Archive for Mariemont Village Officials

What if the Village had a budget surplus?

If the Village of Mariemont had a reliable budget surplus of $500,000 per year, what suggestions might you have to improve the community with this money? Here are some ideas received from Village residents.

  1. Hire a Village Administrator?
  2. Increase the salary of the Council and Mayor?
  3. Put up more stop signs
  4. Contract with a professional tree management consultant?
  5. Development the South 80 into a recreational playground?
  6. Consider definitive proposals to solve Mariemont’s chronic parking problem?
  7. Greater support for the social organizations within the community?
  8. Consider a community center and renovation of the Municipal Building?
  9. Move the tennis courts to permit business development?
  10. Institute a plan to rejuvenate the historic district?
  11. Retain backyard collection of recyclables?
  12. Spruce up Dogwood Park with fountains, bleachers, parking lot?
  13. Further economic development around the Square?
  14. Cut taxes

What would you like to see happen?

Is the old Mariemont Steam Plant finally coming down?

Is the old Mariemont Steam Plant finally coming down?

At the Mariemont  Village Council meeting on Monday, October 27th, Michael Heines, a developer from JAE Capital, indicated they had purchased and plan to tear down the old Steam Power Plant and convert a part of the approximately three acres into condos. These 18 condos would range in size between 1500 and 1800 square feet and sell for between $300,000 and $450,000 dollars.

In this preliminary ‘Concept Plan’, Mr. Heines assured the Council that the development would not disrupt the toe of the hill coming down from Mt. Vernon Ave and, in fact, the landfill to bring the elevations up above the 100 year flood plan might give added support to the hillside.

He went on to say that the majority of the hillside would be donated back to the Village of Mariemont to add to the bird sanctuary and,if all goes ahead as planned, the land would be ready for builders sometime in August or September of next year.

Many questions remain along with various regulatory hurdles:

  1.  Will the new condos be accessed by Miami Run in Columbia Township that is private property and how will the Village provide services to any new owners?
  2.  It would seem prudent for the Village to do a due diligence study of the property before accepting any land to avoid any potential liability for this historically unstable hillside area.
  3.  What happens to the network of steam pipes that remain and will pest control experts be utilized?

We all hope that the hazardous and ugly old Steam Plant becomes history and that JAE Capital can be successful where other developers have not been at this site in the past.

Mariemont Steam Plant Main Floor

Commentary on the 2014 Village Town Meeting

Commentary on the 2014 Village Town Meeting

The past twelve months has seen an extraordinary flurry of significant issues come before the Mariemont Village Council. Many of these have long range implications for the financial health of the Village and the cultural richness of living in the Village of Mariemont.

Few of these salient issues were touched upon on Sunday, March 23 in the ‘State of the Village’ address presented by Mayor Policastro. Indeed, only two important public concerns surfaced in the brief Question and Answer period at the end of the Meeting. We all were pleased when the Mayor agreed to conduct a village-wide survey concerning back or side door pickup of recyclables.

Issues that merited discussion and explanation included:

  1. The rationale behind the refusal to build a roundabout or convert the 6-way intersection at Murray Avenue into a 4 way stop sign intersection.
  2. The stonewalling of a JEDZ (Joint Economic Development Zone) with Columbia Township even as council pursues JEDZs with far-removed communities.
  3. The tax implications of the lay-offs at Kellogg’s and the very real threat that the Kellogg Plant will close its doors altogether at the end of 2015.
  4. The elimination of the two elected officials, Village Clerk and Treasurer, with consolidation into an appointed ‘fiscal officer’.
  5. A discussion of the Safe Routes to School progress
  6. South 80 development
  7. Eastern Corridor discussions about the extension of Route 32
  8. The financial impact of purchasing a $750,000 fire engine and the Mayor’s unilateral hiring of a 10th police officer, even as the Village is experiencing a significant decrease in revenues from the State
  9. Discussions on greater collaboration for essential services with adjoining communities to capture economies of scale and scope.

More openness and candid discussion could have made the meeting one of the most important in many years. What could have been a real opportunity to discuss the true state of the Village and its future, the pros and cons of the decisions and their results ended up instead being a speech about grant pursuits, volunteer recognition and mustering the troops against real and perceived threats to the Village. The address seemed anemic compared to what really happened in the community over the past year.

Loss of our Voting Rights: A New Ordinance

Loss of our Voting Rights: A New Ordinance would eliminate two elected Mariemont Officials.

The Mayor has unilaterally and with no publicity introduced an Ordinance that would eliminate two elected officials; the Village Clerk and the Village Treasurer. These positions would be consolidated into a ‘fiscal officer’ that would be a Mayor’s appointee that served at the pleasure of the Mayor and could reside outside the Village of Mariemont. This would eliminate a very important check and balance in Village Government as well as an internal mechanism for audit and the loss of an advisor to Council and the Mayor. It would greatly enhance the Mayor’s authority.

The Mayor has tried to quietly push this Ordinance through under the radar of public scrutiny. Already, two readings have occurred at Council Meetings with an intent for final passage of the Ordinance with a third reading at the Council meeting on February the 10th.  The Mayor has made no mention of the Ordinance in his December and January Mayor’s Bulletins, has not held a Civic Association meeting to discuss the Ordinance, has not aired the Ordinance in the Community Press, has not assigned it to a Council Committee for consideration and, if you listen to the ICRC videos of Council Meetings, you will note that the Ordinance is only mentioned in passing.

This is the most important piece of legislation to come before Council in many years, and I encourage all concerned residents to e-mail or phone their representatives to at least delay passage until there has been thorough discussion of the measure within the Village of Mariemont.  We welcome comments on the blog from all Mariemonters.

At the Council meeting on 2/10/2014, the Ordinance was passed unanimously by the Council after the third reading without discussion.

Village Contacts

Dennis Wolter, District 1,

Joe Miller, District 2,

Eric Marsland, District 3,

Maggie Palazzolo, District 4,

Mary Ann Schwartz, District 5,

Jim Tinkham, District 6,

Opportunities Squandered by Village Officials–By Mike Lemon

Opportunities Squandered by Village Officials–By Mike Lemon 

As a 34-year Mariemont resident, former Mariemont mayor and current Columbia Township
administrator, I have had my feet planted in both communities for many years.  Most recently I was involved in two recent failed projects that could have easily delivered significant financial opportunities for both Mariemont and Columbia Township, had it not been for the questionable judgment of our Village officials. As a concerned Mariemont resident, I believe it is important for all Village residents to understand the facts of what happened so that we can all hold our Village officials accountable for their actions.

The two recent projects I am referring to are: 1) the proposed improvement at the 6-way intersection of Plainville, Madisonville and Settle Roads (commonly referred to as the roundabout project; and 2) the Joint Economic Development Zone (JEDZ). Together, these projects had the potential of generating millions of dollars for the Village of Mariemont without any new tax increases to Village residents. However, our Village officials declined to participate or engage in negotiations on either project.

The “Mayor’s Bulletin” of August 2013 provided the Mariemont mayor’s slant on the reasons for Mariemont officials rejecting both projects. Unfortunately, much of the information contained in that bulletin is misrepresented, incomplete, or inaccurate. Attempting to address each point in the mayor’s report would require too much space to set the record straight and only lead to more bulletins and wasting of taxpayer’s dollars. However, there are several observations I would like to share.

Six-way Intersection Improvement – A $1.7 Million Grant from the OKI Regional Council of Governments

As the Columbia administrator, I observed Columbia Township act in good faith, seeking a collaborative, cooperative approach to this project. I also observed Trustee David Kubicki’s repeated attempts to engage with Mariemont officials in negotiations continually stonewalled. After many meetings and phone calls, Mr. Kubicki even challenged our officials to take the $1.7 million grant the township received and design its preferred intersection improvement, but Mariemont officials would not even recommend or consider a new design. In the end, the Township had no choice but to relinquish any improvement which would have been entirely paid for by Columbia Township’s grant. Columbia Township is now moving the roundabout concept to Bramble and Plainville and leaving the financial fate of the six-way intersection and entry into the Village solely in Mariemont officials’ hands.

Joint Economic Development Zone (JEDZ) – A Multi-Million Dollar Revenue Opportunity

Columbia Township made it known early in discussions with Mariemont officials that it was important to get the JEDZ issue on the ballot in November. Knowing this, Trustee Kubicki personally expended a considerable amount of energy and time trying to engage our Mariemont officials. Trustee Kubicki even offered to go to a council meeting and discuss the JEDZ. He was warned by the mayor, who advised Mr. Kubicki that he would only be allowed three minutes to talk, not to attend. After four months of phone calls, meetings and discussions without progress toward an agreement, and with time to get the issue on the ballot growing perilously short, the Township received a peculiar letter from the mayor asking for a written proposal! This led Columbia Township officials to conclude that Mariemont was not really interested in collaborating or partnering in an agreement, but only stonewalling again. As a result, the Township began discussions with other communities, while still holding open the offer to accept a proposal from Mariemont. Despite efforts by councilmen Cortney Scheeser and Jeff Andrews to schedule a special council meeting to discuss the issue (before Columbia Township signed an agreement with another community), a council vote was taken and failed by 4-2, effectively abandoning the opportunity to partner in a JEDZ. Within 10 days, Fairfax and Columbia Township had completed negotiations and agreed to form a partnership on a JEDZ.

While the “Mayor’s Bulletin” stated the Township was only willing to give the Village 10% of the revenue collected (as evidenced by the agreement with Fairfax), I know the truth is that discussions took place with Mariemont officials for figures up to 50%, although not all the township trustees were aligned on that amount. Indications from the trustees were the figure was more likely to be 20-30% in an agreement, plus repayment for the expenses for collecting taxes. There would be absolutely NO cost to Mariemont, only revenue to use as it wished.

Columbia Township officials have been accused by Mariemont officials of withholding information. Nothing could be further from the truth. All information available was provided by me to the Village, and nothing was held back. The projections on revenue from the JEDZ were completed by an economic development professional, using methodologies commonly used in industry. Explanations of how the figures were derived were also provided by the same development professional in a meeting with Mariemont officials. Conservative figures indicted the JEDZ would generate approximately $706,000 annually. Based upon the intent of a 40-year agreement with three 10-year renewal options (as signed with Fairfax), our community lost an opportunity to capture revenue for the next seventy years for any purpose it wished! How much it lost depends upon what the negotiated split would have been and the cost of tax collection. However, based upon a quick spreadsheet analysis, the following chart reflects the range of revenue lost if a 1.0% earnings tax and a 5% tax collection fee of generated revenue are used. (If a 1.25% earnings tax (the current Mariemont rate) had been negotiated, the impact would show an even more significant loss for Mariemont.)

% Split 90-10 80-20 70-30 60-40 50-50
Est. Revenue $706,378 $706,378 $706,378 $706,378 $706,378
Collection Fee (5%) $35,319 $35,319 $35,319 $35,319 $35,319
Net $671,059 $671,059 $671,059 $671,059 $671,059
CT Annual Share $603,953 $536,847 $469,741 $402,635 $335,530
MM Annual Share $67,106 $134,212 $201,318 $268,424 $335,530
MM Loss-70 Yrs. $4,697,414 $9,394,827 $14,092,241 $18,789,655 $23,487,069

If the percentage our Village received was between 20-30%, this equates to between $9 million and $14 million dollars of free money lost!

The Lost Opportunity for Our Village

So what could have happened if an agreement was reached on these two initiatives?  We could have…

  • Increased our Village revenue by millions of dollars without increasing taxes to residents and businesses. (What would these millions of dollars have done for improving our streets, for improving parks and the pool, for police protection, for fire protection and more? Would it pay for a community comprehensive plan or for a Village administrator?)
  • Replaced six-way confusing intersection with improved design and new entry into our Village at no cost to Mariemont
  • Provided pathway and design for extension of bike path from Fairfax
  • Extended the customer base for our retail and commercial businesses in Mariemont through development of Plainville Road and Wooster Pike.


I saw these two projects as a tremendous opportunity for Columbia Township and the Village of Mariemont to work together to accomplish three things…

  • Improve two adjacent communities
  • Support economic development
  • Help stabilize finances following the severe impact of State cut-backs and estate tax elimination.

However, our Mariemont Village officials decided that these projects were not in the best interest of Mariemont and declined to participate. While there are obviously differences of opinion on these two projects, one has to wonder what is really driving the decisions of our Village officials and whether they are in the long-term best interest of Mariemont and its residents. In the meantime, I know Columbia Township is putting this episode behind it and is moving forward with its plans to improve the township. I also know that Columbia Township will continue to collaborate with surrounding communities when it can, and I know it will certainly include Mariemont when possible.

Having served the Mariemont community for 13-years as a councilman and mayor and as a long-time Mariemont resident, just thinking of the lost opportunities is very distressing to me.  I hope you are as disturbed as I am and will begin to take a closer look at the current leadership and how it is managing the long-term interests of our Village.

Click here for more information regarding the JEDZ legislation

Click here for the Mayor’s August Bulletin

By Mike Lemon