Mayor sees brighter times ahead for Bay
There is light at the end of the tunnel. In her annual State of the City address on May 13, Mayor Deborah Sutherland was guardedly optimistic as she discussed the current affairs of Bay Village with members of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce. While times are still tight in regard to the budget, some of the cost-cutting initiatives set in place last year are starting to bear fruit and civic organizations continue to help enhance the quality of life for all residents.
Revenues were down by almost 10 percent last year, due in large part to the loss of the estate tax. “We used to get about $1.2 million a year, sometimes we had gone as high as $15 million [or] as low as $300,000, but there was always that inflow,” Sutherland said. “So we had to really scramble and last year was the first year that we had a major reduction because the estate tax has been eliminated.”
To cope with the loss of funds, the city kept cutting expenses. The workforce was reduced by 14 full-time employees, saving the city nearly $500,000 last year. The building department was privatized on May 1, 2013, with the city outsourcing a three-year contract to SAFEbuilt. The mayor expects the switch to generate $450,000 in savings this year.
Despite the lean financial situation, Sutherland remains optimistic that as the economy continues to recover, the city is in position to bounce back.
“We, I think, in Bay Village have been very, very successful through this economic downturn and we still, just by the way that we’re funded, are going to lag behind the economic pickup that some of you may be experiencing as small business owners. Eventually, in maybe 3-5 years, we’ll be up with everybody else, but it’s still going to be tough for municipalities for the next couple of years.”
More than 2,000 building permits were issued in 2013, valued at nearly $31 million, including 14 new residential homes – four more than the year before. The city welcomed two new pizza shops and a furniture store. St. Raphael’s has begun demolition of the existing church, rectory and garage and construction of a new church, chapel and community room. Bradley Bay Health Center received a permit to construct a 36-bed memory care unit on their campus.
Bay Village’s other city departments made improvements in terms of efficiency, innovation and services to residents.
“I have asked so much of our employees and our directors,” Sutherland said. “I’m so grateful to them because there is no way that we would have been able to do what we’ve done over the past 5 or 6 years without their expertise and leadership and they’re just phenomenal.”
New service director Scott Thomas has worked to improve efficiency, reorganizing the service garage, implementing a work-order software program and examining fuel-saving options for city vehicles. The Cahoon Road sewer replacement mandated by the EPA will be wrapping up in the next few weeks.
The community services department saw an increase in participation in activities and programs, and performed more than 14,000 outreach services in 2013. The recreation department offers 36 programs for youth and adults, and the Bay Pool hosted 70,000 swimmers last summer.
The fire department responded to 1,300 calls for service and for the first time in department history all officers have been trained to the national standards of the Fire Officer II level.
The police department went through a changing of the guard as longtime Chief David Wright retired and Mark Spaetzel was promoted to the post. Volunteer auxiliary officers saved the city $15,000 in overtime pay. The number of car accidents, service calls and overall serious crimes all declined last year. Officer Mark Palmer was recognized by University Hospitals’ Safe Communities Coalition for leading the department with 49 DUI arrests.
Community groups and civic volunteers continue to play an important role in supplementing the city’s services to residents. Mayor Sutherland praised the Bay Village Green Team as being one of the most active and successful in the region, with a thriving community garden of more than 130 plots, and recycling efforts that pushed the city to No. 3 in the county in overall recycling tonnage. The Village Bicycle Cooperative promotes cycling safety and advocacy from its new location in the Community House. The Village Project continues to grow, recently expanding from its humble beginnings in the Bay Presbyterian Church kitchen to a larger facility on West Oviatt, and widening its service area to include Avon Lake and Rocky River.
“Our residents are really engaged,” Sutherland said. “We love our businesses; the schools, the community groups and churches are all very involved. It’s really a true, true community and it’s because of all those aspects that we all love Bay Village.”
To view slides from Mayor Sutherland's presentation, visit cityofbayvillage.com.