halts rec center plan – for now
By Jeff Gallatin
Published June 11, 2008
Thomas O’Grady has stopped work on the proposed new recreation center
O’Grady announced his change of plans at the June
3 City Council meeting, saying his administration won’t make any
further attempts to place a proposal for a new $18 million rec center
funded by a one-eighth of a percent income tax on the November ballot.
Both during and after his announcement, the mayor left the door
open for the North Olmsted City School District to work with the
city on future recreation proposals.
“In my eyes we’ve always had a partnership with the
city schools when it comes to the well-being of the city and its
residents,” said O’Grady later. “We’ve had a strong partnership
for years and I would expect that to continue.”
His announcement came the same day he met with school
district superintendent Cheryl Dubsky and other district officials.
Both O’Grady and Dubsky said that meeting went well.
“We both serve the same citizens, and we want to continue
our strong working relationship with the city in many areas,” said
“I will be discussing this and other matters with
the schools in the future,” O’Grady said.
The move comes shortly after O’Grady asked the YMCA
to drop out of his proposal for partnering with the city and Fairview
Hospital/ Cleveland Clinic in the new recreation center – with the
YMCA running it and the hospital/clinic providing equipment and
In discussing the change in plans both during the
meeting and later, O’Grady cited reasons similar to the ones he
brought up when he asked the YMCA to drop out. O’Grady cited feedback
against the partnership plans, as well as ‘damage to the process’
made from comments by other public officials. In discussing
his plans to withdraw the plan completely this year, O’Grady also
cited tight economic times.
“Our numbers just don’t add up to do it this way this
year,” said O’Grady later. “We’ve been crunching them all weekend
and it just doesn’t make sense to do it alone this year. So, I decided
not to go forward this year. We’re still planning on trying to do
something in the future.”
He cited hearing and understanding residents’ concerns
about having the YMCA as part of the process.
“We always welcome residents’ input as part of the
process,” O’Grady said. “What I still can’t condone is other elected
officials’ comments which damage the process while negotiations
are still going on. You can’t have that and expect to have a successful
Both during the announcement and later, O’Grady cited
other officials’ ‘damage’ by speaking out. In his remarks later,
he did cite School Board member John Lasko, who also is chairman
of the city’s Planning and Design Commission and a member of the
Recreation Commission as well. He has noted members of council did
not help, but has declined to cite specifics.
“Mr. Lasko knows the process and should know better,”
During a school board meeting last Thursday and later,
Lasko said his intention has never been to harm the process.
“We work with the city in a number of areas and I
have always supported that,” Lasko said. “By raising legitimate
questions as part of the process, I am not trying to sabotage it.
In fact, I am doing the job I was elected to do by members of the
community by trying to make the process and any plan the best one
Council Finance Committee Chairman Michael Gareau
Jr. strongly disagreed with O’Grady’s contention that questions
and comments from other officials damaged the process.
“They are in fact part of the process,” he said later.
“We are raising questions and seeking input to try make this better.”
Gareau said he felt compelled to respond to O’Grady
because of his remarks about other officials and council.
“Those aren’t fair to people trying to do their job,”
Building, Zoning and Development Chairman Paul Barker
said it’s time for city officials to all try and work together.
“We’ll review it all together and try and reach the
best conclusions,” Barker said. “I’m glad the mayor listened to
what other people are saying, and I hope we can all find the best
path for us.”
During the school board meeting and later, all the
school officials expressed interest in working with the city.
“We have always been interested,” said Dubsky. “We’ve
posed questions during the process and we will continue to do so.”
School Board President Mike Raig said he’s happy to
talk with city officials.
“We just need to determine what we want and what we
can all bring to the process together,” Raig said.
“We need to proceed cautiously and determine the best
course for all of us,” said Don Frazier, the senior member of the
Lasko said O’Grady’s move should be welcomed by the
“Initially we must establish our priorities, especially
in light of the current and foreseeable economic environment in
which we live,” Lasko said later.
He said the public services and infrastructure provided
by the city such as safety, roads, water and others are fundamental
to supporting the residential and business community.
“Given the stagnant economic conditions in Northeastern
Ohio, I believe that the city must determine its ability to maintain
its current level and quality of those essential public services
before income taxes are raised to fund the new construction of a
new recreation complex,” Lasko said.
Quality schools, such as those provided by the district,
help maintain or increase property values in the city, he said,
adding that quality schools is one of the most influential factors
in a person’s decision to buy a home.
“We must continue to improve and upgrade our district’s
facilities to handle modern curriculum and technology in order to
sustain our rated excellent schools,” Lasko said. “Accordingly,
I believe that our first priorities should be to guarantee that
essential city services are maintained and to construct a new North
Olmsted Middle School – replacing an outdated facility almost 90
years old – on the site of the existing building. Such an investment
is a long overdue improvement will attract and keep families and
sustain and enhance both economic activity and property values in
our community, keeping it vibrant for years to come.”
During board discussion at its meeting, Lasko said
perhaps a new middle school could have fitness facilities attached
to it which the community could use.
“It’s something Avon Lake has done,” Lasko said. “Right
now, it’s just a thought during brainstorming, but it’s the type
of the thing we need to do to reach a good solution.”
O’Grady said later Lasko does not participate in a
“Like he did with the discussion about alcohol at
the Labor Day parade last year, he comes in at the end with other
thoughts,” O’Grady said. “That’s just not helpful.”
Lasko said at different times, he’s trying to do the
job people want him to do.
“It’s all part of the process,” he said.