State of the Village 2018

I appreciate the support you have shown me for many years now.  I appreciate hearing from you about any concerns you have.  Be it concerns about people walking in streets instead of on sidewalks, or what should be done about pet droppings left on lawns, or how to handle the populations of skunks, coyotes, feral cats, bees and deer, or of properties that seem to violate our ordinances, or of missed trash pick-ups.  Minor concerns….to some, maybe.  But obviously important to the people who voice them, concerns that deserve to be addressed.   I’m pleased that you communicate with me often, either by phone, or email, or conversation at various events or social gatherings.  Please continue this communication.  It is the most direct way for me to learn of what is important to you.  I promise to always listen, and to address every concern.  I also ask for your understanding when solutions may be slow in coming, or when they cannot be made to your complete satisfaction.

What a year 2017 was!  I’m pleased to be able to report on some of the major happenings in the Village during 2017, and to also give some indication of where we may be headed in 2018.

From sewer projects to archeological finds to new equipment to money saving legislation to planning a centennial celebration, and, yes, even to implementing a deer cull program, Silver Lake in 2017 was a busy, hectic and exciting place to be.  And while I may have been at the center of most of this activity, there is plenty of credit (some might say blame) to share with many people.

First and foremost to be awarded credit is Village Council.  The representatives, the people you have elected, take great care in their governance of the Village.  Without their diligence, their input and their advice, my job would be infinitely harder and more complex.

I’d also like to thank our department heads, Clerk-Treasurer Sean Housley, Village Solicitor Bob Heydorn, Police Chief John Conley, and Service Director Mark Lipan for the excellent jobs they do.

Two familiar faces are no longer on Council.  Chris Scott served the Village for 12 years as a councilman, and he served with both conviction and passion.  Chris was one of the most thorough and most prepared councilmen ever to have been elected by the voters in District A.  There was never a time that he was not completely prepared for all issues that came before Council.  His financial background and financial expertise, served us well.   Another veteran councilperson, Carol Steiner, chose to retire last year, rather than run for a 6th term.  I had the honor of serving with her for 18 of her 20 years as a Village Council person.  Carol truly was an excellent councilor, one who involved herself in every aspect of life in the Village.  Her expertise will be missed by all.  She had the pulse of the community always in her grasp.  I will miss her counsel, but am comforted by the fact that I will always have her friendship.

Two veteran Council people leaving means that two new ones have joined us.  I am pleased that Dann Nivens now represents District A, and that Therese Dunphy represents District B.  Both have big shoes to fill, and I have no doubt that both are well-qualified to do just that.  New also is Tim Nichols.  Last July, Tim was appointed by Council to fill the unexpired term of Karen Fuller when she decided to move to Columbus.  He was then elected in his own right by the voters in District C to a full term.  I have high expectations that Tim, Therese and Dann will provide both wise counsel and strong leadership during their time in office.

Many things happened in the Village in 2017 and here are 10 of them.

  1. The Planning and Zoning Commission, in addition to its normal duties, endorsed two new pieces of legislation. It brought forth legislation, later approved by Council, regulating the amount of impervious surface that is allowed on one’s property.  This legislation will help control the dispersion of water throughout the Village.  It also addressed the controversial issue of satellite dishes cropping up in a number of front yards throughout the Village, a phenomena that many people consider an eyesore.
  2. The men in the Service Department again provided excellent service to our Village, something that is normal and routine for them. Listen to just a few of the things that kept them busy in 2017.  They had LED lighting installed on virtually all Village buildings, a move that will save us thousands of dollars in energy costs.  They also oversaw the repair and replacement of both storm and sanitary sewers on Silver Lake Blvd; began in earnest the initial steps needed for the Lee Road sewer project; continued to help Cuyahoga Falls Schools with its needed supply of road salt; sold some no longer needed equipment on E-gov, once again ran an efficient leaf and limb pick-up program last fall – collecting 5900 cubic yards of leaves.  They repaired two broken water lines, at least one of which was in sub-freezing weather.  And, as is their practice, they continued to help residents, whenever they could, with various individual issues as the need arose.   They rebuilt four fire hydrants, cleaned 10,508 feet of sewer lines, planted 27 new trees, and purchased a new leaf machine and a new 5-ton dump truck.  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  The men in the Service Department work very hard, are very busy, and take great care of the Village.
  3. The Police Department had a very busy year. A need for increased accountability in various areas became necessary because of additional imposed regulations, mainly in the areas of records retention and data security. This resulted in the storage of thousands of video files created by cruiser videos and body cameras.  Due to the volume of work entailed, it became necessary to move the police secretary from part-time status to full time.  The department was very active in some criminal cases last year. It partnered with several county and federal agencies, specifically the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, on cases involving conspiracy to commit interstate fraud, counterfeiting and a drug raid.  It also transitioned to new 800 megahertz radios, updated its body cameras, and spearheaded the acquisition of two remote battery back-up systems for the traffic lights at the Kent Rd/ Silver Lake Blvd and the Dover Road/ Graham Road intersections.  This back-up system allows for the continued operation of traffic lights in those two intersections during times of power outages, thus allowing for the continued safety of both pedestrians and motorists during such times.  Our fleet of police vehicles is constantly being monitored and repaired and kept in the best operating condition possible.  Last year we bought a new cruiser, and we replaced the detective car, an old, high mileage Ford Taurus that had become unsafe, and in need of too many repairs to make it worth keeping.  I need also tell you, that in light of the many tragedies inflicted upon schools in America today, the Silver Lake Police Department, with both my full support and authorization, maintains a clear and obvious presence at Silver Lake Elementary School, as well as at the Church in Silver Lake Preschool.  They are there as friends and protectors to both staff and kids, and their presence is both welcomed and appreciated.  We were pleased that Council voted to continue the senior snow plow program.  This program is available to seniors on limited incomes, and who, without our help, would have difficulty keeping their driveways clear of snow during times of severe weather.
  4. The four volunteer boards we have functioning in the Village continue to do excellent work. Several citizens have volunteered their services on these boards, and often serve multiple years and terms.  Yet, change is inevitable, and new members are needed from time to time.  Recent additions have been Annmarie Lann and Stan Lero to the Citizens Housing Commission, Brian Lapolla to the Planning Commission, and Cynda Zuch to the Park Board.  I thank them for their willingness to serve, and their willingness to donate their time for the betterment of all in the Village.
  5. Last summer, an exciting discovery was made along the Marcia Mandela Trail. Eric Olson, an archaeologist from the University of Akron, found some artifacts indicating Native American life in that area of Silver Lake.  A subsequent dig revealed further evidence supporting that fact.  Eric recently applied for a grant from the Ohio Archaeological Society to conduct a more extensive dig in that area, and was successful in obtaining that grant.  This project will begin sometime in the next few months.  We are excited to see what will be found, and what pieces of information it will add to the history of Silver Lake.
  6. Our financial situation remains strong. We continue to be in a position that most other governmental entities in the State envy.  Our general fund remains near the two million dollar mark, this despite the fact that we spent $260,000 of our available reserves on various services.  Some would say this represents deficit spending.  I say this represents the spending of available capital.  Responsible fiscal management mandates that we spend monies you, the taxpayers, have already provided us, before we ask more from you.  Our water fund is healthy.  Our investments continue to yield higher returns than we have had in recent past years.  A particular area of concern, however, is our sewer fund.  With Summit County increasing its sewer rates by 12 percent or so, and with the sewer projects we have either recently finished, or will soon begin, an increase in sewer rates is imminent.  My recommendation to transfer a significant amount of money, $250,000 from our general fund to our sewer fund, a move that will lessen the amount of any sewer rate change, was recently approved by Council.  The fact that we will be retiring some of our debt service within the next three to four years will allow us to re-visit, and hopefully reduce, sewer rates at that time.  Just a couple of weeks ago we received and accepted a bid on the Lee Road sewer project that was some $500,000 less than we expected.  We expect to soon secure a loan for this project at a very favorable interest rate, so I am confident that the Lee Road project is one that we can comfortably afford.  When that project is done, we must get serious about doing something on Englewood Road.  That street has been virtually ignored by the Village for many, many years.  It has no sidewalks, no curbs and no sewers.  It is the cause of much of our flooding problems on the east side of the Village.  A major north-south route through the Village, it is not safe for pedestrian traffic.  This will be an expensive undertaking, but it is one that the Village must soon address.
  7. Our employees work hard for you; they are good at their jobs. Since 2009, their cost of living allowance has been raised twice, a total of 4.5 percent, more than 8 percent less than social security COLAs in that time.  I would like to see us better reward them for the jobs they do.
  8. As you by now are certainly aware, 2018 is our centennial year. In 2017, we held many different events in preparation for the big celebration this year.  We started with a 5k run in June, under the direction of Wes Perry, then a pancake breakfast, thank you Fred Johnson and Gary Kinsey, a mum sale, thank you Cynda Zuch, a sale of centennial banners expertly directed by David Hunter, Paul Testa and Jeff Heintz, and finally a golf outing, chaired by Jim and Ann Durr.  All were very successful.  We also began selling bricks for a landscape project at the gazebo.  This project will include constructing a sidewalk from the front of the gazebo to Silver Lake Boulevard and a small but ample brick patio in front of the gazebo.  People who buy bricks can have them engraved with up 3 lines of script; the bricks will then be set in random order in either a border along the sidewalk, or in the patio.  We hope to have this project completed by the end of May.  That means if you have not yet bought a brick, do so today.  Forms are at Village Hall, and also available online.  All of the aforementioned activities were fundraisers for our scheduled events in 2018.  What will be some of these events?  Well, we started out by hand delivering to every house in the Village a booklet containing as much information about the various centennial celebrations as we knew at the time of its printing.  The booklet is both beautiful and informative; I am so pleased with it.  If for some reason, you did not receive one, they are available at Village Hall.  Much work and the efforts of many people went into that booklet, and while, because of number of individuals involved, I cannot thank them all here tonight, I must thank Rob Ghosh for the expert design work he put into the booklet.  Earlier this year, we commissioned local artist Jack Mulhollen to do a centennial painting.  It is a collage of 12 whiskey painted scenes of life in the Village during the past 100 years.  The original is hanging outside my office in Village Hall.  Our hope is that each mayor during the next 100 years will sign the back of the painting, pass it down to the next mayor, and have it on display during our bicentennial celebration in 2118.  We also had 50 Giclee prints made, one to be raffled off, the others to be sold.  I believe 22 have already been purchased.  The paintings are signed by both Jack and myself, and sell for $150 framed, or $70 unframed.  Information on either purchasing a print, or buying raffle tickets, is in the office, and on our website.  In 2018, we will hold another 5k and another pancake breakfast.  Thanks to work done by Carol Steiner and my wife, Kathleen, we will host three outdoor music concerts at the gazebo; the concerts will be the 2nd Wednesdays of June, July and August at 7pm.  The June concert will feature the Goldtones from Cuyahoga Falls High School.  Subsequent concert will feature “Gypsies in the Palace” and “The K-Street Band”.  While I’m not sure exactly what type of music these two bands play, I think I was told one of them plays Jimmy Buffett type music, the other popular and contemporary music.  Food trucks will be at each of the concerts for people to buy refreshments.  As a bonus, at the 1st concert in June, Kathleen and I will host an ice cream social.  If all goes well with these concerts, as I expect it will, we may try to line up one more concert in September.  On Wednesday, April 25th, Bob Zimmermann has made arrangements for an art show and wine tasting affair at Silver Lake Country Club.  The art show will feature the works of 14 artists from the Village, along with a display of a centennial coloring book being put together, under the auspices of Carolyn Becker and Linda Thorson, featuring the artistic talents of children attending Silver Lake Elementary School.  On October 6th, we have arranged for Brent Webb, known as “The Mentalist” to perform at Silver Lake Country Club.  I have seen one of Brent’s shows; he is amazing, sort of a magician-illusionist rolled into one.  His show will be preceded by a cocktail party at the country club.  The following day, Sunday, Oct 7th, we will hold our final centennial celebration, an outdoor party held at the picnic pavilion.  We also have plans for another golf outing to be held on Monday, October 1.  However, I do not as of yet have chairmen lined up for the outing, so until I find one, or until someone steps up to take on this task, the golf outing remains not a firm thing, rather a tentative one.  One final word on the centennial.  The centennial committee is composed of a group of 15 or 16 residents who, since last March, have been meeting every 3rd Wednesday of every month.  Fearful and mindful that I may be leaving someone off the list, and sincerely apologizing if I do, let me tell you who those people are: Bob Gray, Susan Weiss, Cynda Zuch, Dave Barstow, Sarah and Phil Kaplan, Don Dieterich, Fred Johnson, Kathleen Hovey, Gary Kinsey, Rob Ghosh, Bob and Carol Steiner, Priscilla Drach, Hank Gulich and our chairwoman, Nancy Gray.
  9. Finally, let’s talk about the deer cull program. For several years, I have received complaints from many residents about deer in the Village.  These complaints stemmed from both almost car-deer accidents and actual car-deer accidents, to property damage, to aggressive deer behavior, to health and safety concerns, to sick and diseased deer found dead on lawns, even to yards unsafe and unusable due to the amount of deer feces in them.  In response to these concerns, in December 2016, I introduced legislation authorizing a deer cull program.  This legislation was based on that used by other communities, modeled mostly like the one used in Hudson, and written using advice and direction from the Ohio Division of Wildlife.  I did my homework on this issue; I did my research.  While I found compelling positions on both sides of the issue, I determined that a deer cull program was necessary for Silver Lake, and that one could be done in a safe and effective way.  But while I supported a deer cull, the decision was not mine to make.  Only Council could adopt legislation authorizing and establishing a deer cull program in the Village.  This they did by a better than 2 – 1 margin last September.  The cull was restricted to the 45 acres of land behind the service department.  So what was the result?  While I thought that 10 – 12 deer being removed from the Village herd would greatly help resolve the problem, only four were hunted and put down, three of which were donated to a food bank.  Why only four?  Because 45 acres, while a large piece of land, turned out to be too small an area to conduct a successful hunt.  The deer realized they were being hunted there, and simply deserted the area, something I later learned is in their nature to do.  Unfortunately, in our case, that different area, based on comments I’ve received from residents, often seemed to be other parts of the Village.  I know personally that I’d never had deer in my yard before.  But once the cull began, evidence of deer in my front yard, my back yard, even on my front porch, was very clear.  So where do we go from here?  That is up to you, and to Council.  I think a culling of deer is still in order.  And I think the vast majority of residents feel the same. But I will not support a program restricted only to that one area, as it has proved to be ineffective.  Nor will I support one done in any residential neighborhood.  You need to make your views known to Council, not just to me.  You need to attend Council meetings to do so, or write letters, or send emails.  Whatever the outcome, I will, as always, support the decision of Council, and the will of the people.

Ann Sewell, in her book “Black Beauty”, said “A place is only as good as the people in it”.  She must have been talking about Silver Lake.  We have good people living here.  Kind, caring compassionate, intelligent people.  You live here; you are evidence of the validity of that statement.  You are the reason my job as Mayor is so rewarding.  I love this Village we live in, and am both honored and humbled by the faith you have shown in me.  And while I think I’m a good Mayor, I’m probably not as good a Mayor as I think I am.  Maybe not even as good a mayor as you deserve.  But I do work hard at serving you.  One day you may have a more intelligent, a more articulate or a more charismatic Mayor, but you will never have a harder working one, nor one who loves the job as much as do I.   It is also a job I could not do without the love and support, as well as the advice and guidance, of Kathleen.  Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee once said, “I’m in this wonderful place in my life, where everything I’m doing is something I do because I enjoy it.”  That describes my feelings on being your Mayor.

Thank you for your attention and your support. Mayor Bernie Hovey