Avon Growth News, 12-1-99 to 1-1-00

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12-1-99 Avon budgets for 2000
12-8-99 Cablevision proposes more service
12-8-99 Does WTO affect Avon?
12-15-99 Water Bill Problem

LETTER to THE EDITOR of the CLEVELAND FREE TIMES, 11-25-99, by Jake Daab, Cleveland

"Enough of the crying about "urban sprawl" ("Slumming in Solon," 11-17-99) It seems to me like the growth of Solon amounts to nothing more than a wildly successful suburb. I am a degreed urban planner and a career real estate developer. All that is happening in northern Ohio, or any other urban area, is just plain growth. That's all.

I've heard a David Beach/EcoCity Cleveland lecture. I've read the Sierra Club literature on "smart growth." Once you get past the manipulated statistics, the nasty sounding words and phrases, and the out-and-out lies and fabrication, you realize there really isn't an "urban sprawl" problem at all.

Urban sprawl can best be defined as "the suburb beyond mine," or "any family that moves in after I do." As for the lady in Solon who has lived there her entire life and is angry at the new residents; it's OK for her to choose to live there, but not anyone else? Rather reeks of elitism, don't you think?

The EcoCity Cleveland philosophy, and the majority of "smart growth" teachings don't stand up to even the most minimal of intellectual and/or philosophical scrutiny. It seems that it should be a journalist's job to check facts instead of blindly following the moronic smart-growth gurus. Ride that cause du jour gravy train for as long as you can, David Beach. I'll debate you anytime."

Jake Daab, Cleveland

LETTER to THE EDITOR of the CLEVELAND FREE TIMES, 12-2-99, by Dave Latta, Cleveland

On the fence

"I have enjoyed reading [Amy Sparks'] articles in the Free Times for years. [Her] perspective on various urban experiences is always interesting and relatable.

"Picketing Fences" (11-17-99) is one subject that I relate to strongly. I am writing to share a somewhat different viewpoint. I believe that in the city of Cleveland, fences do not cage us in like something precious that we're not. Instead, they protect us from the destructive scum that we are.

I grew up in a suburb where there was no need for fences. I moved to the city (the near West Side) and bought a century house that was one of the few on the street with no fence. I began renovating it, starting with high priority items like electrical, plumbing, etc., but did not install a fence until the third year. During that time, the following things happened to my property:

After I installed fencing all the way around my property, these ridiculous "crimes" stopped. [Sparks] mentioned that if she leaves this town, fencing will be one of the signature images that will remain with her. When I leave this town, what I will remember are the deplorable actions of its residents before I fenced them out."

Dave Latta, Cleveland

COLUMN from THE PLAIN DEALER, Sunday, January 2, 2000, by BETH BARBER

"It was only a snow shovel, a petty pilferage. Or was it?

You could at least have shoveled the walk, you thief who heisted my new snow shovel from behind the fig vine on the side of the house ...

These are nuisances, you know: the kind of petty crap city-dwellers must plan for.

Everybody else in the neighborhood puts only their trash bags on the tree lawn, never flowers; alas, my neighbors warned me the mums would disappear in the dark of night. In fact, pot and all disappeared in broad daylight, in one brazen swoop.

Some of my neighbors have given up policing for litter daily. They pick up only on garbage day.

On the plus side, I have to say that I've heard gunfire only once ...

I'm a newcomer to Ohio City, you see, but not to the trivial travails of city life. But I'm no apologist, either, for people who consider themselves entitled to others' belongings. So I called the Cleveland Police Department to ask whether I should file a report of this petty pilferage ...

The answer was yes ...

So I will. It won't stop petty thieves or cure casual theft. It shouldn't stop police from pursuing more serious crime. But my block may become safer, shovel by shovel, mum by mum, from the irritants that can swell if ignored into muggings, fortress mode and exodus ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 12-1-99, By Kim T. Dudek

"Avon council begins scrutinizing next year's budget

Avon council members took its first steps toward approving a $4 million budget Monday night, with recently elected council president Shaun Brady ready to give the entire budgeting process a makeover for the new year.

"It's time for council to restructure the way they do business," Brady said. " It's time we redirect our energies."

Brady is faced with several challenges. As council president, he will need to reappoint two new members to the finance committee. He will begin the new year as the new council president, on the finance committee with two new members, approving a new budget for the ever-growing city.

But Brady wants to do more than simply approve a budget.

He wants to overhaul the way the process takes palce.

"Municipal finance, first of all, is not the easiest thing to understand. I think I've got a pretty good understanding of it. I'm extremely conservative when it comes to fiscal matters. And I think that by eliminating a lot of the fat, it will make it easier for the new committee members. We'll take it on in bite sized pieces" Brady said.

One concern Brady has is that the proposed budget is over last year's expenditures, but less than what had been budgeted.

"We're responsible for capital outlay. As a council, we are 100 percent accountable, so we have to have control over what is spent. I want to see direct accountability from the council to the people," Brady said.

The problem, Brady said, is that historically, department heads have been allowed to automatically build-in budget increases, despite what has actually been spent. Council may have approved a certain amount of money for equipment purchases, for example, but in actuality, less money was spent. With a predetermined budget amount, each department has felt that's how much money they have to spend, and often don't look for the best deal.

Yet, at budget time, those departments may take into account what was budgeted the year before, and add on a percentage, despite actual expenditures the previous year.

"There is no reason it has to be this way. I say we get rid of all the capital outlay."

"We need to separate what is really needed and what is discretionary," Brady said. "This council is and should be accountable for every capital outlay."

He is proposing that council approve a budget based exactly upon departmental wages and costs, and do away with the idea of approving pre-determined, unsubstantiated capital outlay.

"Every penny we spend will be justified. Any voter will be able to come in and understand what we're doing. If it was my way, we wouldn't appropriate or budget for anything until we knew exactly what was needed.

"Then we can set back and say, where is the money needed the most? We, as a council, can discuss it. Why would we budget so much more than our actual expenditures?"

This is Brady's third trip through the budgeting process. He will admit he has a problem with the fact that at it is the end of November, and the finance committee is just beginning to dissect the 30-plus pages of a proposed budget that needs to be approved by the end of the year.

"That's part of the problem. I'd like to make this simple. What is necessity and what is extra? Then we can determine, later, how much we're willing to spend."

Council-elect members who will take office Jan. 1, 2000, Tom Wearsch and JoAnne Easterday, have been provided with all the information from open meetings and executive sessions so when they assume office, they will be "up to speed." ''

NEWS ARTICLE from The MORNING JOURNAL, 12-29-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Avon's budget a big debate

AVON -- Three City Council members refused to vote in favor of Avon's 2000 budget last night, citing unhappiness with a change in how money is granted.

This year, at the urging of Council President-elect Shaun Brady, Council asked Mayor Jim Smith to take 'capital outlay' projects out of the budget.

In the past, when city departments wanted to make 'big ticket' purchases -- including any out-of-the-ordinary item such as a new computer, truck or desk -- they paid for them with a fund allotted them under the generic heading of 'capital outlay.'

In 2000, they would have to come to Council for approval of each of those items first.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Shirley Piazza Doss warned Council members that the change is a bad one ...

Council President Ted Graczyk and Ward 2 Councilman David Kaiser voted with Mrs. Doss, leaving a 3-3 vote due to the absence of Ward 4 Councilman Jack Kilroy ...

Council ... spent too much time approving minor expenses, Graczyk said ...

But Brady argued that the new plan will be an improvement.

'I'm willing to sacrifice a little increase of Council time to benefit the taxpayers,' he said. 'This will provide direct accountability to voters where their money is being spent.'

Mayor Jim Smith said he was willing to work with whatever budget Council approves.

Approving the budget in the new year should not be too difficult. Neither Graczyk nor Mrs. Doss will serve on Council next year, and Brady is confident he has support from new members of Council ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from The PRESS, 12-8-99, By Mike Ferrari

"Cablevision wants to bring Avon a new way to watch television with cable proposal

The evening scramble for the lost remote control may become intensified in the near future for Avon residents, while complaints about the cable networks, and channel availability may soon diminish.

The possibility of both a public access television station, and high speed Internet access are among the plans for a Cablevision contract that is currently under discussion ...

Now before the city's Utilities Committee, the cable proposal could provide numerous options for the viewers. Services would include a local network that gives Avon a station to give public addresses and broadcast city meetings.

The reproduction of the city's events will be brought to the public by the equipment that Cablevision has agreed to include the contract. Additionally, the Internet service would be received during the same time frame that neighboring Westlake receives their service.

The advanced television system would also be integrated into the classroom. According to Mayor Smith the re-negotiated contract will almost complete ...

The new technology would not warrant a rate increase initially, however, the cost of cable seems to be on a constant rise. Concerns about high priced equipment pertaining to the new service will not be a factor ...

The advantages that Cablevision would bring to the Avon will be measured by more than just added channel selection. The service would allow the business community to compete on a broader market.

As the contract draws near and the acceptance seems likely, Mayor Smith hopes that the city and company can reach an agreement. The committee is scheduled to meet again and work out the details, prior to the City Council voicing their concerns.

"This has been a long process for us," Smith said. "In the past we have negotiated, and exhausted budgets, then later failed to come to an agreement. However, in this instance I'm confident that City Council will make the right decision."

COMMUNITY PULSE AND OPINION, By R. J. Hemmer, The PRESS, 12-15-99

Avon officials are on hold with their cable television contract because Adelphia Cable has purchased Cablevision. Some officials and residents are concerned because Adelphia has been rumored to be less then user friendly.

Both Mayor Smith and some members of the industrial community are anxious to hear what Adelphia has to offer. One of the biggest concerns surrounds the use of high speed Internet access. Jack Kahl of Manco is especially concerned because they need this access to stay competitive.

Those of you in Avon Lake who use MediaOne Internet know, ... while a few bucks more, is the fastest thing going. What Avon officials might want to check out is whether or not Adelphia will offer their high-speed access to industry and business, because MediaOne does not in Avon Lake.

I tried to have MediaOne install ... [internet access] in The Press office, and they refused. "We don't offer it commercially" they tell me.

When Avon officials go over their contract they had better make sure they find room to accommodate all the new business, both industrial and commercial."

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EDITORIAL from The MORNING JOURNAL, 12-8-99

"Trade talks protest gets our attention

If it had been a gathering of Methodist ministers quietly passing resolutions, we might never have heard about it. But the fact the protests at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last week turned violent drew headlines. As other commentators have already observed, 'WTO' suddenly became a household word -- at least for a day or two ...

In the aftermath, we can turn to people we know here to help us understand what it's all about. Lorain's congressman, Rep. Sherrod Brown, came back from Seattle to offer a perspective on the conflict. We should know, he said, that there were many peaceful demonstrators there, too, and that their concerns are legitimate.

Among them is the fact that American companies set up shop across the border to make products for the American market, but fail to take along America's standards for workers' rights and a clean environment. Brown points out that Nike Corporation paid as much to Michael Jordan to endorse its athletic shoes -- $25 million -- as it did to Vietnamese workers who made the shoes.

Brown describes the World Trade Organization as a gathering of trade lawyers whose only concern is the corporate bottom line. America must use its national spending power to make them accountable. Trade with America should improve the lot of workers at these foreign locations ..."

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NEWS ARTICLE from The MORNING JOURNAL, 12-15-99, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Avon at odds with Avon Lake over water bill

AVON LAKE -- Avon officials believe the city has been billed for about 600 million gallons of water that was never used, but Avon Lake officials disputed claims yesterday that their meters are at fault.

Avon, like the communities of North Ridgeville, Sheffield Lake and Sheffield, purchases its water from Avon Lake's treatment plant.

The water business has been profitable for Avon Lake, generating money to keep its residents' water rates low by tacking on an extra 10 percent fee for users in other cities.

But in 1997 and 1998, that business may have been a little too profitable, according to Avon officials who said yesterday the city may have been charged for an extra 300 million gallons of water in each of those years.

With Avon Lake charging Avon 87 cents per 1,000 gallons of water, such an overcharge would total about $261,000 each year in extra costs.

A comparison of water bills indicates that Avon spent about $165,000 more in both 1997 and 1998 than it will spend this year.

Avon first became aware of a problem near the end of 1997, said Avon Water Superintendent David Conrad. Looking at the totals for the year, Conrad realized the city's water use had dramatically increased -- by nearly 300 million gallons more than the year before.

That launched a quiet search within Avon. Suspecting a leak, Conrad hired a consultant to review Avon's 90 miles of waterline.

'They found some leaks,' Avon Mayor Jim Smith said. 'But not anything big enough to leak that much water.'

While Avon officials are still hesitant to cast blame, officials said Avon Lake's meters are considered the number one suspect.

At Conrad's request, the meters were examined at the beginning of 1999. Since then, Avon's water bills have dropped about 30 percent, even with an increased number of homes in the city, Conrad said.

'I don't want to say it was all metering,' Conrad said. 'We don't know what happened, but that may be a part of it.'

Conrad said he has been working with Avon Lake Utilities Director John Kniepper for nearly a year and the discussions will continue. Avon Lake, however, has disputed that the meters have anything to do with the situation.

Kniepper did not return calls for comment.

Avon Lake Mayor Vince Urbin said he was unaware of any problem with Avon's water bill when contacted by The Morning Journal, but after talking to Kniepper, Urbin said blaming the city's meters was completely incorrect.

'There is no evidence the meters are the problem,' Urbin said. 'The readings appear to be higher than they should be -- everybody agrees with that. But no one has determined what the source is.'

The meters have been checked and, 'came back OK,' Urbin said. 'We're trying to find out if there really is a problem or not,' he added.

Some Avon council members, who just learned about the issue Monday night, want answers beyond the current discussion.

'The point isn't that we have proof it was the meters,' said Ward 4 Councilman Jack Kilroy. 'The point is that there's a big, unusual and unexplained volume of water we've been billed for, and somebody needs to explain.'

At-Large Councilman Shaun Brady agreed that the facts must be found.

'The administration needs to keep working on this, but I think they've done an adequate job resolving it,' he said. 'We have a long-standing relationship with Avon Lake, and I have confidence that we should get this resolved with no problem.'

If, indeed, the meters are conclusively found to be the culprit, Avon Lake should rebate the money, lowering the city's water rates in 2000, Smith said.

'I'm sure we'd be reimbursed if that was the case,' he said. 'And the water bills are high enough as they are. There's a good chance we'd have to make an adjustment.' ..."

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