By Jeff Gallatin
Mayor Kevin Kennedy said his administration intends to remain all business during his fourth year in office.
Speaking before a packed house at the North Olmsted Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon Jan. 17, Kennedy delivered the annual state of the city address. Like any state of the government speech, he focused on what his administration has accomplished during his first three years, with a heavy emphasis on economic development and maintaining good relations with businesses in the city.
“It’s extremely important to my administration to maintain good relations with and do whatever we can to help, businesses,” he said. “They are the life blood of the city.”
He made specific time during his address to laud Westfield Great Northern Mall, which also Thursday formally announced an agreement with Regal Entertainment Group to bring a 10-screen state-of-the-art cinema complex to the mall. It is scheduled to open in December 2013, with Westfield officials also saying three new restaurants and a new main entrance will be part of the continued multimillion-dollar development at the mall.
Kennedy also lauded other major businesses such as the North Olmsted Auto Mile group, the GetGo expansion, St. Richard’s Senior Housing project and a Burlington Coat Factory coming to the strip behind Great Northern. He also said the annual meet and greet session his administration has with all area businesses is set for Feb. 28 in the Springvale Country Club ballroom.
“The city takes its relationship with the business community seriously, and we find ways to work with them and address their concerns,” he said.
Kennedy praised the city’s planning and development director, Kim Wenger, for her work throughout the year.
“As I’ve touched on with the different projects, there has been $39.4 million in development and redevelopment,” he said.
Kennedy said many businesses also give back to the community. He noted as one example Westfield giving $4,000 to the city’s food pantry, with many other businesses offering assistance to the pantry, citing, among others, Macy’s workers making ongoing contributions, along with other contributions from Eaton Corp., First Data Corp., Giant Eagle, Fifth Third and Key banks, and Professional Travel.
“2012 was a record-setting year for the number of families served, so the donations were very much appreciated,” he said.
Kennedy also cited a large number of projects in municipal facilities, noting the completion of Phase 1 and the start of Phase 2 of the more than $40 million wastewater treatment plant renovation and construction project.
“It’s one of those once-in-a-generation projects that needs to get done,” he said.
The project will help the city fulfill federal Environmental Protection Agency mandates and provide better services to its customers, officials have said.
Other projects singled out by Kennedy included a citywide traffic signal system upgrade on North Olmsted roadways, establishing a tax increment fund district to spur putting more money into development, new signs at gateways to the city, the Cleveland water department painting the water tower, the bio retention facilities in North Olmsted Park, several hundred thousand dollars in Americans With Disabilities Act and building improvements to the city police station, Country Club Boulevard streetscape improvements and new windows at the Community Cabin.
Kennedy also lauded a new contract for garbage and recycling pickup in North Olmsted, saying it will save several hundred thousand dollars for the city. He also cited new employee contracts with the police and fire unions as well as testing for new police and firefighters, the planned retirement of fire Chief Tom Klecan and multiple new vehicles in both safety forces.
North Olmsted was able to weather the fury of Superstorm Sandy, and is working on dealing with ongoing cuts in funding from the state of Ohio and lower revenue collections in other areas, the mayor noted. He said the city bond ratings remain strong and that it has set up reserve funds to deal with rainy day situations, compensated absences and the 27th pay period which arrives every few years.
Other officials and departments praised by Kennedy included safety/service Director Scott Thomas, finance Director Carrie Copfer, Law Director Michael Gareau Jr., human resources Director Cheryl Farver and police Chief Jamie Gallagher.