‘Best of the best’: Clough highlights Westlake’s accomplishments during grand-opening events

Mayor Clough responds to audience questions during his speech. Photo by Denny Wendell

The prestige of Westlake was on full display on July 13 as the city celebrated the grand opening of the new Community Services Center, followed by a presentation by Mayor Dennis Clough highlighting the city’s accomplishments over the past year.

The event kicked off as Mayor Clough, joined by Community Services Director Lydia Gadd and the full complement of City Council members, cut the ceremonial green ribbon to “officially” open the new Westlake Community Services Center. The $12 million construction cost was funded by a one-eighth percent income tax levy renewal in 2017.

“For all the years that I’ve been serving with this City Council, we’ve never lacked support from our community,” Clough said. “Hopefully it’s because we’ve been doing the right things and making sure the services in Westlake are superior and of high quality, because we want to continue to be the best of the best.”

After the ceremony, hundreds of residents poured into the facility for self-guided tours, health screenings, refreshments and live music. Mayor Clough capped the evening in the Eileen A. Humphrey auditorium with his State of the City address to residents.

The Observer is proud to sponsor this annual event – which followed similar presentations earlier this year to members of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce and Westlake Kiwanis Club – to allow the general public to hear city updates and interact with the mayor in an informal setting.

Clough encouraged the audience to interrupt his speech with questions, and several did – on topics including the city’s efforts to contract with multiple water providers, federal infrastructure funding, and the impact of teleworkers on Westlake’s income tax revenue.

On the subject of water, Clough explained that the city is still locked in a court battle with Cleveland Water but an end to that 15-year saga may be on the horizon. Westlake hopes to negotiate with several local providers – including Cleveland, but also Avon Lake and Elyria – to get a more competitive rate.

Westlake has already spent more than $30 million to upgrade its water lines and recently received $3 million from the federal government earmarked for water, sanitary sewer and storm lines.

The city is waiting for the state legislature to determine whether employees who work from home must still pay income tax to the city their company is located in. Clough gave an estimate that 80% of Westlake’s residents either do not work or are employed outside the city, so a rule change mandating that teleworkers pay income tax in their home district would likely benefit the city.

As he has done in his 35 previous annual addresses, Clough spent considerable time discussing the city’s financials. Before he dove into page after page of charts and graphs, Clough admitted that, as an accountant, this is always his favorite part of the presentation.

Clough was particularly proud of the city’s $21 million general fund balance, making Westlake essentially debt free, and the AAA bond rating it has maintained for 18 years, allowing the city to borrow money at favorable interest rates when it is financially prudent to do so.

“This is a government that believes in low taxes and responsible management of tax dollars,” Clough said. “I’m not an accountant for nothin’. I have to tell you that I truly believed when I took office that I needed to manage the taxpayers’ dollars as I would my own.”

The commitment to responsible financial stewardship by Clough, his administration and City Council allowed Westlake to sail through the pandemic mostly unscathed, and in a strong position to continue to be the “best of the best.”

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Volume 13, Issue 14, Posted 10:56 AM, 07.20.2021