nav-left cat-right
cat-right

Town and Gown Poetry...

What happens when you mix the inauguration of the 12th President in the history of Kent State University with local students from Kent’s Holden Elementary School?

Poetry magic.

Town and gown at it’s artistic best.  (click on the image below)

Inauguration-Poem

 

 

Permanent City Admin Building Update...

It’s been a couple of weeks since we relocated from the former City Hall building on Depeyster Street and moved into our respective new temporary locations.
_______________________________________________________________________
Temporary Relocation Summary

- Mayor/City Clerk/HR Manager into the Fire Station on Depeyster
– City Manager/Law Director into the Police Station on Day Street
– Budget and Finance/Utility Billing into the Service Administration Building on Overholt Drive
– Health Department into the Kent State University Schwartz Center
_______________________________________________________________________

Moving is never easy but all-in-all the transition has been remarkably smooth for the staff and hopefully for our customers too.  Everyone seems to be settling in to their new routines in their new locations so I thought it was a good time to circle back and share the latest news on our efforts to find a permanent location for City Admin to recommend to City Council.

When we first started talking about selling the former City Hall building we were hoping to make a single move — but that was wishful thinking since after a fair amount of research and discussion it became clear that a “perfect” permanent location didn’t seem to exist for a quick move so we recommended to Council to take this one-step at a time.  Let’s answer the temporary relocation question first and then come back to securing a permanent location when we have the time to get this right.

With the temporary questions answered at this point, it’s time to catch up with the work that is underway with the permanent building prospects.  In order to keep us moving forward with finding a more permanent home for City Administration, we hired a realty company last month to perform a market analysis on the potential marketability of the current police station site as a possible contender for our permanent home.

Here’s a summary of the realty work that is underway:

AllegroStudy1

AllegroStudy2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may recall that earlier this year we had narrowed down a list of about 10 possible sites for either a temporary or a permanent home to 4 sites that seemed to be the best fit in terms of function, costs, and civic use.  (Again, keep in mind that originally we blended these temporary and permanent discussions together until Council agreed to un-bundle them and tackle the temporary sites first, permanent sites second.)

The 4 best candidates  for permanent sites included:  1. Current police station property (after demo of current police building) at the corner of Water and Haymaker; 2. Add-on to the new police station at Haymaker and Depeyster; 3. Old Courthouse property on Water Street; and 4. Family and Community Services Building on Gougler.

In discussing those 4 “most likely” options, there was a lot of discussion of the merits, pro’s and con’s of each site, and although Council didn’t take a formal vote to rank them at that time, the staff walked away with the sense that options #1 and #2 held the most promise and we should do some more work to flush out those options in greater detail — but again no options have been ruled-out at this point.

Option #1 seemed to satisfy a lot of the criteria that we would look for in a “good” new site, i.e., city owns the land, adjacent to city fire complex, close proximity to new police campus, close to downtown, and high visibility location. The questions that we heard for Option #1 were whether a new admin building would fit on the parcel (including adequate parking), and perhaps most importantly was a city building the highest and best use for that property.

Given it’s high visibility and proximity to downtown, many have asked whether we could sell the property for private redevelopment of office, retail or even residential space.  To help us answer that question we’ve hired a realty firm that performs market analysis for private developers who make those investment decisions to better inform us what they think the marketability of the site is for each of those possible uses.

This firm also performed some work for us on the downtown project so they are familiar with the Kent market.  We feel like this is a critical piece of information that we’ll need to guide our discussions moving forward.  The market assessment should be back to us by the end of summer.

Once we have a better feel for the real estate market, the next step for either site will be to test the “build-ability” of each site — meaning how big a building do we need, will the building footprint fit on the site, will the parking fit, access, egress, and of course cost.

We’ll need an architect to help us answer those questions.  Dave Sommers and Associates had done some preliminary work for us almost a year ago looking at these questions but we’ll need to update and further refine that work.

We didn’t want to go too far down the path for Option #1 until we were more certain that a government building is the “best” use for the property so we’ll likely wait until the realty market study is complete before we authorize too much more architectural work.

Plus, Dave Sommers is pretty busy trying to finish up the design of the new City Police Station so it will probably be another month or so before we ask them to focus on the new admin building concepts.

We don’t have any ”new” news to report yet on the possible permanent sites but the two leading contenders that have been under study for almost a year remain the most likely candidates for the staff to recommend to Council and the community later this summer.

Kent Worker Safety...

From a business perspective, roughly 72% of our costs go towards supporting our City employees.

CityCostsChartThat’s no surprise since the City government is a service business.  Our City employees save lives, protect us, supply life’s essential services, and make sure we have all of the modern conveniences and amenities that we all have come to expect from a professional city government.

As a City we do a lot of analyzing, measuring, and evaluating of what we do and how we do it — to make sure we’re living up to our mission of service to the community.

Sometimes, when we’re deep into the numbers, it’s easy to calculate the costs but forget the value of what we do and who does it 24-7, 365 days a year.

KentServicesMontage

Great ideas and great programs without great people to deliver them are irrelevant.  In today’s knowledge-worker, service-provider world, people make the difference – and if we ever mess up the people part, we’re done.

Ideas don’t implement themselves, people do.  To that end, “who” must always come before “what” – before vision, before strategy, before tactics, before structure.  Who is our degree of separation between good and great.

No matter what we think we can do, we can’t – without the right people.  People with a diversity of backgrounds, knowledge and experience who can inject the City organization with an endless stream of talent and bring fresh perspectives every day.

People who are passionate about what they do and are an inspiration to those around them.  People who want to make a difference in the world.  Who want the freedom to think and to see ideas realized.

People who look forward to meeting new challenges every day.  People who want an environment that inspires a level of achievement and celebrates its success.

I work with those people in the City and I’m honored to be a part of such a talented City team.

KentPolice2 KentPublicService (2) DSC00634 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Work Pictures 028 Work Pictures 025 Work Pictures 021 Work Pictures 011 Work Pictures 001 Halloween Clean Up 1 Brush Chipping 1 FirePic2

Maybe the arrival of Memorial Day has me more appreciative than usual for those people that have chosen to dedicate their lives to the service of others.

Or maybe it’s the recent news that the City received the Safety Achievement Award from the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation for reducing worker injuries by 25% between 2013 and 2014.

WorkerSafetyAward2014

Either way, I’m grateful for the 194 City employees that work with me and look out for me and my family — and all the other families — that call Kent home.

 

New Downtown Signage...

After a push at the end of last year to get some of the initial new directional/way-finding signs up, we’ve got more on the way that are designed to be functional (get you where you want to go), informational (tell you some things you might not have known) and contribute to the artsy, quirky Kent vibe that is what makes the downtown unmistakably Kent.

It may sound odd but we think that notoriously utilitarian things like trash cans, benches, and signs don’t have to be notoriously utilitarian.

Who says that signs and benches need to be wall-flowers that fade into the background and are best not heard or seen.  On the contrary, we think all those little things matter and street infrastructure is another opportunity to reflect Kent’s personality.WayfindingSign3WayfindingSign2

The look of the City’s traffic signs are regulated by state and federal laws so there’s not much room to play with those but parking and directional signs are fair game and we’re seeing what we can come up with that conveys a little hometown flavor, sense of humor (where appropriate), and pleasant surprise.

If we’re serious about being a walkable, bikeable community (and we are) then we feel like we have an obligation to make the walk and ride engaging and interesting as well as safe.  Why settle for less?  If we get this right, you won’t have to in Kent.

We’re looking at all of the elements of signs, e.g., the colors, materials, styling and the messaging, as chances to amplify the Kent motif.  Some of our signs will have a heavier duty bracketing with old fashioned lug nuts that are meant to capture a part of Kent’s past as a railroad town and later an industrial center.

The color palette is intended to be eye-catching, contemporary and (if it’s possible) cheery.  Lots of things are life can be stressful so we’re making a conscious effort to find ways for your hometown to lighten your load and brighten your day.

We’re certainly not suggesting that our signs will solve everything that ails you and we’re not trying to diminish the hardships that we all face from time to time, but in between why not be a place that let’s people know that they are valued and is a conversation starter with other people or even just within our own heads.

That’s what great places do, and that’s what we aspire to be.

Here’s a look at the next round of signs that are heading to downtown Kent.  You’ll see everything from banners to directional maps and my personal favorite, historic interpretive signage.

DtownDirectionalSignDtownHistoric1 DtownHistoric2 DtownHistoric3 DtownHistoric4 DowntownBanners

 

 

Kent Cracks the Mid-West Top Ten...

The City of Kent got some good press this week when NerdWallet issued their list of best places for Millennial’s to live and work in the Mid-West — and Kent landed at #9.DSC_0007

The Millenials are the future civic leaders, business innovators and community volunteers so it’s encouraging to see Kent get recognized for being a great place for those young people to get a start, lay down their roots, and call Kent home.

Here’s the NerdWallet article and listing:

When it comes to jobs, the Midwest has an ample crop of opportunities. The unemployment rate in America’s heartland has consistently been lower than the country as a whole. In March, the jobless rate was 5%, the lowest for all regions and 0.5% below the national unemployment rate.

For college graduates and others who want to move to the Midwest or stay there, deciding where to live can be difficult, since it’s made up of 10 states and 124 metro regions. To help narrow the search, NerdWallet crunched the numbers to find the best places for jobs in the Midwest.

NerdWallet’s analysis

Millennial population. We looked at the percentage of residents who are millennials and the population growth of that demographic from 2010 to 2013.

Average income. Millennials are the 18-34 age group, but because of data limitations, we examined the average income for residents ages 25-44 as a proxy for the earning potential for young workers.

Unemployment. We looked at unemployment rates of residents ages 20 to 44, which is an indicator of the economic opportunities for young workers.

All data are from the U.S. Census Bureau. Places with less than 20,000 residents in 2013 weren’t included.

Best places for millennial job seekers in the Midwest

1. West Fargo, North Dakota

With an unemployment rate of 0.95% for residents 20 to 44 years old, West Fargo has attracted a younger workforce. The city has seen its millennial population grow 18% from 2010 to 2013. The big employers here include Sanford Fargo Medical Center and North Dakota State University.

2. Minot, North Dakota

Minot has seen its traditionally strong trade economy boosted even further by the boom in shale oil, although production has started to decline amid falling oil prices. The city of 44,000 added 2,000 millennial residents from 2010 to 2013, and the unemployment rate is 3.3% for residents ages 20-44. While the Air Force base is still the city’s largest employer, high salaries for oil workers in the Williston Basin have been a big draw for young workers.

3. Ankeny, Iowa

NerdWallet previously ranked Ankeny as the best town in Iowa for young families. Turns out it’s a good place for millennial job seekers, too. The community of 49,000 has seen its millennial population grow 25% from 2010 to 2013, and that demographic now makes up 27.4% of residents. The average income for residents ages 25-44 is $84,000. Millennials seeking to network may want to check out the chamber of commerce’s Ankeny Young Professionals group.

4. Royal Oak, Michigan

It’s one of the largest cities on our list, with an unemployment rate of 3.7% for its young adult residents, who earn an average income of $80,000. The city is known for its bustling nightlife and tourist attractions, including the Detroit Zoo. Royal Oak was also the setting for the sitcom “Home Improvement.” Major employers include William Beaumont Hospital and automotive part manufacturers Flex-N-Gate and HHI FormTech.

5. Moorhead, Minnesota

Located in the same metropolitan region as West Fargo, Moorhead has seen a similar boom in its economy and a higher increase in its millennial population, which grew 20.8% from 2010 to 2013. The agriculture industry remains a large employer in the area, in addition to several colleges and universities.

6. Kearney, Nebraska

The presence of the University of Nebraska at Kearney and the city’s central location on Interstate 80 has led to a diverse and flourishing economy. Major employers include software developer Xpanxion and online clothing retailer Buckle.com. The unemployment rate is 3.1% among residents 20 to 44 years old, and the population of millennials has grown 7.9% from 2010 to 2013.

7. Okemos, Michigan

This census-designated place, which takes pride in its quality of life, has been highlighted in the past as a destination for young professionals. Millennials are 27% of the population in Okemos, which is 4 miles from Michigan State University.

8. Clarksville, Indiana

Clarksville’s location on the banks of the Ohio River and its proximity to Louisville, Kentucky, makes it convenient for businesses that need to ship products. The town of 21,700 has about 600 businesses, and an unemployment rate of 2.8% for residents age 20-44 — the availability of jobs has helped the millennial population grow 19.1%. The town was named by Movoto, a real estate blog, as a dangerous area because of its crime rate, although Clarksville officials questioned the rankings, according to news reports.

9. Kent, Ohio

Known as the location of Kent State University, this city should also be regarded for its attractive employment options for young residents. The quality of the workforce has attracted many large companies to the area, including Davey Tree, Ametek and Smithers-Oasis. A recent $100 million redevelopment project has increased the commercial viability and quality of life for residents.

10. Normal, Illinois

Home to Illinois State University, Normal not only has a high ratio of students, it also has made a concerted effort to retain graduates. Redevelopment in uptown Normal, along with increased accessibility for bicyclists, has made the area a hot spot for young professionals. Normal has also developed a “next professionals” program, which helps residents 40 and younger network and develop their careers.

Kent River Day...

The Cuyahoga River holds a special place in Kent.

Kent was born as a mill town that relied on the river to turn the stone wheels of the first grist mills and later wool mill, oil mill, anvil mill and silk mills that were truly pioneers in economic development.

Today the Cuyahoga River’s role in our economy has changed but this natural resource remains a centerpiece of Kent’s landscape.

Improving river quality, river access, and river recreational opportunities are cornerstones of Kent’s strategic priorities and Kent is proud of it’s role in the “come-back” of the Cuyahoga River –with happier, healthier aquatic organisms, fish and people species all enjoying the river at greater rates than ever before.  KentKayaking

At a time when stories of drought on the west coast dominate the news headlines, the Cuyahoga River is our local reminder that water resources should never be taken for granted.

We live in a region that is known for it’s abundant water resources but we’ve learned that those resources need TLC to keep them healthy.RiverCleanUpEducation

Each year, local river stewards and environmentally minded advocates gather for Kent’s River Day to honor our river heritage, celebrate Kent’s river amenities and make sure we’re doing our part to keep the River healthy for generations to come.

The Kent Environmental Council and Kent Parks and Recreation are pleased to host Kent River Day on May 16th.

RiverDayMay2015RiverFacts

Erie and Depeyster Street Intersection...

You may have noticed that we’ve recently had the Police speed trailer on S. Depeyster Street (in front of Bricco’s) to collect speed data on the street.  We put that out to help us evaluate whether there’s data to justify converting the 2-way stop at the Erie/Depeyster intersection to a 4-way stop.

DSC_0060

Currently, traffic on S. Depeyster Street heading south have no stop sign while the traffic on Erie Street heading east or west have stop signs.

ErieDepeysterAerial

From a traffic engineering perspective, the intersection should be a 2-way stop (the way it operates now) but we have watched some confusion by motorists on S. Depeyster who seem uncertain whether they should stop or go thru that intersection because in some respects it feels like a 4-way stop.

It seems to be that any confusion has caused cars to slow down and/or stop when technically they don’t have to and we’re thankful that there haven’t been any accidents to suggest that the intersection is dangerous and needs be changed.

However, we’re never fans of confusion in areas where cars have to cross so we’ve asked our City Engineers to evaluate the functioning of that intersection and come up with some options to reduce, if not eliminate, that confusion.

One of the first steps is to get the street striping completed which should help provide better cues to drivers and improve some of the site distance issues as we plan to push the parking spaces back further away from the intersection with the new striping.

In the world of traffic engineering, any changes made to traffic patterns have very specific criteria they have to meet before they can even be considered.  When it comes to life safety issues, caution has to rule the day.

At this point, we’re examining and evaluating to see how this intersection stacks up against the engineering standards required for 2 way and 4 way stops.  Hopefully a few small steps, like improved striping, will take care of the confusion.

 

 

 

Kent Parks...

Nothing says Spring like a sunshine, a blanket, and a Frisbee.  Throw in a river and a Kent park and make a day of it.

dam park 2015 (1)Kent has 17 parks – some big, some small and plenty in between — where residents and visitors can get their daily dose of vitamin D, R&R, and fitness depending on the mood of the day.

Racer

Kent Parks and Rec staff do a great job providing programs, services and park amenities for people of all ages, inclinations, and outdoor aptitudes.  We’re really lucky to have them.

Kent Parks and Rec proves every day that Kent is right sized for fun.  From skateboarding, to kayaking, to community races, playgrounds, and Halloween, Kent Parks and Rec serves up smiles in all shapes and sizes.

skateboarder3 ChildKentPark KidsHalloween KentKidsRun RiverKayaking

By the way, Kent Parks and Rec is independent of the City organization – they don’t work for me – which allows me to offer my gratitude and support for what they do without any need for humility since I can take no credit for their success.

Way to go Kent Parks and Rec!

 

 

 

City Admin Relocation...

It’s May which means its moving time.

Time to pack up, box up and move out of the administrative office complex located at the corner of Depeyster and Summit Street that has been the home of the City Administrative offices (Mayor, City Manager, Law Director, City Clerk, Human Resource Manager, Civil Service, Budget and Finance, and the Health Department) for the past 25 years.

CityAdminStreetView

An apartment housing builder is buying the City property so that he can construct 1-2 bedroom apartments on the site.

AdminComplexAerial AdminConceptAerialConceptView AdminRenderingCornerView

Given the site’s location within walking distance to downtown and to campus, it’s likely going to be students or faculty that will want to live there but come August 2016 it will be open to the first 250 folks that sign leases.

It’s taken close to 2 years to get the terms of the sale of the property written up in the form of a Development Agreement but as of last week (April 30th) the Development Agreement was signed by both parties.

To be clear, the Development Agreement isn’t the property sales contract — so the land transfer hasn’t happened yet – but both parties now agree on what going to have to happen to get the deal done.

The Agreement spells out the steps that the developer and the City will need to follow to close on the property and transfer ownership.

It’s looking like it will take about 45 days (mid-June) to get to closing but the Agreement allows up to 100 days (August) to complete the required conditions that must be met by both parties in order to execute the land sale contract.

The price remains unchanged at $2.4 million and as the developer demonstrates progress on securing financing and deposits to $200,000 towards the purchase price, the City will take steps to move out of the buildings over the course of 3 weeks in early May.

The staff have made great progress in preparing the space at the Service Administration Complex (930 Overholt Road) for the arrival of Budget and Finance, and staff is nearly completed with sorting through existing files to determine what should go with the move, what can be put in storage, and what can be disposed of.

FrontDriveOverholt OverholtAerialBased on the requirements leading up to the real estate closing I am anticipating a mid June closing date.  The developer is still pushing hard to have a June 1 closing but I’m thinking that may turn out to be a bit aggressive based on the amount of work items that have to be completed before the closing.

It is equally possible that the closing date could get moved to mid-July if the developer has to re-work the design of the building based on comments from the BZA, Planning Commission and the staff — or due to higher than expected construction costs.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of the final closing and incremental move-outs by City staff in the weeks to follow.

First up to move, two of our utility billing employees from Budget and Finance.

They moved last Friday (May 1) which means effective today (Monday, May 4th) any customer who wishes to pay their utility bill in person will need to go to the Service Administration building to do so.  If they just want to leave their payment in the drop box out front on Depeyster Street that’s still there for a couple more weeks but the people accepting and processing the bills have moved.

Signs have been posted all week in the building announcing the move and the latest utility bill mailings all have the new address of 930 Overholt Road.

The Health Department is looking to move the week of May 11th, followed by the remainder of the staff in the week of May 18th.

No doubt there will be some transition pains in the relocation but we’re doing our best to make it as least disruptive as possible to our employees and our customers.

Kent Dam Waterfalls Delay...

After the long winter everybody is anxious to get outdoors and enjoy Kent’s best natural amenities.

One of the favorites is the waterfalls at the Kent Dam.

DamFalls02

Damfalls05

The opening-up of the Kent Dam back in the 1990′s was a high-water mark (forgive the pun) for Kent’s pioneering efforts to restore the vitality and health of the Cuyahoga River running through downtown Kent.  It turns out that oxygen is a river’s best friend and anything you can do to get more oxygen into the water will have aquatic health benefits.

Fish counts are higher than ever, aquatic vegetation is thriving, and the micro-organisms that are key to healthy waterways are found in abundance in the river today thanks in large part to all of the extra oxygen freed up with the opening of the Dam.  As a bonus, it’s great for kayakers who have a clear shot to run the rapids all the way from Kent to Cuyahoga Falls.

kayaker KayakLivery

Opening up of the Kent Dam was such a blockbuster hit that the project is listed in an international study of best practices for water quality around the world.  And closer to home, Kent’s neighboring cities have followed Kent’s lead and opened up the old dams all along the Cuyahoga.

As part of the Kent Dam project, the designers converted an old section of the former Dam into a waterfalls.  The waterfalls is a reminder of the old Dam without all of the bad oxygen levels that has become a local outdoor attraction.

The City generally fires-up the pumps that run the waterfalls at the beginning of April but a mechanical problem has caused a delayed start.  In the process of changing out the rubber seals in the check valves of the waterfalls it became apparent that a flapper valve inside one of the check valves needed to be replaced.

The replacement flapper valve has been ordered but delivery is estimated for mid-May, with installation to follow.  At this point, we’re figuring the waterfalls will be back in operation by the end of May.

 

 

 

« Previous Entries