A focus on continuing to meet the needs of the business community amidst a labor shortage as well as the implementation of Solon Connects and Rails to Trails projects are among Mayor Edward H. Kraus’s goals heading into 2022.
“Our efforts this year will be really toward that workforce,” Mayor Kraus, in his second term of office, said. “We are a business town and very proud of the 900 businesses that call Solon home.
“Business development will always be the top of our priority.”
It is important in the new year to ensure that businesses of all sizes have adequate staffing, Mayor Kraus continued.
“If they don’t have that staff, they cannot operate fully,” he said. “As mayor, I will do whatever I can to help them.”
He said efforts will be made to increase public transportation to give employees avenues to get to the city.
“You don’t want stumbling blocks on them getting to work,” he said.
The city will work with the Regional Transit Authority as well as Cuyahoga County Community College to connect people to jobs.
“It’s really important for us to be labor focused,” Mayor Kraus said.
Mayor Kraus said implementing portions of Solon Connects, a plan to increase walkability and mobility throughout the community, will also take place in the new year.
“The Solon Connects ties right into that whole idea of economic development,” he said.
Healthy living has been at the forefront throughout the pandemic, Mayor Kraus added.
“The Solon Connect program does so much for quality of life,” he said.
Some ways it will be implemented this year will be through the addition of bike racks in the downtown area as well as the expansion of sidewalks in the central retail district, beginning along Aurora Road, followed by Bainbridge Road and Station Street.
“If you are going to have a walkable community, your main roads have to reflect that,” Mayor Kraus said, adding that Solon Connects will be an ongoing long-term plan.
In relation to Rails to Trails projects, Mayor Kraus said he anticipates having a lease agreement for the Solon to Bainbridge Trail with the Cleveland Metroparks that will be before City Council early this year.
The Solon to Bainbridge trail, proposed to cost about $2.97 million and measuring 2.1 miles, would convert abandoned train tracks into walking and bike paths, from SOM Center Road to the Bentleyville line. Further plans call for the trail to extend through Bentleyville to Bainbridge Township, just steps from Chagrin Falls.
A lack of commitment from the Cleveland Metroparks to build a bridge that would extend the trail stalled the project’s progress in 2019. It gained momentum once again earlier this year.
Mayor Kraus said the park system would be doing the construction of the bridge and have done some clearing of the path. The project will be tackled in two phases, he said, with phase one covering the area from Carter Lumber to the city’s border with Bentleyville, and phase two being the bridge into Bainbridge Township, just steps from Chagrin Falls.
“They will start in 2022 for sure.”
Mayor Kraus said of the residents who live along the trail and had voiced concerns about safety and privacy that “there will be some who are not thrilled, but the bottom line is that it is public property.”
“When we bought that property 30 years ago, we told people there will be a trail there,” Mayor Kraus said. “If taxpayer money is used to buy property, then taxpayers should be able to use it.
“It will be a beautiful amenity for everyone in the community,” he noted. “It really enhances the quality of life for all of us.”
Mayor Kraus said the Norfolk Southern trail, which starts east of Harper Road where the railroad was abandoned and has a section that is still operational near Nestle, measures over 7 miles, ending at Treat Road in the City of Aurora, and is more complex.
“Once we finish title work, we will attempt to negotiate a price for the land,” he said. The city will partner with Geauga County and the city of Aurora to iron out an agreement with Norfolk Southern.
“That is years away, but first we have to acquire the land,” Mayor Kraus explained.
Mayor Kraus said the city now has a set vision with the trails projects and partners with the effort. In the past, they did not have those partners in place, he said.
“The Metroparks is a huge part of this,” he said.
Mayor Kraus also commended the work of state officials in assisting Solon on these initiatives, including Ohio Senator Matt Dolan, State Rep. Phil Robinson and Congressman Dave Joyce.
The new year will also include a “deep dive” into the city’s master plan, Mayor Kraus said. He will be compiling a group of about two dozen to pour over the document.
“It will be a great opportunity,” he said, adding that he wishes to include members of the business community in the effort