Preparedness

Power Outages, Police Headquarters and Security Cameras on Cleveland City Council's Agenda for Oversight Work

Hundreds of people called 911 last week when they had no heat in their homes because the power was out.

by Robert Higgs, Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland / February 5, 2019

(TNS) — Cleveland City Council intends to conduct oversight on a host of issues in 2019, from finding a new headquarters for police and troubleshooting power outages on the city’s West Side to placement of security cameras around town.

At a meeting of council’s committee chairs Monday, Council President Kevin Kelley laid out issues he wants members to dig into and sought suggestions from other members.

His goal: To develop a working document that can be a guide for hearings and factfinding sessions through the year.

Here’s some of the topics on that agenda:

Police headquarters: Cleveland sold its share of the downtown Justice Center complex to Cuyahoga County for $9.25 million and worked out an agreement with the county for jail services. Title to the building transferred last October. Since then, the city has been renting space from the county.

The city in June selected the former home of The Plain Dealer at 1801 Superior as a new home for the police and intended to be moved in by March.

But in September, Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration abruptly notified GLP Superior Ltd., led by developer Fred Geis, that it no longer intended to work with the company on the $60 million project.

Members of council have never been fully briefed about what happened. The city, meanwhile, has spent more than $500,000 on rent in the Justice Center since October.

Kelley said Monday that he had been hoping the deal still could be worked out.

“But if it’s being declared dead now, we need to go back to it,” Kelley said. “Where are we going to go now?”

Power outages: The West Side has been plagued by a series of power outages.

Cleveland Public Power is in the midst of a series of improvements that the city-owned utility initiated following multiple power outages around Labor Day and earlier in the summer.

Among those improvements were the addition of a second feeder line to the West Side at a cost of $6 million and an $18 million transmission line, allowing CPP to deliver power to the West Side from multiple points, reducing the chances of outages.

But scattered outages have continued.

Hundreds of people called 911 last week when they had no heat in their homes because the power was out, according to Councilman Martin Keane, whose ward includes westernmost Cleveland.

Councilman Kerry McCormack — who represents Ohio City, Tremont and most of the downtown — said he has been told by some businesses that they are reluctant to invest more in his neighborhoods because of the unreliable power.

One factor to be considered is that CPP operates as an independent enterprise. Funding for improvements would ultimately have to be covered by the utility's rate payers.

Lights and cameras: The city intends to replace 61,000 street lights with brighter, more cost-effective LED lighting and mount 1,000 surveillance cameras atop utility poles.

The administration has said it intends to put cameras around recreation centers, parks and in hot spots for crime around town.

Members of council want input on where those cameras are placed.

Deployment of safety forces: Kelley said he wants council to keep an eye on response times for emergency calls, particularly for EMS runs.

It’s a subject that has prompted many complaints in the past, he said.

“Anecdotally, I feel like it’s getting better,” he said. “I think we need to make sure we’re monitoring.”

New revenue raised after Cleveland voters approved an income tax increase at the end of 2016 allowed the city to expand EMS services, said Councilman Matt Zone, who chairs the Safety Committee.

The money enabled the city to hold two training classes for EMS cadets and add new emergency vehicles. Shifts were expanded and now have as many as 23 crews on duty at once.

Jackson told editors at cleveland.com on Friday that EMS response times have been reduced to a matter of minutes.

Capital projects: Kelley wants the administration to provide an assessment of the city’s key assets, such as all its recreation centers, any capital improvements planned for those assets and a schedule for when that work is to be done.

Jackson’s capital improvements budget, which looks at projects in a three-year cycle, includes millions of dollars for recreation center improvements.

Among those are construction of two new centers this year.

Jackson also intends to continue programming that was expanded in rec centers as part of efforts to address the health impacts of trauma and stress. The mayor’s budget proposal includes $3 million to continue those programs, which include GED classes, job training, arts programming and the stationing of counselors in the rec centers.

More from Cleveland City Hall:

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