Council elects officers; engineering contract increases 10.4%

By Sue Serdinak

Jan. 2 village council organizational and regular meeting

The Richfield Village Council organizational meeting started with the swearing in of officials elected in November. Clerk of Court Marci Voltz swore in Michael Wheeler for his second term as mayor, gave the oath to Sue Ann Philippbar and Bobbie Beshara for their second term as councilmembers and Marty Kruszynski for his first term.

It seemed pre-determined that Jeff Stoppenhagen, the 2023 council vice-president, would be elected president in 2024. Philippbar was the 2023 president but made it known she preferred being council’s representative to the planning and zoning commission this year.

Beshara nominated Stoppenhagen for council president, and councilperson Rick Hudak nominated Ralph Waszak. In the roll call vote, Beshara, Philippbar and Stoppenhagen voted for Stoppenhagen, giving him three votes, short of a majority.

A roll call vote was then taken for Waszak, who got six votes, with Stoppenhagen abstaining.

Beshara then nominated Stoppenhagen for vice president, and Stoppenhagen nominated Beshara. Kruszynski, Beshara, Philippbar and Stoppenhagen voted for Beshara, enough votes to win the vice-president position.

Hudak said he wanted to explain why he didn’t support Stoppenhagen for president. “I have absolutely no reason to not want to see Mr. Stoppenhagen as president, but I thought one more year of experience [as vice-president] would be beneficial,” he said.

Said Stoppenhagen, “I appreciate that Mr. Hudak, but I feel that my time as vice president is best served as not continuing forward and concentrating on running or not running in two years.”

Pat Norris nominated Philippbar to be council representative to the planning and zoning commission. Council unanimously  approved the appointment.

Waszak said he would get input from council members before assigning committee assignments.

When the regular meeting started, Wheeler asked for council approval of his appointment of Carol Campbell to the tree and landscape commission. 

Stoppenhagen reminded the mayor that he appointed Campbell to the cemetery board the previous month.

Wheeler said a person can hold two committee positions. Council approved the appointment.

Hudak complimented the mayor on the village’s holiday decorations. Wheeler said they will be better next year when lights are added to the senior center. Stoppenhagen said he thinks decorations at the corner of the Green should be updated and modernized.

Waszak thanked Wheeler for having an open administration. “I want to thank Mayor Wheeler for being accessible to me the last four years and to all of council. …. We have a very open form of government. … We’re all able to lead the community,’’  Waszak said.

Record number of calls

Fire Chief George Seifert reported that the number of calls for the department in 2023 was a record. He said fire and EMS calls numbered 1,465; the previous high was 1,388 in 2021, during the pandemic. “We’re pleased with the service that we provided, with this number of calls,” he said.

Police Chief Michael Swanson announced the retirement of Officer Jeffrey Michel after 33 years. He also said two new police cruisers have arrived at the dealership and will be outfitted by the village service department.

Engineering services

Council suspended readings and approved a two-year agreement with GPD Group for engineering services. Wheeler said the contract includes a 10.4% increase.

Finance Director Sandy Turk reported that 2023 income tax revenue was $321,721 lower than in 2022, a 2.6% decline.

As directed by the by-laws, the Richfield Joint Recreation District board forwarded its by-laws to village council and Richfield Township trustees for their review with a 30-day deadline to respond. The RJRD board is removing this review from their requirements.

Council members said that because council appoints members to the RJRD board, they should be given the opportunity to review the by-laws.

Hudak reminded the mayor to continue to insist that the Summit County engineer not close both lanes of  Brecksville Road for six months this summer when a culvert is replaced under the road just south of the I-77 overpass. ∞

The members of the 2024 Richfield Village Council, shown in council’s chamber, are (l-r) Rick Hudak; Pat Norris; Marty Kruszynski; Ralph Waszak, president; Bobbie Beshara, vice president; and Sue Ann Philippbar. Photo submitted by L. Toth.