The May 18, 2009 Lakewood City Council Meeting lasted about two hours and fifteen minutes. There were approximately 40 people in attendance at the start of the event. The majority of them were present for the 2009 Historic Preservation Awards presented by the Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board.
The room cleared out shortly after the awards were given, leaving about 15 spectators, whose number later dwindled to about seven by the conclusion of the meeting.
It’s funny to think those citizens cared enough about their property to make fantastic improvements worth thousands of dollars, but showed no desire to stick around and watch the people largely responsible for managing the quality of their city.
View the full docket for this meeting.
Council surrenders power in housing demolition process
City Council unanimously approved an ordinance put forth by the Mayor Edward O. FitzGerald administration to speed along the process of dealing with unsafe properties.
One notable change under the new system is that City Council will have absolutely no say-so in determining the outcome of decisions rendered by Board of Building Standards (BBSA} Review Board. View the new process versus the old process.
Lakewood’s medically uninsured to get small prescription drug discount
The city will be participating in a discount prescription drug program created by CVS Caremark and the National League of Cities (NLC), of which Lakewood is a member.
The program, described by Mayor FitzGerald as “innovative,” allows any uninsured Lakewood resident to receive an average discount of 20% off of the retail price of common prescription drugs. The program is at no cost to the city. They just promote it and distribute membership cards, which can also be printed out online.
To help promote the mayor’s announcement, two representatives from North Coast Health Ministry, a faith-based free clinic located at 16110 Detroit Ave., were present. 42% of their patients are Lakewood residents and the number continues to rise. The bulk of their funding comes from foundations. The City of Lakewood has given them some Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, one of the few municipalities to do so.
It’s not entirely clear how much research Mayor FitzGerald performed before deciding to put the city’s modest promotion muscle behind the NLC plan, but the State of Ohio offers a similar plan that averages a 34% discount. There are income restrictions, but it appears to have better benefits.
Non-union city employees lose longevity pay, gain merit pay
Council unanimously approved Mayor FitzGerald’s request to end longevity pay for non-union city workers. The move affects 36 workers who have each worked at least five years or more with the city. $66,000 had been budgeted for longevity pay and was due to be paid in June.
At a May 12, 2009 Committee of the Whole meeting, Mayor FitzGerald acknowledged, “This is not going to be popular among employees. It’s a real hassle for managers. All of a sudden they have to make value judgments.” At that same meeting Councilperson Michael Summers (Ward 3) said, “I’m in favor of the merit bonus, but I’m not sure we can afford it.”
Councilperson Kevin Butler (Ward 1) said he didn’t believe longevity pay was good policy, and wanted to make sure that a sentence was inserted into the merit pay ordinance to enable council to review the program on an annual basis. He was also concerned that the base salary of city workers might stagnate if too much emphasis is placed on merit bonuses. Retirement pensions are calculated using base salaries, not bonuses.
The merit bonus program will be administered by Human Resources Director Jean Yousefi, who was not present at the council meeting to answer questions. She has created a performance review form. Mayor FitzGerald said all employees, both union and non-union, will be reviewed, but, “we don’t know when we’re giving them.” The mayor also intimated that bonuses were given by the prior administration without a clear reason, and it was another reason he wanted to have the entire process codified.
Mayor FitzGerald said there needs more equity in pay between union employees and non-union employees. The city’s seven collective bargaining agreements expire at the end of the year. Negotiations on new contracts cannot begin soon than 90 days prior to that point.
View page 25 of the docket to see the size of longevity payments. They range from a yearly payment of $250 to an employee with 5 years of service to $1,000 for a worker with 20 years of experience.
Gas station at corner of Madison and Ferndale gets liquor license OK
Council voted to drop their objection to the liquor license application for the gas station located at 14235 Madison. Law Director Nora Hurley said there was no statutory reason to continue with an objection. Council had been cranky because they believed the owners of the gas station were not always cooperative with police.
Storefront renovation and senior citizens home loan programs to continue
Council approved the city’s continued participation in two loan programs that use federal money via the county.
The Mixed Use Rental Assistance Program (MURAL) provides property owners with loans up to $15,000 to renovate apartment units located over storefronts. The units must house low to moderate income tenants.
At the Housing Committee meeting which took place prior to the council meeting, Director of Planning and Development Nathan Kelly said no one in Lakewood had tapped the MURAL fund yet. He described the city’s difficulty in finding people to take advantage of the program.
First, in order to take part in MURAL, property owners must have participated in the Storefront Renovation Program. Then, the improvements being made must be historically consistent and approved by the Ohio Historic Society in Columbus. Kelly said his department learned last summer how to best work with them.
According to Kelly, the owner of the 24-unit building on Madison that houses Mars Bar and Delta Computer will be the first person to try and participate in MURAL. “He’s a good fit,” Kelly said. There are approximately 70 buildings in the city that have an apartment unit directly above a storefront.
The Deferred Payment Interest Loans for Seniors program allows residents age 62 or older to get a loan for a maximum of $25,000 to bring their one, two, or three unit home up to code. Kelly said in 2008 11 people either received a loan, or filled out an application to try and get a loan. He wasn’t certain what the exact participation number was. Kelly said it was a bit of a challenge to market the program to senior citizens in need. “It’s about outreach,” he said.
No objections to liquor permit application for bar formerly known as Niko’s at Bar 2
Kelly said the new bar owners are using the same carpenters used at Brother’s Lounge. He said ownership has “invested a lot of money inside” and a “lot of good materials are being used.” Councilperson Thomas Bullock (Ward 2) said the old owners, who attracted bad clientele, were involved in a bankruptcy.
City wants to demolish a house and put up a parking lot
Nathan Kelly, director of planning and development, announced he expects to have two houses demolished and asked council for permission to sell the parcels of land.
One house scheduled for demolition, located at 1346 Webb, was heavily damaged (see pictures) in a fire last year. The owner didn’t have any insurance and agreed to a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. He essentially surrendered the property in order to avoid problems with city.
Kelly wants to try and sell the parcel to a neighboring property. He won’t let them merge parcels, however, because it is buildable lot. When the economy improves, Kelly hopes a house can be rebuilt and the area can return to its original housing density.
The other house scheduled for demolition, 1667-1669 Waterbury, is a duplex acquired through the HUD $1 Initiative that allows cities to purchase HUD homes that have gone unsold for 180 days.
This particular duplex has been largely vacant over the last three years and was stripped of its copper plumbing and light fixtures – typical of many vacant homes in Lakewood.
According to the Lakewood Division of Housing and Building, the house is structurally sound otherwise (see pictures). The roof, floor and foundation are all intact. However, Kelly prefers to level it rather than rehabilitate it and sell it. He wants to sell the parcel to a nearby building, likely so they can expand their parking lot.
Councilperson Michael Summers (Ward 3) said the house is “not bad” looking on the outside, but the nearby apartment building is “parking starved” and the parcel would be a nice enhancement. Councilperson Bullock said the idea “sounds great.” Councilperson Dever (At-Large) thought the move would fit nicely with the parking study the city issued a few years ago. The matter is headed to the Housing Committee for more discussion.
New city Web site
Kelly touted some features on the newly redesigned City of Lakewood Web site. Future enhancements will include the ability to tax and water bills online.
Mayor FitzGerald said the city is repaving eight miles of road. That is about twice as many miles as usual. He rattled off a bunch of street names, several of which are sorely in need of repair. Councilperson Dever noted the repaving will be a deep grind and overlay which should last 15 to 20 years.