Cardinal Nation Exclusive: State of the City Address
Mentor City Manager Ken Filipiak addressed the Mentor Chamber of Commerce at Paradigm
April 3, 2023
Each year, the Chamber of Commerce for Mentor hosts a State of the City address where business owners and local organizations such as the Mentor Police Department, Mentor Fire Department, and Mentor Public Library are updated on the city’s local development for that year. This year, the State of the City address took place in Mentor High’s Paradigm on March 28. Ken Filipiak, Mentor City Manager since 2009, gave the presentation.
Throughout the presentation, Mr. Filipiak discussed city developments in infrastructure, businesses, and recreation. Some of these topics included new buildings being built, new businesses in Mentor, and recreational projects that will and have been being worked on this and last year.
In addition, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the City of Mentor. So of course, this year’s theme was the difference between 1963 Mentor and 2023 Mentor!
Recreation and Environment
Along with the many topics discussed during the State of the City Address, recreation in Mentor had and will have many improvements. The meeting actually started off with recreational improvements in the Mentor Public Library. Ms. Cheryl Kuonen discussed how recent grants had improved the libraries. She mentioned how the library would be installing all new learning machines that would assist citizens with educational games and such. In addition to the educational games, the library also added Tutor.com which can aid any citizen.
After Ms. Kuonen, Mr. Filipiak came and spoke about even more recreational advancements in our community. Mr. Filipiak talked about the new improvements at Spring Brook Park located on Heisley Road. At the park, Mentor invested $200,000 into building a new playground, maybe the largest in the city. Along with that, he discussed how the city invested an additional two million dollars in constructing the “Spring Brook Garden House” which will have a capacity of two hundred people. The “Spring Brook Garden House” will also have state-of-the-art windows which will open like doors to give an airy feeling to the house, in and outdoor bathrooms, and a kitchen. Not only will the park have the “Spring Brook Garden House” and the playground, but the city will also be installing pavilions around the park.
Not only will Spring Brook Park get an upgrade, but Wildwood Cultural Center will also be as well. The City of Mentor will be demolishing old storage buildings and will instead construct Tudor-styled storage buildings that will be complimenting the Tudor style of the main house. The city is also looking forward to improving the main house by implementing air conditioning in select parts.
Mr. Filipiak also mentioned the improvements coming to Mentor Cemetery. To further honor our veterans, the city will be constructing a pillar/monument in the graveyard for veterans. Along with this, they will also be upgrading the stones around the monuments and will be redoing the nameplates where the names are not eligible. The new monument will be unveiled on Memorial Day this year.
The new Mentor Heisley Fitness and Racquet Club will be opening on July 1st, but memberships will be available starting June 1st. Overall, seven million dollars have been invested in this acquisition. There will be approximately three hundred separate programs and fifteen hundred activities annually at the center. The city won’t just stop after July 1st, as they are already looking to expand the facility with more aquatic features.
The city will also be upgrading the Black Brook Golf Course. The irrigation system will be getting a well-needed upgrade soon. Along with this, the city will be updating the golf cart building.
Mr. Filipiak also talked about how the Mentor Marsh will be restored. Over the years, Mentor has repeatedly asked Ohio public officials to limit the pollution killing our marsh. Finally, the marsh will be restored, fully flushed out and invasive species will be thrown out and native species restored into the marsh.
Lastly, the City of Mentor will be improving upon the attractions towards Lake Erie. As mentioned in the address by Mr. Filipiak, the city wants people not to look at the lake on a phone, but in real life. To make sure this happens, the city will be constructing a new boardwalk and observation tower. Along with this, the Mentor Lagoons marina will have a dock restoration. The city isn’t just stopping there, they are also constructing a new kayak facility that will store the kayaks and have a concession that will sell snacks for citizens after a long day on the water.
In his address, Mr. Filipiak placed a strong emphasis on Mentor’s commitment to maintaining its high level of public safety and highlighted some of the city’s achievements in the sector.
Mr. Filipiak started by detailing the changes in Mentor’s fire department. While the department has had difficulties in recruiting, it was able to hire multiple full-time firefighters this year, and with the success of Mentor High’s career tech program, the recruiting issue already has a solution in place. Alongside a need for more firefighters, Mentor’s growing size and population is requiring more modern facilities, which is why the city will be replacing Fire Station 3 with a newer and larger facility that is located closer to the city center. In another move towards ensuring firefighting capabilities meet a high standard, Mr. Filipiak announced that the city would be spending $5 million to purchase new vehicles for the fire department.
Mr. Filipiak also discussed the benefit of the soon-to-come Cleveland Clinic Mentor Hospital on public safety. Once constructed, the Hospital will have a trauma center fit to deal with a wide array of medical emergencies, which according to Mr. Filipiak will allow a projected 80% of emergency calls in Mentor to be routed to the clinic, greatly increasing efficiency in the city.
In addition to the multi-million dollar projects underway, Mr. Filipiak highlighted the importance of individual firefighters and the impact they have on the community. As an example, Mr. Filipiak pointed to an incident in which a group of four Mentor firemen hiking in Alaska made an impromptu rescue of a woman who had injured herself while hiking.
To help educate Mentor’s citizens and display the city’s safety capabilities, the Mentor Fire Department has worked closely with the Mentor Police Department on two projects. Firstly, both departments held a safety expo for members of the community to interact with police and firefighters and see the gear each department has. Both the Mentor PD and FD held displays and presentations to help educate the community. Secondly, the police and fire departments have worked closely with Mentor Schools to conduct active shooter drills and training with school staff. Officers, firefighters, and EMTs gave instructions on safety procedures, trauma first aid, and other important skills that staff and teachers may need in the event of an active shooter situation.
Additionally, the Mentor Police Department has had its new developments and changes, as was highlighted in the next part of Mr. Filipiak’s speech. Noting the national discussion surrounding police brutality and the various cases of excessive police force that have occurred throughout the nation, the city has implemented state-of-the-art training to Mentor police officers with a focus on de-escalation, sympathetic response, and proper use of force. The Mentor Police Department is also a part of multiple specialized policing groups, such as the U.S. Marshalls task force, which allow Mentor police to receive specialized training that enables them to handle especially difficult and complex situations.
To keep up with changes in technology, the Mentor Police Department has also acquired and begun to utilize new systems, tactics, and resources in its maintenance of public order. The Mentor PD has implemented the usage of new drones to survey potentially dangerous situations, and the city has invested in new flock cameras to read license plates and catch wanted individuals. The Mentor Police department is also upgrading its body cameras, of which the City was an early adopter. Mr. Filipiak also addressed concerns regarding the department’s ability to react to biohazard threats. As a result of its high-level training and specialized equipment, the Mentor PD is a FEMA tier-one hazard unit.
Already, the effectiveness of this new training and these new technologies have been seen. As a part of his address, Mr. Filipiak shared a video of an incident in which Mentor police responded to an armed individual going through a mental health crisis. With the whole event being captured on body cams, Mentor police officers gave direct, yet calm and clear commands to the individual informing him of how to surrender. Police officers prepared less than lethal force in the case of an escalation and utilized a drone to scan for weapons prior to officers clearing the scene. Mr. Filipiak also shared another story that demonstrates the police department’s effectiveness in which a Mentor officer was able to utilize his training to save the life of a suicidal teen.
As further proof of the police department’s effectiveness and ability to adapt in the face of new challenges and tasks, Mr. Filipiak shared a breakdown of crime in Mentor that demonstrated it has remained stagnant over the last decade. In addition to the improvements and changes made to the Mentor PD, Mr. Filipiak also cited the effectiveness of in-place programs such as the porch pirate and anti-retail theft programs that have deterred criminal activity.
Lastly, Mr. Filipiak spoke about the investments that Mentor has made over the course of the year. To begin, he mentioned how currently in Mentor, there are approximately 1700 businesses and 59,000 employees. To contribute to this rising number of businesses and employees, Mentor can thank new businesses such as Cardinal Credit, Crab King, and much more. Mr. Filipiak then went on to mention how there are currently thirteen million feet of manufacturing space in Mentor.
Mr. Filipiak also mentions how Mentor has been a part of many international investments and opportunities. Just this year, people from places such as the United Kingdom have come to Mentor to see the city and its great opportunities and characteristics.
Lastly, Mr. Filipiak speaks about how the Sears property at the Mentor Mall will be bought and turned into something that will soon be announced to the general public.
Along with being able to attend the State of the City, Cardinal Nation was also able to interview some guests at the address. These are the responses we got from some of the dignitaries in the audience.
Maggie Cook – Mentor School Board Member
Cardinal Nation: As we just saw, the local police just experienced an active shooter drill at Mentor High School. Do you think that this is a good step to keeping our students safe and what else do you think the schools could possibly implement?
Cook: I am very excited that they are doing those kinds of shooter drills. Looking at several things with our safety plan, I’m not aware if you saw but we had a safety work session recently! We discussed several options that we are looking at to make our schools safer such as ways to make our doors sound alarms. I’d really like to see that happen. I would also like to see more security officers in the building, specifically looking at expanding the Mentor Police force in the building and partnering with the city police department, which is something that I am very excited about working with our police department and safety forces. In addition, we are looking at just ways to increase the cameras in the building. There are really many options that we are looking at now, we just have to make sure we have the funding for that.
Cardinal Nation: How could the exponential growth of jobs in Mentor potentially benefit the students of Mentor Schools?
Cook: Well we have a great workforce in the Mentor students and I love to see them stay in our community! So, I am excited when we see growth. We have international companies coming into the building so it is important that we work with the city with their economic development because as they bring in jobs, our community benefits, and our schools benefit.
Keven Malecek – Director of Economic Development & International Trade
Cardinal Nation: What was your reaction to the State of the City Address?
Malecek: I think that the state of the city is extraordinarily strong. This is coming from a financial perspective and the perspective of all the development that we have going on, development and businesses coming in, what we are doing in terms of safety and recreational, and really all aspects; this shows a strong image of what is happening in the city.
Cardinal Nation: Why would a student care about the state of our city?”
Malecek: Well, I think for their general community, they should care that their community is safe, that they do have new businesses coming in so there are new job opportunities that will be there for them, that the city is investing which improves property values, and their parents’ investment. This just shows that there is just a lot of positive energy that is going on here in the community and that really, there is great progress going on as well. They should care for their future to be sure where they went to high school is giving a high-quality education.
Kenneth Filipiak – City Manager
Cardinal Nation: It seems as if the state of the city is looking good. Can you give an overall statement of your address today?
Filipiak: Sure, I think as a community we continue to see a really robust economy, our community safety is at an all-time high, and our city’s financial position is very strong. It has allowed us to do a lot of great things to enhance our quality of life. Along with cooperation, from our partners like the schools and our business community and our Chamber of Commerce, it’s just a great community, and working together we are able to accomplish a lot of great things.
Cardinal Nation: How are you involved in the community as city manager?
Filipiak: Well I’m involved in a lot of things as city manager. My primary purpose though exists to serve our residents, and provide the absolute highest level of service we are capable of. We are very fortunate to have a great staff of leadership and employment groups that work for our city. We provide the highest level of service. I’d put what we do up against any other community.
Cardinal Nation: What are some improvements or changes you hope to see in Mentor in the next few years?”
Filipiak: I think we’ve done a good job of providing a lot of recreational outlets for our residents, and I talked about a lot of those things today. One of those things were focused on is providing additional housing opportunities in the city, different types of housing so we’re looking to add more smaller format, higher density types of developments like high ends, apartments, condominiums, place our senior community can move into so they don’t have to stay in their large single-family homes, as well as the kind of places young professionals want to live instead of jumping right into a large family home. So that’s one of our big challenges moving forward.
Craig Heath – Mentor Schools Superintendent
Cardinal Nation: What are your thoughts about Mr. Filipiak’s address today?”
Heath: Well, Mr. Filipiak is awesome. We have a great partnership with the city and we’ve had several meetings together throughout the years. It’s always nice to see him highlight some of the same things we highlighted in our State of the School’s Address, too. And some of those partnerships just continue to grow. We have a great relationship with the city council as well. Mr. Wade, our CFO treasurer, and I have met with some city council members and members of the board of education talking about some of the projects that Mr. Filipiak mentioned here today too. We’re looking forward to being good partners and all of that work with them.
Cardinal Nation: How do you think the school and city work together to have the state of Mentor keep improving?
Heath: Again, I think a lot of it goes around the workforce development pieces he talked about. You look at manufacturing, you look at the firefighter academy that we’re kind of playing with right now. Some of those things were trying to really grow our own students into the next generation of the workforce here in Mentor because we want to keep our students here in Mentor. We have such great opportunities with our business partners as well and our Business Advisory Council that has been up and running this year. A lot of the same things Mr. Filipiak was talking about today – those things were tying into that BAC and really having some good partnership agreements with them to get our students some experiential learning and some apprenticeship-type things that we just haven’t had in the past.
Dr. Richard Parker – President of Hillcrest Hospital (part of Cleveland Clinic)
Cardinal Nation: How do you feel this new hospital will benefit the Mentor Community?
Parker: Well, we’re bringing Cleveland Clinic care to Lake County, Mentor, and Geauga County. You need to think of it as being the gateway to Cleveland Clinic care main campus, Hillcrest, Euclid – all of our outpatient centers.
Cardinal Nation: Our City Manager told us this hospital was a new concept and new model for healthcare. Can you explain how?
Parker: Sure. We’re going to leverage a lot of virtual technology, bringing consults from either main campus Hillcrest virtually for various conditions that maybe are rarer or where they couldn’t possibly bring a physician from main campus all the way out to Mentor to do a consult. And so it will be virtual platforms. We’re also bringing a lot of robotic technology to our operating rooms – typically for orthopedic care. And then our emergency department will be state of the art, much of which was the result of your fire department and medics giving us really good advice on how to set it up. So you’ll see emergency care delivered at a Cleveland Clinic level.