Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mentor traffic flow talks keep rolling

Traffic improvement talks for Diamond Centre and Lake Shore Boulevard, a jewel heist investigation, and bid opening for a major drainage project are among the recent goings-on in Mentor. Those items and more in the latest, weekly city manager memo to City Council:

Manager Comments 
• Tony Zampedro and I met Doug Lewis, Painesville acting city manager, last Monday to discuss the long-term approach to the highway improvement involving the Diamond Center/Shamrock developing area. We discussed the obstacles and options for moving a project forward and agreed to continue exploring opportunities for cooperation.

• Letters are being sent this week to all property owners on streets included in the 2013 sidewalk repair program. A public meeting is scheduled for April 4 at 6 p.m. at the Mentor Senior Center to review details of this year’s program. One of only a few minor changes to this year’s program includes adjusting the vertical separation standard from 1-inch to ¾-inch to better address the trip hazard defect.

Fire Department
• On March 15 at 4:21 p.m., Mentor Fire Department responded to a MABAS box for a dryer fire in Mentor-on-the-Lake. Mentor Fire assisted in ventilating the home and locating two house cats. 

• On March 20 at 3:05 p.m., a male walked into the station with food lodged in his throat. He was treated and transported to Lake Health in stable condition.

• Public Education Specialist Nathan Peters has been teaching “Hands Only CPR” to the Mentor Police Department.

Police Department
• On March 16, officers responded to a theft at JB Robinson Jewelers at the Great Lakes Mall. The theft had occurred the night before, during business hours. The thief got away with almost $24,000 worth of jewelry. The case is currently under investigation by the Detective Bureau.

• At the City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, the Officer of the Year, Lt. Tom Powers and Civilian of the Year, Dispatcher Linda Hulderman awards were presented for 2012. This is the second-consecutive year winning the award for Linda.

• On March 18, the police department assisted with and attended the funeral of Judge Ted Klammer, father of City Prosecutor Lisa Klammer.

• Traffic counts for the Lakeshore Blvd. Capacity Improvements Study are scheduled to commence on March 26 throughout the corridor. These counts will analyze traffic at the following intersections:

• Lakeshore Boulevard and Campbell Road
• Lakeshore Boulevard and State Route 306
• Lakeshore Boulevard and Inland Shores/Thistlewood
• Lakeshore Boulevard and Dale R. Rice Elementary School Driveway
• Lakeshore Boulevard and Meadowbrook Drive
• Lakeshore Boulevard and Andrews Road
• Munson Road and Lakeway Boulevard
• Munson Road and Center Street

Results of the study will be presented later this summer with recommendations to be considered for future capital improvement programs.

• Fifteen bids were opened March 8 for the Beechwood Drive Storm Sewer Improvement. This project consists of removing approximately 640 feet of undersized and deteriorating storm sewer on the east side of Beechwood Drive. The old storm sewer will be replaced with a 12-inch storm sewer on the east side. 

Additionally, storm sewer inlets will be installed on the west side where there were previously no storm sewer facilities. The total length of the project is approximately 1,336 feet. The low bid of $85,357.44 was received was from Davis Diggers Inc. of Mentor. This bid is significantly lower that the engineer’s estimate of $160,000.00.

Work is expected to begin by June 2013 and should be completed by October 2013. A recommendation to award a contract to Davis Diggers Inc. is expected to be presented at the April 4 Council Meeting.

Economic and Community Development
• Data from CBRE was assembled to analyze retail vacancy for Greater Cleveland, which tracks over 104 million square feet of retail space in the eight county areas. The Greater Cleveland vacancy rate was 10.27 percent in 2012. Lorain County exhibited the highest vacancy rate at 13.6 percent, while Stark County had the lowest vacancy rate at 8.0 percent. In Lake County, the vacancy rate was 9.8 percent. Of the 28 properties “tracked” in Mentor, the vacancy rate was 4.6 percent.

In Mentor there are 11 regional shopping centers (76,000 sq. ft.+), which represent approximately 2.8 million square feet of retail space. The vacancy rate of these larger centers was 5.9 percent or approximately 170,000 sq. ft. with the largest vacancies being in the Points East Plaza, Great Lakes Mall and Town Square.

There is almost 600,000 sq. ft. of retail space in 27 “convenience” shopping centers in Mentor, which range in size from 11,000 to 45,800 sq. ft. (Retail Vacancy 2013).  The vacancy among these convenience centers is 15.4 percent, down from 17 percent in the 2012 report. The overall vacancy rate for the 38 shopping centers in the City is approximately 7.5 percent; a one-half percent decrease from 2012.

Parks and Recreation Department
• New-member meetings will be held at the Senior Center on April 18 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. to introduce the Senior Center facility and its functions.

• The new boiler for the Senior Center and the new security camera system at Black Brook Golf Course will be installed in April.

• Sign-ups for the 50th Anniversary Lecture Series are going well with 25 registered in each series so far.

• Recent State of Ohio statutory changes affect prior, current and future individuals hired as independent contractors, or other classifications for which no retirement contributions were or will be made to OPERS. Timeliness for notice and requests were changed by recent legislation. Employers must now notify by Sept. 7 those individuals who provided personal services prior to Jan. 7, 2013, for which no retirement contributions were withheld. Individuals now have until Aug. 7, 2014, to request a membership determination from OPERS.

Public Works Department
• Completed installation of perforated drainage pipe at Black Brook Golf Course
• Completing rough grade for work above
• Storm sewer inspections – Ward 2 – 50% complete
• Storm sewer repair – 8425 Grenway
• Lowered drainage outlet and re-defined roadside ditch – Willowbrook
• Garfield Park pool restroom improvement – ongoing
• Plaza Blvd. signal upgrades – tied-in conduits and pulled loop wire
• Cold patching – City-wide
• Constructing game boards for CityFest
• Black Brook Golf Course security system installed

-- Betsy Scott, BScott@News-Herald.com, @ReporterBetsy

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Weather warnings coming to Mentor golf course?

Mentor wants a weather warning system for its golf course, drug arrests bring in some cash, and plans are proceeding for stormwater runoff improvements at Great Lakes Mall. Those items and more in the latest, weekly city manager report to City Council.

Manager Comments 
• We have prepared a purchase order for a lightning warning system for Black Brook Golf Course, which should greatly improve our ability to provide early warning of severe weather.

• Staff reviewed the process for moving forward with the next phase of the City’s Sidewalk Maintenance Program. We anticipate the experience gained from last year will allow the cycle to go much more smoothly. Letters will be sent to affected residents in March, with a public meeting to answer their questions in April.

• The unemployment rate for the City of Mentor increased 1.5% from 5.4% to 6.9% after having been stable for November and December. Historically, unemployment peaks in the City in January or February. One year ago (January 2012) the unemployment rate was 6.8%. In Lake County, the unemployment rate increased 1.6% to 7.9% in January 2013.  The City of Mentor’s unemployment rate ranked fourth lowest among communities with a population over 50,000, behind Cleveland Heights, Lakewood and Columbus. The State of Ohio’s unemployment rate increased 1.8% for the month of January 2013 to 8.4%.

• Council President Marn and I attended a strategic planning session for the Lake County Port Authority Wednesday morning as guests of the Board. The session was moderated by Lakeland President Morris Beverage and discussion focused on developing a long-term vision for the Port and a future strategic plan. It was a good opportunity for us to highlight the benefits and mutually served interests of cooperation and inclusion of municipalities not currently within the Lake County Port Authority’s jurisdiction.

Fire Department
• On March 8 at 6 p.m., paramedics responded to a possible overdose. The patient was given Narcan and transported to Lake West Hospital.

• On March 13 at 8:47 a.m., paramedics responded to a male in full arrest on the sidewalk. A passerby was performing CPR. Paramedics took over care and administered Advanced Life Support treatment. Patient was resuscitated and transported to the hospital.

• On March 14, Chief Harvey and Deputy Chief Searles traveled to the Attorney General’s Office to provide additional input to managing school-based emergencies.

Police Department
• Two separate narcotics arrests this past week resulted in five people being charged for various drug violations and the seizure of over $7,000 cash. One incident involved the cultivation and possession of marijuana at a Queensdale apartment. The other involved a traffic stop that led to the recovery of marijuana and cocaine.

• At the Council meeting on March 19, the department will present awards for 2012 Officer of the Year and Civilian of the Year. Recipients are Lt. Tom Powers and Dispatcher Linda Hulderman, respectively.

• The city, along with Chagrin River Watershed Partners, Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District and Great Lakes Mall, recently interviewed several engineering firms that bid on the design services for stormwater retrofits to be installed through a federal grant at the mall. The group settled on Cardno/JFNew as the design consultant. Cardno/JFNew is an ecological consulting and restoration firm out of Ann Arbor, Michigan that specializes in alternative storm water solutions and green infrastructure.

They will be tasked with putting together a plan that will use a combination of permeable concrete pavement, brick pavers and bio-retention cells to treat and infiltrate storm water back into the ground before it gets into the storm sewer. The goal of the project is to put in place a unique demonstration project that will reduce storm water volume in Newell Creek downstream of the mall, thereby improving the water quality in the stream. 

Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-summer with work to be completed by the fall of this year. Chagrin River Watershed Partners will be overseeing the project management for the design and construction phases. The City will be involved in the plan review and permit compliance for the project.

• Shown below is a summary of Building Division activity comparing January 2013 with February 2013:
  Prior Month                Month of
                    January 2013       February 2013
New Permits Issued     179    174
Valued of Permits    $3,987,976    $3,198,702
Building Permit Inspections    567    599
New Plan Review Cases    50    30
Engr. & Bldg. Permit Plan Reviews    262    138
New Contractor Registrations    478    73

Parks and Recreation Department
• Final payments are now being taken for docks at the Marina. All payments are due by May 1.

• Registration for the last session of the Bus Program and Learn-to-Skate are going on now at the Civic Ice Arena.

• The Senior Center is looking for travel escorts for the senior travel program. Anyone interested, please contact Senior Center Manager Renee Ochaya at 440-975-5725 for more information and an application.

• The Mentor Headlands Baseball League has disbanded. Other leagues are working with Recreation Superintendent, Paul Hegreness, to determine future use of the fields at Morton Elementary.

• Community Garden plots are filled this year and there is a waiting list.

Economic and Community Development
• Tom Thielman, Aric Spence & Ron Traub met with the owner of a commercial recreational facility contemplating extensive renovation of their facility.

• NEO Success Award winners announced in the March/April 2013 issue of Inside Business recognizes 96 businesses which have grown in revenue, added employees or both (from 2010-12) while at least breaking even on profitability.  Twenty-seven companies were from Cleveland, six from Akron and five from Mentor and Hudson.

• Tom Thielman attended the monthly Lake County Development Council luncheon. Ivan Schwartz, Executive Director of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission presented an overview of its organization’s economic development efforts and how the State of Ohio’s Film Industry Tax Credit has created a viable new industry for Ohio.

• MEACO is in the process of closing two SBA 504 loans and one Mentor Small Business Loan. MEACO’s turn-around time for processing loans with the U.S. Small Business Administration is 2.5 days, which tied for 3rd among all 212 active Community Development Companies in the U.S.

• Legislation has been prepared to advance approximately $1 million of cash from the general fund to various capital project funds and grant funds. The advances are temporary and will be returned to the general fund upon project completion.

Public Works Department
• Citywide cold patching
• Began street sweeping
• Snow control
• Hauled dirt from Garfield Park parking lot project
• Repairs/painting – Wildwood Cultural Center
• Replaced restroom floor at Krueger Park
• Completed annual conflict monitor testing
• 60% complete with Plaza Blvd. signal upgrades
• Replacing restroom floors at Garfield Park pool
• Installed 56’ of 4” PVC pipe and r-o-w inlet - 8061 Stockbridge
• Cleaned and televised storm sewers on Brooks Blvd. and Raymond
• Drainage improvements at Black Brook Golf Course

-- Betsy Scott, BScott@News-Herald.com, @ReporterBetsy

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Unemployment takes typical shift upward

The unemployment rate for the city of Mentor increased 1.5 percent in January — up to 6.9 percent from 5.4 — after having been stable for November and December, according to information released by the city Thursday.

Historically, unemployment peaks in the city in January or February, a city official noted. In January 2012, the unemployment rate was similar, at 6.8 percent.

In Lake County, the January 2013 unemployment rate was at 7.9 percent — an increase of 1.6 percent. Ohio’s unemployment rate increased 1.8 percent to 8.4 percent.

Mentor’s January rate ranked fourth-lowest among communities with a population over 50,000, behind Cleveland Heights, Lakewood and Columbus.

In October, the city’s rate hit a five-year low, decreasing for the fifth straight month to 4.5 percent. That was down from 5.1 percent in September and 5.4 percent the prior October.

Source: January 2013 Civilian Labor Force Estimates — Ohio Department of Job & Family Service, Office of Workforce Development and Bureau of Labor Market Information.

-- Betsy Scott, BScott@News-Herald.com, @ReporterBetsy

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mentor studying major corridor

Some traffic improvements could be coming to Mentor’s Route 306 corridor, some residents’ water bills could be going up a bit, and the safety forces have been responding to various acts of mayhem. Those items and more in the latest weekly city manager report to City Council.

Manager Comments 
• Aqua Ohio filed an application with the PUCO on March 5 to assess a “system improvement charge” on monthly water bills to recover the cost of infrastructure replacement made in Mentor last year. Ohio law allows such reimbursement to ensure reliability and water quality over time. Approximately $2.4 million water lines and equipment were replaced for projects on Prospect Street, Hopkins Road, Headlands Road, Blackbrook Road, Crossfield Avenue, and Stoney Brook Lane. If approved, the cost will add about $1 per month to the bill of an average customer.

• Council President Marn, Councilwoman Dowling, Ron Traub, Tony Zampedro and I met this week with new Illuminating Company President John Skory. We had a very productive discussion about a range of topics important to Mentor, most importantly reliability and response issues. We were also provided an update of the system improvements serving the Tyler/Division St. industrial area, which exceed $1 million.

After expressing our concerns that improved communication is needed following extended outages, Mr. Skory discussed several planned procedural changes designed to provide us better updating. He also reviewed possible changes in the field that will allow them to more quickly respond to immediate hazards so that risks to the public are diminished and our first responders can be reassigned more quickly.

Fire Department
• On March 2 at 4:42 a.m., paramedics responded to a possible overdose. The patient was stabilized and transported to Lake West Hospital.

• On March 2 at 3:41 p.m., Mentor Fire responded to a one-car accident where a car hit a telephone pole. The patient was transported to Hillcrest Hospital.

• On March 4 at 6:38 p.m., Mentor Fire responded to a condo where it was reported to have heavy smoke. Upon arrival, it was discovered the owner burned food, causing smoke damage to the kitchen. There was no fire and the home was cleared of smoke and ventilated. 

Police Department
• On March 2, an officer stopped a suspicious vehicle exiting America’s Best Value Inn on Broadmoor Road. The vehicle was listed as stolen out of Cleveland in December. The driver was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property.

• Three suspects were arrested for aggravated trafficking in drugs (ecstasy). The suspects were observed in the lot of Queensdale, 7191 Mentor Ave., selling the narcotics. Charges on the suspects include aggravated trafficking in drugs, possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia and criminal tools.

• The department has focused on special enforcement details the past few weeks. These details include officers specifically assigned to warrant arrests, traffic enforcement and criminal interdiction. Many officers are not on vacation at this time of year, which allows for the use of these special units. These types of details will continue throughout March. 

• Traffic counts were performed this week for the SR 306 Corridor Traffic Study. A small camera was utilized to gather count data at each of the following intersections:
•    SR 306/I-90 WB
•    SR 306/SR 84
•    SR 306/Mentor Avenue
•    SR 306/Points East
•    SR 306/Tyler Boulevard
The goal of the study is to determine what improvements may be necessary along the SR 306 corridor from SR 84 to Mentor Avenue. The analysis will include one major intersection both north and south of the core study area.

Parks and Recreation Department
• “2ba Healthy Kid Carnival” returns to the Mentor Senior Center on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. There will be activities, games, interactive displays, an obstacle course and more. This event is free and open to the public.

• The “Ice of March Youth Hockey Tournament” is scheduled Friday through Sunday at the Mentor Civic Ice Arena. This annual event features some of the best youth hockey in the area and sells out each year. First face-off is at 5:15 p.m. on Friday.

• The CITYfest Committee is working on logistics and has sent out requests for pricing for tents, chairs and tables.  Contracts are being signed for the entertainment and food. Non-food vendors are sending in their applications; commercial area space is filling up fast.

• Thanks to the Public Works staff as they complete the Garfield Ballroom rehabilitation. The room was transformed from its original 1965 décor to a much more modern look with new paint, light fixtures and the addition of storage space. The work is about 95 percent complete.

• The Senior Center has scheduled its first Beer Tasting Bus Tour and 35 folks have registered. There are still openings.

• Thank you to Dollar Bank for their $5,000 sponsorship of the Summer Concert Series this year.

Economic and Community Development
• Aric Spence & Ron Traub joined with members of the Fire Department in a meeting with representatives of a company looking to relocate in the City.

• Aric Spence & Ron Traub met with the contractor for a previously approved office building addition in the Old Village.

• The R.I.T.A. satellite office at City Hall has been very busy, averaging about 60 walk-in taxpayers per week.  Extended office hours are in place during the filing season. The office is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday during March and April.

• Finance Director David Malinowski and his staff on once again received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association for the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). This is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting and is a significant accomplishment by a government and its management team.

Public Works Department
•    Installing perforated drainage system at Black Brook Golf Course on holes 14, 15 and 17
•    Sewer televising on Ohio, Hayes, Jasani, Taft, Grant, Filmore, Jefferson and Kennedy
•    Redefining roadside ditch – Munson Road
•    Completed city-wide survey of inlet basin conditions
•    Conflict monitor testing - 95% complete
•    Pothole patching - citywide
•    Completed ballroom painting at Garfield Park
•    Began renovation of Garfield Pool restrooms
•    Assisting with review of City Hall HVAC options
•    Warning sign upgrades - ongoing

-- Betsy Scott, BScott@News-Herald.com, @ReporterBetsy

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mentor has final deer management cost

A 13-year-old student is arrested, a man wanted in Puerto Rico is tracked down in Mentor, income tax collections continue a downward slide, and the city has a final tally on deer management costs. Those items and more in the most recent weekly city manager reports to City Council:

Manager Comments 
• The final cost of the city’s inaugural deer management program, from July to now, is $110,584. Most of the initial costs were related to equipment.

• Income tax collections for the month of February were down $174,000 when compared to February of last year. The current total year collections through February as compared to last year are up 9.2%.
Fire Department

Police Department
• On Feb. 22, an officer checked on two suspicious males sitting in a vehicle in the lot of Gabriel Brothers. The passenger had a 1993 warrant for his arrest out of Puerto Rico. The warrant was for attempted murder, robbery and weapons offense. The male was taken into custody and will eventually be turned over to officials from Puerto Rico.

• The continuing investigation into the Feb. 21 bomb threat at Ridge Middle School has resulted in the arrest of a 13-year-old student. The student was charged with inducing panic, a second-degree felony and for leaving a note in a restroom threatening a bomb in the school, which caused the school to be evacuated.

• Four officers have been awarded Departmental Excellence Awards for their work in the Aggressive Criminal Enforcement Unit (ACE) in 2012. This unit was responsible for 198 narcotics related arrests (30 for drug trafficking) and 121 warrant arrests. The unit seized seven vehicles and over $157,000 cash.  They also assisted with making nine prostitution-related arrests.

Fire Department
• Public Education Specialist Nate Peters held meetings on Feb. 28 with community leaders to incorporate an anti-bullying program to present to third-graders during their annual visit to the Children’s Safety House.

• SR 2 Widening — Coordination efforts between the city and ODOT resulted in the addition of a change order for noise wall construction along SR 44 adjacent to the new southbound right turn lane. It is anticipated that the work will occur this spring as part of the current SR 2 widening project.

• Improvement plans for the Corduroy Bikeway Connector (Phase 1) have been submitted to the Ohio Department of Transportation for a Stage 1 plan review. Based on the expected timeframe to complete the 3-stage review process and receive environmental clearance, ODOT is expected to release funds for this project in the summer of 2014. However, there is a chance the project could be ready for bid sooner if the process moves faster than anticipated.

Parks and Recreation Department
• The Recreation Department had a very productive first CITYfest Committee meeting with department heads last week. In the next several weeks, the Committee will meet for an update with the Oversight Committee. Also, the Cruise-In Committee has begun to look at logistics for the “Cruise-In,” which will be held on Aug. 25 on the grounds of the Municipal Center following CITYfest. A Cruise-in Committee meeting will be scheduled within the next week.

• Advertising for “Take Pride in America” is in the design stage. Given the new date of June 19, advertising efforts have been accelerated to ensure the public is aware of the date change.

• In this 50th anniversary year for the City of Mentor, a special speaker series will take place at Wildwood that will look at the past, present and the future of Mentor. To sign up for this and other programs, see the Mentor Recreation Brochure.

• Black Brook Golf Course Manager, Tim Ausperk sent out letters to local businesses about the Tee Marker Sponsorship Program, which was designed to offset the cost of tee markers on the golf course. This is an affordable sponsorship program for many smaller businesses. If you know of a business that would be a good sponsor or have any questions about the program, please contact Tim at Black Brook Golf Course.

• Facilities Manager, Bob Zaluski has been very busy working on new signage for the Civic Ice Arena. He is also developing a design for a new vestibule for the lobby of City Hall that will improve the energy conservation of the facility and will be starting a lighting conservation project at the Senior Center that will afford us better control of the center’s light fixtures.

Economic and Community Development
• Tom Thielman attended training provided by JobsOhio and TeamNEO regarding the uploading and maintenance of local real estate availability information in the Ohio InSight site selection catalog. This service is of importance because business “leads” that come into TeamNEO are filtered through this system. It has been problematic in the past to have many of our city sites listed.

• In excess of 150 emails were sent out to prospective retailers advising them of their “retail match” in the city and inviting subsequent contact or a meeting at ICSC.

• The Finance Department is currently reviewing all existing Mentor Incentive Grant (MIG) agreements to determine eligibility for incentive payments.  MIG disbursements will be made by April 15 for all entities that successfully met the grant agreement terms.

• The Finance Department received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers’ Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its most recent 2011 comprehensive annual financial report.

Public Works Department
• Received and piled additional 2,000 tons of road salt
• Began installing perforated drain pipe at Black Brook Golf Course
• Televised storm sewer - Brooks Blvd.
• Pot hole patching
• Monitored drainage areas
• Conflict monitor testing
• Completed stop sign upgrades; moving onto warning sign replacement
• Constructing new tables for Black Brook Golf Course pavilion
• Facility improvements - ongoing

-- Betsy Scott, BScott@News-Herald.com, @ReporterBetsy