INDEPENDENCE–The Mayor of Independence, Anthony Togliatti, gave an overview of the city’s successes, department accomplishments, and future projects in the State of the City address on October 5.
The theme of this year’s address was “Reaching New Heights.” Togliatti began by emphasizing that the city is always striving to “reach new heights” to make Independence the premier place to work, live, and raise a family. He then went on to recognize the City Council members that were present at the address. The department directors and city employees were also given applause for their dedication to the city.
The Finance Director, John Veres, CPA was commended for his efforts along with the financial team for earning the Ohio Auditor of State Award with Distinction. This award was given by the Ohio State Auditor, David Yost, for excellence in finance reporting related to the city’s comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ending in 2017. This is the sixth time that the city has earned this award under Veres’ direction.
The first point the Mayor addressed was the city’s efforts to be transparent. They have increased their involvement with social media and residents can subscribe to a weekly administrative update email. The Information Technology department is also in the process of creating a new website for the city that is more user-friendly.
Togliatti had a hopeful outlook on the city’s finances as the municipal income tax revenue was over 30 million dollars in 2018, which was up 37 percent from 2012. The city’s current debt at the end of 2018 will be 32 million dollars with 27.7 million of that being paid off from the dedicated revenue stream. This revenue stream includes TIF pilots and assessment collections. “We are in a very good financial position,” said Togliatti.
According to the Mayor’s slide presentation, expenditures will increase due to annual wage and benefit increases and the year-end cash for 2018 is expected to be lower than 2017 because the city applied $2.25 million of cash toward the debt principal.
The city has created an economic development plan to attract and retain businesses. The office vacancy rate has decreased from 24 percent to 12 percent over the past six years. Some examples given of successful business projects were the East Pleasant Valley Business District, where the city will be adding gateway signage to identify the area. The Rockside Road Corridor has 440,000 sq. ft. of office space and 25 companies were welcomed and retained in the city thus far.
Energage has ranked the top workplaces in Northeast Ohio and this year 14 of the 150 companies recognized as “Top Workplaces” were in Independence. The Independence companies of Nations Lending, Wellness IQ, Linkmedia 360, TalentLaunch and Proforma all received spots on the 2018 Inc Magazine list of 5,000 fastest growing private companies in the U.S.
The city is looking to develop a possible greenspace in the Downtown area as well as an upgraded streetscape on Brecksville Rd. from Daisy to Selig Dr. The council is planning the next steps and working to incorporate the project in the capital improvement program. “It is time to invest in our downtown and improving the streetscape is a great place to start. I look forward to sharing more information about downtown as implementation plans become more defined,” said Togliatti.
The Engineering department is working on several projects including the Hemlock All Purpose Trail. On September 10, a 200 ft. long and 12 ft. across bridge was installed as a part of the trail over the Cuyahoga River. Other projects include the West Creek Rd. and Jefferson Dr. improvement projects, traffic light and signal improvements, the Vista Springs senior care facility and the Top Golf site plan.
Vista Springs will have 70 assisted living units and 25 memory care units. The building will be located on 15 acres across from the Cleveland Clinic Courts. Completion is slated for 2019. Top Golf offers point-scoring golf games using microchipped balls that instantly score themselves, showing statistics on shots on a TV screen, as well as other family programs. Total annual revenue expected from Top Golf is $450,000.
The police department has been using their new license plate reading system which photographs every car’s license plate and vehicle. It is in place at the intersection of Rockside and Brecksville roads. In addition to the city becoming the fiduciary for the Cleveland Strike Force, the police department will be combining their dispatch with Chagrin Valley dispatch center. The Mayor said the arrangement is, “more cost effective and will provide a level of service and technology we would not be able to sustain on our own.”
The fire department has been using their FEMA assistants to fire fighters grant to buy new equipment including hoses, a brush truck, a new F350 pickup, new ambulance, and smoke alarms and CO detectors in homes of residents 65 and older.
Other city departments were also mentioned for their accomplishments this year. The Information Technology department has installed audio and video surveillance systems and intercoms to maintain compliance in the Independence jail. They also implemented e-ticketing in police cars to reduce paper use.
Togliatti also addressed a more serious aspect of the school system. “Our school children are being impacted daily by anxiety, pressure to perform, grief, depression, and drug abuse issues. In response to this, the city and schools have once again partnered to benefit the youth and families of our community. The McKeon Education Group was selected to provide professional consulting and prevention specialist services to both the city and schools,” he said.
The Recreation Department has installed six ultraviolet structures on Elmwood park baseball diamond as well as completed phase 1 of the Liberty Playground improvement project. They are looking to add lights for the first time to the U-10 soccer field and are almost done resurfacing the tennis and pickle ball courts. The Community Services department offers many adult programs including cooking classes and this year, a new Parkinson’s support group. This year was the first time they offered an Irish Fest, and plan to have another one in March of next year.
The Service Department implemented a catch basin cleaning initiative and have cleaned over 153 tons of material out of 300 catch basins in the city. They also bought and have been using equipment for asphalt and crack sealing. The Technical Services Department
has installed several LED lights in areas around the city including the Fire Department. Togliatti said, “We will save around $7,400 per year in electric costs on the basketball and racquetball courts lighting upgrade. This small project is just the beginning. We are exploring a project to replace just over one thousand streetlight fixtures with new LED state of the art fixtures.”
Mayor Togliatti ended his address by encouraging the 300 attendees to vote in the upcoming November 6 election.
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