By Kevin Kelley
During his annual state of the city address, Mayor Dennis Clough reiterated his belief that Westlake’s water service agreement with Cleveland’s Division of Water expires in 2015 because of a provision in the city charter limiting contracts to 25 years in length.
A Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court granted Westlake’s request for a temporary injunction against Cleveland’s attempt to impose additional fees on Westlake water customers for costs associated with the suburb’s purported plan to leave the system. The court found that, as Westlake maintained, the suburb has not taken steps to leave the system. Cleveland has announced its intention to appeal the ruling.
In a March 11 speech before the West Shore Chamber of Commerce at LaCentre Conference & Banquet Facility, Clough repeated that Westlake would like to purchase water from both Avon Lake Municipal Utilities and Cleveland’s Division of Water. Cleveland has not agreed to serve as a backup supplier to Westlake, Clough said.
“If we have to sign a long-term contract with anybody, we ought to look at options,” the mayor said.
Clough said city officials have spoken to officials with Avon Lake Municipal Utilities about preventing a repeat of the service issues experienced this winter due to ice accumulating at its intake pipes in Lake Erie.
“We feel they’re a reliable source,” Clough said of Avon Lake Municipal Utilities. He added that people experience water service interruptions during water main breaks.
During his 30-minute talk, Clough said he has continued to keep taxes low compared to surrounding communities, while offering quality services.
“We obviously have a good environment for the business community to expand,” the mayor said. “We have a great selection of houses.”
The involvement of residents, the business community and civic organizations is a central part of the community’s success, Clough said.
“The city of Westlake doesn’t stand still,” Clough said, referring to people and businesses that continue to move into and invest in Westlake. The expansion of businesses in Westlake is a major reason why taxes remain low, he added.
Clough said one of his favorite topics to speak about is the city’s strong financial status.
“Most importantly, we have a very solid stable financial position in the city of Westlake,” Clough said, adding that Westlake has held a AAA bond rating for 13 years.
The city doesn’t spend more money than it takes in, the mayor said.
“We don’t spend the money just because we have it,” Clough said. The city’s fund balance is larger than its debt level, Clough noted.
“During the down economic times in this particular area, the city of Westlake held its own. We did not lose much value,” the mayor said, referring to property values.
The biggest event coming in 2014, Clough said, will be the start of construction on American Greetings’ new corporate headquarters at Crocker Park. An expansion of retail and residential construction there will almost double Crocker Park’s size, the mayor noted.
Clough said his administration will continue to place a priority on maintaining the city’s infrastructure through regular road maintenance programs.
“It might be a little tougher this year because of all those potholes we have because of the tough winter. But we’ll get it done,” Clough said.
Keeping the streets clear has been more challenging this year than in previous years, Clough acknowledged, adding that more road salt was purchased this winter than in several years.
One benefit of the snowy winter was that many children had plenty of time to use the sledding hill at the Westlake Recreation Center.
“That was an afterthought, believe it or not,” Clough said of the hill, which was formed from dirt removed during the creation of retention basins.
“That is one of the most popular things at the recreation center, and it cost us virtually nothing,” Clough said.
Clough told chamber members that, aside from his 38-year marriage to his wife, Virginia, his association with their organization was the longest association he’s had since moving to Westlake.