Observer Reports

Library Board of Trustees, June 17, 2019

July 5th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: All board members, Library Director Amy Switzer, library staff

The meeting began at 6:30 p.m. and the previous meeting’s minutes were approved with minor changes. Board member Meinhard reported on ongoing conversations with school officials and with representatives from the city of Shaker Heights about long-range funding/tax issues and related matters.

The fiscal officer’s report began with a report from Mike Prcella about the issuance of financing instruments (certificates of participation). The interview with Moody’s (the rating organization) went well, he said, and the Library was awarded an AA1 rank, just short of the highest rating. The certificates were issued at an opportune moment with $10.4 million sold at an aggregate interest rate of 3.38%. He related that the process went very smoothly and the results were entirely satisfactory. The Library still has available additional borrowing capacity based on the PLF (Public Library Fund) received from the state of Ohio. Year to date, PLF received is up 5 percent over last year. Revenues and expenditures are in line with the budget. The board approved the financials report.

Ms. Switzer commented on the summer reading program and thanked participants in the Memorial Day parade before the board took up consideration of hiring the Construction Manager at Risk. From nine respondents to the RFP, a committee including the director and several board members formed a short list of three firms that were interviewed. They unanimously recommended Turner Construction and explained the criteria used. The board discussed the matter and approved the choice. Ms. Switzer also engaged the board in a short exercise for the Forward Together initiative, to indicate priorities and community engagement activities.

Gifts were accepted and appropriated and personnel changes noted. A letter of thanks is being sent to Ohio State Senator Sandra Williams for her support for PLF in the state budget being finalized. The meeting adjourned at 8:20 p.m.

Kathleen Hickman, observer

Sustainability Committee, June 13, 2019

July 5th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

The agenda for the meeting is available here:

The audio for the meeting is available here:

Members Present: Council member and chair Julianna Johnston Senturia; Council members Sean Malone and Anne Williams; citizen members Julianne Potter and Norman Robbins

Others present: Mayor David Weiss, Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Sustainability Coordinator Michael Peters.

Ms. Senturia called the meeting to order at 7:31 a.m. and adjourned at 8:41 a.m.

The minutes of the May 9, 2019 committee meeting were approved and are available here:

Daniel Brown, scheduled on the agenda to give a brief presentation on the Shaker Heights Residential Composting Program, was absent, and the presentation was postponed to a later date.

LEED for Cities: Mr. Peters updated the committee on a conference that he attended in Washington, D.C., regarding the LEED for cities program that Shaker Heights is pursuing. At the conference, attendees were given information on what data the city must provide and the processes of doing so. Peters mentioned that the LEED for cities program is still new for the U.S. Green Building Council, and that the administrators are open to making changes and accommodations for Shaker Heights, as we are a smaller city. Mr. Peters was also offered marketing support and was connected to the Ohio representative of the U.S. Green Building Council. Mr. Peters explained that in order for Shaker Heights to reach the base level of certification in the LEED program, the city must collect specific data. However, as a small city we do not control utilities like water, sewers, and energy, but the private organizations that do have been cooperative and helpful in providing the necessary data. Later, Mr. Peters explained that in regard to collecting city data, vendors will need one year of utility bills, and that he is working with First Energy to ensure that its records match the city’s. Mr. Peters explained that students and other volunteers will help collecting data necessary for the LEED project. After Shaker passes the LEED certification level, the committee may focus on changing city procedures, policies, and legislation regarding sustainability where necessary in order to achieve the next level of certification.

Sustainability Roadmap: Mr. Peters then led a discussion on the city’s Sustainability Roadmap, which can be accessed here:

The Roadmap provides specific sustainability goals and metrics to determine when they are accomplished. The objectives outlined in the Roadmap are as follows: 1. Reduce city costs for electricity, natural gas, water, sewer; 2. Increase efficiency and reduce costs (Energy Conservation Measures for City Buildings); 3. Reduce fuel consumption for cost and greenhouse gas savings, reduce vehicle maintenance costs; 4. City staff involvement, buy-in, and attraction and retention; 5. Solar demonstration project (solar power generation on city-owned vacant lots); 6. Respond to opportunities outside initial scope (other green initiatives); and 7. Provide staff support to the Sustainability Committee and city Green Team.

Mr. Malone expressed concern about the feasibility of objectives numbers 1 and 2 (reducing city costs and energy conservation measures for city buildings, respectively). Malone questioned if the objectives are doable in the first year. Peters stated that the committee has already made good progress, that the city will have to engage a vendor to analyze the city’s energy use for the first objective, and that it is certainly achievable to be on the path to completing the objectives if not completing them within the first year.

Alternative City Vehicles: Ms. Senturia brought up the feasibility of city vehicles using electric fuel. Peters mentioned a survey regarding green vehicles sent out to city employees. He explained that the survey demonstrated that there is a real interest within the city of increasing the use of electric and hybrid vehicles, and that there are two next steps: 1. Receiving a quote from a vendor that would input a device in vehicles representative of city use to determine how cars are used, along with what vehicles could be replaced with environmentally friendly options, and 2. The Ohio EPA grant for diesel replacement would help Shaker repower older diesel vehicles, to replace motors to be more efficient, or to replace diesel vehicles with new alternatives. Ms. Potter mentioned her involvement with a project regarding Green Fleet procurement and feasibility, and how Fleet users can be incentivized to choose energy alternative vehicles. She stated that she will have more information on the project closer to the end of summer.

Missions, Visions, & Objectives: Committee members shared a document that detailed the Sustainability Committee’s missions, visions, and objectives. Ms. Senturia began a discussion on the document. Potter expressed concern that many of the priorities outlined in the document that were carried forward from the previous task force are climate and environmentally focused, while sustainability also encompasses social and economic issues, and that the committee should also potentially focus on social issues. Furthermore, because it is difficult for a single resident or a single city to make an extensive impact in sustainability, the committee should significantly emphasize collaboration. The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals were published in 2015, end in 2030, and incorporate the social aspect that Potter is concerned is absent from Shaker’s goals. Ms. Potter also explained that the Sustainability Development Goals are not necessarily targeted at relatively affluent and developed cities like Shaker, but rather more towards developing countries; for that reason, the goals may not align perfectly. However, there are already other cities that have outlined criteria to allow them to align with the goals, and there already exists target indicators for public transit, affordable housing, etc., and the UN has already laid out what a sustainable city should look like. Basically, Ms. Potter expressed concern for Shaker’s lack of sustainable social goals, goals that the UN has included within its own guidelines. Regardless, while the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals provide a rough outline as to what Shaker can focus on, the specific aspects may not be very applicable to the city. Ms. Potter believes that the best practice would not be aligning to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, but only to where they apply to the city and where it would make sense. She also explained that the Sustainable Development Goals have the added benefit of sounding very aspirational without the city actually having to sign onto anything.

Ms. Senturia mentioned that external indicators and global thinking in terms of sustainability allows Shaker’s sustainability goals to be easier to explain to residents and easier to market. Therefore, they can be used to attract and retain citizens.

Dr. Robbins asked for a specific example of a social goal that Shaker might need to focus on. Mr. Malone provided examples of making Shaker more affordable (reducing the tax burden) and increasing access to resources like public parks. Ms. Potter added that the Sustainable Development Goals include disaster preparedness.

Ms. Potter said that the city should aim for transparency around its sustainability metrics and to the progress Shaker makes on that front, and asked if the committee will publish a report. Ms. Senturia explained that at the end of the first year there will be at least a formal committee discussion regarding progress (the minutes would be public), but that there does not necessarily have to be a report.

Subcommittees: Ms. Senturia began a discussion about subcommittees and if it makes sense to create a few. The rest of the committee expressed interest in the following topics: storm water management, energy, and LEED for cities. Ms. Senturia confirmed that they will get the storm water management and energy (John Scott and Dr. Robbins) subcommittees started and that Mr. Peters and Ms. Williams with continue to work on the LEED for cities project.

Ryan Brady, observer

Board of Zoning Appeals/City Planning Commission, June 4, 2019

July 5th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members Present: David Weiss, mayor and chair; Rob Zimmerman, council member; John J. Boyle and Joanna Ganning, citizen members

Others Present: William M. Ondrey Gruber, director of law; Joyce Braverman, director of planning; Dan Feinstein, senior planner

The agenda for this meeting may be found here:

The meeting was recorded and the audio is available here:

Mayor Weiss called the meeting to order at 7 p.m.

The minutes of the May 7, 2019, meeting were approved unanimously with typographical corrections only and are available here:

Board of Zoning Appeals

Shaw Residence, 14206 South Woodland Road

Continuation of a public hearing on the request of Trevor and Callie Shaw, 14206 South Woodland Road, for a variance to the height and setback requirements for front-yard fences. The Shaw property (two lots) extends from South Woodland Road through to Van Aken Boulevard. The request was continued at the March 5, 2019, meeting. The applicant has installed a 6-foot-tall wood board-on-board fence, but the maximum permitted height for a front yard fence is 3 feet. The fence is set back 15 feet from the Van Aken Boulevard property line, but a 33-foot setback is required for a fence in the front yard of Van Aken Boulevard. The applicant now proposes 15 arborvitae bushes, staining the fence dark brown, and maintaining the existing landscaping of bushes and trees to soften the view of the fence from Van Aken Boulevard. There are six “through” lots in the city, so this is an unusual property situation and there are precedents for approval. Dr. Ganning asked what would happen were the property to be sold as two lots. Mr. Gruber related that the fence would have to be removed but the landscaping could stay. Staff supports approval of the two variances.

There were no comments or questions during the public hearing and the board voted unanimously to approve with the condition that the landscaping stay.

Supporting documents are here:

Cleveland Restoration Society Property, 18520 Winslow Road

Public hearing on the request of Margaret Lann, Cleveland Restoration Society, 18520 Winslow Road, for a variance to the garage regulations in order to construct a two-car garage at a two-family house. The applicant, the Great Garage Co., proposes to construct a new two-car garage and a parking pad in the rear yard at this two-family house, but code requires a three-car garage for such houses. The existing two-car garage, which faces sideways, is a Housing Inspection violation and requires demolition. The new garage will be located in the rear corner of the lot facing the street—a code-conforming location. The Architectural Board has reviewed the plans for the new garage. Staff supports approval of the variance, especially since there are precedents.

There were no comments or questions during the public hearing and the board voted unanimously to approve the variance.

Supporting documents are here:

Michael and Katherine Lee, 2932 West Park Boulevard: Public hearing withdrawn.

City Planning Commission

Van Aken BC, LLC, 3386 Tuttle Road

Public hearing on the request of Mackenzie Makepeace, RMS Investment Corp., on behalf of Van Aken BC, LLC, for a Conditional Use Permit for a wine bar. The applicant, Jason Russell, general manager of the Van Aken District, proposes to establish a wine bar on the upper floor of the B-1 building in the Van Aken District. The space is located on the second floor and rooftop of the building over the Sawyer Restaurant. The rooftop bar space will accommodate approximately 150 patrons, both inside and out, and serve alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks; food will be available through Sawyers Restaurant. A wine bar requires a Conditional Use Permit in the CM Commercial Mixed Use zoning district. Council confirmation of such a permit is also required. Staff supports approval with certain conditions that include operating hours, compliance with the city noise ordinance and state liquor permit requirements, and a review after six months.

There were no comments or questions during the public hearing and board voted unanimously to approve the variance.

Supporting documents are here:

City of Shaker Heights, Zoning Text Amendment

An unusual referral by City Council to the City Planning Commission for further study to amendments to the zoning ordinance text regarding the regulations for Child Day Care Homes, Types A and B. Child Day Care Homes are permanent residences in which child day care is provided. Revisions are proposed concerning the ownership of the property of Type A homes: whether to include an additional condition that Type A homes be owned by those who provide the service.

During the public hearing, which is not required for such actions, eight residents spoke to the topic, both for and against requiring such homes to be owner-occupied (about half and half). One gentleman, while not in favor of renters as day-care providers, thought instituting such a regulation would be discriminatory and the top of a slippery slope in regulating renters; after all, Shaker Heights is not a home-owners association. Mayor Weiss told the panel they could either take action to recommend the condition that Type A Day Care Homes be owner-occupied or leave it as is. Mr. Zimmerman assured those present that he will present the points they made as accurately as possible at the third hearing of the issue during the regular City Council meeting on June 24, but also told them they would have an opportunity then to voice their opinions again. Then both Dr. Ganning and Mr. Boyle stated that they would not support such a condition as it would be discriminatory.

Supporting documents are here:

The meeting was adjourned at 8 p.m. The next meeting is July 2, 2019, at 7 p.m.

Barbara Bradley, observer

Sustainability Committee, May 9, 2019

June 4th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members present: Council Member and Chair Julianna Senturia; Council Members Sean Malone and Anne Williams; Citizen Members Carmen Franks (by phone), Julianne Potter, and Norman Robbins.

Others present: Mayor David Weiss; Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin; Sustainability Coordinator Michael Peters.

The agenda for the meeting may be found here:

The meeting was recorded, and the audio is available here:

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

The minutes of the April 11, 2019 meeting were approved without comment and are available here:

Update on LEED for Cities Grant. Mr. Peters said that documents have been signed and the announcement of the 15 cities being awarded the grant is May 21. Mr. Peters and Ms. Williams will attend the working session in Washington, DC, June 5/6, 2019. Tory MacMillan at Hathaway Brown has a student who used sustainability as an interest topic to become a fellow, which goes on her school record. That student will work with this committee to create an interschool student committee on sustainability so they could help getting Shaker Heights its certification.

Discussion of Committee Priorities and Goals. Mr. Peters prepared an outline to encourage members to think about topics and create common language—a mission statement, vision, objectives, measuring success—a LEED requirement but also a good idea for this new committee. The document (a Google Doc) is now in the committee’s Google Drive folder so all can access and comment on it. He will gather the comments/suggestions and create a final document. Mr. Malone and Ms. Williams thought it was a positive step and liked idea to work individually on the document off line. All agreed that creating a framework, or beginning with LEED’s framework, was the place to start and that the aligning the metrics to targets that have already been created will be helpful. The timeframe will be more obvious after the June meeting, but LEED’s idea is to spend the summer collecting data and the fall refining it, hoping that as many of the 15 cities as possible can at least apply for certification by the time of the Greenville Conference at the of November. Success will be more than meeting metrics/milestones, though, and should include community engagement, finding groups of people who may not be naturally engaged and asking them, using existing topics, their priorities on sustainability to see if they align with the core ideas that created this committee. A survey tool (list of issues to prioritize) would help determine overriding issues for the community. Choosing two or three of these priorities, rather than getting lost in the weeds, could be best. Create short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. One short-term goal might be the number of residents switching from 50% to 100% renewable energy, through changes to the NOPEC letter. But even that is not easy. Stay focused on city issues, though, not statewide or national ones, especially political. Perhaps setting aside five minutes for resident comments, etc. at the beginning of each meeting, or sharing email concerns/requests. Supporting documents here: (

Creation of Subcommittees. Waiting until the June meeting makes most sense. LEED seems an overarching topic that the entire committee will work on. Resident actions/interests could determine subcommittees/working groups. Think about the nomenclature. Maybe an energy group reporting back to the entire committee, transportation, recycle/reuse/compost (focus on possibilities for Cuyahoga County to make changes), too. Point toward actions that are not city driven.

Update on Support for NOPEC Letter. Mr. Robbins discussed the communications from NOPEC about sources of energy. The city will send a follow-up letter to NOPEC saying it will encourage residents to sign up for the renewable energy plans, but 1) request that NOPEC notify residents that have opted into the 12- or 24-month 100% plan of when their contract expires; and 2) ask NOPEC to mention in their opt-out letter that a 100% renewable plan is available (option three). NOPEC has made a number of appearances to City Council and is very responsive. But many residents will not read the letter, so we need to educate them. He has helped form a citizen group to help residents of three community areas (Heights area, South Euclid [whose mayor is vice chair of the NOPEC board], Chagrin Falls area) with these issues. The group is setting up a website to help any NE Ohio resident find 100% renewable energy at a reasonable rate and explains what the rates mean, etc.

Mr. Peters related that Shaker has been targeted as a best prospect for a Rust Belt Riders test case for composting. There are two plans: for $5/month bring your compostables to the Nature Center, where RBR will pick them up; for $20/month RBR will come to you. Also, the restaurants in the Market Hall at the Van Aken District use RBR, so even animal-based food waste is possible to compost, using very high temperature composting.

The sustainability coordinator’s monthly report is here:

The meeting was adjourned at 8:50 am.

The next meeting is June 13, 2019, 7:30 a.m.

Barbara Bradley

Recreation Committee, May 1, 2019

June 4th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present:  Tres Roeder, Council Member and Chairperson; Sean Malone, City Council Member; Terri Breeden, Deputy Director of Curriculum for the School District; Alexandria Nichols, Director of Recreation; Jeri Chaikin, Chief Administrative Officer; and David Weiss, Mayor

Chairperson Tres Roeder called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m.

Without a quorum, the minutes of the March 6, 2019 minutes could not be approved.  But a draft will be posted to the city’s website and they will be formally approved at a future meeting. 

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

A recommendation on Thornton Park Ice Rink Fee Changes

In 2018 the Recreation Department  conducted a rink fee study; it had been six years since Thornton Park Ice Rink fees were reviewed and adjusted.  Data was compiled from several area rinks, both private and public.  It is clear from this review that Shaker fees are generally lower or align with area rinks.

Prior to the increase in 2013 fees had been the same since 2008 and  before that were updated at a rate of 7.5 % based on hockey program fees.  In 2018 fees were increased by about 5 %.

Hockey fees will be considered later in the year to align with their program registration dates.

The committee agreed that Shaker fees increases seem  reasonable but had a number of questions:

  1.  What is the actual annual rink revenue, without the subsidy?
  2.  Why are expenses  going up faster than in the past?
  3.  What is the cost of utilities?
  4.  What  percentage of the total revenue does each program generate?
  5.  How much more revenue would be generated with these changes?

The fee recommendation goes next to the Finance Committee and the answers to these questions will be helpful in decision making.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 6:55p.m.

Jan Devereaux

Finance Committee, May 20, 2019

June 4th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Members Present: Committee members Sean Malone (chair), Earl Williams, Robert Zimmerman; Citizen members Thomas Cicarella, Linda Lalley, Martin Kolb, Anthony Moore.

Others present:  Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin, Director of Law William Gruber, Director of Finance Robert Baker, Human Resources Manager Sandra Middleton, Recreation Director Alexandria Nichols, Neighborhood Revitalization Director Kamla Lewis, Director of Information Technology Frank Miozzi, Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian.

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

Agenda—Committee actions:Sean Malone presented the minutes of the April 15, 2019 Finance Committee meeting for approval. The minutes were approved without further discussion.

  • Law Director William Gruber presented a request that the Finance Committee recommend to Council a three-year research services contract between the City and West, a Thompson Reuters company, for computerized legal research services (“Westlaw”) for the period June 1, 2019 through May 31, 2022, in the total estimated amount of $44,280. The City has used Lexis/Nexis online research services for many years, however, Lexis was not very responsive to our requests for a proposal for ongoing services. Also, Lexis does not provide all of the online access that the Law Department required. The City will be able to eliminate paper subscriptions by moving to Westlaw.

Earl Williams remarked that the Cleveland Bar Association has the “fastcase” system online and asked if this was an option. Mr. Gruber voiced his opinion that he would not want to use that system. Tom Cicarella remarked that the larger private law firms use The Cleveland Law Library and we should check this out. Mr. Gruber said that he would, Mr. Cicarella shared his telephone contact at the Law Library. Rob Zimmerman also recommended the Cleveland Law Library. He then asked what the City still held in print and recommended we clarify to the City Council that online access was a cost savings. Mr. Gruber stated that since Ohio Codes were now online that the print editions were unnecessary. Sean Malone stated the online and print versions of Westlaw were $54,742 and Mr. Gruber replied the online was sufficient at $44,280. The request was approved.

  • Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Arslanian presented a recommendation that the Finance and Administration Committee approve and recommend to City Council that the City enter into a ‘do not exceed’ contract for $95,000 with Tyler Technologies, Inc. for an Employee Self Service (ESS) time and attendance system, without the requirement of competitive bidding. The City desires to automate the collection of employee time and attendance data as well as the process of scheduling time off. The City utilizes Tyler Technologies “MUNIS” Financial system already, so data integration is built in; two other vendors responded to inquiries, but their systems would require customization in order to be compatible with MUNIS.

Sean Malone asked to be reminded of the criteria for a sole source recommendation. Law Director Gruber replied a sole source may have no competition or have a proprietary service which requires extensive customization. Rob Zimmerman had the same question and asked that Mr. Gruber’s explanation be added to the request before presenting to City Council. Earl Williams wished to know why there was travel expense. Ms. Arslanian explained the vendor would travel for system installation and employee training. Robert Baker remarked that time and attendance for the Fire Department was a 24 hour, 7 day week activity and that mobile access with MUNIS compatibility was valuable. Mr. Malone asked if employees entered their own data. Ms. Arslanian answered that they did enter their own data using mobile GPS for location tracking. Mr. Malone continued by asking why the $87,195 was estimated. Ms. Arslanian answered that travel cost could vary but the budget was $95,000 for a 6-9 month implementation schedule. The recommendation was approved.

  • Human Resources Manager Sandra Middleton presented a request that the Finance and Administration Committee recommend accepting a proposal from Springsted, LLC for the City’s classification and compensation plan study at a cost not to exceed $38,000. The funds for this project are already in the 2019 Human Resources budget. The City last contracted for a classification and compensation plan study in 2004. City services have expanded, departments have been reorganized or abolished, and several position classifications have been restructured since that time. Eleven proposals were received for this study, a review committee reduced the field of companies to four and an interview was held with each of the prospective companies. The review committee unanimously agreed that Springsted was best suited to meet the City’s objectives.

Rob Zimmerman remarked on the wide disparity between the 12 quotes and that Springsted was in the middle. Ms. Middleton replied there were many added components to the solution and that the smaller companies could not compete due to the customization they required. Tom Cicarella asked if the City has a perception we are having trouble finding good people. Ms. Middleton replied we are not having trouble finding good people, but that we have to offer them a higher starting salary than the “entry” level on our classification system due to the competitive pressures in the job market; this speaks to the need of updating our classification and compensation documents. Mr. Cicarella continued by asking if we did not know what the market demands. Ms. Middletion answered that we did know our competitive position via surveys. Linda Lalley wished to clarify if Mr. Cicarella was referring to salaries or the contract quote. He replied he was referring to salaries. Ms. Middleton added that the department did know what the market demanded and could perform this task, but did not have the staff available to do so. Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin added that an outside firm brings subjectivity to the process that sets employees at ease; there would be no management bias. She continued that outside candidates may place different values on benefits than existing employees or management. Earl Williams wished to know how this might affect our bargaining units. Ms. Middleton answered that bargaining unit employees commonly enjoyed more benefits than non-bargaining employees. Marty Kolb remarked that 15 years had passed and the City now had fewer employees, the recruiting process was more competitive, and employee equity was more difficult to maintain; it was past time to do this. Mr. Malone wished to know the budget impact. Ms. Middleton replied that the base pay would be affected but that employees were being paid competitively today. Jeri Chaikin replied that the updated plan would be presented to City Council for approval. The request was approved.

  • Recreation Director Alexandria Nichols presented a request that the Finance and Administration Committee recommend to City Council an increase to ice rink fees. These fees would go into effect fall 2019. The rationale behind the fee review was to ensure cost recovery through users fees because expenses increase annually. Prior to the last change in 2013, fees had been the same since 2008 and before that fees were updated annually. Data was compiled from several area rinks, both private and public, to see how Shaker fees compared to other rinks and includes admission, program fees, and facility rentals fees.

Sean Malone remarked about the lack of profitability of the skating rink. Earl Williams asked if any other rinks in the local area were profitable. Ms. Nichols replied that several rinks had gone bankrupt over the years, Winterhurst is owned by Lakewood and run by a private company, Strongsville is private, and some rinks get sponsorships to defray costs, but she did not know if they are profitable. Anthony Moore asked if we are considering sponsorships, this is an avenue we should pursue. Ms. Nichols replied that we were not but could explore; was he considering signage? Mr. Moore replied that signage or other revenue sources should be pursued, doing nothing was not responsible. Tom Cicarella recommended raising the hockey rates substantially and asking the team to find sponsorship; the primary users should be expected to support the rink. Mr. Malone agreed the hockey fee should be revisited. Linda Lalley asked if there was a breakdown of resident versus non-resident revenue. Ms. Nichols replied there was not a breakdown of non-resident use; non-resident hockey was tracked, but not figure skating or open skating. Ms. Lalley wanted to know if the rink depended on non-resident skating. Earl Williams remarked that the rink was a significant capital commitment and had recently replaced a compressor. Robert Baker added the water compressor was a great expense and he was concerned about other expensive equipment, particularly as the rink is most times empty. Ms. Nichols confirmed the rink is used early mornings for hockey practice, early evening for figure/open skating and weekend nights for hockey; probably much less than 50%, yet the ice equipment has to run 100%. Mr. Cicarella commented that private rinks hosted tournaments and shows which increase ice usage; we need to make the rink pay for itself. Ms. Nichols shared that Shaker Schools athletic teams do not pay for rink usage. Anthony Moore suggested that this was an appropriate time to perform a full analysis of Thornton Park; not just the rink, but the pool, tennis, everything. Ms. Nichols replied an analysis of the rink cost was just completed; the rink is 50 years old but still sound and probably usable for 10 more years without more capital. Mr. Moore replied we need analysis of revenue and expense, not just capital. The request was approved.

  • Director of Neighborhood Revitalization Kamla Lewis presented a request that the Finance and Administration Committee recommend City Council approve an application from Yvonne Smith and Victor Mullen, 3689 Winchell Road, to acquire the city owned vacant lot adjacent to their home in order to use it as a side lot. The City adopted a Side Lot Program in May 2008 to make City owned vacant lots available to the adjacent neighbors. The goal of the program was to encourage neighbors to acquire these lots and make capital improvements to the property that would increase tax value, such as construction of a house addition or garage, landscaping, etc.

Rob Zimmerman appreciated the history on the vacant lot program and wondered why the activity had slowed, should it be promoted? Ms. Lewis volunteered that the previous City administration had a “caretaker” philosophy rather than promotion; one idea is to set a fixed price for consolidation and market to the community associations, until now the adjacent neighbor effectively gets a “free” side yard. Tom Cicarella asked if other people could buy lots for new construction. Ms. Lewis replied that the cost of new construction was not competitive with the existing housing stock; the City had approached Habitat for Humanity to build housing units, but they asked the City to help with fundraising as their priority is refurbishment, not new construction. Mr. Cicarella asked how we prevented “flipping” of these vacant lots. Ms. Lewis answered that the requirement for consolidation of the two adjacent property deeds precluded the sale of the vacant lot by itself. Marty Kolb asked if consolidation changed the property tax appraisal. Ms. Lewis answered that it could technically change the appraisal, due to the increase in acreage, but in actuality the county had very seldom reappraised higher values for the consolidated property. Sean Malone wished to know if tax abatement was still available in Moreland. Ms. Lewis confirmed that Moreland taxes were still abated for 10 years. Mr. Malone asked if these 15 vacant lot sales were monitored to confirm the consolidation proposal was implemented. Ms. Lewis replied that they were monitored and only one lot was not maintained. The request was approved.

  • Director of Finance Robert Baker presented a request that the Finance and Administration Committee recommend City Council adopt the 2020 Tax Budget on May 28, 2019 and transmit to the Cuyahoga County Budget Commission no later than July 20, 2019. The Ohio Revised Code requires that Ohio city councils adopt a tax budget for the next fiscal year no later than July 15th of the current year and that the adopted tax budget be submitted to the County Budget Commission no later than July 20th. The primary purpose of the tax budget is to demonstrate the City’s need to levy property taxes for the coming fiscal year. The request was approved.
  • Director of Finance Robert Baker presented a review of General Fund revenue and expenditure actual results versus budget through March 31, 2019 (1Q2019), with comparisons to the same period 2018. Revenue includes both income and real estate taxes. 1Q2019 revenue was $13,928,264 or $272,386 less than 2018. The County believes that the real estate tax deficit is result of early payments of 2017 real estate taxes received in January 2018 to avoid adverse effects of the new federal income tax on deductions for local taxes. The income tax deficit is the result of the lower December 2018 RITA tax collections we received in January 2019. RITA monthly collections are now $179,388 ahead of 2018 after the May Advance, which is encouraging. However, there is still a question of whether income tax receipts will again fall off in the fourth quarter, as in 4Q2018, which were $893,649 below 4Q2017. City Council has approved the Public Works Department employees’ contract, but the money is not in the 2019 budget, the question is, “Will revenue continue ahead of budget the remainder of the year, or will we have a shortfall of income tax in 4Q2019?”

Marty Kolb asked if the Public Works wage increase will be the only unbudgeted expense in 2019. Mr. Baker answered that the Police Department and Fire Department contracts expired in 2018 and, if settled, any wage increase will be retroactive to January 1, 2019. Linda Lalley asked why “personal services” under Police and Fire Department budgets are down. Mr. Baker replied that headcount was below budget.

Sean Malone asked if there was any other new business, there was none. Mr. Malone adjourned the meeting at 9:18 am.

Frank Goforth, observer

Library Board of Trustees, May 20, 2019

June 4th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

Present: Board members Gleisser, Meinhard, Rashid, Katz, Cicarella, Garrett (6:45) and Library Director Amy Switzer.

The meeting began 6:35 p.m. The Board approved minutes of the previous meeting and changes to the indemnification clause in the bylaws. It also approved a motion to commend retiring teen librarian Audrey Jacobs.
The fiscal officer presented financial information noting expenditures and income are on track and that there has been some unusual tax income flow due to changes in the tax laws this year. The budget for the state of Ohio is not yet finalized, so there are no firm numbers for future support from that source. The Board approved the financial statement and also created a special fund to handle grant money. Shifting of funds between categories was approved, as was the 2020 alternative tax budget request (part of the usual authorization process required by law). There has been a presentation to Moody’s to establish a credit rating for the Library (for the renovation project), and that is anticipated soon. There was a discussion of the offering process and the investment climate.

The Board approved negotiation of the architect’s contract, with some relatively minor changes requested. The Bialosky architecture firm will receive fees of approximately $800,000 for phase 1 (the Main branch) of the renovation project. Information should be available at the Library website.
Director Switzer reported on professional day activities, the student art show, plans for the Memorial Day parade, summer reading program (kickoff June 6), and upcoming Friends of the Library book sale Also noted were usage reports (circulation up 15% over last year, in part due to automatic renewal of unreturned materials), and the popularity of the new seed library program. The Library was well represented at a conference on community engagement.

Gifts were accepted and appropriated and personnel action reported. Meeting adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

Kathleen Hickman

Safety & Public Works Committee, May 3, 2019

June 4th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

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

Others present: Mayor David Weiss; Chief Administrative Officer Jeri Chaikin; Director of Planning Joyce Braverman, Senior Planner Dan Feinstein; Director of Public Works Patricia Speese; Chief of Fire Patrick Sweeney; Police Commander John Cole, Lt. Richard Mastnardo; administrative assistant Debra Messing.

The meeting was called to order by Ms. Moore at 8 a.m. Other than approving minutes, none of the agenda items required a vote. 


1.  Minutes of the February 1, March 2, and April 5, 2019, meetings. Approved without amendment.

2.  Hathaway Brown School, Proposed Traffic Changes at North Park & Sherbrooke.

HB wants to construct a new soccer field along South Park, would relocate tennis courts and some parking spots, would construct new parking lot for 55 cars at North Park Boulevard & Sherbrooke Road. Proposal and drawings explained by Ms. Braverman and by HB’s architect Craig Cawrse of CT Consultants.  Committee discussion to focus on questions and comments regarding safety issues; more comprehensive review will occur at May 7 meeting of Planning Commission.  If approved, construction would begin immediately for conclusion in summer 2020.

HB proposes: (a) 55 head-in parking spots where North Park curves into Sherbrooke next to a grass traffic island, (b) reducing traffic island footprint, (c) using permeable asphalt to negate any additional water run-off issues, (d) evergreen landscaping to height of car hoods and preservation of current trees, (e ) further discussion of whether traffic should be one-way during school hours. 

Discussion ensued over drainage and permeable materials, head-on versus angled parking being easier for new drivers, use of traffic island by snow plows, speed limits and signage, placement of a cross-walk from new lot to campus.  

Neighbors were notified by the City of May 7 Planning Commission meeting.  HB has also invited neighbors to a meeting at the school on May 4.  Ms. Moore read aloud emails City had already received, suggesting adjustments to proposal. Some neighbors had come to Safety & Public Works meeting to ask questions.  One neighbor asked that HB community be required to park in provided spaces rather than on street, and asked for vehicles to bear stickers.  An HB administrator advised school wants to partner with its neighbors and the vehicle sticker would be considered; however, school is concerned about female students being “targeted” when they leave campus. A resident pointed out CT Consultants performed only a one-day study of traffic, using some data from another source.

3.  Presentation by Friends of Lower Lake/Doan Brook Watershed Partnership on the eradication of invasive species at the old Canoe Club site along South Park Boulevard.  John Barber and Peggy Spaeth will repeat the illustrated presentation May 21, 7 p.m., at the Main Library.  Volunteers have spent more than 600 hours removing invasive species and preparing to plant native species to improve the habitat for birds and insects. Excavations and species removal touched the remains of the Canoe Club building, the North Union Shakers sawmill, and a wildflower garden, as well as history about boating life on Lower Lake in the early to mid-20th century. The City has collaborated through a special activities permit and the Tree Advisory Board.  They have identified white oaks to mark Moses Cleaveland Trees that existed when he arrived in 1796.    

Ms. Moore adjourned the meeting at 9:04 a.m.

Annette Tucker Sutherland

City Council, April 22, 2019

May 9th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

The meeting started at 7:30 p.m. and all Council members were present. There were 10 items on the agenda and the following were of special interest:

1. Council approved and authorized execution of the transfer of a portion of school district property to the city and for the subsequent lease or other grant authority back to the school district for the construction, operation, maintenance and use of a public park and playground and declaring an emergency.

2. Council approved and authorized the city to apply for and accept Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant funds in the amount of $100,000 for the Fernway Community Park adjacent to Fernway Elementary School and to enter into any agreements as may be necessary in conjunction with such grant for the Fernway Community Park.

3. There was a first reading of proposed amendments to the city’s zoning code. City officials will continue to study the proposed amendments, which would further regulate child daycare homes.

Stevie Robinson, League observer

Library Board of Trustees, April 15, 2019

May 7th, 2019  |  Published in Observer Reports

The meeting was called to order at 6:38 p.m. Present: Board members Bertsch, Cicarella, Gleisser, Katz, Meinhard, and Rashid. First order of business was to administer the oath of office to new trustee Dr. Timeka Rashid, who is selected to serve a seven-year term.

A presentation entitled “Minding the Gap” addressed the library’s efforts to prevent and heal the achievement gap. Even by the beginning of kindergarten it is found that children of color and children in economically disadvantaged families are strikingly less school-ready. The library has several approaches to encourage early literacy including nine story times/week, play and learn stations and outreach librarians who visit every licensed daycare and nursery school facility each month with a special book collection. The library also collaborates closely with schools and teachers to support literacy, provides access to digital resources, and has programs to prevent “summer slide” diminishment of academic skills. An event will begin the summer reading program on June 6.

The main action of the board was selection of an architect for the library renovation project. The RFQ received nine responses; three firms were selected for the short list and were interviewed by several board members and library Director Amy Switzer. The board voted to initiate contract negotiations with Bialosky Cleveland. If acceptable terms are reached, the board will hold a special meeting to approve the appointment and contract.

Ms. Switzer highlighted a new collaboration with the Cleveland Food Bank, offering social services assistance one Tuesday each month. Also noted was the Friends of the Library book sale, April 24-26. She also made a presentation and invited participation in a vision session exercise of Forward Together, the facilities planning initiative of city, schools, and library.

Other business included financial reports (income up slightly, expenditures slightly lower than budget), personnel action report, and acceptance and appropriation of gifts. The meeting adjourned at 8:30 pm. Next regular meeting: May 20.

Kathleen Hickman, League observer