CLE Council members: East Cleveland merger would require $50 to $70M in state assistance

Councilman Polensek: massive state help is needed
Posted at 10:20 PM, Aug 03, 2016

East Cleveland took a big step toward a proposed merger with the City of Cleveland, appointing a three member panel of commissioners who will help draft a plan.

It's now up to Cleveland to create a panel of its own, within the next 30 days, with both groups composing a merger plan within 120 days.

However, some Cleveland council members are wondering if a merger makes economic sense, citing numerous infrastructure and budgetary issues that continue to plague East Cleveland.

Cleveland Council member Michael Polensek told the only way the merger could be done without economically hurting Cleveland is if the State of Ohio would issue $50 to $70 million to help with anticipated integration costs.

Thus far Ohio has offered to give 10 million in financial support.

Polensek said one of his constituents summed it up this way:

"He says 'here I am councilman, I have no money, I can't take care my own property, my own home, my own family. Now you want me to take on my broke brother-in-law.  I think that's the best description that anyone could give me as it pertains to East Cleveland."

Still, East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton believes his city has significant upside, despite its major financial and infrastructure issues.

Norton said East Cleveland could facilitate needed growth for neighboring University Circle, one of the fast growing areas in Ohio.

"There are about 3,000 housing units that are still needed within the greater University Circle area," said Norton.

"So East Cleveland can provide places to live.  But there are great opportunities to build one of Cleveland's coolest and newest neighborhoods."

Mayor Norton believes the merger issue could be voted on by residents in both cities as early as May 2017.