Mayor's Corner: Highlights Of 2023
Happy New Year! I hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday season. This time of year, it’s natural to reflect on where we have been and what we have accomplished. On behalf of the City of Lakewood, I am proud of what our dedicated and talented team of employees across all our departments were able to achieve on your behalf in 2023. Below are just some of the highlights for Lakewood over the past year.
Safety Initiatives: Our Lakewood safety forces continued to create and implement innovative programs to holistically address our citizens’ safety needs. That included the introduction by Lakewood Police of its Safe Place Program to partner with businesses to provide “safe places” throughout Lakewood for victims and those at risk of hate crimes, harassment, and bullying. It also included the continuation of two initiatives launched in 2022 by our Fire Department, the Car Seat Fit Stop and the Neighborhood Paramedic, which continued to see high usage and impact for our residents.
Fiscal Stewardship: For the fourth consecutive year, the City of Lakewood achieved The Ohio Auditor of State Award with Distinction. To earn this prestigious award, a government entity must achieve a “clean” audit report across challenging criteria. That includes everything from strict adherence to accounting principles and avoiding material deficiencies or weaknesses in reporting to also having no ethics referrals, no financial concerns, and meeting obligations for public meetings and records standards. Credit goes to our tremendous team in Lakewood’s finance department and many in City Hall who work to ensure that our City maintains the highest levels of integrity and fiscal stewardship for your tax dollars.
Winterhurst Operations and Refresh: In November 2023, the City celebrated the grand reopening of this beloved city facility with major operational changes and capital investments. Our new private operating partner, Lakewood Community Ice, has brought renewed energy, service, and programming, including Open/Public Skate, Parent-Tot Hockey, Adult Drop-In Hockey, and Adult Skate. Physical upgrades include refreshing the lobby, concessions, and lounge areas, 100% replacement of skates for public rental, and necessary repairs to several areas of the facility. And Lakewood’s traditional “Winterhurst Ice Arena” signage, name, and logo are back in use and prominently displayed inside and out.
Foster Pool Revitalization. In June, we celebrated the grand re-opening of Foster Pool following a multimillion-dollar project to completely update and overhaul this beloved community asset. With improved accessibility, a new competition and recreation pool, water play amenities area, splash pad, and bathhouse renovations, Foster Pool has something for everyone. The City saw high usage of the new pool, and looks forward to serving our community well for decades to come.
City Parks Upgrades and Planning: Our Planning Department and Public Works department continued to plan for and implement ongoing upgrades and maintenance work at our excellent network of city parks. This year, Lakewood saw significant work at our large parks (Lakewood and Madison) as well as neighborhood parks (Kauffman, Merl Bunts, and Niagara), including the addition of the first pickleball courts for Lakewood, work on an upgraded skate park, and reconfiguring of the parking lot at Lakewood to allow more capacity and efficient use of existing space. The City also launched a planning effort to explore more access to our greatest and most breathtaking asset - Lake Erie – through our Lakewood Park Waterfront Access Feasibility Study.
Chief Fischer Sworn In: In July, Kevin Fischer was sworn in as Lakewood’s new Chief of Police after serving as a member of the Police Department (LPD) for over 20 years, including stints in patrol, as sergeant and then lieutenant. Chief Fischer’s goals include building on the strong foundation established by previous chiefs, exploring innovative policing methods and new training to enhance LPD, and continuing to provide the best service possible to our residents and to the public. Chief Fischer is off to an excellent start, and I look forward to working with him for years to come.
Tree Canopy: Our urban forestry team in Public Works continued to carry out the City’s Tree Action Plan, strategically planting new trees on City land and assisting homeowners looking to add trees on their lots. The City was also able to once again win a Cuyahoga County Healthy Urban Tree Canopy Grant of $50,000 dedicated to over 400 trees across Lakewood. I am especially proud of the work City staff put in to secure these dollars and receive the highest score of all grant applicants.
Clean Water & Sewer Infrastructure Work. The City’s continued to implement its integrated wet weather plan (IWWIP) plan last year. That included beginning a major project to replace the City’s main sewer interceptor that runs the length of the city, a project that will run into 2025. It also included Public Works efforts on a new Berea Road facility to relocate, streamline and improve recycling and refuse that allows space to be freed up for the buildout of our water and sewer infrastructure in the Metroparks. The City also began application of $25 million in ARPA funds that were dedicated to reducing costs of water/sewer projects to our ratepayers.
Public Works Department: In December, the City welcomed our new Public Works Director, Chris Gordon, who hit the ground running to oversee an impressive slew of projects across the City. Besides those mentioned elsewhere in this column, Public Works also oversaw or were involved in projects ranging from the complete resurfacing of all of Hilliard Road by Cuyahoga County to the resurfacing and/or sewer replacement of multiple city streets. It also includes ongoing day-to-day high demands for public works in our dense city – things like crack sealing and sidewalk replacement in warm weather months, keeping our leaves collected and our streets clear during colder weather, and responding to the emergency issues that regularly present themselves due to our aging infrastructure.
Finally, I appreciate the voters of Lakewood returning me to office for a second term as mayor, and look forward to continuing my ongoing dialogue with all of Lakewood on how we can keep the upward trajectory of our city in 2024 and beyond.