Elkins discusses new requirements for Newburgh Heights law enforcement, changes to the tuition reimbursement program, and other updates in the village.
The last time we caught up with Mayor Trevor Elkins was in December of 2018 just as he was about to put his innovative idea for offering tuition reimbursement for new homebuyers into practice. These days, he’s got more progressive ideas up his sleeve to improve the local village community.
We caught up with Elkins again to see how the small township is navigating the pandemic and other socioeconomic issues. On Sept. 22, the village passed legislation that requires all police officers have an associates degree to serve on the local force, especially in light of recent societal issues.
PressureLife: Been a hell of a past six months. It’s made it feel like even longer since we last chatted. How are things with the pandemic and overall? What has it done to your plans for the village?
Trevor Elkins: The pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, Newburgh Heights is no different. Fortunately, it has only delayed some of the goals for 2020. We held off on making some of our planned budgetary expenditures until after August in order to evaluate the strength of our finances.
Having done that, we were able to move forward with eliminating all of our outstanding debt except that on our new administrative building. This sets us up to eliminate our final debt obligation over the next five years and ultimately position the community for dramatic growth as we reshape our key districts and diversify the tax base. Additionally, in the short term, if things get worse we’ve substantially reduced what we’re obligated to pay out on an annual basis too, making it more likely that we will not need to lay off personnel in the future to manage the continued downcycle.
Also, in an effort to improve law enforcement, we’ve mandated all NHPD officers acquire a specialized criminal justice associate’s degree we’re developing with Tri-C. They’ll be given five years, we will pay for the tuition, and upon completion give the officers a 2 percent pay increase. We are currently developing the specialized program with TriC for enrollment beginning this coming January.
PL: What other details, if any, do you have about that? Has there been any distinct support or opposition from the public or police unions, the FOP, or other such organizations?
TE: The officers have been supportive and feel like it provides them with added credibility, understanding, and education that is generally perceived as not being in the law enforcement sector at this time. In the limited public exposure the program has had, it has been received extremely well. We are waiting to finalize the program with Tri-C before a larger media release is done, so you’re getting the scoop!
PL: How’s the reception to your progressive policies in Newburgh Heights been? You’re obviously an elected official who needs votes. What pushback have you gotten lately with some of your more progressive and creative ideas?
TE: Generally, the initial reaction is skepticism because media coverage often doesn’t provide enough detail for the average citizen to fully understand how a program is of a benefit to them. Once we are able to share the details, the programs are typically well received because residents come to recognize how there is a benefit to themselves, either directly or indirectly.
PL: How are things with the Tuition Reimbursement program? Have those numbers grown? Are they where you’d like? If not, are there any adjustments to make given this was a five-year trial and had to be revoted for renewal?”
TE: The tuition program is anecdotally a success. We’ve had two homeowners utilize it so far. It’s not as many as we anticipated and that is why we increased the time frame from five years after graduation to 10 years after graduation as the eligibility for application. As realtors become more aware of the program and market it, we believe the momentum of the program will increase exponentially.
PL: Anything else you feel like sharing with us?
TE: We’re also working with a non-profit to construct an equestrian facility that will teach children in cities to care for horses.
PL: Why horses? What was the genesis and the timeline for that to be up and running?
TE: The Village was approached and asked to partner with a charitable organization called Leg Up to Cleveland Kids (LUCK) to identify a location for a program that would enable convenient exposure and proximity to horses for children in city environments. It is believed that if we are able to finalize the project, only greater Cleveland and Milwaukee would have such facilities. We’re on track to get all of the approvals done in 2020 and construction with an opening next fall.
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Tesh Ekman was born in India, moved to the U.K. when he was 4, and came to Cleveland, OH, USofA in 1992 at the age of 14. An Ohioan since, he absolutely hates the question “Where Are You From?” Tesh is both a U.K. and U.S. citizen - however, India no longer wants to claim him as one. While difficult to be shunned by one’s own birth nation, it also means he’s used to rejection, which has served him well as a writer and person in general. Tesh is mostly a homebody, but if he does venture out, he can usually be found at various local establishments, drunkenly rueing his life choices and/or supporting Liverpool FC in a sudden-onset English accent.