Communication has been key in improving the tension that began last December between Oberlin city council and city manager Eric Norenberg.
City council members held seven executive sessions earlier this year to discuss Norenberg’s evaluation and his goals for the year after four of the members sent him a letter this winter asking for his resignation.
After months of meetings, a list of 12 goals was approved April 16 for completion throughout the year.
Now some of the early deadlines on those items are here — and Norenberg believes he’s on target.
“I think there was a value in creating a focal point,” he said of creating the goals. “This at least gave us a point of agreement.”
Six of the council-made goals have been completed, three are on schedule, and three are in the works.
Those that have been met are maintenance and improvements to the city’s recreation complex and Westwood Cemetery, upgrades downtown, updating council on a plan to fix storm water flooding on Reserve Avenue, hiring new police and fire chiefs, and regularly updating council, the public, and posting on the city’s website about ongoing projects and issues.
Norenberg said he is pleased with how both new chiefs have already reached out to the community.
“I think both chiefs want to increase communication internally and externally,” he said. The chiefs have been holding meetings with residents.
Evaluations of city staff, preventing further flooding of Wetland A, and fire prevention inspections of all city buildings are on schedule to be completed by the end of the year.
The three goals that remain in the works are staff and city manager’s recommendations for capital and staffing budget (due in November), creating a diversity plan for hiring new staff, and meeting at least monthly with each council member.
Norenberg said council members have requested to see what budget items each city department head has requested for the year and what Norenberg has approved.
The plan is to create a five-year spreadsheet that shows when projects will come up for repairs.
Oberlin’s largest funded project is street repairs, Norenberg said.
“One thing we’ve done well is we’re trying to expand the life of our roads,” he said.
East College and Pleasant streets are expected to come up for repairs in 2017 after the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center is completed.
Norenberg has been looking into creating a diversity and inclusion plan for training and hiring new staff members. “We want our city staff to reflect the diversity of our community,” Norenberg said.
But perhaps most important in his mind is keeping an open line with council.
He said communication is a two-way street and he’s interested in scheduling regular meetings with each council member like he does with city department heads.
“I think it helps to know it’s on the schedule and we can plan ahead,” Norenberg said.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.