Cleveland Proceeding In City Manager Search; Holding The Line On Taxes; Won't Budge On Pig Ban

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 - by Gail Perry

The Cleveland City Council on Monday discussed next steps after a list of applicants for the new city manager of Cleveland was reduced from 63 to five. The process has been headed by consultant Larry Wallace who coordinated the citizen’s search committee with the recruiting firm. All resumes were reviewed by the committee and Jim Mercer from the search firm Mercer and Associates, and given a score. Based upon the totaled scores the final five were chosen. The Mercer search firm was responsible for doing qualification checks on the candidates, but the city will be responsible for doing extensive background checks.

A motion was approved to first contact each of the five finalists to make sure that they are still interested and available for the job. Background checks will then be done by Mr. Wallace, who will report back to the council. Each will be rated from one to five, and those scores will be tallied. The top three will be asked to a face-to-face meeting with the council.

The original phone interviews and resumes are available to the public on the city’s website.

City Manager Janice Casteel will be leaving the position June 1. Until a new city manager is finalized, Assistant City Manager Melinda Carroll will assume the responsibilities. She will be given the same duties, rights and salary as the city manager during that time.

A public hearing was held Monday afternoon during the city council meeting regarding the 2016-2017 budget. The property tax rate will remain at $1.7655 per $1,000 of assessed value. The rate has not increased in four years. There will also be no increase in the sanitation fees. Several capital projects are planned for the year. The new budget will also support the city’s classification compensation plan. A unanimous vote approved the budget on first reading.

It was also announced that the chancellor ruled in favor of the city concerning the liquor by the drink tax. The county wanted a portion of the tax collected in Cleveland to use for county schools despite the city having its own school system. The money will now go to Cleveland City Schools.

The Health and Education Facilities board approved a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for Spring Brook Apartments for Alco Management. The firm will rehabilitate the low income housing. The representative from the firm said that Alco is planning to spend $3 million for improvements - around $30,000 per unit. The PILOT will be for 10 years. The property taxes received by the city will not change from what it is receiving now during that time, but it is estimated that at the end of the 10 years, they will be doubled. Over that time period, the sum that the city will not collect is $85,000. The arrangement is approved only for Alco which assured the council that they are “buy and hold,” owners. If the apartments are sold, the PILOT will be voided.

Val Palmer from the Chattanooga Urban League presented certificates of appreciation to the people involved in the Cleveland VITA program (volunteer income tax association) that was begun in 2007. These volunteers prepare income tax forms at the South Cleveland Community Center at no charge.

A lengthy discussion at a public hearing and first vote took place Monday about amending the zoning ordinance for use and operation of recycling collection centers and salvage yards that are within the Commercial Highway Zoning District. Two of these businesses are located on South Lee Highway, which the council believes will become the gateway to Cleveland in the future. A recommendation from the planning commission had been made to allow it to operate and phase out in five years. A requirement was to screen the operations from public view along the front and sides.

Brenda Degada, owner of Can-It Recycling, came to the meeting to ask for a 10-year extension for the companies already located on South Lee Highway, accusing the council of being non-supportive of small businesses. Her company has been in the area for 25 years, but not at that particular location until recently. They should have checked if its business was in compliance with the zoning use when it bought it, said Commissioner Richard Banks, who then proposed phasing out its right to use the property for salvage yards to two years from now instead of five. Another condition he suggested is for the owners to be required to sign a release for the city. If a release is not signed, the business will be given 90 days to cease and desist.

“I’m asking you to stand up for the working people,” said Ms. Degada. “We are sworn in to uphold the ordinances of Cleveland,” said Mr. Banks, in order to keep up property values. Salvage yards lower the value of surrounding businesses, he said. It sounds like a compromise, said Mr. Banks, because you should be closed tomorrow. The vote was unanimous to limit non-conforming use to two years.

Sharon Marr with Mainstreet told the council that the organization wanted to withdraw its request concerning the Moore Building at 266 Inman St. "We do not feel that an agreement will be made with Mr. Moore," she said and recommended returning the property to him. Instead, the council decided to tear the building down and create more parking that is needed for that area. The space will provide 16 additional parking places. It is hoped that demolition costs can be recovered by selling the old bricks.

The council also heard requests from residents who live at 4437 Ellis Circle who have a flooding problem, and who claim the run-off got worse after nearby construction was done in 2011. The city is willing to fix the problem even though engineering documents show that is the natural flow of water. Edward and Sharon Johnson refuse to grant an easement for the work to be done, believing that it would decrease their property value. “Sometimes things have to go to court,” said Councilman Bill Estes. "That is why we have the court system." Councilman Banks suggested one last attempt to settle before taking it to court.

The council failed to get a second for amending the municipal code relating to swine in city limits. A resident owning three miniature pot-bellied pigs as pets asked for the change. They can weigh as much as 350 pounds when grown. With no second, the issue was defeated.


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