BOSTON HEIGHTS --- Following an investigation done by a TV outlet in April, Mayor Bill Goncy announced a change in how Boston Heights police officers will take their lunch breaks.
"I have instructed the Police Chief [Ray Heatwall] that from now forward, police lunch breaks shall be staggered so there is always an on-duty officer within the Village limits," Goncy said at the village Council meeting May 9.
Concerns arose after Fox 8 Cleveland ran a report on April 28 where they met Heatwall and other officers at a Stow restaurant and asked if any officers were currently on the road in the village. Heatwall said during the interview there were no officers at that moment, but that they have mutual aid with other departments and they are still minutes away if a call comes in. The report did say restaurant employees have watched the officers leave when a call has come in and left their food on the table.
Boston Heights Police Chief Ray Heatwall in a phone interview May 11 said the decision came right after Fox 8 interviewed him.
"We've never had an issue in the past," Heatwall said. "It's [lunch] been going on for some quite time, even with the old administration. I never gave it any consideration even though I'm sitting here trying to get us up to more standards."
Despite no issues in the past, the change was made.
"It's the best practice, it's the best decision," Heatwall said. "They [Fox 8] brought it to light for me."
Goncy at the meeting talked about how departments from other communities allow officers to go outside of their communities for more lunch options. And responding to a call has not been an issue for officers.
"Over 82 percent of our responses are covered within one minute," he said. "Not in one instance has a call gone unanswered in a timely manner while an officer was on a lunch break."
The Boston Heights Police Department responds to calls well below the accepted 10-minute response time national average, Goncy said. They do that with two officers on the road at a given time, according to Heatwall.
"As a result, Boston Heights is the safest community in this part of the county," Goncy said.
Boston Heights has five full-time officers, as well as 14 part-time officers who only have to work 16 hours a month to hold their status. Most part-timers have other full-time jobs, according to Heatwall. Because of that, he added, there may be rare occasions -- maybe once every six months -- where an officer calls off and there is only one officer on the road for a time.
Residents came to the May 9 meeting and voiced concerns prior to Goncy announcing the decision.
Resident Neil Kacmarcak said he was worried about the risk of the officers speeding on state Route 8 to respond to a call from Stow. He also mentioned most communities only allow officers to go one community away for lunch during a shift, and Stow is more than one community away from Boston Heights.
Resident Richard Herbig said there are places to eat in Boston Heights, disagreeing with the comment Heatwall made in the television report. He added they are "putting residents in jeopardy" and that they need to "change the culture and mindset of officers in Boston Heights."
Council approved legislation to continue the tax abatements for Hemingway at Boston Heights, LLC, Paychex North America, Inc., and Arhaus, LLC and Premier Commercial Realty.
Village Fiscal Officer Betty Klingenberg said Paychex gives around $39,000 to the Hudson City Schools each year through taxes.
The agreement with Arhaus/Premier Commercial Realty was approved in 2014. It awards Arhaus an 85 percent property tax abatement for 15 years for maintaining and bringing new jobs to the village. The annual payroll in Boston Heights was expected to increase from an estimated $16.2 million in 2015 to $26.2 million in 2019. The company also paid Hudson City Schools a $500,000 lump sum in 2015 as part of the agreement.
Council member Bob Bartko and some residents have made written requests asking how much Arhaus has given to the village in taxes so far. Klingenberg explained, according to the Ohio Revised Code, only one person in the village can see those numbers, and it is her.
Hinkle added as of the last report, Arhaus has 406 jobs, which is more than the 297 minimum they agreed to bring the village.
"That is very good news to the community," Council President Dan Polyak said.
Klingenberg said the village is in the paperwork process to go to an online checkbook, where residents can see how the village spends its money. No specific date was given when it will go live.
A Grandview Drive resident among others have put in complaints about a tower light that stays on during the night. Council member Janet Miller said she called the company two weeks ago and a work order has been placed to fix the light. It is supposed to glow white during the day and red at night, but is currently white at night as well.
The bridge on Olde 8 Road over the turnpike, which has been closed, has been opened up until May 30. This has been affecting the routes for Hudson and Woodridge school buses.