In the first few months after taking office Mayor Patrick Cooney received phone calls from Fire Chief Tony Raffin that weren't major problems.
On Jan. 1, 2020, Raffin called to tell him City Hall did not have power. More than a month later, on the evening of Feb. 23, Raffin called to say that the Fairview Fire Department was helping Rocky River put out a fire on Hilliard Boulevard that was so big it made national news. And on March 23, he called to tell the mayor that a member of the Fire Department had COVID-19, the first member of a first-responder unit in Cuyahoga County to catch the illness.
“That's when I quit taking his phone calls,” Cooney quipped.
At the joint State of the Community Address on April 28, the mayor and school district Superintendent Keith Ahearn provided information about Fairview Park. Although there were a lot of positives to report, there were some negatives too.
The event, held at the Gemini Center, showed that the community has faced some challenges and done well. But perhaps one of the biggest challenges would be one that was nearby: the Gemini Pool.
Since it opened in 2008, the Gemini Center has had problems with the pool. When he became mayor 12 years later, Cooney inherited those problems.
“The biggest challenge being the pools here at the Gemini Center,” Cooney said. “Unfortunately, due to health, safety and welfare concerns, the scope of this project, which initially was seen as a roof issue, has increased dramatically and includes the removal and replacement of light fixtures with fire suppression system, all electrical conduits and supports and the air handlers.”
Water leakage was a problem, and investigating the source of the leak, problems with the concrete and pool finish were found. These needed to be corrected, the mayor said.
“There's three main concerns that are cost, quality and time,” Cooney said. “You can't have all three. If you want it fast, it will cost you and you will sacrifice quality. In my mind, the most important thing for these pools for our community is quality, which is going to take time.
“The Gemini Center and its pools are an integral part of our city and the natatorium area of the Gemini Center is used by many members of our community. Young and old, the Fairview High School swim team. It's where kids learn to swim. It's a big part of the Cleveland Clinic's rehab program. It's a great place to have fun with family and friends.”
Ahearn's address was mostly positive, but it included a warning.
“We have an emergency levy that is due to expire at the end of 2023,” Ahearn said. “Renewing this levy would not be a tax increase to our community, but a failure to renew this levy would result in a loss of $2.69 million per year of revenue for the district. This would have a major impact on the current and future financial stability.”
Meanwhile, there was plenty of positive news. The mayor mentioned the $3.5 million grant the city received for the Woodstock Avenue sewer project, grants for planting trees, additions of 1.5 miles of sidewalks and trail paths, purchasing new vehicles police department vehicles, improvement on 3.7 miles of roads, 3,173 feet of water line, seven new businesses starting from January 2020 through March 31, along with others at Westgate Shopping Center.
Cooney cited working with other communities as part of the city’s success. Fairview worked with North Olmsted to move the jail to that town. In February 2020, departments from Bay Village, North Olmsted, Westlake, Lakewood and Fairview helped Rocky River firefighters put out the five-alarm blaze on Hilliard.
“Collaboration between our Westshore fire departments occurs on a daily basis and makes our city and region a better and safer place,” Cooney said.
“We will look for more opportunities to collaborate with our restaurant partners and others to continue providing quality safety services in the most cost-efficient way.”
Ahearn pointed out the passage of a school levy in 2020 that gave the district a major boost.
“This was the first new operating money the district had asked for in nearly 15 years,” Ahearn said. “And that led me to stabilize our finances and allowed the district to maintain the quality academic fine arts and extracurricular activities that they have come to appreciate. The passage of Issue 72 was a collaborative effort of all schools’ partners in education.”
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