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Mayor calls Fairlawn’s financial condition ‘good,’ improving

1/23/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

During the Jan. 21 Fairlawn City Council meeting, Mayor William Roth read his annual State of the City address.

“The financial condition of the city is very good, and it continues to improve,” he said. “The revenue for 2013 was actually 4.9 percent above 2012, and this was the second year in a row we’ve been able to pass the prerecession 2008 tax revenue benchmark, which is a good sign.”

According to the mayor, the city’s 2014 budget is 2.2 percent higher than “the last several budgets.”

“The main reason for the increase in this coming year is personnel,” he explained. “During the recession, we did not fill several positions that were caused by retirements. … This year, we’re replacing two police patrolmen, one sergeant, one laborer in the Service Department, and we’re filling two vacancies in the dispatch division. We budget for this, and whether we will be successful in filling all of these positions, time will tell based on the candidates that come forward.”

Roth said the city was able to switch its health care plan and, in the process, get a 5.29 percent decrease in health insurance costs compared to the previous year.

“This translates for the city to a savings of approximately $63,000,” he said. “One of the main purposes we had for [forming] the health care committee was the idea to encourage shopping and looking around and not having the same plan every year to get what’s best, obviously, for the city, but also the employees and have a balance between that. We’ve been successful.”

As of Dec. 31, Roth said, Fairlawn’s retail vacancy space was 2.3 percent.

“That’s really unheard of,” he stated. “It’s amazing to have a number that low, because, basically, your occupancy is full.”

Last year, the mayor noted, 47 new businesses moved into Fairlawn.

“The big announcement we just had is that University Hospitals is taking over the remaining vacancy [at 3800 Embassy Parkway],” he said. “That’s more than 30,000 square feet, which is quite impressive. They’re taking away a large vacancy that had existed for several years due to the downturn.”

In 2013, Roth said, police dispatch fielded 59,717 calls.

“It’s hard to believe with a number of that size, but it’s actually down 1.43 percent from the year before and it’s down over 8 percent from 2011,” he stated.

The mayor said police officers issued 2,192 citations last year.

“We also issued 2,234 warnings,” he noted. “We actually issued more warnings than we do citations. I think our policemen are very fair and very proactive.”

The mayor said “well over 90 percent” of the city’s crime is theft related — “mainly shoplifting and things like that.”

“Overall, the crime rate in Fairlawn dropped last year 2.89 percent,” he said. “Juvenile arrests and adult arrests were down from 2012.”

Last year, the fire department received $166,680 in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants, Roth said.

“The money was used to purchase two thermal imaging cameras, which are actually replacing two of our older cameras that we’ve had for several years. They tend to wear out over time,” he stated. “In addition to that, we spent the remainder of the money replacing the fire air packs, which is your mask, your breathing apparatus and the tanks on your back.”

Also of note, Roth said, is that 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of Croghan Park being dedicated. According to the mayor, the city is in the process of replacing the park’s pedestrian bridge and any trails that are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, while also adding a new rain garden. The park will be rededicated this year, he said.

“Being mayor has its ups and downs — it has its challenges — but I do appreciate the position I am in,” Roth said. “It’s an honor to serve in this position. It’s a pleasure to work with Council, and it’s a pleasure to work with the department heads. All of the accomplishments we have here right now would not be possible without working together. I look forward to working with you in 2014.”

In other business at the Jan. 21 meeting:

  • Council heard the first reading only of an ordinance approving a new contract agreed to between Fairlawn and the union representing the city’s full-time fire medics and the full-time fire medics holding the rank of lieutenant. The three-year deal would go into effect retroactive to Jan. 1.
    Roth said he could not comment further on the issue, as it related to pending “labor negotiations.”
  • According to City Engineer Nick Spagnuolo, several city officials took part in a prebid meeting Jan. 21 regarding Fairlawn’s 2014 street repair program.
    “All of the contractors, which numbered eight, that took out a set of plans and are going to bid [on doing the work] attended the meeting, and they had very few questions about the plans, but we resolved any issues they had,” he said. “We will open the bids next Tuesday [Jan. 28] here at City Hall.”
    In December, Roth estimated the city will spend approximately $1.47 million for 2014 road repairs.
  • Fire Chief Russ Hose said he attended a meeting of the West Akron Board of Trade Jan. 14. During the meeting, he said, the board donated $1,200 to the Fairlawn Fire Department to purchase “new natural gas detection meters.”
  • Council heard the first reading of an ordinance to rezone approximately 4.78 acres of real property located at Brookwall Drive from B-1 Limited Business District to B-2 Retail Business District “for the purpose of constructing three retail buildings.”
    The city of Fairlawn will host a public hearing on the issue March 10 to further discuss the proposed change.
  • Council unanimously passed resolutions for the following appointments: Jonathan Groza to Fairlawn’s Civil Service Commission for an unexpired term ending Dec. 31, 2015, and Barry Thoman to Fairlawn’s Tax Review Board for a three-year term ending Dec. 31, 2016.

In addition, a resolution confirming the reappointment of Councilwoman Susan Sullivan (Ward 5) to the Residential Housing Assistance Board for a three-year term ending Dec. 31, 2016, was approved by all Council members except Sullivan, who abstained.

The next Council meeting is set for Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at Fairlawn City Hall, 3487 S. Smith Road. The next Committee-of-the-Whole meeting will be Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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