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  • Writer's pictureMike Burkons

More about Garbage Trucks, Amphitheaters & Flooding

In response to my recent blog post, former Council President Mel Jacobs spoke at last night’s Council meeting to defend why Beachwood needs 40% more of these $376k automated garbage trucks than Solon, when we have 60% fewer houses.

Despite disagreeing with Mel on most issues, I like him, know he is well intended and welcome the healthy debate this $376k expenditure deserves. Mel's argument for why we need 7 of these automated garbage trucks for 2,970 homes when Solon only needs 5 to provide an almost identical level of garbage/recycling services to 7,748 homes, is because Beachwood picks up brush piles at the curb, more frequently and faster than Solon, which he learned when helping his daughter with yard work, who recently choose to move from Beachwood to Solon.

This was somewhat funny because Mel clearly wasn’t told that neither Beachwood or Solon, use their automated garbage trucks to pick up brush piles, making his entire argument irrelevant. After mocking me for doing research and using data to form a position, Mel ended his speech by saying we should give the service department whatever they ask for because Beachwood is the best.

I wish Mel would realize that one of the reasons that so many people like his daughter, who grew up in Beachwood, are choosing to move to a city like Solon, is because they don't waste money on things that have no value to residents. Solon doesn’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to have more garbage trucks sitting around that they don't need and they don't spend $15m to build a backup fire stations, which is $10m more than other cities spend to build a very nice non main stations.

Instead, Solon spends money on things residents value like their excellent recreation offerings/facilities and lighting on side streets. If you are a Beachwood resident whose basement has flooded, you should be envious of Solon because 15 years ago, their City Engineer advised that they need to make significant improvements to their sewer/stormwater infrastructure and since 2006, they invested over $40m towards this while Beachwood didn't spend anything on this until last year. As a result, Beachwood had more than 200 basements flooded from the September 2020 storm, while Solon only had 19, despite having 2.5x more homes.

We are extremely lucky that the City’s leaders in the 1950s and 1960s set aside almost half the land for non residential development, when most cities are lucky if 25% is non residential. Because of this, we have well over $40m in annual revenue, when other similar cities our size that also provide good services, are lucky if they have $25m a year in tax revenue. With our outsized revenue, we don’t even have to be “frugal” like most cities need to be in order to provide these things residents value. We just have to stop doing expensive bonehead stuff and start prioritizing things residents value.

Now Some News About Amphitheaters

I think it is important to draw attention to the City of Brook Park's recently completed amphitheater costing $142,881 with $100,000 paid for by a state grant. Last year when Beachwood City Council was given a presentation about a potential $5m amphitheater, my reaction was an amphitheater would be a great addition to the community, assuming we found the right place for it, but didn’t understand why it would cost more than $250k. I am glad to see other cities are proving that quality things can be provided at responsible and sensible costs.

Here is the email I sent on the Thursday before the Council meeting with questions about the need for this $376k garbage truck.

Council members are usually provided the agenda for an upcoming Monday night Council meeting by Wednesday of the prior week. I try to read it within a day so I can email any questions or concerns I have about items we are asked to approve, the director requesting them. Most directors understand that this is our job as Councilmembers, respond within hours and it is rare their response doesn't satisfy my concerns, because in general, they don't ask for unnecessary things, at least on the level of a $376k garbage truck we don't need.

Below is the email I sent our Public Works Director, on the Thursday before the meeting. Since the question in my email was basically, "You are asking us to approve a purchase for $376k truck. Can you please explain why we need it considering X,Y and Z", I copied the rest of Council to make them aware of X,Y and Z, as one would hope and think they would demand a satisfactory answer to this question before voting to approve this purchase.

This email and my question was ignored. I put some of the blame for this on my fellow Councilmembers because the director knew that he could ignore my relevant question and the rest of Council would still vote for this even though I am sure not one of them could explain why Beachwood needs 7 of these trucks, which is 40% more than Solon, when we have 60% less houses.

From: Mike Burkons Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2022 10:25 PM To: Larry Heiser; Alec Isaacson; Barbara Janovitz; Danielle Shoykhet; Eric Synenberg; Joshua Mintz; June Taylor; Justin Berns; Stewart Hastings; Tina Turick; Whitney Crook Cc: Chris Arrietta Subject: Re: request Chris, Why are we maintaining a fleet of 7 automated garbage trucks when we only have approximately 2,970 houses to pick up garbage/recycling from? Solon has more than 2x the number of houses to pick up garbage from with a total 7,748 houses and they only have 5 automated trucks (2 for garbage, 2 for recycling and 1 backup). Cleveland Hts. is switching over to an automated system like ours and they have 5x as many houses to pick up garbage from at 14,500, and they only have 6 automated trucks. If I am reading the numbers from last month correctly, we only used 6 of the 7 trucks in our fleet and truck #32 which is from 2017, didn't dump once. Truck #37 only dumped 3x, trucks #30 and #35 only dumped 5x. We only had one truck dump more than 10x last month, which was truck #34 which only dumped 12x.

These are expensive pieces of equipment at around $375k. Please explain why we need 7 and if we don't, can we take this off of Monday night's agenda. Thank you, Mike

From: Larry Heiser Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2022 2:46:43 PM To: Alec Isaacson; Barbara Janovitz; Danielle Shoykhet; Eric Synenberg; Joshua Mintz; June Taylor; Justin Berns; Mike Burkons; Stewart Hastings; Tina Turick; Whitney Crook Cc: Chris Arrietta Subject: request All- Please find attached trash data from last month per request of Councilman Burkons – the data came from the Kimble bill from March. Larry


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