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Bellevue Leaders Celebrate Successful First Year

The City of Bellevue saw significant change to the makeup of its city council and administration after the 2018 elections, but that change will likely remain the norm for the next three years since not a single candidate filed to challenge the six council incumbents and Mayor Charlie Cleves is not yet up for reelection.

Only council members Ryan Salzman and Steve Guidugli were held over from the previous council and they were joined by newcomers Sean Fisher, Pat Hogan, Shauna Kruse, and Scott Witte. Upon election, Cleves swiftly made changes to the city administrator and attorney posts, tapping Frank Warnock as administrator and David Fessler as attorney.

Last week, in a state of the city address, Cleves celebrated those changes as he rattled off a list of accomplishments over their first year together. 

"We accomplished a lot in the past year," Cleves said. He credited Warnock with a lot of the accomplishments. "Together, as a team, we have reenergized Bellevue and it's not over yet. We have a lot of work to do yet. I'm all in for Bellevue. I'm here for the long haul."

One priority area is Lincoln Road, which new city engineer Mike Yeager, who, like Warnock, joined Bellevue after serving in similar roles in Covington, has completed survey data and walked the site with design teams. The troubled street has long been a target for a rebuild, but the city ultimately lost a $1 million state grant for the project due to delays.

Cleves said the city set aside $100,000 for the project in the current budget and $150,000 is planned for it in the next budget that starts in July. Sanitation District 1, Cleves said, will match that $250,000 for a total of $500,000. "We should be able to get a lot of the work done for the $500,000," the mayor said.

"It looks like soon, we'll be able to start the project. As soon as we can up with a concrete plan to know exactly what we're going to do."

The establishment of an entertainment district along Fairfield Avenue was also highlighted by Cleves, a longtime businessman in the city whose family operates Cleves & Lonneman Jewelers. "It is by far the most important and successful thing we've ever done to advertise Bellevue," Cleves said, noting the attention the effort received from Cincinnati media. 

The entertainment district designation allows for patrons to enjoy alcoholic beverages outside of the establishments of origin and to walk freely along several blocks of the city's main street.

Currently, the city is also addressing hillside slippage in the Bonnie Leslie neighborhood, a problem first identified in 2008. Through aggressive efforts, the owners of 23 different parcels have all signed on to contribute $13,000 apiece for the project, which will be combined with city and federal funds. 

Originally, the project was set to cost $6 million, but that number has been reduced. Now the city is awaiting word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on how to proceed.

Other successes noted by the mayor include the installation of sidewalks on Grandview Avenue, the renovation of the ball fields at Bellevue Vets, and the early planning in celebration of the city's 150th anniversary this year.

The Kent Lofts, which started under the previous council, will soon open, and new bike racks are spread out across the city, Cleves noted.

The city's new emphasis on code enforcement has shown results, the mayor said, and the community responded well to the modest mini-grants the city made available for small projects.

Donnermeyer Drive is among the next big projects in the city, though it isn't set to begin until 2022, when the road is made more attractive and safe for pedestrians.

The mayor also highlighted more than $900,000 in grants the city received in the past year for items like Donnermeyer's renovation and bullet-proof vests for K9s.

A Kroger gas station is on the way, there are tighter regulations on short-term rental properties like Airbnb, and a riverfront development report is in the works. 

The city adopted a human rights ordinance, and there are new flowers on the Avenue, the mayor noted.

Cleves also highlighted the elimination of licenses and fees for outdoor dining and bartenders.

"We greatly improved the communication between the citizens (and the government)," Cleves said. "No one knew what the previous administration was doing half the time."

"A lot of these things couldn't be done without this team we have seated up here."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher