Maple Heights, OH. - The City of Maple Heights is one of 59 cities in Cuyahoga County. Maple is the second largest inner-ring suburb outside Cleveland, next to Garfield Heights, OH. The suburb sits by Cleveland Ward One, Bedford, Bedford Heights, Walton Hills, and Warrensville Heights. Each neighboring community is responsible for creating and maintaining a quality of life for residents, businesses, and stakeholders. The communities are also responsible for safety: repairing roadways and maintaining the infrastructure, which includes buildings, highways, and power supplies.
During a recent Council Meeting, Maple Heights City Council Members had an opportunity to pass an emergency resolution presented by the Mayor (resolution number 2022-58) for pavement repair. This resolution would authorize the Engineer to begin the preparation of plans specifications and to advertise for bids for pavement repairs on various streets located in the City of Maple Heights, OH, and declare an emergency.
On March 16, 2022, Council (resolution number 2022-26) authorized and directed the city engineer to coordinate with the Service Department to update the street inventory. The purpose is to rate pavement conditions for streets based on the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) PCR Manual. This combined action would help the City to create a road repair program based on the finding of the independent Engineer report.
Sources tell us as this piece of legislation was presented by Mayor Annette M Blackwell, three of the seven councilmembers objected to the Engineer reports and findings. The Mayor needed five votes from the Council to move the project forward. Four of the seven council members agreed with the Engineer's account, and three council members voted against the measure and placed a halt on this matter.
As per Edward Hren, the City's Engineer, "county state and the federal government will assist with main streets. Side streets are the responsibility of the City. I don't have a dog in the race. My team examines every street, and the roads are rated from 0 to 100, with 0 being very poor. We look for structural damage, rooting, chuck holes, surface, and elevation - ensuring that fire trucks and ambulances will not damage the streets. As we repair, simultaneously we must maintain, and what we do is based upon a comprehensive scientific approach," said Hren. Hren is a partner with Chagrin Valley Engineering.
On Friday, August 12, 2022, Mayor Annette Blackwell held a town hall meeting at the Dunham Plaza in District One. Residents had the opportunity to discuss the road repair issue with the Mayor, the Engineer, and several City Directors. During the meeting, several residents wanted to know why council members were absent. Mayor Blackwell responded. "Several members of Council are working. I want residents to know what is going on. I am having townhall meetings across the City both morning and evenings for the next two weeks", Blackwell replied. The Mayor added, "my street will not get done until 2023-24. I have to wait as well, and I am the Mayor. I will follow the Engineer's recommendations. They are the experts. I am led by what's available and influenced by expert recommendations. Everyone will lose if the Council does not approve this measure by September. We must be able to maintain our infrastructure," Mayor Blackwell sadly stated.
Brown on Cleveland reached out to all seven Council members and the Council President via email to get clarification on this issue. "Brown on Cleveland will cover a story concerning the recent report by the Engineer regarding road pavement, repair, and resurfacing. The report is a scientific structural methodology to create and maintain viable infrastructures, which include roads, highways, buildings, and power supply. Out of fairness, please tell us why you supported this initiative or stood against the report," the email stated. Out of transparency, we copied all councilpersons and offered each person the opportunity to respond.
"To vote no on a crucial matter is disheartening. Maple Heights council should not operate Districts as an island. We are one City and should be concerned about how our decisions will impact the entire municipality. I did not get what I wanted, but I must respect the decision of the Engineer report. Council requested a repair pavement analysis, and now we have the results and the grade of our streets inventory. We may not like the outcome of the street repair schedule for September 2022. Still, we must respect the independent review and process," says Councilwoman Dana D. Anderson, Councilwoman of District Four. District Three Councilman Timothy Tatum, "I voted yes on the road repair project. I trust the state did its due diligence in picking which streets needed repairing based on the Engineer criteria. I do know that the project needed to start somewhere. It's very disheartening that we face losing $60k because of the non-passage," said Councilman Tatum.
Councilman Richard Trojanski of District Six stated that the council members who voted no on this resolution are playing politricks. "Unfortunately, three City Councilpersons (Shenett, Madden & Agee) have hijacked efforts for the City to make significant investments in our aging infrastructure. The politricks will jeopardize funding and immediately halt desperately needed road repairs. In an August 3rd Council meeting, they senselessly voted against the City’s plan to initiate a project after many years without one to address infrastructure issues. I know it will take time to restore all the roadways to an acceptable condition. Still, we must act and work with Mayor Blackwell's administration, which has allocated $1 million yearly, including 2022, towards the pavement repair program. Now is not the time to play politricks by stalling work that residents have asked for and desperately need to repair their city streets. The necessary action is for City Council to pass this legislation immediately. I urge residents to contact Councilpersons Stafford Shenette (District One), Tangela Madden (District 5), and Edwina Agee (District 7). Tell them to stop playing games and vote YES on the Roadway Maintenance Program," scoffed Councilman Trojanski.
Councilwoman Toni Jones of District Two also found this situation to be troublesome. "I represented District 2 and voted for the contract even though my District will only have 1/2 of a street resurfaced which is Ramage Avenue. I have roads that received very poor grading, but I understand the City finances and the timeline given for these streets in my District. The outcome of the last Council meeting on August 3 was more than disturbing. Three members of the Council voted down the contract for road resurfacing to begin on or about September 15. We had one Council member excused, and the outcome was a tie. Since the legislation was on 1st reading, even with the tie-breaking vote of the Council President, the measure failed. This failure immobilized the City moving forward, pushing this year's streets to 2023 and resurfacing being a year behind. As elected officials, we should place our votes for the advancement of the entire City," said Councilwoman Jones.
Council President Ron Jackson expressed his sentiments on this matter. "I am in favor of this program. Why would anyone not be in favor of significant street repair in our City," asked Jackson.
"What happened to work together," Jones questioned. Mr. Hren's report was clear. "He further explained why some Districts such as Districts 1 and 7 would not see their streets on this list because of their roads being resurfaced through either the water main replacement project or sewer repair projects this year," Councilwoman Jones stated.
According to Mr. Hren of the Chagrin Valley Engineer Company, The last comprehensive citywide pavement repair program occurred in 2010. "Since 2011, the only pavement repair work in the City was either part of a related infrastructure project or primarily funded by outside federal, state, or county agencies. Unfortunately, this limited the City’s ability to consider many local side streets that had fallen into disrepair," added Councilman Trojanski.
Mayor Annette M Blackwell took office in November 2015. Since her tenure, Blackwell and her administrative team have led the City from fiscal emergency while improving the housing stock and executing a stable economic development plan.
"Our residents deserve better. Investors deserve better. We want people to invest in our City and must give them reasons to choose Maple Heights over other communities. I will do everything I can to sound the alarm to answer questions and address the concerns of our residents," said Mayor Blackwell.
According to Maple Heights City Recorder, Councilpersons Stafford Shennet (D1), Tangela Madden (D5), and Edwina Agee (D7) voted No on this emergency resolution. "Are they engineers? No, they are not! Why would a councilperson stop our city from moving forward? The Mayor is doing her job and it is unfortunate that we have some council people standing in the way of progress. Just because we don't like the doctor's report does not mean that we stop the treatment. We pray that eventually things will get better and we move forward in order to survive. How come they are not here to explain why they are stopping our city from moving forward? They are causing us to live in an unsafe environment said an angry Maple Heights resident." The resident did not want to be identified, but she wanted to be heard.
The councilpersons Shennet, Madden, and Agee choose not to participate in this article.
Mayor Blackwell will be holding town hall meetings for the next two weeks. Residents should call City Hall for information about the discussions at (216) 662- 6000.