State of the Village – March 2019
It’s important that you know and understand what your government leaders are doing to protect and preserve the life we enjoy in Silver Lake. In 1918, Silver Lake was incorporated as a village. Our first mayor was William R. Lodge. Over the next 100 years, 11 men and 2 women have served as mayor. I had the honor of becoming the 14th mayor of Silver Lake in 2006. I believe that all of our mayors have served with distinction, and served because of their love for the Village. I include myself in that description. Each mayor had his or her strengths and weaknesses. I know that I have my weaknesses, but I also have my strengths. I like to think my greatest strength is my ability to listen. In all the decisions I have to make, I try first to take advice, before I give it. Perhaps this is because when I was much younger, when I studied Greek history in school, I remembered learning that Socrates didn’t ask for a lot of advice, but gave lots of advice………and they poisoned him.
As is the norm, 2018 was a busy, interesting and exciting year. New challenges, new projects, new legislation, new employees, new equipment, and a very successful celebration of our centennial. Let’s start with that.
Our birthday year included golf outings, music at the gazebo, and a new patio at the gazebo, a patio featuring almost 400 inscribed bricks containing messages of love or remembrance to, from, and for many residents, one of the bricks even contained a marriage proposal. We also had food trucks, an art show, a wine tasting event, banners proclaiming our centennial, a very professional and beautiful centennial painting, an exquisite quilt depicting our rich history, an ice cream social, rock painting, 5k runs, pancake breakfasts, a show at Silver Lake Country Club, and an all-Village celebration day. So many people were involved in putting all this together…scores of people. Thank you for your hard work and devotion to the Village. Even more of you took part in the many centennial events. The large centennial banner is hung on the wall of Village Hall and signed by many, many residents expressing their love for the Village. I hope each of you had the opportunity to sign it.
And if the centennial celebrations were not enough of an excuse to party, we also had several interesting programs throughout the year sponsored by the Silver Lake Historical Society. Programs dealing with archeological digs, Indian settlements, Silver Lake Amusement Park, the history and architecture of Silver Lake and Silver Lake School, and even a program for young kids. Add to that the Pay the Shade Forward program, and perhaps the culmination of it all, another spectacular Festival put on by the Garden Club. A lot of work went into all of this, but how much fun we had!
And, of course, the work of the Village went on.
- We recently passed a new salary ordinance, one which we can readily afford, and one which pays our employees’ wages much closer to what they truly deserve.
- Council also raised from $5,000 to $25,000 the limit I have to spend on things needed for the Village. Don’t worry, this was not a blank check. What it did was eliminate the needless step of asking for a second approval to spend money that had already been appropriated through the budget process. It placed the decision of what to buy, and when and where to buy it, squarely where it needs to be, in my hands, and those of our department heads.
- We fortified the western bank of the stream at Fenwick Park a few years ago, but erosion was continuing to be a problem. Hence, this past year, we fortified the eastern bank to address this problem.
- A new brewery opened up this year on the Silver Lake – Cuyahoga Falls border. And while we welcome any new business to the area, especially one catering to food and spirits, the parking problems that the brewery caused on Landon Road proved to be a headache for the residents living on Landon. I had “No Parking” signs erected, and the problem disappeared.
- Council approved a bee keeping ordinance this year. Previously, it was unclear whether bee keeping was a lawful hobby allowed in Silver Lake. This ordinance now allows anyone who wishes to keep bees on their property, and who can comply with the stipulations in the ordinance, to do so.
- The Lee Road sewer project finally became a reality. And, as with any construction project, this certainly caused problems and inconvenience for residents living in that area. But it was a project that needed to be done. Another unfunded mandate from the EPA, we had to correct the illegal situation of over/under sewers, and we had to address the infiltration of rainwater into our sanitary sewers, as well as the flow of unwanted pollution into the waters of Silver Lake. The project will be finalized, and all ground surfaces returned to their pre-construction conditions as soon as the weather permits.
- We entered into a project with the City of Stow and AMATS (the Akron Metropolitan Area Transport Study) to repave Graham Road from Route 91 up to the railroad tracks. The total cost of the project will be around 1 million dollars. Because of our partnership with the two previously mentioned groups, our cost will be around $200,000. Without this partnership, if we had to pave our portion of Graham Road on our own, the cost would probably have been in excess of $700,000. The project will start in the spring, and will take several months to complete.
- We have always made our recreational facilities – the gazebo, the picnic pavilion, the baseball field, the basketball court and the tennis courts, available to virtually anyone, and at no cost. However, there is a cost to keep those areas in good repair. So this year we instituted usage fees on all but the tennis courts and the basketball courts. The fees are nominal, and lesser fees are charged to residents. I should also note that our tennis courts can now also be used for pickle ball. The courts were lined and equipped for pickle ball after we received a generous donation from Don Sitts of Don Sitts Auto in Cuyahoga Falls. By generous, I mean he paid 100 percent of the cost.
- We again had a deer cull program this past year. While some people opposed this action, I know that the vast majority of residents supported it. Most people like deer, think they’re cute, and do not harbor wishes to kill them. However, they also realize there are too many deer in the Village – I have reports from residents of having groups of 5, 7, 11 and even 18 deer in their yards at various times. The fact is that deer carry disease, that they cause accidents, that they can be threatening and that they cause property damage. When it comes to the safety of residents versus the preservation of deer, I choose the former.
- One of the biggest concerns residents continually voice to me is the issue of speeding in the Village. We are taking, and have always taken, steps to attack this problem. We now have “Pedestrian Crossing” signs on the Boulevard near the boathouse during peak summer time hours. We’ve improved or installed pedestrian crossings at key intersections. I’ve instructed the police to be vigilant in writing speeding tickets, especially on Kent and Graham Roads, on the Boulevard, on Vincent Road, on Englewood Drive and on roads around the school. These seem to be areas of the most concern. I have no interest in becoming known as a ticket city; I have great interest in making the streets of the Village safe. I might add that as I reviewed the police reports on traffic tickets over the last few years, we do use discretion. In 2013, we wrote over 1,300 traffic citations, but also gave out almost 1,300 warnings. Our most recent report shows us writing just under 2,000 traffic citations, but also giving more than 2,400 warnings. Yes, we do ticket, but we also use good judgement, and assess each case on its merits when doing so.
- In 2018, we purchased two new police cruisers, and one new Service Department truck. We replaced the detective car with a small SUV, and received, via a drug confiscation, another small SUV to replace a small dilapidated Service Department truck.
- We repaired 12 water breaks, cleaned 2.3 miles of sewer lines, replaced 41 street signs and posts, kept the roads clear during the recent polar vortex, and picked up 4,840 cubic yards of leaves.
- After eight years of outstanding service to the Village, John Conley retired as police chief in January. I was pleased to promote Lieutenant Jamie Norris to that position, and also to promote Dave Childers to the position of lieutenant. Please congratulate both of them.
So what’s ahead for 2019? Here’s just a few things:
- We will have engineering done for a desired Englewood Drive improvement. Too long ignored by the Village, that street needs sewers, sidewalks and curbs. As Stow residents will also benefit from the improvements made on Englewood Drive, we hope to get support and cooperation from the City of Stow when that project commences. My preliminary discussions with Stow Mayor John Pribonic regarding this project have been very positive. We hope to start this project sometime in the year 2020.
- I am happy to report that we have about $28,000 left over in the centennial fund. We will use some of that money to continue our concerts at the gazebo this summer, and are also looking at the possibility of using some of it to erect a modest digital sign in front of Village Hall, a sign which will enable us to trash the ugly, embarrassing, broken sign on wheels we now use, and one that will help us better communicate with residents.
- Our financial situation is both sound and stable. Our general fund has an unencumbered balance of 1.7 million dollars, considerably more than accepted guidelines tells us we need. To keep loan payments down, we encumbered $250,000 from the general fund to help pay for the Lee Road project. Our other various funds are also adequate, even healthy. One fund, however, merits serious attention – the sewer fund. We have received ridiculously high and totally unforeseen sewer bills from Summit County, some of it due to inflow problems we continually address, and some of it due to the sewer problems in Akron. The sewer fund is an enterprise fund, and should be self-sustaining. At this point, it is not. The clerk-treasurer is examining what needs be done to shore up this fund. Undoubtedly, his recommendation will be for an increase in sewer fees to residents. While both Council and I will keep any such increases as minimal as possible, we also realize we must ensure the integrity of the sewer fund.
- I was a public school teacher for 38 years, and a private school teacher for seven additional years. I would never diminish the very important and very personal role of private education in our society. But I firmly believe in, and will always support, public education. Hence, I will continue to express to the proper school authorities, the importance of maintaining the physical presence of a school in Silver Lake, be it the school we now have, or a new one built on that site. Silver Lake Elementary School is our only physical connection to the Cuyahoga Falls Public School system, a connection that would be unwise to sever.
A great football coach, Vince Lombardi, once said “The price of success is hard work and dedication to the job at hand, the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand”. I am proud to say that those who work for the Village take those words to heart. Be it members of Council, or Service Department workers, or our police men and women, or those who work in the Administrative Office, in the treasurer’s office or in our legal department, or the many men and women that serve on our various standing committees, these people give me the best they have every day. They are the reason we are successful in what we do in Village government.
But, not only am I proud of my staff, I am also very proud and very appreciative of the efforts to improve the lives of others made by so many Silver Lake residents. Residents like Jim Newhouse who is so very active in the Meals on Wheels program, or Maria Pocek who is active with our local girl scout troop, or Katie Kuzcyk for her work with Summit County Animal Control, or Cynda Zuch for her continued beautification work throughout the Village, Hank Gulich for his volunteer efforts with the park system, Patty White for her efforts to better our schools, Rebecca Brockmeyer for her work with the Home and School League, Fred Johnson for his leadership on the SL Board of Trustees, Gary Kinsey for being there to help anyone, anywhere, anytime – so many more of you are doing similar things. We are truly a caring community; your efforts are a godsend to those who need it.
I take great pride in my service to you as your mayor. As I’ve said many times, and as I hope I show every day, I love this place we call home. I love my children; my grandchildren light up my life, and I love and adore my wife, Kathleen. Life with her is heavenly, though at times, to her, I’m sure life with me might seem like she is doing her earthly penance. I love Silver Lake. I love being your mayor. And while I feel much has been accomplished during my administration; I know there is yet much to be done. I try to serve with honor, with both pride and humility, and with passion. One of my favorite quotes comes from Albert Einstein, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value”. I do strive for success, but my prayer every day, is that you feel I have been of value to you. Success without value is not success at all. I hope that any value you may see in me is rewarded this coming November, when, with Kathleen’s support, I will again ask for your vote to be the Mayor of Silver Lake for another four years.
Thank you for your attention and your support. Mayor Bernie Hovey