State of the City: Grandview Heights Mayor Greta Kearns outlines plans as 2021 rolls on

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group

Like so many other aspects of city operations over the past 15 months, Grandview Heights had to adjust the format of Mayor Greta Kearns' 2021 State of the City address.

The presentation was done virtually and posted May 21 on the city's YouTube channel after a delay caused by technical glitches.

"What a year it's been," Kearns said. "When I was sworn in on Jan. 1, 2020, I knew we would be busy, but this past year was unthinkable."

Community members stepped up during the pandemic and "committed to being good neighbors," she said. "In a time of true crisis, you've collectively illustrated what makes Grandview Heights a special place to call home."

Greta Kearns

Essential workers, the city's public partners, public health officials and city staff all helped Grandview weather the pandemic, Kearns said.

The mayor also noted the victims of COVID-19, those who are grieving and those whose lives and livelihoods were affected by the pandemic.

Although the city closed its facilities in March 2020 to all but essential business, "we were working as hard as ever to continue delivering services," Kearns said.

"We began 2021 having fully transitioned and on-boarding our management team, including several newly appointed department heads replacing those who retired or were appointed to other positions," she said. "We continued to find ways to streamline and improve our service delivery."

A major city initiatives for 2021 will be to move forward with components of the Civic Spaces and Places community plan that was adopted two years ago, Kearns said.

"This formal master plan articulates the community's vision for a new municipal complex, enhanced parks and recreation areas and other community amenities," she said.

Two "important near-term investment priorities were identified" in the Spaces and Places plan, Kearns said.

The first is a partnership with Grandview Heights Schools to enhance the community aspects of the area surrounding the new grade 4-8 school that is under construction and the high school, which will undergo a major renovation, she said.

That partnership is underway, Kearns said.

The other priority involves the city's own project to build the new campus at Grandview Avenue and Goodale Boulevard to house the city's administrative offices, police department and fire station.

"The civic facility at the top of the hill at 1016 Grandview Ave. is antiquated, in poor condition and in need of investment," Kearns said. 

But as the community's only safety-services facility, the current municipal building, which includes the police department and fire station, cannot be taken off line for the comprehensive renovation and remodeling that would be required, she said.

The Spaces and Places plan calls for the city to move to the Grandview-Goodale site and for the top-of-the-hill site to be returned to community use as part of Wyman Woods, as originally had been envisioned when the city acquired the site, Kearns said.

The city began technical studies to help determine the best way to use the Grandview-Goodale site for the new municipal campus, she said.

The city's board of control on May 6 voted to approve a contract with a team of firms that will serve as fit-planning consultants for the municipal-campus project. The team will be led by Erdy McHenry Architecture and will include MKSK as landscape consultant and Capital Electrical Plumbing as an engineering consultant.

The contract fee is $179,690, which will be paid to Erdy McHenry, which then will pay the other firms serving on the team.

The team started working with the city the week of May 10 and is expected to complete its work in September.

The consultants are expected to visit the city multiple times over the summer and hold public meetings to gather input from residents as part of the fit-planning process.

The State of the City presentation included an overview of City Council's activities over the past year by council president Emily Keeler.

"It's been a hard year for all of us," Keeler said.

"Despite the challenge that COVID has brought, it was important to us to make sure that city business moved forward to give the best services to our community," she said. "We not only kept business moving; we were able to make progress in several key areas."

Perhaps the most exciting achievement was council's work with the administration to move forward with planning for the municipal-complex project, Keeler said.

Council also moved forward on its desire to enhance sustainability in the community by approving a Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (R-PACE) program, she said.

The program offers low-interest loans to residents planning eligible energy-efficiency renovations in their homes. Residents will be able to repay the loans as an assessment on their property-tax bills, Keeler said.

Council also finalized legislation regulating short-term rentals in Grandview, she said.

Property owners now are allowed to rent homes for up to one month at a time if the properties are registered with the city and meet the requirements outlined by the legislation, Keeler said.

"This compromise was intended to help entrepreneurship while also ensuring the safety and enjoyment of guests and neighbors," she said.

Another resolution approved in 2020 created a year of learning for racial justice in the community, Keeler said. 

The city is working with Grandview Heights Schools, the Grandview Heights Public Library and other community groups to coordinate learning opportunities on racial justice, she said.

Years of solid fiscal stewardship have positioned the city to support its current operations and future growth, city finance director Megan Miller said. 

"In 2020, our income-tax revenue held strong, and we saw the addition of more than 100 jobs with more already added in the first quarter of 2021," she said.

But Grandview has not been exempt from the pandemic's fiscal impact, Miller said.

Last spring, the city delayed planned capital-improvement projects as the pandemic worsened, she said.

The revenue from the city's lodging tax fell as corporate travel and tourism came to a halt, Miller said.

"The number of lodging nights reserved in our hotels plummeted, but those numbers are slowing rising," she said. 

The situation should improve as travel restrictions are reduced and more in-person events are held, Miller said.

Voters' approval in November 2020 of a four-year renewal of the city's 7.5-mill property-tax levy will allow city operations and planned capital-improvement projects to proceed going forward, she said.

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