Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Route 2 work watch

Due to the "significant amount of questions about the work in Painesville," ODOT District 12's PR gal, Amanda Lee, sent out the below info on the progress of the major rehab of Route 2: 

All lanes now are open on Route 2 westbound between Newell Creek/Route 306 and Route 91. The added lane on Route 2 eastbound along the same stretch remains closed as crews complete safety items.

“Weather permitting, they anticipate opening this lane in mid-December,” she said. “Occasional lane closures may be utilized during nonpeak times.”

This Phase II of the Route 2 project — affecting Eastlake, Mentor and Willoughby — is tentatively scheduled for completion this month.

The recent rainfall has delayed work to perform striping and guardrail asphalt operations between Newell Street and the Grand River in Painesville, Phase V, where Route 2 remains one lane in each direction.
“The contractor cannot restore this area to two lanes in each direction until all items are in place and it is safe for the traveling public,” Lee said.

Like Phase II, the plan is to open all lanes in mid-December, should the weather cooperate, with potential occasional lane and ramp closures during nonpeak times.

Phase V includes work on eight bridges, along with rehabilitating Route 2. Tentative completion date is June 30.

Details will be forthcoming about the progress of Phase III, between Route 306 and Route 615, Lee said.

-- Betsy Scott,, @ReporterBetsy

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Updates on Mentor's trash service, Route 2 work & more in latest manager memo

A shortened work week due to the Thanksgiving holiday resulted in a short, but sweet Mentor city manager report to City Council Friday. Below you'll see some good news about more savings for recycling residents the first year of the new trash-hauling contract, the latest on Route 2 construction, and some interesting police and fire incidents:

Manager Comments 
• Because of significant logistical issues confronting Waste Management, it is likely we will have to delay the implementation of the curbside recycling program until Feb. 1 instead of Jan. 1. This will allow the 14,000-plus recycling carts to be produced, delivered and distributed. It will also allow the city to better inform the public of the changes. The terms negotiated for the delay will require Waste Management, at their expense, to continue collecting recyclables from the estimated 4,000 households voluntarily recycling now and keep the city’s drop-off site open through January. Because the majority of residents will not get recycling in January, the $2.66 savings will be absorbed over twelve periods, lowering the monthly rate from $7.64 to $7.42 in the first year.
• As reported earlier during our budget discussions, the city will be renewing its agreement with Medical Mutual to provide health insurance to city employees. The renewal rate is a 10 percent increase over the current year, but the administration has crafted language on a “contingent premium,” which will allow the city to realize up to a 5 percent discount from the renewal rate if our ratio of claims incurred to premium payments is favorable. The administration also decided to accept bids this year for both fully insured dental plans and access to dental plans as a self-insured product. The city is currently self insured for dental. The city accepted the quote of Delta Dental for its PPO plan. In addition to offering a few more preventative services than those currently offered under the city plan, employees will not be billed for balances through the providers beyond what is paid toward usual and customary charges. The change is also expected to save the city approximately $100,000.
• The unemployment rate for Mentor declined to 5.3 percent in October 2011 (Mentor’s rate was 6.4 percent in October 2010). The city’s unemployment rate was last at 5.3 percent or lower in November 2008. In Lake County, the unemployment rate declined 0.4 percent to 5.9 percent. The city has the lowest unemployment rate for any community in Ohio over 50,000 in population; six of the 20 communities still have unemployment rates over 10 percent. The unemployment rate in Ohio declined to 8.4 percent (a 0.1 percent decline) in October 2011.

Fire Department
• On Nov. 19 at 0058 hours, the department was called to assist Painesville City with an apartment fire at 1288 West Jackson Street, Apartment 102. One occupant was significantly burned, transported to TriPoint and flown to Metro burn unit. Mentor Squad 1112 transported three victims with smoke inhalation to TriPoint. The estimated damage was set at $250,000 and the cause is under investigation.
• Fire Inspectors will be checking retail stores to insure the safety of shoppers during the Thanksgiving Holiday/“Black Friday” event. Special attention will be given to fire lanes, exit ways and occupancy loads.

Police Department
• Two females were arrested for shoplifting at Target. One of the females had in her possession credit cards stolen the previous week from an employee at Millers Pools. Both females were charged with the theft from Target with an additional charge of receiving stolen property on the female in possession of the stolen credit cards.
• On 11/19/11 there were two burglaries on Seneca at the same house. During the second burglary a juvenile was captured inside of the house. The juvenile had on shoes stolen from the house earlier in the day. This juvenile along with three other juveniles were charged in connection with the two burglaries.

Engineering and Building
• SR2 Widening Phase 3 — SR2 median lighting parts remain on back order.  It is anticipated lighting may operational during the month of December.  Motorists are now operating on the reconstructed portions of the ramps at Center Street with full width completion of all ramps at SR615 anticipated by mid-December. Striping on SR2 has been placed for the winter configuration. SR2 westbound has been striped and paved three lanes from SR306 to the west corporation line. SR2 eastbound has been striped and paved three lanes from the west corporation line to SR615, at which point the third lane becomes an exit lane. The contractor is currently in the process of wrapping up a majority of the work for the winter. Minor work will continue throughout the winter with a majority of the operations resuming when weather breaks in the spring.

Public Works
• Work continues on dredging the Two Town ditch.

-- Betsy Scott,, @ReporterBetsy

Monday, November 21, 2011

Brownfields, tax collection talk, ambulance accident victim on mend and more in Mentor

Here is a snapshot of what city of Mentor employees have been working on, according to the weekly Mentor city manager memo to City Council:

Economic Development
•    Tom Thielman is participating with the Lake County Port Authority and a coalition of Lake County municipalities’ in preparing a grant application to the US EPA for a countywide “Brownfield” assessment grant.

•    State Auditor David Yost recently issued a letter to the Ohio Tax Commissioner outlining some of his concerns related to the state’s efforts to centralize the collection of local income taxes. Potential increased costs and delay in receiving local tax dollars were specifically mentioned in his letter.

• At 9:15 p.m. on Nov. 12, the Fire Department was called to assist Kirtland Fire Department with a technical rescue involving a 58-year-old male pinned under a large tree. The male was found trapped under a tree that he was cutting. The base of the tree measured 42 inches in diameter. The male’s hip and upper leg were pinned under the tree. The male remained conscious and alert throughout the rescue, which took about 47 minutes. The male was then flown to Metro Health Medical Center in stable condition where he was treated for his injuries. 
• Firefighter Adam Georskey underwent surgery to repair multiple fractures in his hand sustained when Squad 1132 was involved in an accident last week on Center Street Bridge He is at home recovering and will be out for an extensive period of time.

• On Nov. 11, a traffic stop was performed on a vehicle driving on I-90 for following too closely to the vehicle ahead. The officer smelled the odor of marijuana coming from the interior of the vehicle. Marijuana, crack cocaine and heroin were located on the male passenger. The driver received a traffic citation and the passenger was charged with several drug trafficking charges.
• Over the weekend of Nov. 12, someone stole approximately 3000 feet of cooper wiring from along the Norfolk and Southern railroad tracks behind Queensdale and Bumpers. An investigation has been initiated.

Public Works
• The activity highlights last week were: repaired garage door soffit and roof at Ice Arena; painted basement at Wildwood; removal of American flags from utility poles; repairing right-of-way sink holes — Maple, Wyant; replacing storm sewer crossover at Garden/Corduroy; inspecting (camera) storm sewer at Fortuna; raising storm manhole casting — Willowbrook; inlet basin repairs — Carter/Ford and Kellog Creek; slabjacking — Harding, Wilderness; cracksealing — Garfield; inventory of used traffic poles; issuing addendum to bid specs for Senior Center generator; and completing court/Mentor Police Department parking lot resurfacing.

• The Recreation Department was notified that it received two grants for next year. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has awarded the City a Boating Safety Grant for $17,135. The grant will be used for the purchase of a kayak trailer and additional paddles and safety equipment. During the 10 years that we have offered the boating education classes over 1,700 people have attended. The second grant is from Kaiser Permanente through the Lake County Board of Health for $14,750 and will be used to install a water line, hoses, signage and fencing at the new Wildwood Community Garden. There is currently a list of interested participants that, if all commit, will fill 75 percent of the lots before the start of 2012. The program is open only to residents. Recreation Superintendent Paul Hegreness worked with the Health District to secure this grant.

-- Betsy Scott,, @ReporterBetsy

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More jobs coming to Mentor? That and more in manager's report

Mentor companies' expanding, a couple of hiccups in Route 2 work, changes you need to know at tax time and some recreation opportunities are among highlights from the recent weekly Mentor city manager reports to City Council:

Economic and Community Development
•    Ron Traub met with one of the city’s medium-size manufacturers regarding a potential significant expansion and another Mentor company regarding a significant building purchase and employment increase. The latter project will become public before Thanksgiving.
•    Tom Thielman prepared Mentor Incentive Grants for Progressive Insurance and Kaeper Machine.

Engineering and Building
•    SR 2 Widening Phase 3 – The central portion of asphalt paving on mainline SR 2 is anticipated to be complete by late November. Traffic will remain on the outside lanes through the winter and will be shifted onto the new asphalt in the spring when the center barrier wall has been completed. SR 2 median lighting has several repair issues and parts are on back order. It is anticipated lighting may be working by Thanksgiving. Noise wall work has been delayed as the contractor works out an issue with the support posts. It is still hoped that noise wall work can continue this fall/winter. Bridge sealing at SR 615 has been rescheduled for the spring. When it occurs, lanes on Center Street will be limited for approximately 1 week with daily temporary closures. By Thanksgiving motorists will be operating on 3 of four partial-width ramps at Center Street with full width completion of all ramps at SR 615 anticipated by mid-December.

•    Taxpayers’ use of electronic returns and professional tax preparation services has grown significantly. As a result, the Regional Income Tax Agency (R.I.T.A.) is discontinuing the automatic mailing of tax forms to individuals. Instead, the agency will mail a postcard as a reminder, encouraging taxpayers to use R.I.T.A. E-FILE or to visit the website at Other options for obtaining paper forms will also be offered such as obtaining tax forms at City Hall or calling the agency directly.
•    The City received $2,800 from its claim to recover costs incurred as a result of the Oct.12 incident that resulted in the closure of SR 2 due to a subcontractor striking a utility line.

•    Legislation will be on the agenda for tonight’s Council meeting for the purchase of new fire and police 800 MHz radios. Although the legislation authorized a purchase up to $646,836, all but $95,706 will be reimbursed through grants. This is needed now so that radio equipment can be delivered, programmed and installed by the expected Jan. 15 cut over to the new system.

•    The police department has been investigating the recent rash of graffiti on businesses in and around the area of Center St. and Mentor Ave. As a result of the investigation, the department was able to identify four juveniles involved. The four confessed and were connected to a total of seven separate incidents of graffiti in the city. 
•    The investigation of two night-time burglaries on Dellhaven Ave. resulted in a suspect being identified. The suspect is 38-year-old Warren Putnam of Painesville. He was arrested on Nov. 8 near his residence after a brief foot pursuit. He is being charged with several counts of receiving stolen property and misuse of a credit card. The department anticipates charging him with burglary once the case is submitted to the Grand Jury.

Public Works
•    The Public Works Activity Highlights this week were: Court parking lot resurfacing – under way; court roof project – under way; drainage improvement – Lakeshore and Coronado; storm pipe repair – Forest and Garden; basin repairs – Carter; Storm sewer repair - Dunbar/Campbell; restoration from dredging project at Whalers Cove; reviewing sewer tapes from Yorkshire/Berkshire; cracksealing – Garfield; durapatching – Hopkins Road; and contractor completed cracksealing of Heisley and King Memorial.   

•    Recreation
Superintendent Paul Hegreness developed a draft set of rules for the Community Garden program that will be starting next spring at Wildwood. There are 32 garden plots available and, to date, 23 people are on a waiting list.
•    The Senior Center Arts & Crafts Show is Saturday, Nov. 19, starting at 9 a.m. This show is open to the public and there is no admission charge.
•    The Senior Center will be showcasing the 2012 Travel Program 2-4  p.m., Nov. 30. Tour operators will be on hand to present a synopsis of each trip that will be taken next year. This Travel Quest program has proven to be a hit with participants.

-- Betsy Scott,, Twitter: @ReporterBetsy

Monday, November 14, 2011

Looking out for military families

This week, Sally Deutsch is beyond busy.

The Mentor resident is gathering and sorting supplies and people as fast as she can for what she hopes will become an annual project.

Her goal for the "Baskets of Appreciation" project is to provide a little extra kindness and assistance to those whose loved ones are deployed in the military during the holidays.

As the mother of someone who spent two tours in Iraq, Deutsch knows firsthand the stress placed upon not only the deployed serviceman but also the family remaining behind.

Working through the USO, Deutsch has a list of about 200 families in Lake County who qualify for the gift baskets, but the hard part is assembling all those baskets.

She has quite an assortment of donations already - so many that she can't fit her car in the garage anymore, she says - but what's still needed, more than any other gift, is items for teenage boys.

The gift baskets include anything from stuffed animals to cookie mixes, dishtowels, scented lotions or other items, be they fun or practical in nature.

Wednesday, all those items will be transported from her home to the Lake County fairgrounds for sorting and packaging.

Deutsch asks that anyone available and willing to help visit the 4-H building at the fairgrounds anytime from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday, Friday or Saturday, when volunteers will be collecting, sorting and assembling the baskets.

The USO then will pick up the packages Sunday and deliver them to qualifying families in Lake County.

-- Rachel Jackson | | @nh_rachel

Friday, November 11, 2011

Election Coverage Provides View of Various Personalities

I’m not sure most people would understand what it’s like to cover an election. I know I didn’t prior to this week.

Unlike interviewing business owners or politicians who were already in office, my experience interviewing candidates made me feel somewhat like a human resources professional. I had all these subjects describing their strengths to me and why they would be the best choice for certain positions. Of course, they did this so that I would relay that information to voters who read our newspaper, but it was still an unusual predicament to be in.

In all, it was hard work of the enjoyable variety. I’m game for just about any activity that enables me to interact with a wide range of personalities. Trust me, election coverage is just that.

Some candidates were reserved and got straight to business. Some were calm incumbents, while others were a bit nervous to be on video before potential voters.

The race for Willowick City Council was the best example of this variety. With 13 people running for six seats, interviewing all those candidates truly served as an exercise in interpersonal interaction. Some candidates’ campaigns were characterized by controversy, while others touted what they had accomplished in other roles and how that success might translate into a seat on the city council they were running for.

Between that race and those in Willoughby and Eastlake, there weren’t many surprises. Incumbents dominated those races except for Cindy Quinn-Hopkins in Eastlake, who will be sworn in after the new year.

It’s not something I’d be anxious to do next week or even next month, but covering candidates prior to the election provided a different communications task than what I had been used to, and that was fine by me.

Who doesn’t want a challenge on the job?

-- Brandon C. Baker