Cleveland Heights council debates charter amendment for new clerk to call his own

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CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — The proposal for a dedicated park in Cedar-Lee could get some company in the May primary ballot, in the form of a charter amendment creating a separate new position of clerk of the council.

This will depend on the city council’s ability to decide to whom the new clerk would report. Five council member votes are needed to get the measure to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections by the March 4 filing deadline.

In a holdover from the old “manager-council” form of government, the city’s chief financial officer serves as the “ex officio” clerk of the council.

Council vice-chairman Craig Cobb has given a sense of urgency to the issue in recent weeks as chairman of the administrative services committee, noting that former city managers have hired finance managers.

“Right now we as a council don’t have the capacity to hire anyone,” Cobb said last week. “And at the same time, we’re overworking (City Finance Director) Amy (Himmelein).”

Mayor Kahlil Seren said there are “at least three people doing the job of council clerk” right now, including Himmelein, an assistant clerk in the city’s legal department and Steve Barker, digital program coordinator at the department. community services.

“It’s one of the growing difficulties of the new government, and there are issues with the internal process,” Seren said of the “dual roles” on Feb. 7. “Looking for a stronger way to support the board last February, we began developing a job description for an assistant clerk.

But rather than see the mayor appoint a clerk of council, members of the legislature would like to see another provision for the separation of powers in the nascent government.

“Everything that’s happened in the last five weeks that we’ve been here has screamed at me that we need this,” incoming councilman Tony Cuda said Feb. 7, after preparing a PowerPoint presentation on the issue. .

Several examples in surrounding towns were provided: in Beachwood, the council clerk reports to the town’s director of legal affairs; in Lakewood, it is the chairman of the board; and in University Heights, the clerk reports to the seven council members.

“I don’t want to corner us on this,” Cuda said Monday (February 14) during an hour-long discussion at the council’s full committee meeting. “I think we put the cart before the horse on the reporting structure.”

With first lecture On the proposed order given on Feb. 7, the board planned to revisit the matter before its next regular meeting on Feb. 22, when board appointee Gail Larson will be sworn in and on board as the body’s seventh member.

Park Vote Initiative

And after council last week formally rejected their petition-led initiative to designate just over an acre of vacant land on the corner of Lee Road and Meadowbrook Boulevard as a public business park, the petitioners formalized three days later to get the measure on the May 3 primary ballot.

“Please take this as certification by the Committee of Petitioners that (the proposed ordinance) will be put to the vote of the voters in its original form,” reads the Feb. 9 letter, marked as officially “received” by Himmelein the following day. .

The main point of contention remains the $52 million development agreement signed by the city on Dec. 9 that includes ground-floor commercial space and upstairs apartments on the subject property, though one-third of the acre has been designated to be set aside as green space.

Sewer grants

In other business at the Feb. 7 council meeting, the city accepted two grants totaling more than $1.3 million from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) to primarily provide the design and some construction costs to repair nine sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) that violate the Clean Water Act.

The city has at least 45 SSOs that are still under federal consent decree with the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Seren noted that the funds come from NEORSD’s 2022 Member Community Infrastructure Grant Program, with the city’s 35% matching coming at least in part from “community cost sharing” collected through customer bills. .

Nighttown Investigation

As of last week, police are still looking for the suspect who allegedly removed $40,000 worth of copper pipes from Nighttown last month.

A warrant has been issued for David Costner, 30, who has no address but likely lives on the west side of Cleveland. He was a construction worker on the large renovation project. The crime was reported on January 11.

“A review of surveillance cameras on the property showed that a male entered the site on January 9,” Police Chief Annette Mecklenburg said on February 2. “The video then shows him leaving the site with the copper piping in his hand.”

He is then seen loading it into what is believed to be a blue Chevrolet Cobalt.

“Based on the information, a warrant was issued for theft and break and enter, both fifth-degree felonies,” Mecklenburg said. “We made several attempts to try to locate Mr. Costner, but all were unsuccessful. We were also unable to recover the copper piping.

Officials involved in Nighttown’s renovation said earlier that theft and vandalism – some of the pipes had already been installed – were not expected to delay the site’s planned reopening later this year.

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