SILVER LAKE — While much was accomplished in 2019, the village’s leader said more work lies ahead in 2020.
Mayor Bernie Hovey delivered his annual State of the Village address at the council meeting on Monday night before an audience of about 80.
Hovey opened his 20-minute speech thanking residents who re-elected him to a fourth full term in November.
"I appreciate the confidence you have shown in me, and will continue to work hard to ensure that that confidence has been well-placed," said Hovey.
Another significant event in 2019 was the promotion of Jamie Norris from lieutenant to police chief.
"[Norris] is still on a learning curve," said Hovey. "He is still figuring out all that needs to be done, but I am pleased with his progress, and I can assure you that he is doing a commendable job."
While noting previous Police Chief John Conley was an "extrovert," Hovey said Norris is more of an "introvert." The mayor said one of his first orders to Norris was to make himself visible in the community and learn as many residents’ names as possible.
Hovey noted that the village in 2019: set up a new pay scale for its employees; resurfaced Graham Road in a joint venture with Stow; finished the Lee Road sewer project; renewed its sanitation and recycling collection contract with Kimble for five more years; entered a four-year deal with Constellation Energy for natural gas aggregation; and put up a new digital sign in front of village hall. The mayor said money raised during the centennial celebration in 2018 was used to purchase the sign.
Hovey highlighted a couple issues that received considerable discussion in 2019, but will be acted on this year. He said Village Council President Gerald Jones last year introduced legislation that "clearly defines" how the Silver Lake Elementary School property can be used if the Cuyahoga Falls City School District decides to close the building. No such decisions have been made by the school district.
"The legislation prevents the school system from using [the property] for things not in character with the village, things such as a bus garage, or a warehouse, and espouses our belief that the best use …will always be what it is currently used for … a school," stated Hovey. "I expect that legislation to be acted upon, and approved, very soon."
Another issue that received significant attention in 2019 was the riparian ordinance, which regulates what residents can do on properties that abut Silver Lake, Crystal Lake and the Cuyahoga River. Hovey called the current regulations "very inconsistent, even illogical, in how it defined riparian setbacks." He noted while there was much debate among planning commission members, the Silver Lake Board of Trustees and lakefront property owners, the parties agreed on two major points: "The integrity of the lake must be maintained and preserved, and the constitutional rights of property owners must be upheld."
He noted the planning commission issued a recommendation that he felt addressed both of those points of agreement.
"This recommendation will soon be in front of council for their review," said Hovey.
Hovey noted the village in 2019 increased its water and sewer rates by about 10% because of "ever increasing" sewer charges from the county and a 15% increase in the water supply agreement the village has with Cuyahoga Falls.
"The water and sewer funds are enterprise funds, and it is important that they be self-sustaining," said Hovey.
Hovey described Silver Lake’s fiscal situation as "healthy," noting the general fund balance is nearly $2 million, and all of the other funds carry a positive cash balance. However, he said it "remains to be seen" whether the village will have enough money to pay for large projects, major equipment purchases and multiple smaller items.
"It’s possible that sometime in the future we will either have to find ways to increase our revenue stream, or make some hard decisions about reducing spending," stated Hovey.
The mayor also reviewed some of the upcoming projects in 2020.
The village is working with Stow on a $3 million-plus plan to put in curbs, sidewalks and storm sewers on Englewood Drive. Engineering work is finished and the village is looking to put in bioretention ponds on the southern end of the road and around Randolph Road. Hovey said sidewalks and curbs will "most likely be" paid through an assessment to the residents. He noted he hopes Stow will cover the cost of the sidewalks on the east side of Englewood, and added the village wants Stow to allow the connection of a storm sewer to the retention basin at Wetmore Park.
"Stow is now reviewing those plans and will provide us with an answer sometime after that review is done," said Hovey, who added he hoped the project would happen in either 2021 or 2022.
Hovey said he will ask council to consider building a sidewalk on the southern part of Kent Road from Thomas Drive to Church Street for safety reasons. Efforts to work with the Ohio Department of Transportation to put in a traffic light in that spot "have fallen on deaf ears," said the mayor. He noted there a lot of children living in the nearby Colony allotment.
"Presently, there is no safe way to cross Kent Road," explained Hovey. "…Residents living in that area … must now either risk crossing Kent Road at a very dangerous intersection, often during times of high traffic, or trudge through lawns, often through snow, mud and soggy grass, until they reach the traffic light at the Kent Road/Church Street intersection."
Hovey noted he wants to address the ongoing flooding problems occurring on Chautauqua Drive. The street is located in a low area of the village, and high rainfall causes a lake to form that makes it "extremely difficult" for residents to get to their home, said Hovey.
"Raising a small section of the road at the bend in the road that covers five lots, starting at 2981 Chautauqua, will help direct water to a catch basin," said Hovey.
The mayor also thanked multiple community members for their contributions to the village and the surrounding area.
"You enrich the lives of others by the things you do," said Hovey.
The mayor also praised council members, village employees, and his wife Kathleen for their support, and pledged his commitment to the job of leading the village.
"Neil Armstrong once said, ‘I believe every human heart has a finite number of heart beats, and I don’t intend to waste any of mine,’" shared Hovey. "I can promise you that as my heart beats in service to you as mayor, there is no waste."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.