First, he gave thanks to supporters. Then he thanked the "obstructionists" who helped save Avon millions.
When Avon Mayor Jim Smith provided his comments at an invitation-only reception for the opening of the I-90 Nagel Interchange on Dec. 20, he first acknowledged those who went above and beyond in making the $27 million project, 16 years in the making, a reality. He also spoke of the difficulties that came from "obstructionists."
But first he thanked supporters.
“I’d like to thank the team we put together,” Smith said to those in attendance, which included area politicians, business leaders and members of the Ohio Department of Transportation.
He credited a finance team with helping save 2 percent by timing the issuing of bonds, which amounted to a savings between $5 million and $7 million. Then he thanked the legal team for ensuing things were done properly, the Cleveland Clinic, Henkel CEO Jack Kahl, who he called a “great partner,” and members of the Lake Erie Crushers organization.
Smith told a story about how years ago, he promised Kahl and a growing Manco (now Henkel) that he would need to revamp Chester Road within six months. Smith promised him it would be done.
“I walked out and Dave Conrad…tried to tackle me in the shrubbery and beat me to death,” Smith joked. “He said ‘There’s no way we can do that’ and I told him we had to, I just promised him.’”
Promises and battles
Smith said he told Kahl 18 years ago he would build an interchange and then told City Council 16 years ago he would build the interchange.
“They told me I was crazy and there was no way the city would ever need an interchange,” Smith said. “They didn’t see the same picture…people coming to the suburbs.”
“Then you start dealing with NOACA,” he said.
The city needed the approval of NOACA, (Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency,) the metropolitan planning organization for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties.
“In 2006, we asked NOACA to deal with growth models,” he said of models that were Census dependent. He was told he would have to wait for “special” 2000 Census numbers. He finally received the information in 2008.
Not long after, believing NOACA was finally helping the city with the project, a NOACA office worker inadvertently sent an email without detaching a piggybacked message that read, “I thought we agreed not to feed this animal.”
“Meaning, they didn’t want to give us the numbers,” Smith said. “If you think I’m bitter, I am. This project could have been done sooner."
He spoke of the “weighted vote” NOACA permitted that gave the city of Cleveland three votes for every one of the outer counties votes. NOACA threatened to use the vote unless Avon agreed to revenue sharing.
“(They) can use the weighted vote if we don’t like the direction the vote is going,” Smith said. “This is a poster child of what happens when personalities get involved,” Smith said. “When jealousies get involved… I have a bad taste in my mouth. This has been a tough fight.”
He spoke of an unnamed decision maker who fell asleep during meetings.
“This happened three or four times.”
He asked members of Congress for money to help fund the project, which the city is paying for 100 percent.
“They said no money,” Smith said. “But they’ll give $1 million for shrubs.”
The last laugh
“I have one last thing I want to send to my obstructionist friends,” Smith said, reading a statement.
“I want to thank everyone who tried to slow down or obstruct or stop the interchange,” Smith said. “If you had not held us up for those couple of years, it probably would have cost us $5 or $6 million more to build.
"The construction costs increased by $1 million over that time, but the interest rates dropped so much during that time… we’ll save $5 or $6 million. So I want to thank you for being obstructionists. Thanks to all of you we now have more money to put toward community projects in Avon.”
Smith opened his comments thanking a host of individual who supported the project.
“We got Jim Piazza,” he said of the city’s Planning Coordinator, who took over when Smith was undergoing cancer treatment.
He also thanked Director of Public Service Jerry Pals, Utilities Department Supervisor Dave Conrad, City Engineer Rob Knopf, Ken Wright, Mike Bramhall (of Bramhall Engineering) and Tim Brady, among others.
See More on Patch
Most Popular articles
- Man OD’s on Heroin, Friends Drop Him off at Clinic: Blotters
- Discovering Childhood Joy, Meditating With Snakes, Eating Chicken Feet: Happiness Plunge Update
- 5 Avon Student-Athletes Make College Sports Committments
- Avon, Avon Lake Residents' Recycling Options Expand
- Historic Plaque Added to Lakeshore Cemetery, Burial Site of George Washington's Bodyguard