Winterhurst Report - Citizen Action at its Best

Council Vice President Michael Dever, substituting for Council President Robert Seelie, called the October 2 meeting to order.

Lakewood is fortunate because it can rely on enthusiastic and qualified citizen volunteers for task forces on important issues. One of the best examples of such a group was the Winterhurst Task Force which presented its findings to council on Monday night.

This group was formed after the budget hearings last winter. Those hearings pointed out continuing financial problems and an outdated physical plant at the ice facility, which jeopardized its very existence. Winterhurst encapsulates the full range of Lakewood from the grit of hockey teams to the world-class excellence of figure skaters. This was reflected by the task force chairman, Corky O'Sullivan providing the grit and Olympic gold medalist Carol Heiss-Jenkins supplying the elegance. Heiss-Jenkins leads the Figure Skating Club which counts as its members Miki Ondo, the Japanese National Champion, and former Olympian Tim Goebel.

The committee determined that the rink had to increase its profits. First, a more accurate accounting method must be applied to the rink such as making it an enterprise fund. Currently, the rink bears costs that aren't incurred by it and consequently makes its financial condition look worse than if it were an enterprise or stand- alone fund. Then, a comprehensive financial management and marketing plan can be applied. Better exploitation of advertising space and signage along with rental rate increases should all be implemented.

Included in this portion would be an improved concession stand and spectator area. Other rinks have found that turning this portion of operation over to a private concessionaire increases profits dramatically.

Physically, the rink needs major upgrades. The facility is over 30 years old and much of the HVAC equipment is not up to today's efficiency standards. A refurbishing of the bleacher areas and making them handicap accessible is necessary.

Finally, the task force felt that the rink should have a specific council committee committed to its oversight and a permanent citizens oversight committee.

All council members as well as Mayor George expressed deep appreciation for the task force's timely and comprehensive report.

The Lakewood Chamber of Commerce has been providing quarterly observations from the business community to council. Terry Vincent of the Chamber reported on several issues. Specifically, he said the chamber supports proposals for pay raises for the position of mayor and council. "Empirical data and common sense support this raise," he said. The chamber was also supportive of rate increases for parking meters.

Council and the Mayor then voiced unanimous support for County Issue 18 which will appear on the November ballot. This is a measure to increase the sales tax on cigarettes sold in Cuyahoga County and applying the proceeds to the arts community in the county. George indicated that the arts are a huge economic development component in Lakewood and add to the quality of life in the city.

Council members Ryan Demro (ward two) and Kevin Butler (ward one) each submitted proposals for a pay raise for the positions of mayor and council. The amounts in each proposal were different and Demro wants health insurance premiums that are accepted by council members applied against the salary. Both measures will go before the committee of the whole. In Corridor Comments, Mayor George pointed out that the Charter currently provides for automatic salary adjustments for the mayor so the issue might be moot.

Public Works Director Tony Beno then requested that council suspend the rules to allow the city to apply immediately for a grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission to pay for half of the estimated $3.5 million Clifton water main project. The city had previously applied for a full grant and was turned down. Council member Edward Fitzgerald (at large) questioned the urgency of the request. He has complained in the past that the administration does not allow council to provide proper oversight if council can't give three readings to non- urgent issues. Planning Director Thomas Jordan indicated that the city engineer was notified only days before that the commission might look favorably on a reduced request and that new information was what drove the urgency of the request.
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Volume 2, Issue 21, Posted 10:10 AM, 10.07.06