State of the Village, April 2016
By Mayor Bernie Hovey
Good evening, and welcome. Thank you for coming out tonight. I know some of you may be here only because the Indians game got cancelled – still, welcome. Over the next 20 minutes or so, I will talk about some of the things that happened in the Village in 2015, as well as some of the things we have to look forward to in 2016.
One word can describe the State of the Village – busy. Or maybe two words – very busy.
Two major projects were undertaken in 2015. One was completed, and one will be completed this year. For the first time in nearly 20 years, we embarked upon a Village-wide sidewalk program. In a program as massive as this, one that involved over 53,000 square feet of sidewalks, we naturally had some problems and setbacks. Be it damaged sprinklers or incorrectly poured cement or inconvenience caused to some residents, problems did arise. But every issue was addressed, and every issue was resolved. And, by and large, the program was a resounding success. Our sidewalks are now even, and safe. I, as well as all residents, no longer have to worry about tripping or falling as we take our walks through the Village. There is no longer a need or a reason to walk in Village streets. Even my grandchildren appreciate the smoother rides they now receive in their strollers. I’m also pleased to report that all of this work was done for less than $5 per square foot. And I must commend and thank Village Council for its decision to pay for sidewalks damaged by Village owned trees, instead of assessing residents for these. This decision cost the Village $104,000, but it was a wise and just decision.
We also started the water meter replacement program in 2015. Our goal is to complete this project before the end of 2016. We saved more than $103,000 by having our service department workers do the install, instead of contracting the installation to an outside source. As of today, we have successfully installed 390 water meters, and will install at least 149 more by the end of June. This represents about one-half of the Village. As busy as our service department is, they still manage to install about 5 meters a day, a pace, which if we can maintain, will see this project completed sometime in December. Clearly this is a lofty goal, and we know we will see interruptions in our efforts to achieve it. Yet, if we meet this goal, we will be comfortably within the 18 month installation time guesstimate given Council at the time the water meter project was approved. But, my fellow residents, we do need your help and cooperation. If you have not yet contacted my office for an installation date, please do so as soon as possible. We can start taking your calls again tomorrow morning at 8 AM.
Just a few more comments about the water meters. We embarked upon this program because our present meters are antiquated and no longer readily available for purchase. The new meters take advantage of the most up-to date technology, and come with a 20 year warranty. This was a needed and wise investment for the Village. No longer will residents receive estimated water bills, no longer will residents have to read their own meters, and no longer will residents have to make quarterly arrangements for a Village service worker to come inside their home to do an actual meter read. This new system will have all water usage directly reported to us. Not a drive-by system, the information will be reported directly to my office via signals sent to one of two antennas, then downloaded onto a computer in my office. We receive, and check, water usage information daily. With this new system, we can monitor excessive or unusual water usage at any residence from my office, and inform home owners in a timely manner if such a situation is occurring in their homes. Already, several residents have benefited from this, and were able to make necessary repairs before their water bills became ridiculously large.
So what else has happened in 2015? Let me list a few things:
- We built a new salt barn. This was necessitated by a collapsed roof on our old salt barn. Fortunately, our insurance coverage was a big help here. The total cost of the new structure was $63,500, but our insurance covered all but $18,400 of that cost. Considering that we would have had to build a new salt barn anyway in the very near future, and would have borne the entire cost, this calamity actually turned out to be a benefit to the Village.
- We bought new playground equipment. Park Board had advocated for a newer, more modern playground for several years. Now, finally, we have it.
- We revised and updated our employee handbook. This took months of work, but now the handbook fully addresses up-to-date policies and practices applicable to today’s workforce.
- We resurfaced several Village streets. While we have most streets on a 10 year repaving cycle, we are sometimes forced to deviate from this schedule. This year, we tried something new. Instead of removing the top couple of inches of blacktop, and then discarding this material, this year, on Vincent Road, we authorized a new process involving recycling. We still removed the top 2 inches or so of blacktop, but then contracted with a company to recycle, not discard, this material, and lay it back down on the street. The results were very acceptable, and the job was done at a cost 40% lower than what we usually paid. We will certainly look to use this process again in the future.
- We did a much needed patch job on both Kent Road and Graham Road. While both roads need to be resurfaced, they also needed immediate attention. ODOT will resurface Kent Road in 2018, at no cost to the Village, and we intend to resurface Graham Road, using money we have in County funds, later this year. But because of the timing involved, it was necessary to do some patching on these roads now. Each of these roads, while not perfect, are now safer to travel. I might mention, also, that ODOT will be resurfacing the walk bridge to Roberts Middle School in 2018, and at no cost to the Village.
- We purchased a new police cruiser. Our police cars incur many miles in a year, and are subject to hard driving. Normally, we will keep a police car in service for 5 years.
- We purchased a new backhoe. Our old one was well past its years of good service. This is a piece of machinery that we use on an almost daily basis. But we were spending a lot of time and money in repairs on it, and it was often out of service when we really needed it.
- We purchased a front-end loader. We have never before had a front end loader. The front-end loader will perform many of the duties that our backhoe was forced to do. Not only will it save us time, but it will permit us to do our jobs more efficiently, and will definitely prolong the life of the backhoe. In addition to relieving the demands on the backhoe, it also saves us money in other ways. One example of this is that now we can now use our front-end loader to stack the salt we purchase into the salt barn ourselves. Previously, we paid handsomely for this service.
- We saw the construction of new homes. Three older homes were demolished, with new homes to be built in their place. Two are currently under construction. In the last several years, this has been the pattern – demolish an old home, build a palace.
- Two new doors were installed in Village Hall. The front entrance door and the side entrance door to council chambers were both old, rusting and drafty. These doors solve that problem, give Village Hall a much better look, and will look even better after they are painted this summer.
- We authorized a wet water study for Silver Lake. The purpose of this study was to determine how and where we were getting inflow of damaging matter into the lake, and what we may be able to do to diminish such infiltration. We were also hoping to get information on how to curb some of the flooding that happens in the Village. The results of this wet water study were used to apply for a grant to address this problem. While we were unsuccessful in receiving the grant, we did get valuable information which may help us secure the grant in the near future.
- We embarked upon a new investment policy. Just as have yours, the Village has seen the return on our investments dwindle to almost nothing. After much study and several meetings and phone calls, we adjusted how and where we invest Village funds. This new policy does cost us about $5000 a year, but because of it, we have seen our returns grow from about $1000 a year to now more than $24,000.
- We now have a modern webpage. Our old webpage was ancient, and no longer supported by modern technology. I urge you to frequent our website. Click on “Mayor’s Blog” tab to see notes and tidbits of information I try to post at regular, if not daily, intervals. We even joined Facebook. Residents can now get almost any information they need by going to our webpage, or by visiting Facebook. Like us when you do. Our goal is to keep things as up to date as possible.
So what is in store for 2016 and beyond?
- We hope to embark upon the last of our 4 major sewer projects. Namely, we have already authorized engineering to be done on the sewers on Lee Road. Hopefully in 2016, we can begin that project.
- Discussion on Englewood Drive. Englewood Drive has long been a problem in the Village. It has no sidewalks, no curbs and no sewers. The problem this causes is not one borne only by the residents on that street, but also by many residents on the east side of the Village. The fact is that rainwater on that street has nowhere to go, other than down the street, across Randolph, Lake and Silverview, and onto Harriett Road. During times of heavy rain, this causes much flooding in those areas. Resolving this problem will not be easy, nor inexpensive. Nor will it be solved in 2016. But we must begin discussion on what needs be done to address this situation.
- Fenwick Park Creek bed. Years ago, two homes were demolished at what is now Fenwick Park. These homes were becoming dangerous, as the land on which these homes sat was being seriously eroded by the creek. While the homes are gone, the erosion continues. The creek bed needs to be stabilized. We recently applied for a grant in the amount of $300,000 to do just that. This Thursday, April 7, we will be meeting with county officials at the creek bed site. Our hope that once they see first-hand what we need to do, we will be awarded the grant.
- Charter Review Commission Recommendations. Two years ago the Charter Review Commission recommended 20 changes be made to our charter. These changes were suggested to either alleviate archaic language, do away with no longer applicable practices, or to align our charter with the way governmental business is actually conducted in the Village. To date, Council has placed 10 of these suggestions before the voters in the last two general elections. All were overwhelmingly approved by the electorate. Two others were approved by legislative action. The other 8 await action. It is my hope that Council will place each of these 8 suggestions before the voters over the course of the next 2 elections. All of the suggestions were made, after months of study, by an informed and diverse group of 5 citizens of the Village. I believe that the democratic principles upon which our society is based deem it only right that the citizens of Silver Lake be given the opportunity to say whether they agree with the suggestions or not.
- The Year 2018. 2018 marks the 100th year of the incorporation of Silver Lake as a charter community. It is a year that we will want to celebrate. Within the next several weeks, I will call for a general meeting to start planning how we will celebrate. I will invite members of every group and club I know in the Village to this meeting. It will also be open to any individual resident who wants to be involved. What we do, and how we do it, will be planned by you. I look forward to what you will come up with.
I remain very proud and appreciative of the contributions made on behalf of Silver Lake by so very many of our residents. Without naming all of the individuals involved, my deepest and most heartfelt thanks go out to those residents who serve on the Park Board, the Planning Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Citizens’ Housing Committee. These people serve without compensation; they do it out a sense of duty and love for the Village. Without the time and commitment donated the Village by these men and women, my job would be so very much harder. I am proud and appreciative, also, of the fine work done by the men and women that form the Silver Lake Garden Club. Their work in beautifying the Village, in organizing and running both the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony and the much anticipated Festival, and in sponsoring a wealth of great programs every year, is to be highly commended. I feel the same way about the newly invigorated Silver Lake Historical Society. This past year they have sponsored many excellent programs, and are doing a great job in helping preserve the history of Silver Lake. And, of course, I am very proud of each one our Village employees. Be they full-time or part-time, each one is committed to serving you, and to making life in our Village as pleasant and convenient as possible. Please join me in thanking all those that I just mentioned.
I am pleased, also, with the leadership of our department heads. Our service director, Mark Lipan, our Chief of Police, John Conley, and our Clerk-treasurer, Sean Housley, are each eminently qualified in their positions. Each of these men bring a high degree of professionalism to their positions, and demonstrate their total commitment to the people of Silver Lake in a way which makes me very proud. The Village is well-served by each of them. Thank you, gentlemen.
There is one employee I’d like to say just a little bit more about, one who seems often to be overlooked.
Bob Heydorn is the Village solicitor, and has been since 1996. Before that, he served on Village Council. Bob is devoted to the Village. No person I know has a deeper love and deeper commitment to Silver Lake than does Bob Heydorn. He is a trusted advisor and confidant, a true and dear friend. I call him several times a week for legal advice on how to proceed in certain matters. He always answers the phone. Bob collects a salary from Silver Lake. But by today’s salary standards, and knowing the hours he puts in for the Village, he represents the best bargain ever for Silver Lake. In addition to his salary, a clause in his contract allows Bob to bill us for hours he spends for us in court, or in researching codes and laws for opinions we require, or for time spent when I ask him to attend Planning Commission or Appeals Board meetings. He can do so at a rate of $150 per hour. But you know what? He doesn’t. I’ve never seen an invoice for billable hours, hours which I estimate to be in excess of 500 a year, from Bob Heydorn. He doesn’t even ask for mileage or parking reimbursement. Again, he loves the Village, and is committed to serving it at the highest level. Thank you, Bob, for all that you do.
Virtually everything we do in and for the Village costs money. Our income sources are limited, and are not increasing. You may have heard that we spent almost $1,000,000 more in 2015 than we took in; the actual figure was $619,312. In 2016, that figure is projected to be a few dollars more $300,000. But, as it was in 2015, I know this figure will be much less. It will be less because I know our department heads will find better deals and better contracts for needed equipment and services than they knew existed at the time appropriations were made. As they often do, they will then return a significant portion of their appropriations to the general fund. Still, this is a situation that cannot go on without end. But let’s make sure we see the entire picture. We are not spending and borrowing, spending and borrowing. In our case, we are spending available capital. The spending of available capital is a good thing. It shows that we have planned, and prepared for the future. Isn’t this what you do in your own household? You want or need to buy something, but don’t have the necessary cash immediately available. And you don’t want to pull out the credit card. So you save, maybe for months, maybe for years. When you’ve saved enough, you buy. You did not deficit spend; instead you spent available capital. I am proud that we are in a position to be able to access available capital, and will always advocate the judicious spending of the money you have provided us, before I ask for more from you.
We have many different fund accounts in the Village. All are relatively healthy, and all are projected to be so for several more years. Let me give you a couple of examples of how we spent available capital. Our new water meters cost $250,000, money not offset by new 2015 revenue. But we had over $476,000 in the account that could be used to pay for this purchase. So instead of raising water rates to pay for the water meters, we spent some of the available capital in the water fund. And today, there is still $287,000 in that account. Another example, we spent $104,000 on sidewalks damaged by Village trees. Yet this money came from the general fund, which, at the time, had a balance of over $2 million dollars. Again we spent available capital. According to our clerk-treasurer, our projected unexpended general fund balance at the end of this year is 2.1 million dollars. I consider this substantial. Very substantial. Much of it is a result of a very large inheritance tax settlement we received in 2014. I can assure you we are not just sitting on that money. It’s been used to pay for sidewalks. It’s been used to make capital purchases. It’s been used to minimize necessary sewer rate increases. But I am not a Pollyanna. I know that this surplus will not last forever. In fact, it can disappear quickly. And while our financial situation is at present stable, it merits our most stringent attention. Most of our spending of excess capital goes towards capital purchases. Our shortfalls in operating expenses are actually quite minimal, and very manageable. We need to shore up our capital budget. Our large general fund can do just that, at least in the short term. We can then focus on what must be done to ensure that we have monies for day to day operating expenses. Let me assure you that I, as mayor, and the councilmen and councilwomen seated to my right, have been both judicious and conservative in spending your money. Such is our fiduciary duty. We use your tax dollars wisely. We spend what we have available to us, and take seriously our charge to explore ways to have funds available for future expenditures.
We have many very expensive projects which we will have to undertake at some point in the future. Our water lines are old; many of them are not properly looped. Our roads need attention. For all the work we’ve done on sewers, we still have problem areas. Capital equipment will always need to be purchased. So what does this mean? It means that we must realize our surplus funds are only temporary. It means that, despite cutting expenses wherever feasible, despite delaying some purchases, despite scaling back services or projects when necessary, we still face increasing costs in every aspect of government. Sometime in the future we will have to again adjust water and sewer rates. Sometime in the future, we will have to embark upon some sort of revenue enhancement program. But not today. Our clerk-treasurer tells me we are in a comfortable financial position for maybe 3 years into the future. What we must do for the years after that will be a subject of debate and discussion for this council, this mayor, and future councilpersons and mayors. I am confident that it is a discussion that will end with a sound fiscal plan for the future for Silver Lake.
Being mayor of Silver Lake is not an easy job. But it is one that I love, one that I think I’m reasonably good at, and one that I work very hard at. It is one that I am better at because of the love and support of my wife, Kathleen. If you know Kathleen, you know that she is not afraid to let me know her opinion on matters that concern the Village – actually, on any matter. Sometimes, we disagree. But, usually, she is right, and while I may not be the smartest man in the room tonight, I am smart enough to listen to her. Friends, fellow citizens, this job is also one that I could not do without your support. Many of you here tonight have given me just that over the past 10 years, and, I hope, will continue to do so during the next 4, and perhaps beyond. We are all in this together. Together, we will keep our Village a most desirable place in which to live. Together, we will meet the challenges that face us. Again, thank you for being here tonight, thank you for your attention, and thank you for all that you do.