The first thing the City and Schools need to build as part of Phase 2 Development is Trust

City Council members took turns expressing disappointment with the latest negotiations between City Council and the Hudson City Schools Board of Education at the April 21st meeting.  Council rejected the latest changes proposed by the Board that would have required the City returning for negotiations should the residential portion of the project exceed our initial estimates.  Council did not feel this approach was feasible, nor necessary under State Law.

Phase 2 of First & Main is the area on the west side of Morse Road at the intersection with Owen Brown.  The project is really two projects, a commercial developmPhase 2 residential sideent with offices on the southwest corner (the Windstream property) and a residential or residential /mixed use on the northwest corner (the City and Schools properties.)

To build the residential portion would require moving the School‘s bus garage and city facilities, and creating a development that would place this property on the tax rolls. Currently, as public properties, the north side pays no taxes.  The cost of moving the facilities and building a new garage for the Schools requires some public financing.  The School Board must approve the terms under State Law, since the new property taxes they would receive would be deferred for several years.

The City and Schools first met to outline the project in November, and we have had several rounds of negotiations. The City will pay for a new bus facility, deed that new property to the Schools, and pay the Schools $135k a year to agree to the financing arrangement. We had this agreement in principle. Council is ready to have its third reading and pass the legislation at our next meeting.

Last week, we were informed that the School Board had concerns with how we may be spending the money on the project, which is defined to a certain parcel and can’t be used under Ohio law for other purposes.

Council felt that the last minute change showed a lack of trust of the City’s motives.  We had felt this was a “win-win” for both parties. My impression is that it may not seen as such from all members of the School Board, that we are not on the same page.

This is unfortunate, since most residents consider the City and Schools as one, but yet we are not acting that way. I understand that the Board is bound to get the best deal it can for its system. The City is operating from the same perspective, to protect its tax base.  Consider that Phase 1 of First & Main started making its first property tax payments to the Schools last year.  These payments would not have occurred, and we would not have enjoyed the benefits of 10 years of First & Main without previous negotiations. It took some shared sacrifice, and some trust.

I don’t know if the School Board will still approve our agreement without their latest change. I do know either way, we will have to rebuild trust, because our mutual success, and the success of Hudson depends on it.

Why having broadband discussions out of public view should matter to Hudson

 

I voted “no” to go into executive session for a broadband discussion on April 5.  A fairly routine vote to go into executive session, we have had at least 3 other such meetings in the past 18 months.  Why the big deal now? Now we are into some serious spending, and setting the template for future expansion, including residential.

Council voted a month ago to release $1.18 million in 2016 spending on the Velocity Broadband system, on top of $800k we spent in 2015. All of the business discussions were conducted out of public view, in executive session, as permissible by state law under the category “trade secrets.”   We consider broadband a “business” and not a “utility.”

Ohio law allows for this; Ohio is one of 30 states that does not regulate municipal broadband operations.  So we can (and most likely will) continue to have executive session discussions on broadband expansion plans, up to and including how and where broadband will serve residential areas.

FairlawnGig
Fairlawn does not keep their broadband plan a secret from their residents, everything is open.  Hudson should do the same. 

That is the root of my concern. Currently there is no projection (source: public records- the budget) for any cash flow approaching the cost of expanding to residential service.  Yet we have city officials promising residential service “soon.” Here this reporter tells us that “everybody will have access in the next five years.”

I am not permitted to disclose what we discuss in executive sessions, but I can say that most of you will be very disappointed to find out what “soon” means, particularly if you live in Ward 3 and areas outside of the old village boundary.

Contrast this with our neighbors in Fairlawn.  They are also introducing a city wide fiber and wi-fi system.  Fairlawn City Council considers FairlawnGig  a utility, and none of their discussions were held in executive sessions.  Fairlawn residents know all the details, including what “soon” means.  Hudson could do as Fairlawn does, hold open discussions on our plans.  Instead we treat it like a “business,” where the “investors” (the taxpayers) don’t get to know how we are going to spend their money, and when they will get a return.