Westshore Council of Governments (WCOG) Meeting, Jan. 13, 2021
This report is not an official statement of the League of Women Voters. Mayor Cooney's office prepares official minutes.
Present: Mayors Cooney (Fairview Park), Bobst (Rocky River), George (Lakewood), Kennedy (North Olmsted), Koomar (Bay Village), and WCOG Fiscal Officer Renee Mahoney. Mayor Clough (Westlake) was unable to attend.
Guests: Monique Smith, State Representative, District 16; Lisa Barno, Executive Director, Cuyahoga County Mayors and City Managers Association.
The meeting was held at the Gemini Center in Fairview Park, Mayor Cooney presiding. It was called to order at 9:45 a.m.
Fiscal Officer’s Report: Fiscal Officer Mahoney presented the December financial report and WCOG ended the year within budget. Mahoney commended her staff for their efficiency, and reported that Bay Village transitioned to new financial software on Jan. 1 which it shares with WCOG through completely separate accounts. The software should improve efficiency and accuracy in producing financial reports. The retirement of Jeff Reynolds, Special Agent in Charge of the Westshore Enforcement Bureau (WEB), and training his replacement may require some budget adjustment. Mahoney promised more information at the February meeting.
RTA: Mayor Koomar was recently sworn in to the RTA Board of Trustees, and Mayor Cooney affirmed the importance of Westshore representation on the RTA Board. Mayor Clough had been on the board for 20 years. He was elected Vice President in 2011 and became President in 2018. He decided not to run for re-election this year.
NOACA: Mayor Bobst reported that NOACA is working with the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission and other local and regional organizations on the Cuyahoga County Lakefront Public Access Plan to incentivize private lakefront property owners to increase public lakefront access through public planning and financial support for erosion abatement. The Lakefront Public Access Plan involves both land use and transportation issues and has the potential to fundamentally re-envision the greater Cleveland area’s relationship with Lake Erie. Private meetings with lakefront landowners on Greater Cleveland’s east side and west side will be held, and a virtual public meeting on the plan will be held on Jan. 28. For more information and a link to the virtual public meeting go to: bit.ly/3nJAkGV.
Land Bank: Mayor George has been appointed to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank Board of Directors. No meetings have been held since her appointment.
County Planning Commission: Mayor Bobst announced that the CC Planning Commission has a new Executive Director, Mary Cierebiej. She has extensive experience and an inspiring vision for the region. She will be invited to speak at WCOG soon.
The Planning Commission has oversight of the CC Solid Waste District. Their retiring Executive Director, Diane Bickett, has been a valuable resource for the Westshore cities. The Solid Waste District is working on a multi-family recycling program. The collapse in prices for recyclables has resulted in a lot of recyclable materials ending up in landfills. Mayor Bobst will provide the mayors with a copy of the final draft of the program.
The Planning Commission’s continuing work with local communities on master plans is a valuable resource offering both leadership and expertise.
Cuyahoga County Mayors and Managers Association: The Mayors and Managers Association’s new Executive Director, Lisa Barno, said that analysis of the impact on RITA tax collections of Covid-related home-based work is progressing. There will be winners and losers, but overall, home-based work will cause the regional tax base to shrink. The extent to which decisions on work location will be permanent is uncertain. Studies show that millennials don’t really want to work from home.
There is a lot of uncertainty about Covid vaccine distribution plans, but Cuyahoga County distribution locations and a timeline were scheduled for release on Jan. 14. Later discussion also raised many unanswered questions about how distribution would be managed based on previous experience with mass vaccination, for example: who was credentialing the distributing organizations; where was distribution going to occur, at PODs (points of dispensing) or at large drive-through sites like the fairgrounds; who would be responsible for logistics and traffic control? It is likely that most sites will distribute the Moderna vaccine because of freezer issues.
Mayor Bobst reported that AT&T received a federal contract and is trying to expand its FirstNet communication system for first responders, but it is meeting with resistance from fire and police chiefs. FirstNet is similar to the MARCS dedicated first responder communication system that is currently used extensively in the Westshore area and throughout Ohio. The benefit of switching to FirstNet is not apparent. Verizon also has a first responder communications system. The chiefs question whether these new systems offer as good connectivity or as dense coverage as MARCS, and also question its cost. Since first responders are the primary users of the communication systems their evaluations will be of primary importance. Mayor Koomar said that the Cuyahoga County Office of Emergency Management also plans to consider the matter and he will ensure that Executive Director Barno receives an invitation to the meeting.
The question of preparation against possible disturbances on Jan. 19 and 20 was raised. The mayors are aware that the chiefs are talking among themselves and with other law enforcement, and everyone is following the situation closely. Mayors and Managers ED Barno asked to be kept informed so all could act together if necessary.
WEB Special Agent in Charge Jeff Reynolds is retiring after 20 years. The Westshore police chiefs are reviewing applications to fill the position and interviews are in progress. The mayors asked to see the candidate applications.
Monique Smith, newly elected State Representative for District 16, introduced herself and promised to maintain a high level of communication and service to the mayors and constituents. She hopes to be invited back regularly.
WCOG will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021, and Mayor Cooney would like to promote the occasion. WCOG and WEB have been a resoundingly successful, award-winning innovation in local government cooperation and efficiency. Mayor Cooney encouraged the other mayors to document significant WCOG history and successes in their files and to share them with Monica Rossiter, Fairview Park Community Development Planner. This item will remain on the agenda so planning for an appropriate commemoration can continue.
The meeting was adjourned at approximately 10:54 a.m. The next WCOG meeting will be Wednesday, Feb. 10, 9:30 a.m., in the Fairview Park Gemini Center. All meetings are open to the public.
LWV observer Susan Murnane
historian, legal historian, former tax lawyer, author of Bankruptcy in an Industrial Society: The History of the Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Akron University Press, 2014)