Westlake Mayor Clough: “Our Mission Has Not Changed”

DSC_6003-1Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough delivered his 29th State of the City address at LaCentre on March 11, reprising a theme that has brought success, growth and desirability to the community for nearly three decades under his leadership.

“Our mission has not changed,” said Clough. “It is still to enhance the quality of life for all residents by providing the highest level of services. But, in doing so, provide the highest level of service in a very cost effective and efficient manner. We want to utilize the resources we have responsibly, efficiently and effectively.”

Westlake has seen incredible growth on Clough’s watch, burgeoning from a population of 19,483 when he first took office in 1986 to 32,723 residents in 2013.

Westlake’s general fund topped $25 million last year, a far cry from the $964,000 Mayor Clough had to work with in his first year of office.

“We have a larger fund balance than we have debt. We are not going to be leaving debt to our sons, our daughters, our grandchildren. That’s the way we want to keep it,” said Clough at the West Shore Chamber of Commerce address.

With upcoming projects like American Greetings and Crocker Park Phase 3 expansion on the table for 2014, things look pretty rosy in Westlake.

“The City of Westlake doesn’t stand still. We continue to have businesses that locate here, that expand here, that improve their operations here. We are very pleased that we are able to create that type of environment that makes you want to expand here, that is good for business and allows us to keep our taxes very low,” said Clough.

Westlake was the first suburb in the state of Ohio to carry a AAA bond rating. “We’ve carried that for 13 years,” added the mayor.

Highlights from Clough’s speech document the growth of an outer ring suburb to a civic center in its own right. Last year:

-1,433 total building permits were issued with a value of $95,473,000;

-The Police Department received 31,331 calls for service and made 4,827 arrests;

-The Fire Dept. received 4,301 calls relating to Fire, EMS, Haz-Mat and service;

-The Service Dept. collected 7,897 tons of recycling materials;

-11,966 patrons participated in Community Services activities programs, trips, support groups, and wellness programs;

-The Recreation Center has 13,500 current members including 1,700 Silver Sneaker participants;

-The total assessed value of the City stands at $1,354,532,180;

-Property taxes remain low, much lower than Shaker Hts., Lakewood, Fairview Park, North Olmsted, Bay Village and Rocky River. Westlake’s rate of 69.64 is way lower than Shaker’s 125.64 and Lakewood’s 106.47.

By controlling costs, keeping taxes low and creating an environment that is good for business, Clough says Westlake remains as a highly desirable residential community.

Keeping that desirability, he said, is one of the reasons Westlake will continue to look to Avon Lake as an alternative water supplier to Cleveland.

“When there is a downturn in the economy, the first thing people cut is the investment in their infrastructure. We do not do that.

“It is actually one of the reasons why the City of Westlake has been looking for alternatives to our water supplier,” said Clough. “Many of our dollars have had to go to replace water lines…..it all goes to the City of Cleveland. Unfortunately, with our current agreement at this point, they’re obligated to patch and repair any water lines.

“But if we’re going to put in a new roadway, we don’t want to put in a new roadway over a water line that’s been patched 10 times. So we take our money and replace that water line. That’s money that could be used for roads and storm sewers or storm issues. It is one of the reasons that we are at least looking at alternatives.

“Since 1999, we have spent $32 million just replacing water lines,” said Mayor Clough.

Clough remains firm that Cleveland’s attempt to bill Westlake residents for past repairs is wrong. “We do not feel there’s any way the courts will allow them to charge us for events that are their business,” he said of the court ruling now being appealed. “They (Cleveland Water) determine their rates like any of you who sell a product. You sell a product to recover your investment and any debts you may incur.  Your rates have been set that way. That’s what’s been happening over the years.”

In the long run, he said, Westlake needs to take a wider view. “If Westlake could have what it really wants, we want to buy water from Cleveland and Avon Lake. It doesn’t hurt to have redundancy. Cleveland is a backup for many cities in Lorain County and outside Lorain County. We’ve asked them to be a back up for us and, at this point, they haven’t agreed to be a back up. They just want to be the only supplier.”

If you would like to view Mayor Clough’s video of his 2014 State of the City address, please visit www.TheVillagerNewspaper.com for an active link.