By Jeff Gallatin
Mayor Kevin Kennedy believes his first four years in office laid a strong foundation for projects his administration plans to work on in coming years.
Kennedy previewed the upcoming work while reviewing past years’ efforts in his annual state of the city address to the North Olmsted Chamber of Commerce Thursday. Kennedy spoke to a packed house, with chamber of commerce Director John Sobolewski saying it was the largest crowd he had seen in his more than a decade as director.
Kennedy said his administration has established strong ties with the business community and other parts of the city.
“I’m proud of the hard work this administration has done,” he said. “There is still a lot more to be done, and I look forward to accomplishing that over the next four years and making North Olmsted a better place to live and raise your family.”
Both Sobolewski and Kennedy said the relationship between the mayor and the business community is strong.
“We’ve never had a better relationship with a mayor,” Sobolewski said. “He works well with the business community.”
Kennedy cited the chamber and other businesses as key players in helping North Olmsted move forward.
“Projects ranged to every size and scope,” he said. Regal Cinemas opened along with two new restaurants and a salon. Other new businesses, such as Harbor Freight, Mattress Firm and Aura Dental, made substantial improvements to various locations in the city. The Apartments at St. Richard opened to new residents at the end of 2013, providing 34 new affordable senior living units adjacent to St. Richard Church.
“The Auto Mile continues to make improvements all along the Lorain Road corridor,” Kennedy said. “Nissan purchased additional property for office development, and the Collection Auto Group rolled on with the Aston Martin and Maserati project. Additional improvements to Mercedes, Porsche and other properties are underway. We also look forward to the Morris Cadillac Buick GMC new construction and renovation in 2014. A Hampton Inn was approved for construction along Country Club Boulevard in 2013, and we are truly excited about the prospect of an Aloft hotel project coming to North Olmsted on land near Moen in 2014. These projects will bring additional employment and visitors to the city who will be spending money at our retailers and restaurants.”
Kennedy said the city getting more than $1 million in safety funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation to make enhancements on Great Northern Boulevard, which will greatly improve traffic flow and highway accessibility. A new city software program will also aid the planning, building and engineering departments by streamlining the permit process and reducing paperwork for staff.
Kennedy noted that work on more than $40 million in construction and improvement projects at the city sewer wastewater treatment plant continues.
He noted losses in the safety and service departments with former Director Scott Thomas leaving to take the service director’s post in Bay Village, police executive officer Capt. Mike Kilbane taking a job as police chief in Independence, and the deaths of award-winning Detective Ray Barda and department police dog Rex due to illness.
He said the safety forces were bringing in new blood with Ed Schepp coming to the city as fire chief to replace longtime Chief Tom Klecan after he retired. Ron Cox replaced Kilbane as police captain and four new police officers are being added. He also lauded police Chief Jamie Gallagher for being selected to attend the FBI National Academy. He said the $500,000 renovation of the police department is moving forward.
He cited the close working relationship between the city and North Olmsted City Schools, saying he was looking forward to working with new Superintendent Mike Zalar as well as seeing the new facilities plans being put together by the district.
An upgrade of the North Olmsted Recreation Center also continues, Kennedy added, as well as having events in the city like the Gaelic Games, which were held at Barton/Bradley in 2013. He said outgoing Springvale facilities chief Marty Young is leaving a fine staff and facility in place.
Kennedy also praised finance Director Carrie Copfer for continuing to keep city finances in good condition and lauded other key officials and their work, such as human resources Director Cheryl Farver, law Director Michael Gareau Jr., panning and development Director Kim Wenger and mayor’s court Clerk Kathi Cole.
He said the future also looks bright with projects such as the update of the 2005 master plan and the city gearing up for a 2015 bicentennial celebration.