This Week in Shaker

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This Week in Shaker ...

     This Week in Shaker?

    An Independent E-Letter for the Residents of Shaker Heights, Ohio

    FOUNDED APRIL 14, 2003

     Volume 5, Number 12 Monday, March 26, 2007

    Jane Wood, Editor Street and Alley, Proofreaders

    THIS WEEK IN SHAKER will be emailed every Monday, with some exceptions.

    If you like it, pass it on; if you would like to be on the distribution list, email

    This issue has 8 pages and includes 1 graphic.

    News Briefs

    ; Bids for the Warrensville Center Road parking lot (for University Hospitals) are due

    April 6: ―Improvements including but not limited to asphalt, concrete, demolition, lighting,

    subsurface trenching for power feeds & landscaping.‖

    ; A new sign for Gina Scruggs Insurance, 3669 Lee Rd., was approved by the Architectural

    Board of Review last week, pending a revised sketch.

    Nature Center Plans Storage Shed

    Built of Natural Materials with A Metal Roof

    The Nature Center went before the Architectural Board of Review* last week with plans for a storage shed to be built next to the current outdoor pavilion.

    The Board was enthusiastic about the project, which involves using such natural materials as cob, a very old method of building with earth and straw that is somewhat similar to adobe.** The building will be used to store tools, but will also be used to further the Center’s educational efforts.

Explaining the building process was designer and general contractor Susan Clellan, who told the

    Board the project is ―straw-built construction,‖ including 1 wall (under the pavilion) that would be made of a straw bale; the others would be made of cob. Although the structure itself will be round, the new metal roof, of a ―chocolate brown‖ color, will not be. Part of the plan is to recycle rain water.

According to the Nature Center’s Jan Zorman, fundraising efforts are underway, including in-kind

    donations and participation from such organizations as Hard-Hatted Women. She said the slab should be in before the end of June, with actual construction probably beginning in July. She also said the project itself will be an outdoor exhibit; the finished shed will have a relief mural with a Doan Brook theme. If there is enough money, solar panels for lighting will be incorporated; if not, that will occur later. Skylights are also a possibility. The shed is scheduled for completion this fall.


The Nature Center will hold its annual benefit on June 30.

*Jim Neville, chair; Amy Dibner, Sandra Madison

    **For more information, visit

    News from Our Neighbors

    The map below shows alternative places to park while a parking garage is constructed behind and south of the Cedar-Lee Theater.

    Taking the Times to Task

A story in Friday‘s New York Times*datelined Shaker Heights—said, ―In a sign of the spreading

    economic fallout of mortgage foreclosures, several suburbs of Cleveland . . . are spending millions of dollars to maintain vacant houses‖ and suggested Shaker Heights is one of them.

    In fact, Shaker Heights for many years has had a nuisance abatement program that requires the cost of abatementwhether the property is vacant or occupiedto be borne by the property owner. TWIS

    has published a number of stories about this program.

    The story continues, ―In suburbs like this one [Shaker Heights], officials are installing alarms, fixing broken windows and mowing lawns at the vacant houses . . .‖


    In fact, Shaker Heights does not install alarms, and it has mowed lawns for at least 30 years.

In response to an email, Chief Counsel Bill Gruber said, I am not aware of any instance where the

    City has installed alarms in vacant houses. If the City did install an alarm, we would assess the property the cost, just like we actually do for securing doors and changing locks.

Gruber provided the following information, compiled for The New York Times:

―Nuisance Abatements:

    *How many abatements have we done over the life of the program? Approx. 79 (not counting

    landscaping abatement, like grass cutting).

    *When did it start? Finance Dept. shows nuisance abatement assessments since 1994.

    *Between 1994 and 1998 the City assessed $97,030.94 for nuisance abatement. By end of 2002, all of

    this had been repaid.

    *Between 2000 and 2005, the City assessed $714,980.60. By April 2006, the City had collected

    $497,054.27 (about 70%). Only $217,926.33 was still outstanding, even though $296,719.24 (42%)

    of this was only assessed in 2005 (which means it was not even billed through the taxes until 2006, with half billed in January and the other half in July).

    *In 2006, 18 properties had abatement work performed by the City. (Compared with 7 in 2002 and 5 in 2000)

*Amount spent on nuisance abatement in 2006 = $257,385; plus 22% administrative costs = $314,010.

*Average amount City plans to spend on nuisance abatement each year for the next 3 years = $500,000

*Average staffing cost per property for which the City performs nuisance abatement = $2,375

    *Average administrative cost per property for which the City performs nuisance abatement (City employee time plus cost of borrowing funds) = $3,905

    *Number of hours spent by City staff (Director of Housing Inspection, Director of Neighborhood Revitalization, rehab specialist, inspectors, attorneys, accountant) = 60.5 hours per property

*Average construction cost per property on which City performs nuisance abatement = $17,703.

    [Editor‘s note: TWIS has previously published most of this information, which has been discussed at numerous public meetings.]

Abating Grass and Landscaping Nuisance Conditions

    [i.e. excessively high grass, weeds, and unkempt landscaping and sometimes litter/trash in the yard]

    ; 2006 133 vacant properties on Public Works’ monitoring list. (35% increase over 2005)

    ; 2007 263 vacant properties on Public Works’ monitoring list. (97% increase over 2006)


    ; In 2006, the amount billed for grass and landscaping nuisance abatement, including the cost of

    an outside contractor and City staff time = $43,621

    ; In 2006, the City performed such work 428 times.

    Total cost in 2006 of all nuisance abatement = approximately $357,630

    These numbers above do not include these costs:

    ; Police time spent monitoring and responding to vacant properties;

    ; Time spent enforcing the City’s Housing Code and Vacant Property Nuisance Ordinance;

    ; Time spent by staff monitoring foreclosures and the bankruptcies of persons in foreclosure; ; In some cases, intervening in foreclosure cases to assert the City’s interests;

    ; Lost income taxes from lack of occupants; and

    ; Affect on property values.‖


    Public Works 2006 ‗Action Plan‘ Highlights

    ; Leaf collection: ―Met objective‖ using overtime, new operations and equipment . . . ―usually in

    an 8-9 day cycle.‖ 4,060 tons collected (3,313 in 2005)

    ; Brush collection: 4,019 tons collected (5,421 in 2005)

    ; Refuse collection: 2100 misses by refuse crews; 1867 misses as a result of residents not putting

    out trash; 1532 missed grass bags

    ; Free special pickups: discontinued and replaced by free special drop-offs at the Service Center

    on Saturdays from April to September. ―[The residents] really loved it,‖ Public Works

    Department director Bill Boag told the Safety and Public Works Committee. ; Special pick-up revenue: $105,427 ($94,124 in 2005). ―Met objective.‖

    ; Recycling: 348 tons residential mixed paper (297 in 2005); 222 tons cans, plastic, glass (275);

    57 tons white goods (45)

    ; Sidewalk inspections: Mercer completed, Onaway added

    ; Tree pruning: pruned trees on 42 streets, plus 444 trees that were planted in 2002 for the

    ―young tree training program;‖ 3 hazardous tree inspections performed

    ; New trees: 23 ―upgrade‖ trees (4‖ caliper); 249 2‖ caliper; 85 trees planted in fall. Total: 357

    (objective was 369 in the spring).

    ; Mulch: 939 trees mulched at 29 locations

    ; Park mowing: ―Met objective‖ (every 2 weeks)

    ; Nuisance mowing & yard clean-up: 632 violations (407 in 2005); abated 428 (316 in 2005);

    remaining 204 properties cut by the owner (see story above).

; Catch basins: 1720 cleaned as of June (year’s goal was 1950)

    ; Manhole inspection/repairs: 72 inspections completed in Moreland area

    ; Public lateral replacement: Pilot program completed where 5 sanitary laterals were relined in

    various locations

    ; Root cutting: ―Our investigations have identified several problematic areas to be further

    reviewed.‖ Various options have been evaluated and ―will test them on a pilot street which has


    been identified to apply the root control product over approximately 14,000 ft. of sanitary

    sewers‖ this year.

    ; Test tees: ―Communications to residents re locating test tees has been completed. Additional

    communications will be required re possible repair, changes, once the private property exit plan

    has been finalized.‖

    ; Sinkholes: 31 repaired; 5 remain [Editor‘s note: According to the September report, ―Between

    April 1 and June 30, 6 sinkholes were repaired, with 20 left to do.‖]

    ; Storm and sanitary sewer repairs: 48 laterals repaired. [Editor‘s note: According to the

    September report, ―As of the end of June, 18,364 of the City’s 70,000 feet of storm sewers had

    been cleaned.‖]

    ; Cleveland Water Department: Repaired 64 openings

; Pothole repair: applied 840 tons of hot mix asphalt. [Editor‘s note: According to the

    September report, ―As of June 30, pothole repair was completed in the Ludlow, Moreland,

    Lomond and Sussex neighborhoods.‖]

    ; Street openings: 24 to be repaired as of December 31

    ; Block parties and special events: Cleaned and prepared for block parties; provided other

    support for other events

; Building blueprints: ―All City building blueprints have been scanned and are electronically

    filed in the Public Works common directory so they can be printed to engineering’s plotter.‖

    ; Lakes management: ―We reviewed the remaining capital projects and determined that the

    proposed rehabilitation and emergency action plans for both Green and Horseshoe Lakes

    dams need additional information. This information will be reviewed with the administration in

    order to determine the financial impacts of the projects in 2007.‖

    ; Desilting basin at Green Lake: Dredged, along with another 1,000 cubic yards. ―We arranged

    to dump the material on an unused area of the Country Club’s property to save time and


    ; Animal control: ―As a result of the volume of requests for traps due to skunk infestation, our

    animal control company was able to conduct inspections of potential breeding grounds and

    make recommendations to the resident as to practices that would help eliminate skunks living

    under porches, etc.‖

    ; Geese at Green Lake: 2 round-ups conducted the last 2 weeks of June. This year, the

    vegetation along the water’s edge will be allowed to grow.

    ; Sidewalk snowplowing: ―Deployed once during the fourth quarter‖ (goal is to ―plow all City

    sidewalks when snow fall reaches 6 inches‖)

; Central garage operations: 3 senior adult vans taken out of service




    ; 2-week schedule of cleaning and mowing at ―entryways,‖ all beds, RTA tracks, commercial


    ; Provide ―high quality of maintenance‖ in commercial district, Lee Road median and Avalon

    Station ―to showcase area,‖ including daily trash receptacle clean-up, pulling weeds on a

    weekly basis and watering hanging baskets and planters as needed. (There will be 72 20‖

    hanging baskets this year20 along Chagrin, 52 along Lee)

    ; Nuisance abatement (high grass, yard clean-up): ―Bid out and have contractor on board by

    April 1 to service nuisance violators by April.‖ Abatement letters will be sent out in 5 days.

    ; 500 catch basins are scheduled to be cleaned this year.

    ; ―Combination‖ sewers: ―The goal is to clean 20,000 ft. of sewer by the end of 2006 [sic].‖

    In the Neighborhoods

; Manhole inspections will be conducted in the Mercer area.

    ; Sewer main cleaning will be done on the streets that are part of this year’s resurfacing program

    and in the Boulevard, Fernway, Malvern and Mercer areas. Goal is to clean 230,000 ft. of

    sewer mains.

    ; Sidewalk inspections will be conducted in the Boulevard and Moreland neighborhoods this


    New projects

; Sutton beautification project: Installation of fence; residents’ ―main interest is safety.‖

    ; ―Develop door hanger notices to inform residents about brush collection polices and follow up

    with nuisance notices.‖

    ; ―Work with schools to improve communications during major snow events.‖

    ; ―Generate and provide to residents a list of registered contractors who could respond to private

    property tree issues including emerald ash borer.‖

    ; ―Generate and provide to residents a list of registered nurseries that could provide trees to

    plant after private property trees are removed.‖

    ; A new recycling location will be provided.*

    ; ―Manage any building renovation or maintenance projects such as the reconfiguration of the

    City Hall lobby.‖

    ; ―Help the Country Club seek funding opportunities for the purpose of restoring approximately

    6,500 feet of brook. Objective is to have restoration plan in place in order to apply for

    funding in September.‖

*In the summer of 1984, the City tested a “substation” in the Middle School (then Byron Jr. High)

    parking lot that was open 2 Saturdays a month. It was subsequently discontinued. Abitibi paper

    retrievers are already located at the Nature Center, Bertram Woods Branch Library and various



; 316 new trees are scheduled to be planted this spring.


    ; Final design for the South Woodland Improvement Project (Issue II) is due September 10.

    Human Resources ‗Action Plan‘ Highlights

    ; Applications: 1878 for approximately 36 positions

    ; Employee background check: 35 drug tests, 49 criminal checks, 23 background investigations,

    21 physicals

    ; Contracts: In 2008, health insurance will increase for Public Works employees by $10 a month

    ; Claims: 109 motor vehicle related incidents, 32 incidents of damage to City property, 19

    ―patron‖ injuries

    Real Estate Report

    As of yesterday, Realtors had listed 314 single-family houses for sale* (excluding condominiums and townhomes) in Shaker Heights, as follows:

    ; $100,000 - $200,000: 111 (112 last week, 104 previous)

    ; $200,000 - $300,000: 93 (92 last week, 89 previous)

    ; $300,000 - $400,000: 34 (36 last week, 35 previous)

    ; $400,000 - $500,000: 23 (22 last week, 23 previous)

    ; $500,000 - $600,000: 15 (15 last week, (16 previous)

    ; $600,000 - $700,000: 19 (22 last week, 19 previous)

    ; $700,000 - $800,000: 7 (7 last week, 8 previous)

    ; $800,000 - $900,000: 6 (same, same)

    ; $900,000 - $1,000,000:1 (1 last week, 0 previous)

    ; $1,000,000 - $2,000,000: 2 (1 last week, 1 previous)

    ; $2,000,000 - $3,000,000: 2 (same, same)

    ; $3,000,000+: 1 (same, same)

    As of Friday, there were 34 foreclosure sales** (including 2 condominiums) pending.

*317 last week, 304 previous

    **33 last week, 24 previous

    Candidate Watch

    According to the Board of Elections, as of Friday the following residents had taken out petitions to run for office in November:


    ; Earl Leiken, 20815 Colby Rd.

    ; Bob Saffold, 3646 Chelton Rd.

    City Council:

    ; James Brady, 14506 S. Park Blvd.

    ; Al Foster, 3569 Menlo Rd.

    Board of Education: None


City Council members whose terms will expire at the end of this year include Foster (who was

    appointed to fill the vacancy left by Brian Parker), Leiken, Nancy Moore and Earl Williams.

    Continuing members are Brian Gleisser, Lynn Ruffner and Rob Zimmerman. Mayor Judy Rawson‘s

    term also expires at the end of this year.

Board of Education members whose terms will expire at the end of this year are Freda Levenson and

    Mary Johnson. Continuing members are Norman Bliss, F. Drexel Feeling and Annette Sutherland.

Council members earn $7,200 a year; members of the Board of Education traditionally serve without


    Following Up . . .

    ; CITY BUDGET: City Council will vote tonight on whether to incur $507,750 in additional

    expenses for various improvements and ―enhancements‖ this year, thus creating a budget


    ; SHAKER BOULEVARD MEDIAN STRIP TRAIL: City Council tonight will discuss whether to

    ―waive formal competitive bidding in order to undertake a design/build project for the Shaker

    Boulevard median strip multi-purpose trail.‖

    ; THORNTON PARK: According to Martin Reese, the City’s engineer, ―concrete coping has been

    placed at the current channel and tot pool‖ and floor crack repairs were begun in the main

    pool. Welding on the stainless steel gutter system should be completed this week. Grading at

    the skatepark and climbing wall is underway; the remaining concrete for the skatepark is to

    be placed today, weather permitting. Electrical work is nearly complete (light poles are still to

    be placed).


    If you are interested in advertising, email for an

    ad specification sheet. All ads will be placed at the end of the newsletter.


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