legislation expected in May
By Jeff Gallatin
Published April 30, 2008
officials expect to have more answers for residents and themselves
in May on a proposed new $18 million recreation center for the city.
Mayor Thomas O’Grady last Thursday told another large
audience at a council recreation, buildings and facilities committee
meeting discussing the administration’s proposed recreation master
plan for North Olmsted that he will be presenting council with legislation
for the proposal in May. The plans were among many items discussed
as many city residents in the crowd of more than 100 people again
showed their displeasure with the current proposal. Much of the
anger again focused on having the YMCA run the proposed new center
and deleting an ice rink from the proposal.
O’Grady said later he realized the time frame is tight
if the city wants to get a proposal on the November ballot for a
one-eighth percent income tax to fund the city portion of the new
facility. He said he expects to have negotiations concluded with
the YMCA for running the facility as well as providing its $5 million
portion of the facility. He also said work should be concluded with
Fairview Hospital and the Cleveland Clinic for being partners in
“We know that we have to keep it moving,” O’Grady
said. “We will have legislation ready for council to consider in
May. This would allow three readings in council without suspension
in time for it to be submitted for the ballot.”
To go on the November ballot, any legislation must
be given to and approved by the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
by August. Council usually takes a month off in the summer either
in July or August, meaning it may have to schedule a special meeting
to consider any legislation which needed to be passed.
Council officials also are aware of the time frame
for considering the plan.
“It’s tight, we know that,” said Council Finance Committee
Chairman Michael Gareau later. “We don’t want to negotiate the contract;
that’s the administration’s job. But we would like to have the information
in place and a good dialogue with those involved to properly consider
this and make a decision.”
Council officials said they will be ready for the
“We won’t have another meeting until May, when the
administration has legislation ready for us to consider,” said Mark
Mahoney, chairman of the panel. As in the first meeting earlier
this month, Mahoney limited remarks to about three minutes each
for audience members in order to allow as many people to speak as
“We know it’s a major issue for many people,” Mahoney
said. “That’s why we’re keeping the meetings flowing as much as
Mahoney also limited or stopped O’Grady from responding
to a few remarks in order to let other residents speak. This prompted
the mayor to quip a few times, wondering if he could speak then.
Among residents, several questioned having the YMCA
run the facility, while others and council members asked why it
is only giving a smaller portion of the money, adding that it is
likely to see most or all of the benefits even though the city is
footing most of the cost. Others said cutting out the ice rink is
cutting out something many city residents still want and that provides
revenue by bringing people into the city to use the rink as well
as use city businesses and restaurants. Others said that even though
they don’t use the rink, it’s still important to them and the city
and that the mayor should not characterize the opposition to the
plan as being solely from rink proponents.
O’Grady and the administration again said that rink
usage is still down and that North Olmsted, like many other cities,
can’t afford to run one any more.
“It’s not a good municipal business anymore,” O’Grady
said. “I understand the frustration, but we can’t operate the city
that way anymore. I do not want to be a mayor who is laying off
people because we can’t pay for all that we try to do.”
He reiterated that the city would work with any private
enterprise that wants to establish and run a rink in the city.
Ward 2 Councilman Paul Barker again expressed strong
reservations about the plan as well as asking YMCA and hospital
officials to attend a meeting and take part in discussions.
“This is what I’m hearing from a lot of residents,”
Barker said. “They want more information; they don’t feel the administration
is listening to some of their concerns and and they’d like to hear
from the other parties involved. This is a major decision for the
city and they want to be heard.”
Other residents and Ward 3 Councilwoman Nicole Dailey
Jones again asked about potential costs for residents, expressing
concern that the YMCA fees could price some residents out of being
able to use the facility.
Councilman-at-large Kevin Kearney asked if the facility
would be called a city recreation center or YMCA, with O’Grady indicating
it likely would be called a YMCA.
O’Grady said he’s aware of the concerns but has come
up with the best possible decision.
“This is all part of the process and council also
should be aware of that, particularly with ongoing negotiations,”
he said. “We thought that the YMCA and Clinic should not be a part
of this until the final contract is ready for presentation. We will
come up with the best way to provide benefits for most of our residents.”