Health Services Shifting, Police Initiative Unveiled

Health Services Shifting to County Agency

In a busy week for council, historic action was taken at the regular Monday meeting and the presentation of the Public Safety Initiative was heard at the committee of the whole on Wednesday.

Michael Dever is starting to imprint his style on meetings with a signature opening. In this case it was “Good evening. I’m Michael Dever, President of Lakewood City Council. Welcome to the April 21, 2008 meeting.” In the past, an abrupt, “the meeting will come to order,” usually served as a public salutation.

During budget hearings the administration proposed quite a few changes in the 2008 budget. Some changes represented sharp departures from past practices. In the case of Lakewood’s Health Department its elimination was proposed as a cost cutting measure. It was felt by the administration and council that comparable services could be provided by the County at a reduced cost. Specifically, council had the second reading of a contract with the District Advisory Council of Cuyahoga County, Ohio General Health District for the provision of public health services within Lakewood. If passed on the third reading at the next meeting, this will end the 98 year history of Lakewood’s Public Health Department.

Terry Allen, Health Commissioner for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health was in the audience to answer questions.

According to Dottie Buckon, Director of Human Services, the transfer of all of the services from Lakewood to the County Health Department will save approximately $100,000 annually. The county agency has a per capita rate schedule of charges to a municipality for its services. Also, any fees from permits or inspections formerly performed by Lakewood’s department will now go to the county department.

Dever called for comments from council and after several moments of silence Nickie Antonio (at large) remarked that the employees who staffed Lakewood’s department had a lot to be proud of and served Lakewood well. “We will miss the people who have gone.”

Mary Louise Madigan (ward four) directed her comments to Allen and said “we know you will take good care of us.”

Under new business was the first reading of an ordinance to grant an easement to AT&T for its Lightspeed project for placement of equipment at 1422 Belle. The immediate discussion reflected a long brewing resentment about this project by members of council. It will be recalled that several years ago AT&T sought to enter into the transmission of video content to subscribers. This required installation of large refrigerator sized boxes of sophisticated communications hardware throughout Lakewood. Kevin Butler (ward one) may have summarized council's frustration when he observed that “this project no longer resembles what we agreed to three years ago. There are many more installation locations than I remember in the original agreement and the number of boxes per location has increased.”

Dever, who originally voted against this project stated that he would summon representatives of AT&T for an explanation.

That meeting adjourned at 9:15 PM.

Wednesday night, the committee of the whole met to hear Mayor Edward FitzGerald and Police Chief Tim Malley present the Public Safety Initiative. The perception of an increase in crime and quality of life issues played a large part in this past Fall’s campaign for council and mayor. This Initiative is FitzGerald’s response to that perception.

The whole package contains elements that have been started in the last several years combined with new approaches.

Under the broad heading of visibility one police officer will be assigned to each of the four wards. They will focus on neighborhood policing and operate a sub station. Chief Malley announced the assignment of Officer Mike Fritsch to ward four. He will be working out of an office in Fedor Manor for foot, bike and motor patrol. Officer Kevin Fischer will be the ward three Neighborhood Police Officer (NPO). Lakewood Park and the downtown business area are among specific patrol responsibilities for him. Office selection will proceed for that ward. Officer Angie Ortiz will be the NPO for ward two. City Center and Kaufman Park are among the areas that will receiver her attention. Officer Rick Bussi will handle the NPO duties in ward one. The west end bars, businesses and apartments are his primary focus.

At the Monday meeting, Malley submitted a request to hire part time officers as part of this project. They will be used for additional patrols in the parks. Also, they will perform such tasks as transporting prisoners in order to free up the full time officers for more active duties.

Two grants will provide for two additional cars with grant specific assignments.

County Prosecutor Bill Mason was on hand to describe new procedures between Lakewood and his office to speed up the processing of felony cases which will result in savings by reduced court appearances and less time for defendants in Lakewood’s jail.

U.S. Marshal Pete Elliot described the violent fugitive task force which had just completed a “blitz” on April 16 in which 11 arrests were made.

And, completing the visibility effort will be West End Bar Patrols. A consortium of bar owners will hire off duty Lakewood officers to be visible in that area.

Other aspects of the Initiative include the increasing use of video cameras, an upgraded dispatch system, and a reverse 911 system.

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Volume 4, Issue 9, Posted 2:47 AM, 04.26.2008