approval is required for the application.

Mr. Williams wanted to confirm that one generator was replacing two generators. Ms. Chaikin replied that yes, one larger generator was replacing two older ones. Mr. Malone commented that the money being freed up by this grant would also help fund the hiring of the new sustainability coordinator, Michael Peters, for next year. The request was approved.

  • Mr. Peters presented a request for the Finance and Administration Committee to approve the submission of an application to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for an “LEED for Cities” grant (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). This grant will award 14 U.S. cities funding and resources to achieve LEED for Cities certification. Estimated total value is approximately $25,000. LEED certification is recognized as a progressive sustainability initiative.

Mr. Malone said that the sustainability committee had discussed applying for LEED certification in 2015 when only larger cities were considered and then again last week when they learned USGBC would consider smaller cities for these grants. Ms. Moore wanted to learn the connection between this grant and the new housing being built. Mr. Peters said the specifics would be announced April 1. If we are chosen to receive one of the 14 grants, we can choose one area from the many options to qualify—renovated housing is one of those options. Ms. Moore asked if storm-water management would also apply. Mr. Peters replied that it would also. Mr. Williams asked Mr. Peters to explain LEED and Mr. Peters gave a short review of the history. Mr. Williams then asked if there were any LEED certified buildings in the area. Mr. Peters replied he could not recollect any at the moment but he guessed the Key Tower might be. [Note: Key Tower is not certified, but several Cleveland City School District school buildings are certified, as is the new and renovated Cleveland Heights High School.] Mr. Zimmerman asked Mayor Weiss if this would attract business to Shaker. Mr. Weiss replied that qualifying was not easy and commercial builders are not attracted to this; however, it does provide a competitive advantage if the building is certified and data is available on the savings. Mr. Zimmerman shared that LEED certification came up when Mitchell’s was pursuing the Oakwood Commons site in South Euclid. Mr. Weiss added that there are multiple advantages from EPA and from some businesses, but it does cost to pursue on one’s own. Mr. Peters added that Shaker would be the first city in Ohio to qualify for this grant and we should work with the schools to get support. Mr. Cicarella asked if Shaker is required to go forward for certification if our grant application is approved, and what the costs to the city are. Mr. Peters replied we would learn the answer on April 1, but it would mostly be staff time rather than dollars. Mr. Cicarella said he did not want to start down a path and then be committed to fund specific projects. Mr. Malone stated his understanding this would be a means to set goals rather than to fund specific projects. Mr. Cicarella asked if there were bad consequences of not winning the grant. Mr. Peters answered that the goal is to reach LEED certification within one year of the grant and that if USGBC does not believe we can be successful, it will not consider Shaker for the grant. Mr. Weiss remarked that the longer term benefit is public relations to attract environmentally minded residents and businesses to Shaker. The request was approved.

  • Ms. Chaikin presented the unaudited 2018 Year End Results and offered some highlights:
    • 2018 Revenues were $18,589 less than the 2018 budget and only $3,578 more than 2017 actual.
      • Income taxes were $516,143 less than in 2017, down 4 percent. Some suburbs were up and others down, but none down as much as Shaker.
      • Investment earnings went up by $393,848 as a result increased interest rate and using brokered CDs and Treasuries for investments.
      • This is the first year since 2013 that revenue has not grown by at least $500,000.
    • 2018 Operating Expenses were $1,848,191 less than the 2018 budget and $204,059 more than 2017 actual.
      • Almost all departments spent less than they were budgeted in 2018.
      • Transfers Out of the General Fund were $11,972,621 which exceeded the 2018 budget by $1,090,994 and permitted funding for recreation, the economic development fund, and sewer construction.
    • 2018 General Fund Results: Revenues exceeded expenditures and transfers by $1,264,405.
      • The year-end unencumbered General Fund balance is 36.18 percent of 2018 expenditures and transfers.
      • Given the uncertainty of whether Shaker income tax revenues will recover in 2019 and by how much, and that all of the collective bargaining agreements for Shaker unionized employees have expired, the unencumbered cash balance of the General Fund may be needed in 2019 to meet the city’s obligations.

Ms. Chaikin added she expected new bargaining requests from the unions this coming week and that these will be a major topic of the March 25 City Council meeting. Mayor Weiss added that $500,000 extra was budgeted in 2018 for labor, but cost cutting yielded $1,400,000, which was very good work by the departments, and now it is needed. Nancy Moore remarked it was good news the 2018 actual expenditures came out with a surplus, but we may still be surprised when the actual tax revenue is learned after April 15. Mr. Cicarella worried this hoped for revenue may not come to pass.

Mr. Malone adjourned the meeting at 8:39 a.m.

Frank Goforth

Board of Zoning Appeals/City Planning Commission, March 2019

March 29th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Zoning Appeals/City Planning Commission

March 5, 2019

Members Present: Mayor David Weiss; Councilman Rob Zimmerman; citizen members John Boyle, Kevin Dreyfuss-Wells, Joanna Ganning

Others Present: Dan Feinstein, senior planner; William Gruber, director of law

Absent: Joyce Braverman, director of planning

The agenda for this meeting may be found here: (

Mayor Weiss called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. The minutes of the February meeting were approved and are available here: (


Elizabeth Billings, Around the Table Yarns LLC, requested a variance to the sign regulation for the size of a primary wall sign. This is a new business on the Chagrin Boulevard side of Shaker Plaza. The sign consists of 10-inch-tall individually illuminated letters with a logo integrated into the design. The logo includes a knitting needle that extends a few inches above the sign, which increases its overall size. Staff suggested approval because the sign is in proportion to the storefront and meets code requirements without the needle. Further, the logo creates a nice design. The Architectural Board of Review approved the sign and supports the variance. There were no comments during the public hearing. The panel unanimously approved the variance.

Supporting documents are available here: (


Trevor Shaw requested a variance to the height and setback requirements for front-yard fences. The Shaw property extends from South Woodland Road through to Van Aken Boulevard. The applicant has installed a 6-foot-tall wood board-on-board fence that faces Van Aken, creating a front-yard fence. The applicant stated that a 3-foot-tall fence, the height limit according to code, would neither keep their dog in the yard nor deter deer. The fence also does not meet code in that the setback is less than the required 33 feet. The existing landscaping of bushes and trees is proposed to remain to soften the view of the fence from Van Aken. Staff recommended a continuance so the applicant can submit a detailed landscape plan and determine the minimum height to serve the purpose. Mr. Zimmerman commented that the board should not serve an advisory role and that continuances should be used more sparingly. Applicants should work with staff on variables for each case and provide enough information for rulings to be made. There were no comments during the public hearing. The panel unanimously approved the continuance.

Supporting documents are available here:



The request, an accommodation for a person with disability, had been withdrawn.

The mayor adjourned the meeting at 7:45 p.m.

Barbara Bradley

Board of Education, February 2019

March 3rd, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Feb. 12, 2019

Present: Jeffrey Isaacs, president; Ayesha Bell- Hardaway, Lisa Cremer, Heather Weingart; Absent: William Clawson

Others present: Treasurer Bryan Christman, Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Wilkins

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

Mr. Florence, principal of Mercer School, along with fourth grade students Zoie Durham and Nathan Bordeaux, opened the meeting detailing the learning opportunities through the IB program at Mercer School. Mr. Florence spoke of on-going faculty and staff assessments. He referred to a vigorous look at strategies regarding enhancing individual learning styles and encouraging problem solving. Also detailed were after-school enrichment activities.

(Note: This observer report does not necessarily follow the order of the published agenda.) Fernway Update: Director of Operations Dave Boyer and representatives of Van Auken Akins Architects and Gilbane Building Co. presented progress made from mid-January to mid-February. Picture scans of the interior were shown with all hallway walls taken down. All asbestos has been removed. One can see a 360-degree walkthrough online at—Fernway School Update. Abatements and interior preparations began in December. March 1 is the completion date for this phase. The construction phase is expected to take approximately 14 months. The school is to be reopened in August 2020. In response to a board member question, some memorabilia has been saved from the old building, including a number of plaques. The design team from Van Aukin Akins has met frequently with teachers and other stakeholders. Facilities Construction Update for Bond Levy Projects: The overriding principle is to meet the standards of “safe, warm and dry.” Dave Boyer was joined by representatives of Gilbane and Van Auken Akins, who presented the summer construction timeline. Gilbane’s final cost model validating the budget, to be published in mid-March, is to be authorized by the noard. In June work at all schools will begin, and will stop on August 21. Projects will include roof work, security upgrades, fire alarm projects, foundation and masonry restoration, boiler and generator projects, and high school parking lot replacement. Some ADA improvements have been pushed back to 2020, as the needs are varied and have yet to be analyzed for each school building.

Comments from the Board: Dr. Wilkins expressed concern regarding security issues at the Middle School, considering it has spaces that are uniquely challenging. Board members complimented Gilbane, noting that Gilbane participates in “daily huddles” and weekly communications with contractors and work force. Formal meetings detailing work are recorded, assuring accountability.

Superintendent Search: Mr. Isaacs reiterated the intention of the board is to keep the search transparent and inclusive. He updated the superintendent search timeline. In mid-November the national search firm Ray & Associates began work with the board. In early December, two community meetings were held to involve the public to share thoughts on a leadership profile for the next superintendent. A survey was posted online at In mid-December, the superintendent position was posted. In mid-February, top candidates are to be presented to the Board. In early March, interviews with top candidates will be conducted and finalists will be introduced at public meetings. Each candidate will make day-long visits. Public forums will be recorded. Opportunities for feedback will be available from all stakeholders. Announcement of the new superintendent will be made by the end of March.

2019-2020 Academic Program Planning Guide: Dr. Breeden presented the program planning guide for approval. New is the addition of class choices for Woodbury students. The planning guide is organized by grade level, 5th-12th grades. Also, now it is a totally online format, which will bring significant cost savings over the traditional guide (revised every other year). It can be downloaded for printing purposes, and Dr. Breeden noted that the schools will print it out for individuals if needed.

Adoption and Revision of Board Policies—the following items of note were unanimously approved by the Board: Recommendations of the Equity Task Force previously submitted to the district were turned over to a district committee tasked to further define equity as it applies specifically to our student population and to define a policy for the district. The board unanimously approved an Equity Policy for the District.

Changes in Assignments: A transition agreement was executed by Jonathan Kuehnle, and the district reassigned Mr. Kuehnle from principal of the high school to project manager-administration effective in January 2019. Also effective in January 2019: substitute high school principal David Glasner was reassigned as interim principal. The search for a high school principal was initiated in January and as of early February, 25 applications had been received. Dr. Erin Herbruck, Director of Professional Learning for the district, will serve as project manager for the search. The firm Finding Leaders, Inc., based in Cuyahoga County, will help conduct the search.

Mr. Christman’s Financial Report: The monthly report consisted of financial statements and interim investments for the year-to-date ended Jan. 31, 2019. They were accepted and filed for audit. The library budget was also reviewed by the treasurer. A budget of $25 million appropriated for building improvements, including reconstruction and contents replacement of Fernway, was approved by the board.

Board Member Reports: Ms. Bell-Hardaway and Ms. Weingart are tasked with identifying a new Library Board member who will serve a seven-year term. At present there are 19 applications. Interviews will occur at the end of February into March.

Public Communication: A resident commented that more oversight was needed regarding the search for the district’s superintendent. He cited what he believed to be an unfair practice in regards to a potential candidate. Another resident was interested in the status of the new five-year strategic plan. Another read a letter in support of a candidate for superintendent. That candidate herself spoke of her qualifications for the position and asked for support of the community.

Recognitions: Seniors Shekinah Hooper and Miles Callahan were two of nine students selected to receive the CIA Recognition Award, which includes a $20,000 scholarship upon admission to the Cleveland Institute of Art. Additional awards were given to a number of Shaker students at the Scholastic Art Competition Ceremony. Added to a list of others, six more senior student-athletes have signed Letters of Intent with the following schools: Bates College, Denison University, Erie Community College, Marshall University, Swarthmore College, and Urbana College. Freshman Ben Rakow qualified to advance to the Cleveland competition of the National Shakespeare Competition. Seniors Harlan FriedmanRowell, Hallie Dial and Adonis Fryer, and Freshmen Nora Konrad and Somiya Schirokauer were congratulated for their participation in the in-school competition. Middle School Robotic Club teammates Sarah Marcus, Hannah Whitney and Nico Moulthrop finished in first place in the overall Robotics Challenge at the Kalahari VEX IQ Qualifying Competition. The team will go to the state competition in March. Anders Butsch’s and Jacob Hearty’s team earned a 10th place finalist ranking out of 184 teams. Shaker’s IB program was featured in a cover story of International School Magazine. Shaker students are featured on the cover; the article was written by Scott Stephens and Jen Kuhel. Dr. John Moore is quoted. John Rizzo, Director of Technology, worked on an Augmented Reality project with a small group of Middle School students to fabricate a “Reality Sandbox” using software from UC Davis. A computer was built by the students to accomplish this.

The public meeting was adjourned to go into executive session at 7:45 p.m.

Anne Batzell

Recreation Committee, January 2019

March 3rd, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Jan. 16, 2019

Present: Tres Roeder, Council member and chair; Terri Breeden, Deputy Director of Curriculum for the school district; Troy Neujahr, citizen member; Alexandria Nichols, Director of Recreation; Jeri Chaikin, Chief Administrative Officer; and David Weiss, Mayor

Mr. Roeder called the meeting to order at 6 p.m.

The minutes of the November 2018 meeting were approved as written. 

Only one item of business was on the evening’s agenda.

Thornton Park Ice Rink Study Presentation  

Ms. Nichols presented the results of a 2018 study and evaluation of the Thornton Park Ice Rink.

Goal of the project was to understand existing conditions and plan for future community needs. Four different firms with decades of building assessment and rink design-and-build experience worked on the study. Engineer Tim Pool was present to help with the presentation. 

All major systems were evaluated: electrical, mechanical, structural, HVAC, public spaces, and office spaces. More specifically, the rink study looked at the ice rink and refrigeration systems, the mechanical systems, the electrical systems, the architecture/design and how the facility is used, the structural systems and parking walkways, and the building exterior.

The three-sided rink opened in 1969, with a fourth wall added in 1972. A lobby expansion was done in 1987.

Current challenges include an aging infrastructure, limited locker room space, limited community meeting space, inconvenient concessions location, and changing community needs. The approach to the facility in recent years has been to repair and replace rather than improve. A PowerPoint with lots of visuals highlighted the challenges.

The PowerPoint also highlighted recommendations, including a two-page list of Repair and Replace and Aesthetic or Optional upgrades. Those were prioritized by code requirements, safety-related items, facility management improvements, operational efficiencies, and aesthetic and optional upgrades. The rink floor has been well maintained but is slated for a complete renovation at a cost of $650,000 within the next 10 years.

The Repair and Replace list totaled $1.31 million; the Aesthetic/Optional upgrades ranged from a little over $2 million to $2.8 million.

Current annual expenses for the rink are $921,369, with revenue of $552,850. 

The committee asked a number of clarifying questions and wondered what a total replacement of the building would cost. An estimate of $4 million was suggested.

This analysis is timely for a number of reasons. First, the facility is now 50 years old and some components are nearing the end of their useful life. Second, the information will be useful for the new long-range collaborative planning process now underway with the city, the schools, and the library. One goal of that is to plan as a community for long-term facility needs.  

The meeting was adjourned at 7 p.m.

Jan Devereaux

Safety & Public Works Committee, March 2019

March 2nd, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

March 1, 2019

Present: Council member Nancy Moore (chair); citizen members Jonathan Hren, James Sammon, Austin McGuan

Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Director of Public Works Patricia Speese, Chief of Fire Patrick Sweeney, Chief of Police Jeffrey DeMuth, police dept. administrative assistant Debra Messing

The meeting was called to order by Ms. Moore at 8:02 a.m. Ms. Moore announced there was no quorum but the committee would proceed with reviewing the agenda and seeking consensus. 

Agenda—Committee actions:

1. Regarding the minutes of the Feb. 1, 2019, meeting, there were no questions or amendments.

2. The Public Works Dept. presented a motion to ratify a plan with the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District for garbage fees and disposal. The city also works with CCSWD on recycling, litter collection, household hazardous waste, and scrap tire disposal. If the city fails to ratify the regional plan, the state EPA would write the city’s plan. The CCSWD plan continues the city’s current fee of $1.50 per ton until 2023, when the fee will rise to $2 per ton. For comparison, the average state fee is $4.50 per ton. The city disposes of 8,300 tons per year; this is reduced from 15,000 tons in 2003, a decline attributed to recycling, reuse, and a decline in residents, according to Ms. Speese. Ms. Speese said CCSWD is working on a municipal yard waste consortium and multifamily-building recycling programs. Committee members present approved the plan.

3. The Public Works Dept. presented a motion to ratify a contract based on an RFP for a longer-term arrangement with consultants who perform inspection services for city construction projects, including road resurfacing, waterline replacement, sewer improvements, and the like. The RFP was an attempt to obtain better pricing through a one-year contract with options to renew the following two years. The lowest bidder with the highest rating was Solar Testing Laboratories, bidding $50 per hour as compared to a prior average of $56 per hour. The city’s prior experience with Solar was limited to the Green Lake dredging project, and indirectly through the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. Mr. Sammon commented that his company had engaged Solar and been satisfied with its services. Inspections for most of the projects are actually paid by another entity, such as the Cleveland Water Dept., with the exception of street resurfacing. (Additional details are available online in the committee packet.) Committee members present approved the contract.

4. The Fire Department presented a motion to approve an application for a State Board of Emergency Medical, Fire and Transportation Services Grant for money to “improve and enhance EMS and trauma patient care” through purchases of equipment, training and research. The total award varies with the number of applicants. The fund depends on collection of penalties statewide for seat-belt violations. Chief Sweeney said the city received $3,900 last year. This is a zero-match grant. Committee members present approved the application.

Following discussion on the motions on the agenda, there was some dialogue about miscellaneous matters. Ms. Speese said there will be many street repairs when the weather permits, because of extensive damage from freeze-thaw cycles and rain between snowstorms this winter, plus waterline repairs. Chief Sweeney said the Lytle Road housefire investigation is not complete; the house is slated for demolition. Chief DeMuth said the driver who hit several cars in the parking lot behind the state liquor store had been apprehended.

Ms. Moore adjourned the meeting at 8:32 a.m.

Annette Tucker Sutherland

City Council Work Session & Special Meeting, February 2019

March 2nd, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Feb. 22, 2019

Present: Mayor David Weiss; Council members Sean Malone, Nancy Moore, Tres Roeder, Julianna Johnston Senturia, Earl Williams, Rob Zimmerman. Anne Williams was absent.

Also present: CAO Jeri Chaikin, Law Director William Ondrey Gruber, various department heads

The work session began with a presentation by two representatives of Dominion East Ohio’s construction team. Kyle Miller, director of external affairs, and Mike Antonius, manager of gas design, reviewed the company’s five-year “pipeline infrastructure replacement” program. The program’s 25-year plan includes replacement of 5,672 miles of old pipeline (steel, iron and copper dating from before 1960) with hardy plastic pipes. Residents affected by upcoming projects (work on Wicklow Road is getting started now) will be notified before projects start, and they will be handing over responsibility for lines from the street to each house.

In the last 10 years, 19 miles of pipeline have been replaced, and the plan between now and 2022 is to replace 114 more miles. The city collects taxes from Dominion East Ohio based on the company’s “assets in ground.” In 2017, the company paid $512,000 in taxes to Shaker Heights. The company has spent about $13 million on Shaker projects since 2016 and will spend another $6 million in 2019.

The rest of the work session was a discussion of proposed policy and ordinance changes related to regulating “hot works” performed by contractors in the city. The changes were drafted following the 2018 fire at Fernway school, where workers were repairing the roof using torches. Investigators determined that the torch work ignited the fire, and city officials determined that more regulation of this type of work is needed so destructive fires can be prevented.

Following a lengthy discussion of the drafted amendments to the city’s contractor registration ordinances, fire code and building code, Council went into session and voted to adopt the new policy and ordinance changes. The new law, to go into effect in mid-March, tightens requirements for receiving building permits and fire department permits for hot work, which causes 58 percent of fires and 85 percent of civilian deaths each year in the United States. The new law also requires the building department and the fire department to work more closely together when permits are issued and increases contractors’ insurance requirements. Hot work is done mostly on commercial and government buildings, not single homes.

Council also voted to adopt amendments to the city’s ordinances regarding public notification of meetings of public bodies (otherwise known as “sunshine laws”). The new ordinances update and modernize notification by recognizing the ubiquitous use of digital over print communication and the fact that the city’s website is easily accessible and notices are also sent via email and on social media. Postings will still be printed, but few people view them.

Anyone who wishes to be emailed meeting notices may request to be added to the city’s email list, and the price of paper copies of public records is lowered from 10 to 5 cents per page. Digital copies are free.

Agendas, meeting packets, meeting minutes and audio recordings will be posted on the city’s website,, not only for Council meetings, but also for meetings of committees, commissions and most boards. Recordings of meetings of the Architectural Board of Review and Board of Appeals will not be posted (most of those meetings are long and involve individual residents), but they will be available by requests for public records. Agendas and recordings of meetings of city task forces will be posted on the city’s website, but minutes are not prepared following those meetings.

The meeting, which started at 7:15 p.m., adjourned shortly after 9 p.m.

Marcia Goldberg

City Council Regular Meeting, February 2019

March 2nd, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Feb. 25, 2019

Present: Vice Mayor Anne Williams presided over the meeting as Mayor Weiss was out of town. Council members present: Sean Malone, Rob Zimmerman, Juliana Johnston Senturia, Nancy Moore, Earl Williams. Tres Roeder was absent.

Also present: Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Law Director William M. Ondrey Gruber, Finance Director Robert H. Baker, Director of Public Works Patricia Speese, Director of Communications and Marketing Victoria Blank, Planning Director Joyce G. Braverman

Ms. Williams called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. The meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.

The minutes of the Jan. 14, 2019, meeting were approved.

Nine out of 10 items on the agenda were passed declaring an emergency.

Items on the agenda unanimously approved:

A permit for Lee Road Learning Center, a child daycare center, at 3663 Lee Road

A dedication as a right-of-way of the city-owned median on University Boulevard NW between the city’s boundary with University Heights and Fairmount Circle

Authorization of a contract with GPD Group for $63,311 for consulting services for the Huntington Sanitary Sewer Overflow project

Authorization of a contract with Jack Doheny Cos., without formal competitive bidding, for the purchase of a Vactor Trailer (a vehicle that uses high pressure water jetters to clean sewer mains and laterals and is pivotal to cleaning and inspection work) that had been rented by the city for $20,750 plus $17,250 in additional rental payments. The purchase is more fiscally responsible when compared to renting the equipment on a month-to-month basis.

An amendment making appropriations for reimbursement of $1,995.17 received from Medical Mutual of Ohio to be used for Lunch and Learn events. This is a reimbursement to the city from money employees dedicated to their health spending accounts but did not use. It is a “use it or lose it” situation for the employees as any amount that is not used is given to the city.

Authorization of a contract with Shark & Minnow Inc. for professional marketing and public relations consulting to promote Moreland Infill Housing for $30,000–the total contract with the company not to exceed $165,000.

Authorization of a contract with Coventry Land Co. in the amount of $50,000 for professional sustainability consulting services

Approval to enter into a contract with Dise & Co. for professional consulting services for the recruitment of an Economic Development Director (a position that has been posted on the city’s website,, and other websites since May 2018). The city has interviewed a number of candidates but has not found the ideal person for the job and feels the best option is to hire a human resources consulting firm. The job was previously held by Tania Menesse, who is now the Director of Community Development for the City of Cleveland.

The authorization of various Then and Now Certificates requested by the Finance Director for the payment of various purchase orders

Approval of a liquor permit for Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink at 3427 Tuttle Rd. in the Van Aken District

There was no public comment on any of the agenda items, but there was public comment thanking Council for making the Lee Road area a little better. It was suggested that the city could get a better return on its investment in the Moreland and Lomond areas if it considered a three-lane configuration on Lee Road. Ms. Williams thanked the gentleman for sharing his comments and said Council has been discussing many suggestions to revitalize the area.

Audrey Morris

Library Board of Trustees, February 2019

March 2nd, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Feb. 18, 2019

Present: Board members Bertsch, Cicarella, Garett, Gleisser (president), Katz, Meinhard, and Williams. Also Library Director Amy Switzer and a number of library employees. The meeting began at 6:35 p.m.

The minutes of the previous meeting were approved, and there was no community comment (and no one from the community in attendance, except this LWV observer).

Mr. Gleisser appointed a committee to review the bylaws (an annual event) and to submit proposed changes (if any) in writing at least 10 days before the next meeting.

The director’s report was primarily devoted to consideration of the library renovation project. A member of RFC Contracting, which has been chosen to act as owner’s rep for the process, presented a two-page timeline with estimated dates for decisions and action. It is anticipated that the design team will be selected by the April board meeting (4/15) and the construction manager at the May meeting (5/20). Community engagement meetings are expected early in the design phase. The owner’s rep will be involved in day-to-day activities and offer monthly executive summaries. There was a general discussion of the need for minority representation goals and other issues surrounding labor and contractor matters.

The fiscal officer reported a slight discrepancy in the previous month’s financial statement due to software problems, and the board approved an amended statement. The board also approved the January financial statement. Discussion moved to the sort of instruments to be used for financing the renovation project. The board approved use of certificates of participation as the financing vehicle because it will allow funding to be in place for the entire project (which is needed, by law, before contracts can be let) and the payback time is longer-term than conventional bonds. City of Shaker Heights approval is needed because it is the owner of the property, but is expected, as the financing does not put the city at risk.

In other business, the board approved acceptance of gifts and heard a few personnel changes. Mr. Gleisser noted there have been 19 applications for the trustee seat being vacated by Ms. Williams. Interviews will be held and an appointment of the new board member is expected at the March 12 school board meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 8:05 p.m.

Kathleen Hickman