BENTLEYVILLE — Officials started the year with big plans on implementing an inventory scanning system and a five-year capital equipment replacement plan after the crash of the Village Hall server, but the coronavirus pandemic quickly threw a wrench in these plans. Instead, the village played it safe while awaiting the potential impact of the virus’ accompanying economic downturn.

Council members had discussed the possibility of purchasing a woodchipper, expanding storage for the service department along with the development of the five-year plan. In May, however, Bentleyville Council agreed to put such items on hold due to Regional Income Tax Agency reports on the potential impact COVID-19 would have on the economy and municipal income.

In May, Finance Director Nickol Sell informed the council that RITA reported that collections were down by about 30 percent and the village’s year-to-date income was down by about $90,000 compared to 2019. Village officials discussed the possibility of seeing major losses in village income as a result of the pandemic, or whether the village will simply see the income later in the year instead with taxes not being due until July.

Overall, Bentleyville ended up faring well financially for the year, and they even mapped out road improvements throughout the village. By the end of the year, the village saw a spike in income tax revenue for November and December, with numbers higher than officials had anticipated in the spring. Ms. Sell said in the December finance meeting that the spike was due to individuals paying higher estimated taxes in the village.

Councilman and finance committee chairman Ken Kvacek noted the village saw a 5.02-percent increase from the previous year for income in December. Ms. Sell said the village won’t know whether this is due to new residents in the village or increased individual income per resident until tax returns are filed this spring.

While the village held off on new capital equipment purchases, they did, however, budget for the purchase of a new police cruiser. Police Chief Gabe Barone informed Council that the village police department ordered a new police car back in January and that they were to receive the vehicle in February or March.

Due to the virus’ impact on the manufacturing industry, however, the chief updated council that the purchase was in “limbo” come March. In May, he said the village could not receive any assurance of when the car, which was estimated at almost $35,0000, would be built and delivered.

The streets and safety committee discussed potentially canceling the purchase of a new vehicle altogether, despite being budgeted for 2020, due to the potential financial impact of the pandemic on the village or purchasing a cruiser elsewhere. By June the car was made, but no information was available as to its delivery date. The village finally received the new car in July and had it in service by August.

The Cleveland Metroparks asked the village for their support to obtain a federal grant for the construction of an all-purpose trail back in May, which would go through the Bentleyville Village Park. This, along with the Metroparks’ later inquiry on the installation of an equestrian crossing sign with LED lights at the Solon Road bridge, raised concerns about whether the organization was beginning to take over the village park, including its parking for residents with horse trailers.

Mayor Leonard Spremulli issued a letter of support for the parks to receive the grant in May, with the caveat that further discussions will ensue for an agreement regarding their use of the village park, restrictions on horse trailer parking and the installation of a crosswalk at the bridge.

During an October council meeting, the mayor reported that the Metroparks did not receive the funding for their all-purpose trail despite the village’s support and that the parks would be regrouping for alternative funding or a second request for the federal funding. The village agreed to a striped crosswalk and signage without LED lights at the bridge, which were installed in November, believing this to benefit the safety of residents and visitors of the Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation.

The village also saw the completion of their new salt shed in July, a project of which planning began back in 2019, and voters approved the renewal of two five-year levies, a 3.7-mill levy for operating expenses and a 1.2-mill levy for general road repairs, during the Nov. 3 election.

Bentleyville Engineer Jeff Filarski also highlighted upcoming road projects for the village totaling about $136,000, including asphalt repairs, chip and crack sealing, curb installation, road marking and ditch repairs.

The village concluded the year with their final council meeting in December. The meeting was business as usual with standard wrap-up items on the agenda until an unexpected “Zoom bomb” from an individual who disrupted the meeting with various noises and attempts to instigate arguments with council members. The harasser left the meeting abruptly after Chief Barone and Officer Jim Perkins got Chagrin Valley Dispatch on the meeting to trace the caller.

Sam Cottrill started reporting for the Times in February 2019 and covers Auburn, Bainbridge, Bentleyville and Chagrin, Kenston, Solon and West Geauga schools. She graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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