Residents of Woodmere and elected officials in neighboring Orange Village are questioning the future of a long awaited sidewalk project on Brainard Road.
Woodmere has received $265,000 in grant funding, but Village Council tabled the ordinance. There is confusion among the Woodmere administration and council members about the project’s scope and cost, which seems to stem from an application submitted by grant writer McCaulley and Company.
Woodmere Village officials have discussed building a 6-foot-wide sidewalk on the west side of Brainard Road from the municipal boundary with Orange north to Chagrin Boulevard. This would connect the recreational trails in Orange to the main thoroughfare in Woodmere.
Woodmere Engineer Ed Hren confirmed that trails and sidewalks are considered the same.
Woodmere Mayor Ben Holbert hired Justin McCaulley to apply for a $50,000 community development supplemental grant from Cuyahoga County and a $200,000 grant from the state capital budget, which is administered through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The village received the $50,000 grant and $215,000 from the capital budget. Mr. Hren estimated that the project cost would be around $250,000, but Mr. McCaulley’s application said that the total project cost is $1 million and Woodmere would cover $750,000 in costs.
“Now the state is aware that we don’t have $750,000. While the money is earmarked for the village, it doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed that we will get it,” Council President Jennifer Mitchell Earley said at the Sept. 9 meeting, when Woodmere Council decided to keep the ordinance tabled. “So council is unwilling to move forward on a project that we would in turn have to assess the residents and pay for, nor are we willing to float another bond for $750,000 for costs or the remainder of whatever the balance is minus the $50,000 to get the sidewalk.”
The biggest point of confusion was why the grant application said that the total project cost was $1 million when the engineer’s estimate was closer to $250,000. The application noted that Woodmere would pay $750,000 and Mr. Hren said the village would pay nothing because the sidewalk project would be covered with grants.
Mr. McCaulley said that the $750,000 listed on the application is an estimate of the amount that the village has already spent in related projects. He said that the sidewalk connecting Woodmere to Orange is the final piece of a larger, long-term project in the area of Chagrin Boulevard and Brainard Road. He said that the village has already spent money in recent years in that area, such as traffic studies and streetscaping. Mr. McCaulley said that it is important to point out in the application that the village has already spent its own funds on improvements and is asking the state for additional “gap closing” funds.
“There’s not an obligation for the village to put up any more money,” he said on Sept. 10.
Mr. Hren later said that the village has done a lot of work around Chagrin and Brainard over the last few years. The Ohio Department of Transportation led and paid for a $1 million project to replace traffic signals on Chagrin from Interstate 271 to Belmont Road so the Beachwood police could change the traffic signal cycle to give more green light time to Chagrin or the side streets depending on the time of day.
The engineer also recalled a $600,000 project several years ago. Brainard was widened by one lane from the former service garage to about 500 feet south of the intersection with Chagrin Boulevard. Ms. Earley contacted the office of state Sen. Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, to investigate the cost discrepancy on the application that caused confusion among the council members.
“Our budget director is concerned that since the village cannot provide $750,000 that is stated on the application, the project will not meet the funding terms and ODNR will not release any of the funds,” Sen. Yuko’s senior legislative aide Kate Osterback said in a Sept. 2 email to Ms. Earley. “She says that it may still be possible to use those funds for a sidewalk, even though that isn’t the full scope of the original project.”
Mayor Holbert explained during the council meeting that the only project up for discussion is to build sidewalks on Brainard. He said that there are no other projects or requests for additional dollars from other entities. Ms. Earley talked at the same time as Mayor Holbert for 20 seconds and advised the mayor that his line on the virtual call would be muted if he continued.
Brainard Road resident Ellen Parker asked when this conflict will be resolved. She said that the traffic on Brainard is a hazard and people cannot walk there. Avondale Avenue resident Allison Craig also said that Woodmere needs sidewalks on Brainard.
Based on comments from residents earlier in the meeting, Councilman Craig Wade said that he did not think the sidewalk ordinance should be removed from the table at this time. Councilwoman Glenda Todd-Miller agreed. She said that she supports sidewalks but not the current language of the ordinance, which is the “Brainard Road multipurpose trail-phase 1 project in the village of Woodmere.”
More residents commented later in the meeting. Brainard Road resident Trina Carrier said that this has dragged on for months. “At what point does it drop in your lap?” she asked Ms. Earley. Belmont Road resident Gladys Melvin also said that it is unacceptable how long it has taken to make progress on the sidewalk project and there is “nothing but a bunch of confusion.”
Orange Village Council also met on Sept. 9 and Mayor Kathy Mulcahy said that she is not sure why Woodmere is not moving forward on this project because it would benefit the residents of Orange and Woodmere. There may be a power struggle going on with Woodmere’s elected officials, she added.
“That’s an embarrassment on their part if they don’t do this,” Orange Council President Brandon Duber said. “It’s shameful of Woodmere if they don’t go ahead and do this.” Mr. Duber also said that there is no rationale for Woodmere officials to not provide sidewalks to their residents. It is “just plain stupidity,” he concluded.
The sidewalk ordinance remains tabled in Woodmere.