Historic homes in Lakewood are one of the city’s greatest assets. Incidentally, those aging homes could also become one of the city's greatest liabilities.
When Mayor Michael Summers took office this January — appointed to the post when Ed FitzGerald took the Cuyahoga County executive gig — he said that working to maintain the city’s aging housing stock was his primary concern.
Now, the administration is hoping to use some 21st century technology — coupled with some good, old-fashioned elbow grease — to better monitor the city’s homes.
Summers is rolling out a geographical information system that will track data about each piece of property — a sophisticated mapping process that he says will make inspections more efficient.
That’s welcome news to a city that has already cut more than 50 positions across all departments during recent years in order to balance the city budget.
"(GIS) will allow us to deploy our resources with great effect,” Summers said. “We’ll understand exactly what we need, and where our problems are.”
The program isn’t just for the housing department.
He said that other departments will use the technology as well, including police, fire and human services.
The GIS program would come in handy when the fire department responds to a fire, when firefighters would know ahead of time that a home has a faulty floor.
Summers said that rolling the databases into one will also save time — and money.
“We’re going to have less resources,” he said, pointing out impending state budgets cuts, “so we can’t have people running around doing the same things.”
The new, $35,000 GIS program is already under way, and Summers didn’t have to go too far to find the talent to implement the system.
Robert Erickson, who works down the hall in the city’s engineering department, will be responsible for overseeing the program.
With as many as “few thousand” homes that haven’t been checked in years, inspectors will soon have the resources to identify homes that need looked at first.
Erickson, who studied the technology at Cleveland State University, said the GIS technology will streamline city government. The system, which he said is similar to Google Maps, will link the databases from all of the city’s departments.
“We will be able to connect the departments like we’ve never done before,” he said.
This isn't Summers first initiative aimed at improving the city’s deteriorating homes. Last month, he unveiled his Landlord Manual, meant as a guidebook for Lakewood’s landlords.
The GIS technology, he said, is a big next step.
“We have the skills and ability, we made the investment in the tool, now we’ve got to bring it home,” Summers said. “And we’re going to do that.”