Notes from the most recent Council meeting

Notes from the Feb. 7 Council meeting

We voted on the NEORSD Stormwater Agreement. I was the only “no” vote, and this isn’t even a fee that Ward 3 residents pay!  NOEORSD only regulates part of the Brandywine watershed, which is the northeast and central portions of Hudson. I didn’t want to sign an agreement with NEORSD, even if the Ohio Supreme Court did grant them the authority to create a Stormwater utility, and even if it meant we would lose $110k in annual grants to work on stormwater projects in Hudson. What’s at stake: The new development at First & Main (we all acknowledge that name is clunky and needs changed) and the YDC site (ditto) would both be subject to NEORSD “review.” I wanted time to go to the state legislature to get them to clarify the terms of stormwater utilities. The rest of council pretty much agreed NEORSD is suspect, said good luck working with the State Legislature to get  anew law drafted, but they were going to take the money, thank you very much.

 

Notes from Janauary 2017 Meetings and Workshops

HHT: Price tag for trail design shocks Hudson Council members  while the $250,000 consulting price tag was steep, as I pointed out, that is part of the price to pay when you use other people’s money. In this case, we received $500,000 in what amounted to federal funds. That comes with strings, like considering archaeological aspects and other elements we normally would not pay for as part of designing a trail.  With this phase through Cascade Park and work on the Barlow Road trail, by 2019 you will be able to walk or bike from downtown out to a connection with the existing Summit County Trail, which will take you to Kent or up to Sagamore Hills.

“Strings” on outside funding is part of the reason I’m so reluctant to “partner” with NEORSD on Stormwater projects. While their promise of funding is “found” money, it comes with strings. We don’t know what all those future “strings” will look like in terms of restrictions on development. Council vote coming up Feb. 7.  The fee and the area is outside of Ward 3, it takes in the downtown and NE Hudson areas primarily.

We approved the FORTEC Medical project last night (1/17).  While all development is welcome, this one bears special recognition. This is locally-owned company, with an owner active in the Hudson community, moving high-paying jobs to Hudson Crossing from Streetsboro. Development at Hudson Crossing gets a boost, our Velocity Broadband plays a part and gets a new customer, and the School District approves and benefits. Kudos again to our new Economic Development Director Jim Stifler!  Off to a great start in the new year!

Notes from August 2016 meetings

City Council considered when, and if the issue of an income tax increase through a tax credit reduction would be put to the voters in 2016 or 2017.  Council took off the table rather quickly the option of a vote this fall.  The motion before us August 16 was whether a vote would be held in March 2017.  Though I think we need to do more work justifying an increase, I would be more in favor if the vote were held during a fall election rather that a low turnout spring one.  The $3.6 million in annual increased revenue would be dedicated to infrastructure needs, which is defined as roads, “connectivity” (sidewalks and paths) and stormwater improvements.

The vote to put a tax issue on the March ballot failed in a 3-3 tie vote (DeSaussure, Wooldredge, Williams voting “yes,” Bigham, Hanink, Kelemen voting “no,” Weinstein absent).

There is a plan to shift some of the responsibilities and review oversight from the citizen-run Planning Commission and Architecture and Historic Board of Review Review to the Community Development staff.  Hearings and discussion are taking place during meetings of both boards. Council will consider and must approve the changes.  I hope there will be an opportunity for public comment as the changes become more defined.

Council considered spending more money on roads at the August 23 Workshop. Though there are no votes at Workshops, sentiment in the room seem to indicate we would not be spending $300-400k more on roads this year.

I asked why a vote on a medical marijuana moratorium had been pulled from the agenda for the Sept. 6 meeting. This spring the Ohio Legislature approved the use medical marijuana  to be effective Sept. 8, 2016. A state board is to be establish to define standards. Distribution would be restricted to “dispensaries,” and manufacturing to commercial operations. Local communities would be allowed to prohibit or limit the dispensaries or commercial operations, but not private use. Details on the bill and community reactions are on my site at Other takes on Hudson issues.

Even though the effective date is Sept. 8th, the standards as determined by a state Marijuana Board are months away from coming; a board has not even been appointed yet. Many communities have passed a 6-month moratorium on any medical marijuana operations in the interim. I am concerned that if Hudson doesn’t join them, we will  get operations here by default before we are able even consider restrictions.  A moratorium doesn’t say “yes” or “no” to medical marijuana in Hudson -it just gives us a chance to consider all the options. Not having a moratorium will allow outside forces to decide for us, like was proposed last fall with the growing site in Hudson. As I said last week, better for us to decide than for let it be decided for us. Hopefully a moratorium may come back for a vote by Council on Sept. 6th, two days before the state law takes effect.

Notes from the 7-19-16 Workshop

Voted against Broadband (twice) and giving tax breaks to warehouses while the chicken debate goes on,  getting most of our attention and news coverage. 

LF tweet 7-20

We are back from summer break, spending a lot of time discussing chickens and not so much discussing the big picture items that affect all of us.  Let’s get the chickens out of the way first.  What could have been a minor zoning item turned into a few hours of discussion over several nights.  Some people want to raise chickens, but in they may live on smaller lots. Changes were  proposed to allow this. Most of us were not in favor, feeling that chickens belong on lots of an acre or larger.  Then staff included horses in the draft, there was more discussion, and this part was removed. The concern was raised about enforcement. Whether we can enforce our codes, especially enforcing them equally throughout town  is another issue.  I don’t like to put in new rules, but neighbors are sometimes inconsiderate and laws are the last recourse when common sense and courtesy fail.

I voted against broadband, twice. (both passed, 5-1)Once to extend accelerate funding, and a second time for a residential feasibility study.  Because we do so much of broadband discussions in executive session, the public has no idea what we are getting into.  Let’s get a track record of performance (profits) first, then we can look at new ventures. Its unfair to residents to even consider residential service until we know how well we do on the commercial side.  That is unless we are thinking of heavily subsidizing service for both mostly out of tax dollars. Hmmm..could this be an “infrastructure” item that might be covered by an income tax increase aka “tax credit reduction”?

I also voted against the tax deal (passed 5-1) that Council worked out with the schools for a commercial development on Hudson Crossing.  This is a property tax abatement and income tax sharing with the Hudson Schools for an unspecified tenant in a building that may very well turn out to be a warehouse.  Nothing against warehouses, they would be great on Seasons Road.  or other places, but not in Hudson Crossings. When Hudson Crossing  (the road and other infrastructure) was built over 15 years ago it came with much investment on the City’s part,  investments that  continue with City supplied  broadband there this year.  It was promised back then to be a signature commercial development at the entrance to Hudson at 303 and Terrex Road.  We actively courted a Fortune 1000 headquarters 3 years ago.  But Hudson Crossing has largely been an economic disappointment, through the recession and after, when developments started back up in NO Ohio. The only recent  news was last year, when  the developer offered it as a site for one of the state marijuana grow facilities. Statewide voters defeated that plan, and now we are offered this large building with no details about who will occupy it and with how many jobs. . Putting a building of this type in a largely undeveloped commercial site defines what the development will look like going forward.  So to Hudson Crossings, say “goodbye Beachwood corporate offices ,” and “hello Streetsboro warehouses and distribution centers” as far as future commercial developments  are concerned.  Warehouses and distribution centers typically have less jobs and lower paying jobs, and with a budget that works off income tax receipts, we are shortchanging Hudson.   As I said before I voted “no,” an owner is free to do with their property as they please, as long as it meets code requirements. But we as a City and Schools don’t have to support it with our tax dollars by offering breaks.

Had I not pulled these items off the consent agenda, they would have passed, without comment. But all you will read about much time we spent on how residents may keep  chickens.  Our chickens will really come home to roost unless we start openly discussing more critical items.

Notes from the April 26 Special Council Workshop – Public information Meeting on Tax Credit Reduction

Takeaway: Before voters are asked to pay more in local income tax, we’ve got some ‘splaining to do.

City Council held the first of a two public information meetings in place of our normal workshop agenda this week. The evening started with a half hour presentation by City Manager Jane Howington on revenue sources, the state of our city budget and infrastructure needs as identified by citizens and City Council. The purpose of the presentation is an upcoming vote by Council as to whether we should put the question of a reduction in the local income tax credit on the ballot for a public vote this fall. You can read that resolution here.Tax Credit Reduction Presentation 4-26-2016_Page_01

The “credit reduction” means if you live in Hudson but work outside the city, you would pay an additional 25% in local income tax, which would go towards paying for infrastructure improvements. 70% of Hudson residents work outside of Hudson, and because we have a 100% local tax credit, they pay no local income tax to Hudson.  The proposal is to reduce that credit to 75%. On a $100,000 income, at a 2% local tax rate, the credit reduction would result in a increase of $500.

For a more detailed look at the budget, including City Manager Howington’s complete presentation, it’s here. 

We took comments and questions from 12 residents that night. There were many good questions that still need answers, including:

“How much revenue is expected?” “How was the 25% increase determined?””What other options were considered other than this one?” “How do we compare to other communities in terms of local rates?” “Will you show us details on expected revenue streams and specific projects?” “How will we know that improvements will be made city-wide?” “What do you mean by ‘Connectivity’?” “Have we given up on new business efforts?”

We also heard from residents who would be willing to pay an additional tax to receive more infrastructure development.

My comment: let’s not confuse the issue by calling this a “credit reduction,” call it what it is , “25% tax increase.”  If we can’t make the case for the need with the voters, by calling it what it is, we have no business asking.

Notes from the March 22 Council Workshop and the March 21 Joint Meeting with the Park Board. 

Council member resigns, we discuss use of Town Hall and the process for putting items on future agendas.

Ward 4 Council member Keith Smith started out the meeting by announcing his resignation, effective after the April 5 Council meeting.  Mr. Smith is moving to a new home in Ward 3, and he must resign his Ward 4 seat. The remaining six Council members will interview for his replacement, per our City Charter.   Since he just started this new term, the appointee  will serve until the next Council election in 2017, then run for election to finish the last two years in the four year term. Applications are open until April 15, in case you know someone who has lived in Ward 4 for at least two years. Ward 4 is the north end, bounded by Valley View to the west, Stow Road to the east and the Turnpike to the south.

Keith has been a diligent, forward-thinking  member of Council, his contributions will be greatly missed. It has been a pleasure serving with Keith these past three years, and I hope he will offer up his services to the City in the future.

We discussed the use of Town Hall, both the upstairs and downstairs. It was decided to eliminate the use of the upstairs Council chambers area and offices for meeting rentals. I suggested we offer up the meeting room at Ellsworth Meadows Golf Course to residents along with Barlow Community Center meeting rooms.  The downstairs (first floor) area of Town Hall was leased to Destination Hudson for a Visitors Center and to the Hudson Fire Museum. These will be good compatible uses for one of the few public buildings the City owns. I was concerned with a request to serve alcohol for social functions in the building.  Council agreed this would not be appropriate upstairs, but could be permitted downstairs. I don’t see the distinction, and was opposed to the idea. The others did not share my concern, so there will be social functions serving wine at Town Hall in the future once the space is renovated.

We also touched on a “Items for Future Agendas” area to be added to Workshop Agendas. I applauded the effort at more transparency, to give the public more chance to question and for Council to discuss items.  But I don’t feel the mere mention of a topic without accompanying detail and/or legislation replaces the Workshop-Council Meeting process or the opportunity for readings at three separate Council meetings and opportunity for public comment that I have requested recently.

The Park Board and Council met jointly this week to discuss Connectivity, Parks and Golf operations and the Parks Mission Statement. Parks members updated Council on Park Trails being constructed or planned in the near future. These are contained in the City’s Connectivity Plan. Parks, Golf Course operations and Public Properties functions have been consolidated from a management and operations standpoint in the past few months. This resulted in cost savings and better utilization of  resources, both personnel and equipment. At the same time, Parks receives a dedicated funding source from the income tax, requiring some accounting and charge backs between funds. The topic that night was whether there should be separate Park and Golf boards in the future. Most Park members agreed that having a single board, with a member or members representing golf interests would be the best model. This could open Ellsworth Meadows for use by non-golfers. The Parks mission statement was reviewed, and it was agreed to proceed with a version of the statement we proposed. (see Defining a mission for parks in Hudson  for the complete statement). Overall, Council was urging the Park Board to “think bigger” going forward, to explore their role in programming, new uses, and the environment.

Reminders: Ward 3 Forum, Monday March 28 7PM Barlow Community Center.

New trash pickup by zones begins May 1, 2017

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Notes from the March 15, 2016 Council Meeting 

Clearing up confusion on preferred trash haulers, status on road projects, voting policy on large ticket items, and the future of broadband were topics tonight.

The recent mailer to all residents from Hudson’s Preferred Trash Hauler, Republic Services, was discussed.  There is  confusion about what this program  means, what the rate is, and how this will effect current haulers.  I won’t restate all of the info. Please see City info page on this: http://www.hudson.oh.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=862.

Some road projects delayed. The extensive “facelift” of the Main St. block will be delayed because we have to rebid the project. No bids came in within the estimate. In Ward 3, the Norton/91 intersection did not receive any bids. Hopefully requests will be revised, acceptable bids received,  and these two projects will start this construction season, probably late this summer. Good news, we are in good shape for new sidewalks on Stoney Hill.

I took some heat from my earlier votes (see March 1 meeting below) on the Growth Management Allocation revision and the purchase of the old Ramco property since they were expected to be introduced and passed on the same night two weeks ago, but I voted to give both matters more time for Council discussion and public feedback. We will be voting on many requests for big ticket long term purchases in the coming months. Together these items will be larger than the $6.9 million YDC purchase that I still hear about, which happened before I was elected. I voted for both to pass, but made no apologies for allowing for more than one reading. I will take the same position in the future, in the interest of good government.

I was similarly concerned with releasing $1.1 million budgeted for broadband spending in one night, without further discussion. I am as impressed as anyone on Council with our technological progress on getting Velocity Broadband up and running in the past 6 months. I am concerned about some of the business projections, and we will discuss the financial and business side in more detail in the next month. Council agreed to cut that amount down to a $.5 million and revisit this as we get more progress reports. We are counting on a profitable system to fund commercial expansion in the future. I’m also concerned with increased talk about Velocity serving residential customers. That is not in our three year projection. The timetable may be moved up, but even then, the first phase of residential would be the old village area. I have been concerned from the beginning that Velocity not repeat the pattern of city sewer system which was village only, underwritten by everyone’s taxes. I don’t see a way under the current projections, that areas like Weston Hills or Western Reserve Estates could see service anytime in the future. Leaving us on the “outside looking in,” as many of us do with many other city services. We may have “signed on” to not receive sewer, or water, but that shouldn’t mean we continue to get second class service in a new city offering

Please don’t forget – Ward 3 Forum, Monday, March 28 at 7 PM Barlow Community Center. Bring your questions and comments. Lots to talk about, hope to see you there! 

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Notes from the March 8, 2016 Council Workshop

Deferring the Growth Management Plan, long range planning and budgeting for Stormwater, Connectivity and paying for it with a possible tax increase.

We received more info on the request to defer, or set aside the Growth Management Allocation System until a new plan is proposed by the end of the year. The System controls residential growth by allocating the number of residential housing units.  Since I have been on Council (2011) the annual allocation have not been used, in some cases they were carried forward to the next year.  The new Comprehensive Plan calls for a fresh look at this system, but we are approaching the beginning of the cycle and need to decide if we will follow the system this year or put it on hold. Staff would like us to put it on hold; I am concerned that larger multi-family could use this as an end-around to build out quickly. The Ordinance we agreed to limits the waiver to single family residences.  Council, the Planning Commission and public will all get a chance to weigh in on this during the process this year.

We received a large scale look at our stormwater and bridges in a very complete presentation by Engineering.  Following the pattern with our road program and connectivity, segments were ranked by degree of severity and given estimated costs. Stormwater projects include public ponds, dams, culverts, catch basins, storm sewer lines, manholes, and sink hole and washout repairs. Looking at the next 5 years, we have about $14 million in needed repairs, at a pace of about $2.7 million per year to keep up. This is the first time we have looked at stormwater issues this comprehensively, we now have a realistic look at our expenses and challenges.

The Connectivity Plan was also discussed relative to long term funding.  To build the top priority projects could cost about $15 million in current dollars, and if we addressed them at our current pace, it would take about 20-30 years to complete. This years sidewalk project will be on Stoney Hill Drive and up to the the existing portion on Sunset Drive. This would connect the  Sunset and Rt 91 areas to Colony Park, and those same areas out to Rt 91 and Drug Mart area.

Taxes. This will be the biggest issue before Council and the public in Hudson this year, bigger than First& Main Phase 2, or the Merino property.  I’ll give this topic its own page in the future. For now, the highlight is Council is considering asking the voters to approve a change in the income tax credit.  This would affect everyone who works outside of Hudson, and if approved by the voters, it would increase your local income tax rate by .5%.

About 70% of employed Hudson residents works outside of Hudson. Hudson’s local tax rate is 2%, and we offer residents a 100% credit for taxes payed to their employers city, so if you live in Hudson but work elsewhere, you pay no local income tax to Hudson. The proposal is to change that credit to 75%, so you would continue to pay your work city their rate, plus 25% of 2% (one half of a percent)  to Hudson as well. Some cities like Bay Village and Cleveland Heights offer no credit, so their residents pay a work city 2% (or whatever the rate is, Cleveland is proposing to go to 2.5%) and their home city 2%, for a total local tax of 4 or 4.5%. Ours would not be that large, but over 2%.

Council is considering using that extra revenue for infrastructure – roads, connectivity, stormwater, as outlined above. I’ll give you the pluses and minuses of each side of this topic  in the coming weeks. Also, I will have a Ward 3 Forum on Monday March 28 at 7 PM, Balrow Community Center. I’ll have the Connectivity Plan and Stormwater reports out, and we can discuss this.

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Notes from the March 1, 2016 Council Meeting

I vote against passing a  $ 4 million purchase in a single reading, with no opportunity for public comment, and stand against junking the Growth Management System.

Ohio Revised Code requires municipal governments to pass legislation only after three readings, or over the course of three meetings. This allows the public three opportunities to question and comments on the legislation.

An example of this is the Ordinance regulating waste hauling scheduling and collections passed that night. It received readings on Feb. 2, Feb. 16 and a third on March 1, after which we voted.  In certain circumstances, Council may choose to put legislation and ordinances on a “consent agenda,” with five affirmative votes, and suspend the rules for three readings.  In some cases, these are routine items, in others the calendar dictates quicker action.  Last year the Plain Dealer did an investigative story on what was perceived as an abuse of the “consent” system, and we on Hudson Council agreed to try to limit our use of consent items and allow most legislation to receive the required three readings.

There were eight items on the consent agenda last night, ranging from the annual request to allow seasonal outdoor sales at a local hardware store to change orders and some contract renewals. Among these eight was a resolution authorizing the purchase of the former RAMCO property on Hudson Drive for $3.9 million. Short term, part of this property is to house Hudson Public Power facilities, relocating from Owen Brown. The relocation is necessitated by the pending First & Main Phase 2 development on Owen Brown.

Long term, there would be development issues if we were to take market this property for commercial use again.  It has no public water, and the buildings would need to be razed. We will be into this property for much more than $4 million.  Council knows all of this, but the public does not. I feel it should be given the opportunity to learn more, make comments and ask questions. This does not happen if we introduce and vote on an item in one night under a consent agenda.

I did not feel burying a purchase of this size and scope among routine consent items was good government. People still complain to me about the YDC purchase, that it did not receive enough public discussion.

Since there were only five Council members in attendance, my vote alone was enough to push this purchase to the next meeting on March 15. If two other members join me then, (Councilman Hanink also voted “no” last night) we could give this purchase one more night for comments and questions, and finally vote on April 5.

Now its your turn. If you would like more answers on this $4 million purchase, please write us, call us or come to the March 15 meeting. I am trying to give the public a chance to be heard. 

The same holds for an ordinance that would toss out the Growth Management Allocation System. That was also supposed to receive a single night’s vote, but the votes were not there and it was left for another night. I am not in favor of tinkering with the Growth Allocation System that took so much time to devise and cost Hudson court battles to defend.  It seems to me that in the rush to accommodate more dense, multi-family development in Hudson, solving a non-existent problem,  we are going to throw away an unique development tool that serves us very well.

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Notes from the January 12, 2016 Council Workshop

Moving forward with City-wide Rubbish Hauler plan and making final changes to the Comprehensive Plan. 

There will be many changes in 2016, and City Council started in with one of the biggest ones at our first work session, or Workshop of the new year.

Rubbish pickup. Residents have been concerned that with up to six authorized rubbish haulers, each with their own schedules, many neighborhoods had trash out at the curb almost everyday of the week, which also leads to more traffic. Other concerns were the cost to residents and the type of recycling options available. When members of the Environmental Committee researched this, they found that Hudson residents were paying more and getting less than residents in neighboring communities.

In 2015 Council decided that a preferred hauler system was a good first step to dealing with some of these issues. All of us did not feel comfortable in dictating a “single hauler” for everyone to use. Instead we opted to request proposals for a “preferred hauler” –one hauler set rates and devises only a few days pickup schedule. This is the system that Stow uses.

Four rubbish haulers responded to the quote request, and both “single” (exclusive) and “preferred” rates were quoted. The difference between the two was minimal, so Council agreed to let the preferred hauler system be implemented. The contracted price will also include recycling through smaller toters rather than bins, and residents with small amounts of trash will have a bag option. Pickup dates will eventually be set by legislation.

This will impact every resident in Hudson, regardless of whether they choose to go with the preferred hauler, as pickup days for all haulers will likely change.  The result will be fewer days of trash at curbside, better recycling options and lower prices for those who use the preferred hauler.  Other haulers may also choose to match the preferred hauler rates and services if they wish.  It will hopefully be implemented by late spring.

Comprehensive Plan review. Council finally had its chance to offer opinions on this plan that has been under discussion for over a year now.  I offered a list of changes. One was to leave the issue of the Recreation Center in the plan, while removing some of the mandates to do another study.  The Plan alone should not tell us how to spend money. I feel if residents feel strongly enough about a Rec Center and want to put it on the ballot, the City should work with them.  There is no way a Center could be built or operated from the existing budget.

I also felt that there was too much of an emphasis on Downtown in the Plan, and a feeling that areas outside downtown are fine as they are, no improvements are needed and in fact new development should be restricted.  I don’t agree. Whether its broadband, sidewalks or other services, we shouldn’t have “two Hudsons,”  a section that has the services and one that may never have any. Expressing it in the Comp Plan at least acknowledges that the situation exists, and that we should aspire to make changes.

There’s a section at the beginning of the Plan that summarizes the document by envisioning Hudson in 2030. This is what I added to that section, and the rest of Council approved:

More than thirty five years after the 1993 Village-Township merger, visitors find it difficult to identify the old borders that used to be so apparent.   As former township roads were upgraded and the Connectivity Plan became a reality, residents of the former township also had access to sidewalks and paths. Utilities were extended. With more areas receiving city water service, new fire hydrants brought a new level of safety and decreased insurance rates city-wide.  A push for extending sewer service came at the right time before more environmental regulations further restricted septic systems.

If only we can make it so! Have a great year!

Notes from the Oct. 6 Council Meeting

Broadband, Architectural replacement standards, Oak Grove lighting and economic development.

We covered a wide variety of topics on the consent agenda. Highlights for Ward 3. Oak Grove park will get new field lights, replacing the 30 year old lighting. Oak Grove is also consideration for a path to Weston, and for moving the recycling center currently on Owen Brown to back behind the Jaycees Haunted House. The recycling area move was brought up at the Environmental Awareness Committee on Monday. Not sure how I feel about that. Weston neighbors may have an opinion.

We also voted to award contracts for broadband services. So far, so good. Have to keep an eye if residential is included and how that would unfold.

There was a hearing on Arch standards for the Historic District. Not a Ward 3 concern, but a first step to some enhanced code enforcement throughout town. Once the issue of acceptable substitute material is resolved, we can begin looking at ways of valuing our 50 year old homes the same as we do our 150 year old ones. We may all appreciate Hudson’s historic area; not all of us choose to live there. We should be preserving all of our neighborhoods.

I spoke about economic development as we voted to change some of the responsibilities of the Economic Advisory Board. Hudson draws on many dedicated volunteers who bring their professional expertise to many of our boards and commissions. I am concerned that we are allowing the discussion of what we are doing in economic development to take place at this board and in other places out of the public view, what I called “off stage.” Off stage also includes getting email updates on economic development activities instead of hearing them at Council meetings. The only time the public hears about economic development is when they are asking for budget items like Atlas Advertising. Then they never hear any accomplishments. What we do hear and read about is bad news, like Jo Ann’s announcing the cutting of 103 Hudson jobs.  I will continue to push for more public discussion of economic development. Specific deals are subject to Executive sessions, but our general progress in this department should be reported on just as we hear about Public Works, Engineering, etc.

What you may have missed from the Ward 3 Open Forum on Sept. 28

No Council meetings or workshops this week as this is one of the “five week” months. Instead I’ll summarize the recent Ward 3 meeting.  We had over 2 dozen residents in attendence from all parts of Ward 3, and a wide variety of questions and topics were discussed.

Many attended to discuss the recommended S. Hayden-Ogilby bridge connector in the 2015 Draft Comprehensive Plan.  All were opposed, and many questioned the process and why residents in their area were not consulted. We were fortunate to have City Engineer Thom Sheridan in attendance. Also contributing was Hudson resident and AMATS Planning Administrator Curtis Baker. AMATS is the transportation metro planning agency for this region. Mr. Baker explained that AMATS does not have the Ogilby connector on their list, and would view it as a neighborhood-to-neighborhood connector rather than a citywide or regional one and would not have funding. He contrasted this to the proposed Hines Hill rail crossing bridge, which is on the AMATS list but very far down. Mr. Sheridan also expressed his opinion that an Ogilby connector would be a neighborhood project and be very expensive and difficult to fund. He stated that Hines Hill has received funding for studies and some preliminary engineering, which puts it  ahead of other bridge projects. Residents in attendance were uniformly opposed, and wanted the item removed from the plan regardless of funding or priority. Many left the meeting at 7:30 to attend a Planning Commission hearing on the Comp Plan. A resident returned later to our meeting to inform us the Planning Commission voted to remove the Ogilby connector from their recommendation to City Council.

One resident wanted to discuss Rt 303 and 91 traffic, and asked about a roundabout there. There was also concern for drivers not leaving intersections clear between green lights and gridlocking the intersection at rush hours. I will ask about enforcement of “do not block intersection” signs there.

City support for Phase 2 of the High School Tennis Court project was discussed. This Phase would cost about $900k to build four more courts, a pavilion and lighting for all courts. The resident felt that the Park Board, Staff and Council were not sending clear signals on possible city participation in funding. My opening position was that if the City were to participate in any way, it would have to be with Park funding, and it would need to be part of an overall Parks mission to provide recreation that included tennis. Further, if the City were involved, residents would have to have access, even during school hours in my opinion. There was also concern of flooding at Whitehorse Acres pond, which some resident feel relates to the 1992 tennis court construction.

Other questions were is Phase 2 of First & Main on track? (yes). What is going on with Atlas Marketing? (I was not in favor, don’t see any results) Why are there school zone flashers on No Hayden Parkway (Safe Routes to Schools funding paid for them). Why are we competing with Windstream and Time Warner for Broadband? (no good options for business service now, hopefully competition will create more options as it will take Hudson a long time to serve all areas, especially Ward 3 which is many years away).

I also asked about code enforcement, which was a big issue at the Spring Open Forum.  Residents asked about restrictions on trailers they see behind homes, whether firepits are allowed anywhere on a property and snow shoveling of sidewalks. I noted that Stow has a program where seniors and disabled can sign up with the City, and the high school sports teams shovel them in return for contributions to their athletic fund. I will try to find out more.

It was also noted that the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the NEORSD stormwater fees and they will be re-instituted soon. This affects the Brandywine watershed only;  most resident in Ward 3 are not included.  With the fees comes more money for stormwater projects in Hudson, and we certainly have our share of those.

Notes from the  Sept. 8 Workshop and Sept. 15 Council Meeting

Five year plan budget forecast. Council and staff consider these documents as setting the table for annual budget discussions.  The five year plan is a forecast of trends, of finances, and capital items. It takes on special significance because we will have competing interests in the budget for items like road overlays, First & Main Phase Two, a reconstruction of Barlow Road from the railroad crossing west to and including the Terex intersection, relocating the school bus garage, city salt dome and Hudson Public Power facilities from downtown, sidewalk and path connectivity and the speed that we expand broadband service areas.  At the same time, our carry over balance has lost $1 million in annual interest revenue when compared to 2009, which begs the question for me -should we be leaving that much money “in the bank” when it gets almost no interest, or could we put some of it to better use and return on projects today?

“Funds in Lieu” Sidewalk Fund.  Hudson has a limited budget to build sidewalks and paths. The Connectivity Plan, which essentially “fills in the gaps” in our sidewalk grid would take almost $17 million to construct.  We are budgeting about $100,000 a year.  “Funds in LIeu,” which was passed by Council 6-1, would require new construction to either build a sidewalk, or if there are no adjacent segments, contribute to a fund to build  sidewalks elsewhere in Hudson.  This way we don’t create additional “sidewalks to nowhere,” while hopefully completing a few. The controversy you may have read about was requiring industrial parks to also contribute or build. The majority of Council felt that modern office parks like Hudson Crossing consider those who use a bus to get to work. Allstate, Little Tikes and Jo Ann are all on a route that receives 20 runs each day with out of town workers. Not all of these future stops will be in each office cul de sac. Seasons Greene Eco-Industrial Park, which boasts a low carbon impact as part of its development, requested a waiver to not construct sidewalks the night before Council was to vote on legislation.  Planning Commission granted that waiver, which means this Eco-Park will not be required to install sidewalks. Hopefully now it will be the last one.

Summit County InterGovernmental Memorandum of Understanding for Job Creating and Tax Revenue Sharing. Version 3.0 (aka the “anti-Poaching Agreement”) This is a renewal and slight change to an agreement that if a Summit County community loses a business to another community using tax incentives, that the winning community compensates the losing community for lost tax revenue over three years.   Unfortunately, Hudson has been the beneficiary of this most of the time, as we lose business to places like Twinsburg that have ready to occupy or build spaces for business expansion where we may not. This is the third time a version of this has come up for vote in the past 12 months. The manner this came back for a vote the second time with political maneuvering was not pretty. I didn’t comment on this the other night, because I am tired of discussing this issue. I wish  the City and County would have spent the effort actually developing more business and resulting tax revenue instead of squabbling about how we divvy up a shrinking tax base.

So even though Hudson has gained, I remain opposed. Here’s why: We came close to landing a business last year that would have been very good for Hudson, but under this formula, after compensating everyone –the Hudson schools are made whole for lost property taxes, the set aside funds in our budget and sharing with the losing community– the general fund would have taken in almost no increase for three years.  A lot of work for no return. This type of agreement is a disincentive to development in Summit County, based on an incorrect assumption that communities are out “poaching” or actively courting neighboring communities businesses.

It passed, though without any great praise by Council members that night, by a 5-2 vote (Kelemen, Smith)

Comprehensive Plan. First Public Hearing before Planning Commission Sept. 15.  This document is in its final review before the Planning Commission, and later will be discussed by City Council.  One of the recommendations is to construct a connector bridge  between S. Hayden Parkway where it ends at Ravenna St. over the tracks in roughly the same path as the existing footbridge, and connect to Ogilby Drive near Stoney Hill. The purpose would be to create more alternative routes to take traffic away from the center of town.  A number of residents of both ends of this connection expressed concerns with this plan, and urged the removal of this recommendation. Planning Commission took no action, and will continue their public hearing and discussion at a special meeting on Sept. 28th. More on this at the “Neighborhood Concerns” tab on this site.

Notes from August 11 Workshop and August 18 Council Meeting

Many topics, some you may have read about, some not. A quick summary of each.

Broadband marketing. I was the only “no” vote on a $50,000 marketing contract for City Broadband. The awarding of this contract was not discussed prior to the meeting, and it was one for emergency(one reading) legislation. I am in favor of extending broadband for business, but less so for a plan to extend it to “commercial” places like apartments, WRA and Laurel Lake,  and then downtown, years before other parts of town would receive it. We never discussed these aspects in an open meeting. The night we voted to spend $800k to launch a pilot program we had over an hour in executive session, where I expressed my concerns. I was not happy with the initial marketing plan you saw this summer, I think it unfairly built up expectations, especially for areas like Ward 3, which are years away from any kind of service. I was hoping the marketing contract discussion would give us an opportunity to finally have a public discussion rather than having ads and press releases state Council’s position. Unfortunately in my opinion, this contract was fast-tracked and any public discussion will have to wait.

Comprehensive Plan is now into approval stages.  There will be a Public Hearing on this plan at Planning Commission on Sept. 14 at 7:30. Later, Council will have a Public Hearing and discussion. I’m concerned that a number of special interests have inserted pet projects that Council may have to fund if this is passed as written. For example, a bridge is being proposed to connect Ogilby/Stoney Hill with S. Hayden Parkway to serve as a downtown bypass. Should this really be a priority? More on this later.

Brine Well. We have hard water in this area, and Hudson City Water must be treated with salt just like most home systems. The costs of this salt goes up.  We are also sitting on large brine deposits which could help eliminate this cost going forward. The initial investment is almost $1 million, which gives us a ten year payback. This money would come from the Water Fund, not the general budget.  This is a good investment if we want to stay in the Water business. I think we should, since we can’t depend on our Cleveland or Akron to dictate our future.

Turnpike Trail.  The trail from Stow Road to Hudson-Aurora  has been a great addition. We are examining the feasibility of expanding that trail from Hudson-Aurora to 91, and then continue from there to Prospect. It would run under the First Energy transmission lines much as it does on school property near the Land Lab site.

First steps to getting school buses out of downtown and developing First & Main Phase 2. We approved spending for a consultant to develop a plan for the city owned property called Koberna by Terex Road and Hudson Drive. The school bus garage and salt dome would move from their downtown sites to this location, freeing up the current spot on Owen Brown for development.

Charter Review Items go to voters, including an increase for Council.  We formally approved putting a single ballot item on several Charter changes on the fall ballot. Mayor Currin proposed a increase of Council compensation from the current $10 a month to $80 a meeting, not to exceed $160 a month. This would match the compensation paid to School Board members, and update a figure that may not have changed since we went to a Charter in 1958. The thinking is that for those who choose to serve should at least be able to cover a sitter or other expenses. The hope was that this would encourage a more diverse Council and not just a lot of retirees. I am not retired, but it would be difficult to serve if I did not own my own business. We did not vote ourselves an increase, we voted to allow Hudson residents to decide.

 Summer Update thru August 4 Council Meeting

Council was on a several week summer break from late June through mid July. This is a summary of critical topics since then. 

Broadband launch. You probably have read that we launched a new city service, Velocity Broadband. Hudson currently has a broadband “loop” around Hudson that connects city facilities to one another.  Because we have municipal electric utility, we have the poles, equipment and crews necessary to establish a “backbone” of service.

Council has been concerned of the quality of broadband service offered by the private sector. Many businesses find the quality of service lacking, and this could be hurting attract and retain business. Council urged staff to examine ways to expand our broadband to serve business, and what you read about in July was the first phase in a business park.

I’m encouraged that we are taking these initial steps, and I am supportive of broadband going forward. My enthusiasm is more restrained when it comes to residential service. We discussed the steps involved in a phases in Executive Sessions, so residents were not aware of our deliberations. I am not in favor of Executive Sessions on this topic going forward. There will be difficult decisions to make when residential is considered, and everyone needs to hear about it.  My concern is that we not follow the same patterns of utility service to the village areas only, which is how it looks to roll out. I realize that not all areas can receive the service at once, but we must be careful to assure that all residents will have access.

Charter Review. Hudson operates under a Charter from the State of Ohio. This functions as our “Constitution,” which allows us to set our own rules as long as they conform to the general rules of the State. Every five years we are required to convene a Charter Review Commission made up of appointed residents. Their charge is to look at the Charter and decide if changes or updates are required. The Commission did a good job, met several times over three months and suggested some changes. These are good changes, but I termed them as “inside baseball” type items, bringing the Charter inline with current practices, and not requiring multiple ballot issues that could go on for pages.  I urged that we combine them into one ballot issue rather that putting one one set of changes ahead of others.

Code Enforcement.  We took the first steps at taking on updating our Code Enforcement policies. This will be a reform of the process when an enforcement issue needs legal action, which is the extreme case. Once this is addressed, we can begin looking at what we as a community want in terms of the look of our neighborhoods. Some are concerned that the heavy hand of government will intrude in new areas, particularly in the old township. Others see neighborhoods in decline and the need for higher standards.  I hope readers will write, call or come to meetings (My next Ward 3 Forum is Sept. 28) and let me know what you think.

Sidewalks and Connectivity. You may have noticed some sidewalk construction this summer. Sidewalks on Prospect and Boston Mills were on the Connectivity list and addressed this year. A new sidewalk on Parkside in Hudson Park Estate was funded in part by Safe Routes to Schools federal money. Hudson Parks will begin construction this fall on an all-purpose, all weather path from Stow Road running up to the pond and connecting to other paths. I pushed for this, as I felt requiring walkers and bikers to share the drive was not safe and not  welcoming to adjacent neighbors who may not choose to drive there. A path on the Clocktower Green was discussed in connection to Main Street road work taking place next summer.  A curbside sidewalk will be installed on the Gazebo Green. This path in question will take walkers from the Church St. intersection up to the midpoint flagpole crosswalk. It has been termed the “meandering path” because it is not depicted as a straight line. This is purposeful, to avoid removing several trees which are so important to the look of the Green. It was not taken further north towards the Clocktower due to the fact that a crosswalk is not feasible at Aurora St.

Cottage Housing. Not being proposed anywhere outside of the village core, so not directly a Ward 3 issue. Cottage Housing would be a zoning change to allow smaller units clustered together. This type of development doesn’t exist outside of a few urban areas in the northwestern US.  A developer had asked about this possibility for Hudson, and Planning Commission  began examining the issue in concept, without a specific site plan or proposal, in May. Many residents were concerned; the developer later decided to not develop in this way. Planning Commission wanted to issue a “no decision.”  I felt, and Council agreed 6-0, that it was not fair to residents to bring up a topic and then in essence table when so much work and so much emotion had been generated, so we sent it back to Planning Commission for them to give us an opinion. I have my doubts as to how this will work, but I would like to rule it in or out as a housing option as long as we have gone this far.

Utility delinquency policy.  Hudson bills almost $23 million in utility billing (water, sewer, electric) and our delinquent receivables are about $250,000, about a 1% rate.  While this is not a bad number and staff is commended for this, Council is concerned about our collection policy, particularly as it applies to commercial customers. We have had a few commercial customers that required “write offs” for bad debt. We have some who go so many month is arrears that our reasonable option is to “certify” the amount to the county have have it put on their tax bill. This gives the City more protection to collect the amount. Certifying the amount is like sending it off to collection, it leaves our receivables as goes in another line for payment. But as I said at the August 4 meeting, it should be the last resort.  We have seen businesses use the process as a payment plan, then go about expanding. I don’t feel this is fair to Hudson or the other ratepayers. Hudson has to pay for the power that we deliver to that commercial customer. When they use that service to run their business and don’t pay us promptly, it is as if they put a collection jar out front and asked us all to chip in. No one wants to shut a business down because we have to turn off their power. But economic decisions should not drive utility operations. A business that can’t afford to pay its electric bill isn’t much of a business. No reason to make all of us pay to keep them open.

Notes from the June 9  Council Workshop.  I don’t agree that Hudson should start extending City Water to residents outside Hudson, when so many residents would like the service and can’t get it.   Short meeting to set up items for votes at next week’s City Council Meeting before we go on a month-long break.

We will advertise for bids for a path into Hudson Springs Park. I pushed hard for that path on the Connectivity Committee. I believe all our parks should have safe non-vehicular access, and not force walkers or bikers to share a drive. Its good to see that will happen soon. A park should be welcoming to its adjacent neighbors who may prefer walking or riding there instead of driving. It’s also good to see a few other of our high priority connections like sidewalks on Boston Mills Road and Prospect Street finally under construction.

Also noise walls are in the works for residents of Jesse Drive adjacent to the Turnpike. Kudos to the Turnpike Commission for offering this grant to mitigate the increased traffic noise . Now if we could get ODOT to look at I480 in Hudson…

Extending Hudson Water to residents outside Hudson. We will vote next week on allowing a Boston Heights resident to tap into a Hudson waterline that was built years ago to serve Camp Butler and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This resident already receives one benefit not afforded many residents outside the old village – a fire hydrant in front of their home. Now they would like Hudson Water rather than drilling a new well. Nothing against this homeowner, or Boston Heights, but providing this service is wrong; I am not in favor. There are too many areas Hudson Water could serve but doesn’t serve in Hudson. Many Hudson residents are forced to drill wells –either because they are in the Akron service area or they aren’t served by Hudson Water, the old village system. Those of us who lack these services knew this going in.

New services, whether they are water line extensions or broadband, should not follow the same pattern of proximate coverage from a century ago. I combine broadband with water because these are both crucial 21-century services. Usable water will be an economic edge, as will broadband.

We had a lengthy executive session on initiating our broadband service last week. I’m still sorting out what I can and can’t share from that meeting for a future blog. I can say the initial push will be to commercial customers. Which is why I can also say with a high degree of confidence that a Boston Heights business will stand a better chance of receiving Hudson broadband than a Hudson resident living in Weston Hills or Pine Trails Circle. And that is also wrong!

This issue is  more than extending water to one resident. There are proposals to further extend our lines to serve another camp, and this will open adjacent Boston Heights developments to request our water. Based on our meeting, the rest of Council has no problem with this, serving more of Boston Heights as they increase our paying customers.

While Broadband or Water are enterprise funds to be run out of fees like business, they are not businesses. They are owned by a municipality, which has used and will likely continue to use taxpayer funds as operating lines of capital. Boston Heights or other communities residents don’t pay Hudson taxes and should not receive the same benefits as Hudson residents. Hudson customers of Cleveland or Akron Water pay a stiff premium over rates paid by their residents for this same reason. If you agree that Hudson services should be reserved for Hudson residents and businesses, please write me akelemen@hudson.oh.us   I will pass your comments on to my fellow Councilmen and staff, as I appear to be all alone on this issue.

Notes from the March 24 Council Workshop.  Council decides on trash pickup approach and reviews Hudson Public Power rate recommendation.   Council received a presentation on trash pickup options and a recommendation from the Environmental Awareness Committee and the Public Works Department.  The recommendation was to go to a single-hauler – a negotiated city-wide contract with a private firm. This was based on over 500 responses to a survey, the benefits being potential reduced costs to residents, few “trash days,” and reduced truck traffic.  The majority of Council felt that single hauler would not be as well-received as a “preferred hauler” system like the one used in Stow.  We believe Preferred Hauler allows the City to negotiate a rate and services (such as 65 gallon recycling toters instead of bins) while still giving residents a choice.  Council also asked Public Works to develop a criteria for zoned pickup areas so that all residents in a neighborhood would be picked up on a given day, regardless of their hauler.  This does not reduce traffic but cuts down on the number of days trash is out at the curb. Public Works will develop a request for proposals; Council will review any contracts before implementation. The earliest a preferred hauler system would begin would be a year from now, given licensing agreements in place with haulers.

Council also received a proposal for adjusting the electric rate structure for commercial and residential customers of Hudson Public Power. Rates for the City -owned utility are set by Council. Mr. John Courtney of Courtney & Associates is our consultant on power issues. He recommended changing the base rate structure, which has remained unchanged since 1996. This adjustment, which would increase rates for most customers, will allow the utility to better reflect the actual costs of service. We approved this increase, it will written up as legislation, and a public hearing will be held before a Council vote.

   Notes from the March 17 Council Meeting. Town Hall leases, wells for spurned Akron Water customers,and the role of Council in long-term budgets. I shared my concerns again about the Town Hall lease. I have no problem with Destination Hudson or the Fire Museum; they are both quality operators who will be a great use of historic public space. I still have concerns that having those tenants without defining the City’s fiscal relationship is not the way to start a new venture. We can’t assume that the City will contribute more money or personnel into the operation of the first floor area. Without a defined budget, Council leaves itself open to more requests and assumptions we will provide services.  We have collectively been reluctant to commit either way, and that is a mistake.

We also took a step in a short term solution to the Akron Water moratorium as it applies to new construction. We will go back to allowing the drilling of water wells in areas served by Akron.  Not the best solution, and more expensive for the owners, but the one of the only tools we have now.

Council also discussed whether or not it wanted to continue “in depth” department presentations, and if so, what they would look like.  We began these a few years ago when we realized a brief budget meeting once a year was not helping us understand what was driving costs and how capital items were budgeted. Hudson is a good financial position now, but the trend line is not positive. Council has to look at costs, and understand the decisions like purchasing equipment that is not a stored properly due to limitations, and then has a shorter life and needs replaced more often.  We also have many competing big ticket but one time items like a Municipal Center, Service Garage, broadband introduction, and First & Main Phase 2, along with a list of other emerging items like the future of community cable TV.  We are elected to make these types of decisions. Just because we are not getting the info we need or it takes longer than we expected is no reason to abandon the process. I am glad the majority of us felt this way, and the presentations will continue.  I am on the Ad Hoc Financial committee that will be working on trying to make these relevant to all concerned.

Notes from the March 10 Council Workshop.     Thinking of warmer weather ahead – Paving contracts,  organic lawn treatments,”sharing the road” with bikes and continuing the theme of summer, leasing Town Hall for Visitor Center/Fire Museum

The city will be awarding a $3 million paving contract as part of our regular streets program. An additional item was paving the two gravel lots at Barlow Farm Park. If you use those parks for baseball, soccer, the garden or just walking, you know the lots are muddy in the spring and dusty in the summer. Paving was certainly needed. I was concerned with the extra run off that will be created, and noted that the neighborhoods have already been experiencing flooding issues.  I urged the Parks to consider natural bio swails and other stormwater management features next to these newly paved lots that will lessen flooding impacts.

Council received a comparison bid for organic-based turf maintenance for downtown greens. This was at the request of some residents, who had concerns about pesticides and use of chemicals. Hudson has not used pesticides, but has used chemical herbicides and fertilizers. The south green along Ravenna Street has been completely chemical-free, or organic for years.  The cost to switch to this program would be around $7000 more per year, over 4 times more than what we are paying now. We would also need to stick to such a program for 3-4 years to see results, so our initial increase would be closer to $50,000 when compared to the current lawn care program. There was concern about the smell of organic products, which are applied more frequently and have a prolonged “organic smell.” The majority of us felt that our lawn applications are by licensed contractors who apply a legal product under EPA guidelines. I felt that “going organic” was an admirable personal choice,  but not one we should ask everyone to underwrite. We did agree to try to an organic fertilizer only for a small increase in annual price, but to stay with the rest of our current program.  This allows us to switch back if the smell is offensive.  The south green will remain “chemical free” as it has been, and I suggested that we post that fact for residents who may have concerns about chemically treated lawns.

The final item was to review options for “Share the road” signage or markings for bicycles.  As bicycles are considered “vehicles” under Ohio law, signage would serve to remind motorists that bike riders have the same rights to roads. We considered specific routes that bikers use most frequently for a sign program. We discussed “sharrow” pavement markings but did not go with those at this time. The signs may cost $30,000 over a course of years in an annual install program. There is confusion on how bikes and cars interact on our roads; hopefully signs will add some level of safety for both motorists and bikers.

We had a discussion on the lease agreements for the first floor of Town Hall.  There would be 10 year agreements for a Visitors Center and Fire Museum at a nominal annual rent. I believe these are appropriate and compatible uses by credible and reputable organizations (the second floor would remain as is for Council and other meetings). The City of Hudson’s initial contribution to these non-profits is the space and the maintenance of the buildings. I did have concerns prior to last weeks vote about the City’s position on further financial assistance in developing the space or paying for ongoing operations either directly or indirectly.  We have not been clear about this, and that point was still not clarified this week. I will continue to press for a 5 year projection of city costs which will hopefully put us on record as to our intentions on assistance.

Notes from the March 3 Council Meeting. Water lines, Paying for expanded Fireworks Event and Visitor Center/Fire Museum lease.  Council had a first reading of an ordinance changing a way customers can tie into a southern water line. Businesses that want to locate in Hudson may be turned away if they are in the Akron service area. This existing Hudson line may allow some to tie in and get service. This puts Hudson back in control of its business future, even if it is in a limited area.

We heard a presentation on expanding the annual Fireworks event in the Barlow Road area to a day long event with music and vendors.  As proposed this would cost the City an additional $10,000 on top of the $23,000 in taxpayer expense for the normal Fourth of July display. My concern was that the number of events and the demands they put on city services have greatly expanded. We went from 40 or so events in 2007 to over 90 events scheduled this year. The cost of putting on these events for taxpayers has also doubled to almost $100k.  Events are great and are a reflection of our vibrant, involved community.  But not all of them need closed streets (where most the of the expenses are incurred) or increased city services to be successful. We must start controlling costs, and Council will be discussing some guidelines for city event expenses at a future workshop. The good news on this event is the Hudson Community Foundation has a resident who will underwrite this additional city expense. This will allow the expanded schedule, an improved fireworks display and a performance by the Akron Symphony set to fireworks to go forward for this year. Hopefully this generous contribution to offset our taxpayer expenses will set the table for discussions with other groups who want to add or expand their events.

We had a first reading of a lease agreement with Destination Hudson and the Fire Museum for leasing the ground floor of Hudson Townhall. While I think the use will be a good one for Hudson and will ultimately  be approved, I was not in favor of suspending the required three readings and voting on the lease that night. I want us to be on the record as to the City’s role in the ongoing operation. This can best be accomplished by knowing our projected expenses and discussing how much support is expected and we are willing to provide. I asked for that type of discussion on January 27 and was promised one before the lease was ready to sign. Hopefully we will have a full discussion before a vote is taken to understand this is a new type of arrangement for the City of Hudson.

Reminder- Hudson City Council and the Hudson City School District Board of Education will have a joint meeting this Wednesday, March 11, 7 PM a the High School Media Center. I don’t know if this is a first for us, but it is certainly unique to have two government bodies sit down together in a public meeting for both. I’m looking forward to exchanging views. Hope you can attend or follow online.

Notes from the Feb. 24 Council Workshop. Pedestrian Fund finally taking shape.  The many segments of “sidewalks to nowhere” were built by developers who are required to install a sidewalk as a condition for development. In some cases, there are other segments of sidewalks nearby ( as on Rt. 91) In other cases, the proposed sidewalk section may be the only one in an area.  In these cases the builder may request the sidewalk requirement be waived, and in some cases it is.  Should this funding proposal  become part of our ordinances, a developer would either build as sidewalk as is currently required, or if there are no other sidewalks in the area,  contribute the cost towards a fund that can be used to fill other “gaps.”  This allows the City to complete more sections.

Completing sidewalks is one of the frequent comments heard in the Comprehensive Plan process.

Hope to see many of you at the Hudson Community Expo this Saturday Feb. 28, 10AM – 3PM at East Woods School.  You may see me handing out T-shirts at the Safe Routes Hudson table or answering questions at the City of Hudson booth. 

Notes from the Feb. 17 Council Meeting.    On receiving and giving grants, and general city responsibilities. Council acknowledge the gift of a automated CPR device from University Hospitals.  We tabled a storm water policy for dealing with issues on private property until we have  further discussion. Resident Marc Gross followed up on his Hub Times letter   http://hudsonhubtimes.com/opinion/2015/02/04/letter-concerned-about-hudson-s-zoning-and-code-enforcement and repeated his concern for addressing code enforcement issues.  Concerns about the upkeep of neighboring property is one of the most frequent complaints I receive. I wil have a Ward 3 Forum on March 30th at 7PM at Barlow Community Center and I hope to have this as one of the items for discussion.

Finally, we voted to make a grant donation of $2500 to Hudson Community First for a Heroin awareness program.  I voted “yes” as an acknowledgment that heroin addiction is a community problem. I’m not so sure now that an awareness grant is the right approach. A city should not be in the grant business.  We are not a charitable foundation, our funds are taken in taxes. We have primary responsibilities to our residents to use those funds for the general health and safety of the community.  Coming off a few days of bad whether and bad road conditions, I’m reminded that snow plowing and general maintenance are right up at the top of the list. You may have read that we are running out of road salt and have to be careful in our supply level. Streets in your neighborhood are not being salted to conserve supply until more shipments come in.  This is because we couldn’t buy enough ahead because we don’t have the facilities to store it.  We knew the need for a new salt barn two years ago, and even last summer it was discussed and remains in the plans.  The past few days we are paying for that delay in untreated side streets. That is the kind of strategic item Council should have front and center on our agenda. We spend too much time at our meetings on resolutions and grants, not enough on strategic issues.

Notes from the Feb. 10 Council workshop.  Municipal Broadband Presentation.   One topic tonight – the details of the “Broadband Needs Assessment and Business Plan”  as presented by our consultants on the topic, Magellan Advisors.  For details and a copy of the report, please go to the City’s website, link here: http://hudson.oh.us/index.aspx?NID=714

This two hour presentation and discussion took us through the results of the broadband survey and Magellans’s evaluation of the need for broadband service in Hudson.  Over 500 residents participated, and most indicated that they had multiple devices on the internet, 95% considered it a crucial part of their lives, and “75% experienced moderate, severe or total disruption of their service from internet problems with reliability and speed.”Broadbandproposed deployment zones

There were fewer business responses, but similar results.  58% of businesses told us their current internet services do not meet their needs.  As we move increasing into a digital society, Hudson’s providers seem unwilling to make the investment in state of the art service, specifically broadband.  Surveys and industry trends tell us this will hamper our economic development.  Conversely,  having a a state of the art system could attract businesses and increase our tax base.

Since the City of Hudson already has a “backbone” of broadband fiber running throughout the city, connecting city facilities, we are part of the way to a test implementation.   Hudson Public Power serves a large part of the city;  we have the infrastructure, personnel and equipment in place to make an investment in Hudson broadband pay off where it may not work in the private sector.

The plan is to introduce broadband service in a few zones (see map) centered on businesses.  The investment for this would be between $5 and 6.5 million. We are looking toward HPP’s operations to fund this initial outlay. Should subscribers come on in sufficient numbers, we could see a payback in 9 years.

I am in favor of exploring broadband for business as an economic development tool. I did have a problem with one of Megallan’s recommendations – to simultaneously offer broadband to residences in the same area. The majority of residences in the initial zones are in the downtown area bounded by Oviatt, Atterbury, Owen Brown and Veterans Way.  With the 9 year payback, it could be years before service expands to even close in neighborhoods, let alone most areas in Ward 3 which are further out and would require even higher capital outlays than initial $5 or 6 million in that fairly concentrated area.

While I realize not all areas could receive service at once, I reminded Council that the development of utilities in Hudson has historically been uneven.  We provide City water, sewer, and electric services but most residences have only one or none of these. While there are reasons why this took place over the past century, I cautioned that broadband service as a utility should not repeat these “no service” areas. We should establish a policy from the start that assures that everyone would receive an opportunity to receive the service in a timely manner.  An equal access policy needs to be written into documents  creating a broadband utility that would bind future Councils and administrations to deliver broadband throughout Hudson, and not skip neighborhoods like our other City utilities.

ANOTHER “HUB” CORRECTION FROM A PRIOR MEETING.  –“TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS COULD INCLUDE ROUNDABOUTS IN HUDSON” http://hudsonhubtimes.com/news%20local/2015/02/11/traffic-solutions-could-include-roundabouts-in-hudson

I don’t feel this story accurately summed up the topic. We were voting on and discussing a contract for an engineering consultant to assist with the three Rt. 91 intersections north of the Turnpike. The federal money are receiving restricts both the area under consideration and the extent of the work.  The question was asked by Council President DeSaussure as an aside as to whether roundabouts were being considered.  The answer was that it was not likely in this location, but that the consultant would not rule anything in or out prior to the study.  The type of roundabout suggested was much smaller than Tallmadge Circle. It would be more like the size of the one on Liberty Road in Twinsburg.

“THE REST OF THE STORY” MY TAKE ON NEWS YOU DIDN’T READ RECENTLY. I haven’t been keeping up with meetings since the move to Tuesdays this year.  Rather than recap a bunch of old news, I ‘ll give you my take on what was missing – “the rest of the story” from some recent  news

RAMCO ASKS FOR TAX INCENTIVE FOR $12 MILLION INVESTMENT   

http://hudsonhubtimes.com/business/2015/02/08/ramco-asks-for-tax-incentive-for-12-million-investment

Ramco’s commitment to Hudson is truly unique. What was not mentioned in this article, and was part of the agreement voted on by Council, was that while Ramco is requesting a 100% tax abatement on improvements to their new location (not an uncommon request in this business climate), they were willing to return 25% of that value to the Hudson City School district in the form of a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes). Since a city can offer up to 50% of the value of improved land without school board consent, on the remaining  50% Ramco is generously and without obligation making up HALF of that “loss” to the schools.

It can be argued that revenue not received or guaranteed is not a “loss,” but that is a discussion for another time and place. It was also not mentioned that an affirmative vote of the School Board was required, since more than 50% of property tax was being abated. That vote took place tonight (Feb. 9) and after much displeasure was expressed, the vote was 4-1 in favor of the abatement.  What was approved was HCSD conceding 25% of the future value of improvements necessary to keep a valuable employer and civic contributor in Hudson. A joint Hudson City Council/Hudson Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 7PM March 11 to discuss financial topics like this one.

HUDSON CRIMINALS COULD SERVE TIME IN MACEDONIA 

http://hudsonhubtimes.com/news%20local/2015/02/08/hudson-criminals-could-serve-time-in-macedonia

City Council did add $25,000 in appropriations to cover housing misdemeanor cases in Macedonia’s Jail. We also added a contract for a new City Prosecutor with hourly and salary terms. What was not mentioned is that these costs should be “revenue neutral” to the City of Hudson. Court costs and jail time are typically covered under sentencing. Conversely, not having these services loses the City revenue when cases don’t go to their conclusion.

BROADBAND AND RECREATION CENTER.

Both of these received news coverage and speculation in recent weeks. Don’t give up your internet contract or health club membership just yet.  Council is looking at the consultant’s take on how broadband could be implemented, and it is years away.  Even further away is a Recreation Center, brought up as part of a Comprehensive Plan visioning process.

Notes from the Dec. 3 Regular Council Meeting.  Passing resolutions on annual agreements and comments on Akron Water. Much of meeting involved passing legislation discussed at the Nov. 26 Workshop. Notes on that below. I brought up concerns on how the City of Akron is approaching its neighbor with regards to rate increases and service reductions. My comments are summarized in the “Neighborhood Concerns” section of this website.

Notes from the Nov. 26th Workshop: Setting the table for connectivity projects and accepting solar power. Short meeting, we discussed two resolutions that will be up for vote that allow us to move forward with the Veterans Trail project and a Safe Routes to School project by Ellsworth Hills School.

This phase of the Veterans Trail (aka Spine Trail) is the portion that would run from Veterans Park to Barlow Road. The Parks Board was granted $500,000 towards this project and we need to pas legislation to manage this.  The initial route was along or replacing the railbed that starts under the bridge at Veterans Park and down to Barlow Road by the old Flood Co. property.  The projections now are that it may be more feasible to run that same north-south route through Cascade Park by upgrading some unpaved trails to a 10 foot wide multipurpose trail, and continuing that trail down around the golf course and out and along Barlow Road. This would also tie some neighborhoods into the trail network.

The Ellsworth Hills project would use a grant from the Safe Routes to Schools program to build a sidewalk along Parkside Drive that would feed out to sidewalks on Stow Road, allowing Hudson Park Estate students a safe way to walk to school.

We also discussed the steps needed to allow homes and businesses that install solar panels to return excess electricity to the city power grid in return for a credit.

Future meetings will have discussions on  the costs of various events to the budget, an economic development overview for 2014, and the proposed re-vote of the Summit County Tax Sharing agreement.

Notes from the Nov. 19 Council Meeting: Resolutions, Consent Items, Leaf Pick up and Some Inside Baseball voting issues highlights of this meeting. Fairly cut and dried meeting legislation-wise.  Residents may be most concerned to know the leaf pickup program is set to resume (and has even started back  today 11-20) as the weather allows.  Each quadrant of town will receive three pickups as proposed, but it may be into December when that happens.  Consult the city website for details.

Everything old is new again?  At the end of the legislation was an old item we had discussed and voted on Oct. 1. The Summit County Tax Revenue Sharing agreement was defeated by a 4-3 vote then. It was reintroduced with a new number for this meeting without any Workshop discussion or explanation for another vote after 3 readings. This is legal, but it opens us up for reconsideration of almost any item that receives a 4-3 split vote in the future. Split votes are not bad government. It simply means we don’t all agree. Sometimes in order to get closer to a concensus, the terms are modified so it gains more opposition votes.  But in most case a simple majority is all that is needed for passage.

Once the vote is final, we put it behind us and move on. I have supported issues that I did not vote for because that is the way government is supposed to work. You accept the outcome, put the arguments aside and get to work. That doesn’t mean when it comes up again for renewal, etc. we won’t take the same positions. But in the Summit Agreement case, there is no new information, nothing new to consider,  the only thing that has changed is time has passed to work on someone to change their vote. Council is a a part-time endeavor; we have a lot of issues to consider. We shouldn’t be wasting our time revisiting settled votes.

Notes from the Nov. 12 Workshop:  The 2015 Budget Discussion was the main topic of this session.  The second part of the 2015 Budget presentation gave us  details on departmental budgets. It’s important to note that when most residents consider “taxes” they are referring to property taxes.  The combined property tax rate for Hudson residents is almost 111 mills.  The City of Hudson’s portion of that is 4.5 mills, or about 4%. The majority of the remaining  96% funds the Schools, Summit County, Summit Metro Parks and the Library.

Total Revenue for the City Of Hudson in 2015 is projected to be $18,678,502, Total Expenses at $19,830,761, with a negative run rate of $ 834,549.  The fund balance (the amount carried over year to year) allows us run slightly negative run rates without affecting our finances.

We are down almost a $1 million in both expenses and our run rate 2014 over 2015.  We have accomplished this in part by setting a policy of holding expenses over the next five years.

The new budget review process and the subsequent departmental discussions will allow Council to focus on the long term planning process, including considering the ROI on capital projects.

In my comments before the meeting, I requested that we revisit the Connectivity Policy in light of recent decisions by the Planning Commission and BZBA. Lost in the headlines of the Planning Commission approving the Conditional Use for a Hotel on Barlow Road was a recommendation by Staff that the developer be required to put the developer-constructed and funded multipurpose trail running parallel to the road the entire length of the old Flood property rather  in the half being developed as a hotel now.  This recommendation  would  complete a  pathway roughly  half the distance from the Railroad crossing to Holland Drive, a major step towards connectivity on a street that badly needs it.  The developer objected to the Staff recommendation, and the Commission deferred the requirement to complete the path on the entire length of their property. Their completion  of the remaining path is a bargaining chip for approvals to land use changes in the a future second phase development.  It gives us another “sidewalk to nowhere”  in front of the hotel for the time being.  Council needs to make certain that connectivity should not be used as a bargaining tool for development, easily conceded or amended, but should be a non-negotiable requirement. We have asked Staff for direction in accomplishing this.

We also discussed legislation introduced to open Council Meetings with a Public Prayer. The US Supreme Court recently ruled that public bodies could open meetings with a prayer, with stipulations.  The two biggest ones for the majority on Council were that we could not control who speaks or what they chose to say. We can’t favor one religion or another, so anyone could claim they are a religion, and they could offer any thoughts in the form of a prayer. I offered that if one of the two Councilmen offering this legislation, Dr. Williams or Mr. Wooldredge, would want to lead a prayer I would have no problem. Likewise for a moment of silence or reflection. The downsides of creating this platform outweighed positives of asking for Divine Guidance. The motion will not receive further consideration at this time.

I was out of town and did not attend the Nov. 5, 2014 Council Meeting. 

Council Workshop 10-21-14.  Immediately before the Workshop we held  a brief Special Council meeting. Two routine resolutions  needed to be passed, and a second reading of the Appropriation of Property at 2949 Hudson Aurora Road.  I read two letters from area residents concerned about the potential acquisition. They objected to the purchase of more land for Parks, and  the reduction of the tax base by taking the property public. The third reading and possible action is scheduled for the Nov. 5 Council Meeting.  Residents with concerns on this, please write to me or the all of Council through the Clerk of Council ESlagle@Hudson.oh.us  You may also attend the Nov. 5 meeting and make a comment during the Public Comment portion of the meeting.

We had a brief discussion on the potential for a compromise on the Sapphire/East Sapphire proposed connection. There was hope that the owner/builder and the area residents who objected to a connection might reach some kind of alternate agreement, but no solution could be found. Council will vote on Nov. 5 on the removal of the reservation strips, which allows the builder to construct a street connection and eventually two homes.

Council also decided to move Council Meetings, now held on Wednesdays, to Tuesdays starting in 2015.  Both meetings and Workshops would be held on the same night of the week, Council meetings on the first and third Tuesdays, Workshops on the second and fourth. This would cause less confusion and easier scheduling.

We had another look at the 2015 Budget. Changes in the presentation from previous years  allows us to  be consider some of the capital items earlier in the process  and out over more years, and a Budget Summary that focuses on operating efficiencies.  This will allow us to focus budget discussions on longer term strategic goals by department, without going into a line by line item presentation as we had in years past.

Council Workshop 10-7-14. Workshops are similar to “Committees of the Whole” in other communities, they are worksessions, a time for indepth evaluation of topics and dialogue. Roll is not taken, no votes are taken, but they are public meetings with minutes, and are televised.

Four topics discussed last night. The most in-depth was a presentation by CTI Engineering on problems with our City Sewer System.  CTI conducted a study which identified problems with inflow and infiltration (I&I). I&I occurs in rain events when stormwater is added to the waste water (sewer) stream. This costs the city more money to treat and runs into EPA violations and fines.  There are expensive long term solutions, and less expensive, but more homeowner -focused, short term solutions. More background on this topic is in the Neighborhood Concerns tab.

City Manager Jane Howington followed up on our last meeting with the four Major Initiative Priorities.  They are, in alphabetical order, Broadband expansion, City Facilities, Phase 2 of First & Main and development of the YDC property.  She suggested we hire a Project Manager to coordinate these initiatives. My concern was that we not add permanent staff.   These are projects that cross several month sand years, and timing is a major consideration. We must do this thoughtfully, but with some urgency.

The Park Board and Parks Department shared their long term vision as a preview to upcoming budget discussions. They would like to accelerate the parks trails program by obtaining short term financing. Council liked this idea, and may consider it for the sidewalks and paths as well. The alternative is to build only a little each year, or defer building until a larger reserve accumulates.  The Park Board  members also went out to to all the parks, observed and talked with users. They  developed a “punch list” of projects on the individual park level. The trail financing plan means these priorities will not have to compete with trails for funding. Improvements include replacing playground equipment, adding restrooms, paving some lots, and repairs.  We commended the Board and Parks Department on this initiative. 

All seven of us had a chance to discuss my proposal to streamline the process for board and commission applications and interviews.  We agreed to try some version of the proposal next year. I believe this will make it easier for potential volunteers to get involved.

Council Meeting 10-1-2014. Split votes on key issues and much public comment on River Oaks rezoning highlighted a long Council meeting. After Consent items for purchases and contracts Council  voted on  the rezoning request from Commercial to Residential for the Reserve at  River Oaks.  Many came out to the meeting to observe, eight residents shared their comments in a scheduled Public Hearing. Council decided on a split vote that since we had voted 3-3 on this issue four months ago, and with all seven of us present, to vote that night. Ordinance to rezone passed 4-3, Hanink, Kelemen, Smith, Wooldredge in favor. I comment on my reasons for voting “yes”  are under the Neighborhood Concerns tab. 

Council continued a vote on Eminent Domain proceedings against the property at 2949 Hudson-Aurora Road so we could discuss the matter further. The new owner of the property and a neighbor addressed Council. The land is sought by Hudson Parks to provide access to adjacent park property. At the time this was brought to our attention, it was a neglected property in foreclosure that presented a low-cost opportunity to improve park access. I was not aware that not only was a private purchase finalized, but city approval had been granted to remove the existing home for the new owner to build. Deserves more discussion on our part before action is taken. 

Council agreed to table an ordinance releasing the reservation strips on Sapphire and East Sapphire Drives, allowing those two cul de sacs to be removed and the streets connected. There is an alternate plan by the builder that may fit better with neighborhood concerns. Issue will be voted on Nov. 1. 

Finally, the Summit County Intergovernmental Job Creation and Revenue Sharing agreement also called the Anti-Poaching Agreement, had its third reading and a vote last night. Hudson signed this agreement in 2011, and due to some changes, needed to approve it by Council vote to continue our participation. The agreement shares income taxes between Summit County communities for a set period of years when a business moves from one city to another and incentives are given.  I felt the agreement wasn’t functioning as designed.  We asked the other cities for minor changes that would credit us for taxes shared with Akron if a water agreement is reached, and we were voted down unanimously.  Rather that fostering cooperation and focusing on making Summit County more desirable for business relocation, they were interested in protecting an overly complicated formula that would keep their revenue coming in for a couple more years. Resolution to continue with the Agreement Failed 4-3. Basil, DeSaussure and Wooldredge voting in favor. 

Council Workshop 9-23-14. Workshops are similar to “Committees of the Whole” in other communities, they are worksessions, a time for indepth evaluation of topics and dialogue. Roll is not taken, no votes are taken, but they are public meetings with minutes, and are televised.  Council considered  six topics; the contract authorizing the Production of  a Broadband Needs Assessment may be the most critical in the long run. Since Hudson has a city-owned electric utility company and we are installing fiber optic cables on that system to tie city facilities together, the next step is to consider how that may be utilized by businesses and potentially residents.  A consulting firm with experience in that area will help us make better informed decisions, and we hope to see some recommendations early next year.

Mayor Currin updated us on the efforts of the Regional Prosperity Initiative. I have been skeptical of this effort to pool and share a portion of local taxes and I remain so. Likewise I am cautious of tying ourselves into anything with HUD (see 9-17 notes below for details) that may result in a NEORSD-like situation:  a superceding government body exploiting  contract language to decrease local control. With NEORSD, it was a sewer contract and 1972 state legislation which has been expanded to include a tax on rainwater runoff and regional control of development. With HUD, it could mean dense low-income housing in violation of local Hudson zoning.

Boston Heights has a new business, Skyzone, going in on Chittenden Road near the Hudson border. Skyzone needs water and the developer is willing to pay Hudson Water to expand our current line. Expands our customer base, opens a new business that serves the area, seems like a win-win-win for Hudson, Boston Heights and Skyzone.

Finally, Council considered a few internal housekeeping matters that may have some impact on how residents follow and participate in government.  Councilman Smith would like Council to have sessions on them same night each week. Currently Council meetings are on Wednesdays, Workshops on Tuesdays on alternating weeks.  I proposed streamlining the process Council uses for promoting, interviewing and appointing members to Boards and Commissions.  The interview sessions would be on the annual calendar, so interested residents would learn of openings earlier, and be able to research the boards and better schedule to attend the interviews.  Since only four Council members were present, we decided to move both proposals along for Staff research, but hold off any decisions until some of the missing members provide their input.

Regular Council meeting of 9-17-14.  City Council formally thanked Assistant City Manager Scott Schroyer and wished him well as this was his last Council meeting. Scott has announced his retirement from Hudson and has taken a job in Sarasota Florida. It was a pleasure working closely with Scott on a number of projects, most recently the Ad Hoc Connectivity Committee, where he was instrumental in setting up a ranking system of sidewalk and path projects. Our increased connectivity will be another legacy of his 30 years of service to Hudson.  Read more about  Scott Schroyer here: http://hudsonhubtimes.com/news%20local/2014/09/17/hudson-ssistant-city-manager-to-step-down-sept-26-to-take-job-in-florida

I  objected to a resolution authorizing an amendment to the  Agreement of Cooperation for the Community Block Grant Program (CDBG) administered by Summit County with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Hudson originally signed this agreement in 1993. We needed to approve amended changes that night in order to meet Summit County’s deadline to participate.

Hudson has not received nor applied for any CDBG grants in the past 21 years. In that time, HUD has take a more aggressive stance to overcome what they have termed “the tyranny of the zipcode” by forcing communities to change their zoning, land use restrictions and definitions of family size in order to achieve their perception of diversity.  If Hudson voters want low income or more apartment style housing, that should be a local decision, not one made for us in Washington. The risk of falling under those restrictions far outweighed any reward from possible grants.  Council members unanimously agreed that we needed more information, and voted to table the issue indefinitely until we learned more about the program.

3 thoughts on “Notes from the most recent Council meeting

  1. Thanks For doing this, Alex. I think it is important that citizens are well informed on the issues. This is a very good summary on all of the things discussed – particularly during workshop.

  2. Thanks for the update Alex. Just an FYI… when you update a wordpress page (this is a page) instead of doing a new blog post – it doesn’t show up in our RSS feeds. I suspect there are a few lurkers who read but don’t comment. They may miss out on some updates if it doesn’t show up in RSS.

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