University Heights City Council meeting highlights 3-4-2019
MARCH 4 2019
- Public comments
- Mayor’s comments on city finances
- Rededication of the community park
- Sale of nicotine products
- 2019 budget
- Finance update
- Storefront improvements
- Chicken houses
Present were Mayor Michael D Brennan, Vice Mayor Susan Pardee, Pamela Cameron, Phil Ertel, John Rach, Steven Sims, Michele Weiss and Mark Wiseman. Also present were Law Director Luke McConville, Finance Director James Goffe, and Clerk of Council Kelly Thomas. The meeting was held from 7 to 8:48 p.m.
City finances: Bert Seibert of Winton Road, after praising the city for the excellent first edition of the Mosaic magazine, expressed his great concern for the city’s failure to pay many of its bills, as reported by the mayor at the state of the city address. Mr. Seibert was upset that the seven council members were not monitoring the city’s finances. Mayor Brennan broke with protocol to reply that council had, indeed, attempted to oversee the finances, but their many requests for adequate, detailed financial reporting were ignored and the administration was unresponsive. Council had, in fact, attempted to exercise their due diligence as was recorded in the minutes of numerous council meetings. Although the previous administration reported a surplus of more than two million dollars, this was found to be false when the accounts were reconciled and all outstanding invoices were paid.
Kate Uhlir of Fenwick Road continued to note that the financial records she received last fall still showed the large surplus and that she had still not received her Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)-requested report of 2018 costs for the city, which she requested in January. She asked where were the tax credits which Mayor Brennan had promised during his campaign. Also, she had not received her refund on the printing charges of FOIA requests, for which she had been charged 25 cents per page instead of the state-suggested 5 cents.
Cars everywhere: Sherry Dewer of Washington Boulevard returned to council this week to raise concerns about the number of cars being parked in driveways and on streets at rental properties. She reported that 90 percent of homes with trash issues also have vehicle issues, including eight vehicles regularly parked in the drive of one rental home. She felt strongly that the ordinances regarding the number of vehicles per property needed to be strengthened and/or enforced before another group of university students arrives next fall.
Mayor’s report on city finances
Mayor Brennan announced that the city’s budget for 2019 is being introduced tonight on first reading and acknowledged that it is a compromise budget with some difficult choices. The actual state of the city finances has only recently been revealed as James Goffe finished reconciling the bank statements, which had not been done for over a year. Council members and the finance advisory committee have worked diligently to determine top priorities going forward.
Walter Stinson Community Park
As announced in Mayor Brennan’s state of the city address, the city’s community park at 2313 Fenwick Road is being rededicated as Walter Stinson Community Park, in honor of Mr. Stinson’s 43 years of dedicated service to the city in several jobs and boards and under four mayors.
Sale of nicotine products
Councilwoman Weiss introduced Ordinance 2019-09, on first reading, amending the city’s tobacco sale regulations to include all nicotine products and raising the age of legal purchase to 21. Vendors will be required to go through the Cuyahoga County permitting process. Selling to a minor or presenting false identification for purchase will be a first-degree misdemeanor. Vice Mayor Pardee noted that “smoking” rates have returned to prior levels with the introduction of vaping.
The 2019 budget was presented on first reading for the period commencing January 1 and ending December 31. The full document is available on the city’s website for public review. The mayor and vice mayor gave full credit to James Goffe for providing full transparency, noting that current council members have never seen this level of detail. Councilman Sims noted council’s hard work to prioritize need within financial limits. Councilman Rach stated that this budget is conservative and responsible with a surplus of $509,000.
Finances: James Goffe reported that the city is on track to rollout the new financial system, with payroll going live in April, and to meet the deadline for the GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) conversion audit.
Building Commissioner James McReynolds explained that fencing across driveways is supposed to extend from the rear corner of the foundation to the edge of the property, but explained that sometimes a variance is granted to allow the fence to be further forward if there is a side door to the home. These variances must be re-approved annually, leading to the perception that these are granted frequently. Councilman Ertel expressed concern that fencing near the front of the home makes the city feel more closed off and exclusionary. It also moves dogs behind the fence closer to the sidewalk which can be intimidating to people.
Storefront improvements program
Susan Drucker, Economic Development Director, reported that immediately upon announcement of the trial storefront improvement program she heard from two business owners who wished to participate.
Councilman Wiseman reported that the housing committee needs to review the policy around people having chickens on their property. The committee is seeking input from people who have chickens, their neighbors, and anyone else who would like to have chickens.
The next meeting will be Monday, March 18 at 7 p.m. at the new location: the CH-UH Board of Education building, 2155 Miramar Boulevard.
LWV Observer: Wendy S. Deuring.
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These reports contain member observation and selected highlights of public meetings and are not official statements of the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.