Mayor delivers State of the City report
City revenue has been steady over the past decade, and despite the increasing costs of doing business, “We try to manage year to year with what we have,” Mayor Cyril Kleem told residents during his annual State of the City report.
The Mayor spoke to about 120 residents at the monthly senior luncheon at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Feb. 11. He was accompanied by members of his administration, who answered questions and met with residents following his remarks.
This was the Mayor’s 13th annual State of the City report. He noted that there has been no increase in taxes during that time. He credited the 140 city employees for making services and programs possible.
“If you add up all the salaries and benefits for those workers for a year, it still falls a couple of million dollars short of a signing bonus for one professional football player,” he said.
Here is what the City accomplished in 2019 by department.
A new police chief, Dan Clark, was appointed last year. Under his leadership, the six-man bike patrol will continue to patrol during the spring and summer. Safe Passages, the drug interdiction program, remains a role model for similar programs in the area. Berea is one of the first cities to assign School Resource Officers to schools. There are two part-time officers sharing SRO duties at Grindstone Elementary School and one full-time officer at Berea-Midpark High School. Officers with the Community Engagement Unit took part in 220 events last year. They read to children, taught classes, supported Boys2Men, among other activities.
“They have been very active with BW,” the Mayor said, “and will be reaching out more to businesses.”
Fire Chief Mark Kaufhold, who has been with the Fire Department for 33 years, plans to retire in January 2021. The City has made some improvements to the fire station, installing new HVAC and redoing the chief’s office, for example.
Planning, Engineering & Development
The Browns lease was extended until 2039. The team is the City’s largest taxpayer, the Mayor said, contributing 25 percent of the total income taxes paid to the City.
An extended stay hotel is in the planning stages for the North End. The project is requesting an economic development grant from the county. A senior apartment building on Sheldon Road will offer 120 units. Construction should begin this year. Voss Industries with 300 employees and significant payroll will move to the Bagley Road corridor.
Construction and road projects in 2019 included the resurfacing of Lindberg and Abbeyshire, reconstruction of Kraft Street, installation of bike racks and repair stations throughout the City, rehabbing Dora Lee Park and parking lot and resurfacing the parking lot by City Hall. Much of this was done with the help of grants and interest-free loans.
For 2020, the City plans to rehab sewers in the North End, reconstruct West Street, pave Wyleswood and rehab streets in the Barberry, Woodlawn, Maple, Fourth neighborhood. More information on these projects will be in a future issue of the Berean.
The trash and recycling collection contract expires in August and the City is seeking bids on that project. “Trash collection is very expensive and complicated,” the Mayor said. “It gets more expensive every year. The contract we get may be different than we have now. We’ll have to see what proposals they give us.”
The City will continue its sidewalk replacement project. Sidewalks are property owners’ responsibility, the Mayor said, but the City has been repairing and replacing some sidewalks as streets are paved. Several miles of sidewalks already have been replaced.
The City is completing a water distribution study to see how to improve water service. The Mayor reminded residents that they can now pay their water bills online at the City web site.
The City also is auditing street lights.
There are 1,600 seniors enrolled in Silver Sneakers and another 230 signed up via United Health Care’s Renew Option. Renovations were completed at Jason Malone Park and Tyler Field and new equipment was installed at the Recreation Center. The City is looking at long-range plans for the Rec Center, which is a converted skating rink and bowling alley dating from the 1950s. The Mayor said an architectural firm has been consulted. “We know we have to do something,” he said. “Either knock it down and build a new one or fix this up. It all depends on cost.”
Inspectors patrol the City on specified routes, looking for possible violations, such as peeling paint, uncut grass or trash cans left out. Last year, they made 410 visits and responded to 178 citizen complaints. The goal is “to maintain property values by making sure people take care of their properties,” the Mayor said. Very few cases end up in municipal court. “We try to resolve these issues,” he said.
The Community Outreach office offers a wide range of services from the food pantry and senior programs to grass cutting and snow removal for seniors and disabled residents. Last year, the City received a $14,000 grant from the county to help support senior programming. This year, the City is eligible for a $20,000 county grant. The food pantry partners with the Cleveland Food Bank and fed around 300 people last year. The Active Senior Network has 417 members and Senior Wheels provides transportation for 500 people – around 180 rides a week. Dinner to Your Door is delivered to 35-40 seniors every week. Community Outreach also fills backpacks with food for students who need help with meals over the weekends. It provides Christmas gifts and Easter baskets to the children of food pantry clients. Many of these projects are made possible by volunteers and donations.
Veterans Outreach Office
The Berea Veterans Outreach Office is the only one of its kind in northeast Ohio and the only city program in Ohio recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a “We Honor Veterans” city. The office and its 23 volunteers served 1,200 veterans and their families in 2019, visiting homes, nursing homes and patients in hospice care. The Veterans Security Team works with police to help at city events and provide crossing guard services at Grindstone Elementary School. The office will work with local businesses to install Veterans Only parking spots similar to the one at City Hall. An Honor Guard team is also in the works.