CLEVELAND -- Backers of a Cuyahoga County tax levy say it will prevent a hill from sliding into the river.
Half the money that would be realized from the passage of Issue 108 would be dedicated to a massive project to stabilize the area known as Franklin Hill, which is slowly sliding into the Cuyahoga River.
That hillside could fail at any time and you don't want to be there," warns Tim Donovan, director of the Ohio Canal Corridor, an organization which has thrown its support behind the levy. "You don't want to be on that hill the day it fails."
The 31-acre slope behind West 25th Street, also known in Cleveland lore as Irishtown Bend, has been rendered useless by its slow but relentless slide toward the river. A sudden collapse would be catastrophic.
"It's been unstable for a long time, literally sliding down toward the river," points out Will Friedman, CEO of the Cleveland Cuyahoga County Port Authority. "It jeopardizes big ship traffic up and down the river."
"We don't want Cleveland made another national laughingstock because of another river incident," he told WKYC. "There are 18,000 jobs and a billion dollars worth of business depending on reliable navigation of the Cuyahoga River."
The problem is not new, but the Port Authority has stepped forward to take leadership says Friedman, who predicts the project his agency would oversee would take possibly 5 years and cost in the tens of millions of dollars.
Issue 108 would raise an additional $90 million over those 5 years, with some $43 million being dedicated to the stabilization of Franklin Hill. The project would involve moving massive amounts of land, and buttressing the entire area with anchor pins, drainage, and bulkheads.
Supporters say that would clear the way for optimal development of the area with parks, trails, and even new homes.
"This is a critical component of not only of a network trails but promoting economic and community development that's happening in the neighborhoods around the area," says Greg Peckham, managing director of Cleveland's LAND Studio, an organization which helps plan and develop public spaces.
The tax levy would cost the owners of a $100,000 home about an additional $16.50 per year for the next five years. Issue 108 is the first millage increase the Port Authority has requested since it was formed in 1968.