Park barge

The Cleveland Metroparks has purchased the former floating restaurant and event space known as Hornblower’s. Long docked next to Burke Lakefront Airport, the barge most recently has been home to the software company LeanDog. The Metroparks is paying $1.3 million to the holding company that owns the barge and plans to close the deal by the end of the month. Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman said during a recent board meeting the barge will be moved to Wildwood Park, the Metropark on the city’s East Side near Euclid Beach. 

The barge, which dates to 1892, was purchased for $500,000 in 2011 and since has been updated. Zimmerman said during the board meeting the barge represents a “one-of-a-kind opportunity” for the park system and will be used to expand programming and amenities. 

The barge is expected to remain docked near the airport through September.

Metroparks board member resigning

Cleveland Metroparks sign at Euclid Beach park. Credit: Jeff Haynes/Signal Cleveland Credit: Jeff Haynes/Signal Cleveland

About a week after Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne named his former colleague Debbie Berry to head development for the county, the Metroparks announced that Berry is stepping down from the park system’s board. She’s been on that board since 2012.

Berry, who used to work for Ronayne when he lead the development nonprofit University Circle Inc., resigned last week as senior vice president for real estate for the Greater Cleveland Partnership business group. 

Though the Metroparks offered no reason for Berry’s departure, her new job could pose potential conflicts of interest if she stayed on the board since the county and the Metroparks are working together on a number of development projects. Her last day on the board is July 19, the day before she officially joins Ronayne’s staff.

Cursing callers

Among the toughest jobs in the city is answering calls from frustrated residents seeking information on everything from how to replace their trash cans and get vacant lots cut to getting potholes filled and finding basic information about recreation centers.

The city receives about 200,000 calls a year to its 311 information call center. Operators try to dispense answers – and patience. 

But these operators have been enduring abuse, according to a letter from a call-center operator who recently quit. The former employee reports in a letter to City Hall that operators have endured racial slurs, curse words and insults, especially after Cleveland Mayor Bibb canceled the city’s curbside leaf collection program last fall (a decision he quickly reversed). 

The former employee charges that operators are forced to suffer the abuse, writing that a manager’s directive prohibits operators from hanging up on abusive callers. 

Cleveland City Council Member Rebecca Maurer, who has paid close attention to the type of calls for service the city receives, called on City Hall to do better and immediately create a “Hang Up On Abuse” policy.

“I find it horrifying that some of our lowest-paid, frontline employees are also subjected to offensive and threatening language without a clear policy for their rights in these situations,” she wrote in a letter to the mayor.

Maurer heard back from the Interim Chief of Human Resources Eduardo A. Romero, who said operators are trained to de-escalate tensions and to warn an abusive caller “that should the tone, tenor and verbiage they are communicating continue, the call will end.” 

Maurer pressed for more detail about this policy and quickly received  a copy of the city’s “abusive customer policy” from Romero. He said in an email to Maurer the policy has been in place and allows operators to tell residents their call can be terminated. 

A source told Signal Cleveland that the policy was re-issued to operators on Thursday. 

Signal background

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Managing Editor, News (he/him)
Mark is a veteran journalist with experience in alternative media, print, digital and television news. For 19 years, he was a groundbreaking reporter and metro columnist with The Plain Dealer and Most recently, Mark spent three years as an investigative, enterprise and breaking news reporter at WKYC-TV, where his "Leading the Land" series on Cleveland's 2021 mayoral primary race earned a regional Emmy.