WOODMERE — Council voted 3-4 against the Brainard Road pedestrian sidewalk project last week that would have connected the village to neighboring communities.
This became a contentious issue in the last few months after some residents voiced their support of sidewalks while others were opposed. Leaders in Orange Village also commented on the plans because the sidewalk would connect to recreational trails in their village.
“I’m mystified that council voted in the manner that they did,” Mayor Ben Holbert said after the Oct. 14 vote. The ordinance would have allowed Village Engineer Ed Hren to begin preparations for a 6-foot-wide sidewalk on the west side of Brainard from Chagrin Boulevard to the municipal boundary with Orange.
Councilwomen Lisa Brockwell, Glenda Todd-Miller and Jennifer Mitchell Earley and Councilman Craig Wade voted against the sidewalks. Councilman Tennyson Adams and Councilwomen Vivian Walker and Nakeshia Nickerson voted in favor of the project.
There was confusion among Woodmere council members and the administration over the sidewalk project last month that stemmed from a grant application by McCaulley and Company. The application said that the village would contribute $750,000 toward a project that costs $1 million total.
The village received a $215,000 grant from the state and a $50,000 grant from Cuyahoga County. Mr. Hren said that these grants would completely cover the cost of the sidewalk project, which he estimated to be about $230,000. Justin McCaulley explained last month that the application mentioned funds that the village has already spent for various improvement projects in the area of Chagrin Boulevard and Brainard. He said that the village would not be responsible for any more funds for the project.
In the audience comments section of the meeting prior to the vote, Maplecrest Avenue resident David Effron said that he supported the sidewalk project. Following the vote, Brainard resident Gerald Carrier said that he was disappointed in council’s decision. He said that their actions do not reflect their words when they say that they care about the village. Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Seth Young, who also lives on Brainard, said that he is embarrassed with the outcome.
“I would strongly consider you all go home, take a big deep breath and think about what you’ve done,” Mr. Young said. “We all who are not on council work very hard to do these things. The village engineer and other people spend a lot of time to get these grants. If we don’t use the money, how are we as a village ever going to get a grant again from the county?”
In an Orange Village Council meeting last month, Mayor Kathy Mulcahy and Council President Brandon Duber commented on the delay of the sidewalk project and questioned why Woodmere had not accepted the grant funding. In a newsletter dated Oct. 11, Ms. Earley responded to the Orange officials.
“I was shocked to see elected officials from outside of our community freely insulting our village officials on the record,” she wrote in the newsletter. “I have never seen a public official be critical of another community; it’s inappropriate, unprofessional and unneighborly.”
Mr. Duber said at the September meeting that foregoing the grant money is “just plain stupidity.” Ms. Earley responded with, “Who’s stupid: us for protecting our village or them for speaking on things that they know nothing about?”
Last Friday, Mayor Mulcahy said that residents of Woodmere and Orange have lost because of Woodmere council’s decision. She said that it is “incomprehensible” that they did not move forward with the sidewalk project.
Mr. Duber said that Ms. Earley took his words out of context. He explained that during Orange’s council meeting, he said that if the grant funding was for one particular purpose and would not affect anything else for Woodmere, then he did not understand why they would not use the grants.
“She took it out of context and bolded some stuff and tried to put me in a bad light to Woodmere residents. It’s unprofessional and unbecoming of her,” Mr. Duber said on Friday. “I’m not trying to start a fight with anyone in Woodmere.”
Mayor Holbert said that he has a great relationship with Mayor Mulcahy and Orange Village Council. He said that Orange officials understand that this decision is reflective of council, not his administration. Mayor Holbert said that Mayor Mulcahy is a mentor to him and he looks forward to partnerships in the future.