Mayor: Bay Village stable, ready to face the future
“Bay Village is steady and stable,” Mayor Debbie Sutherland told the Observer following her May 8 State of the City presentation to the West Shore Chamber of Commerce at LaCentre in Westlake. In a struggling economy, where cities across the country – including Bay – are faced with shrinking budgets and difficult decisions, “steady and stable” can be viewed as optimism.
While the focus of the mayor’s twelfth annual address – a record number, as Sutherland is Bay’s longest-serving mayor – was on the city’s accomplishments in the past year, she acknowledged that times are tough. As the nation slowly climbs out of recession, she noted that municipalities often lag behind other sectors in recovery, and Bay Village expects some level of financial hardship to continue into the coming years.
“It was a tough year, we anticipate that we’re still probably going to be experiencing a little of that going forward for the next couple of years, but we will get through it and we will be lean, mean and very efficient by the time we come through this,” Sutherland vowed.
The biggest hit to the city’s budget came from a cut in state funding, and the city is preparing for the loss of estate tax revenues next year. The administration continues to look for ways reduce expenses by streamlining operations and trimming city services. The workforce was reduced by 11 employees in the past year – a decision Sutherland said was not easy.
“There is nothing more difficult than taking one of your employees by the hand, looking that person in the eye, and telling them that their job is going to be eliminated,” Sutherland said.
On a more positive note, Sutherland said she was pleasantly surprised at the high level of private construction activity last year, with over 4,800 building permits issued. Six new homes were built and nearly 600 residential and commercial alterations were performed, valued at over $8.3 million in total. Several new businesses opened in the city, and others are eyeing expansion in the coming year.
“It’s not just about recruiting new businesses into town,” Sutherland told the group of chamber members, “it’s also being able to create an environment where existing businesses can grow and expand.”
The city launched a new, interactive website – which she called the biggest accomplishment of 2011 – renovated the Reese Park playground and completed the sanitary sewer cleaning project on time and under budget, resulting in a 250 percent increase in sewer capacity. But Sutherland reserved her greatest praise for the people of Bay Village – staff and residents alike.
She shared her gratitude for Bay’s “phenomenal” employees, police officers and firefighters, who have remained dedicated during trying times and commended the community services department for its outreach and senior center programs. Volunteer organizations have made an impact on the daily lives of residents with recreational, support and environmental projects.
The Bay Skate and Bike Park Foundation’s seven-year struggle culminated in the construction of a facility designed to take advantage of the Cahoon Memorial Park landscape and provide kids with a central location to ride and skate.
The Village Food project began delivering nutritious meals to families experiencing a cancer crisis, and has partnered with the Bay Village Green Team to grow organic produce in the Community Garden. The Green Team has also worked to promote recycling and sustainability within the city.
Residents adjusted to the new automated trash pickup and improved curbside recycling program, doubling the amount of material recycled. Including roughly 900 tons of yard waste collected and composted, the city has seen a 24% decrease in the amount of waste sent to landfills over the past year.
Looking ahead to the upcoming year, Mayor Sutherland said repairs will soon begin on the Wolf Road aerial sewer over Cahoon Creek. The 1940s-era pipe has eroded to an eighth-inch thickness in some spots and is leaking, a scenario she called “a disaster waiting to happen.” The Bradley/Naigle roadwork project is nearing completion and recommendations are forthcoming from the panel conducting the city’s decennial charter review.