Cleveland Council Praises Janice Casteel Upon Retirement; 5 Finalists In Running To Replace Her; Old Building On Inman Street May Survive After All

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - by Gail Perry
Janice Casteel
Janice Casteel
- photo by Gail Perry

Praise and thanks was given to Janice Casteel by the Cleveland City Council members Monday afternoon at the last council meeting she will participate in as city manager. Councilman Bill Estes said he wanted to publicly thank her for all of her service, guidance, integrity, friendship and concern for the citizens of Cleveland. Councilman Avery Johnson, who has worked with Ms. Casteel for 22 years, said that he believes that she cares about everybody, has had a passion for her job and has always been respectable. I’ve worked with her in some capacity for the past 40 years, said Councilman David May, and for him, he said it was a sad day. "We will miss you and wish you the best," he said. Dale Hughes said he had gotten immediate response from her whenever he needed information.

Councilman Richard Banks said that in the future something big will have Janice Casteel’s name on it to honor her service such as a section of the greenway or a new municipal building. Mayor Tom Rowland proposed giving Ms. Casteel her cell phone and computer. A celebration in honor of the city manager’s retirement will be at the Museum Center next Tuesday from 3:30-6:30 p.m.

The council got an update on the search for a new city manager that is now in the final stages. The search committee appointed by the commissioners narrowed the list to five from the 63 applications that were received. Since the last council meeting, Larry Wallace, consultant and coordinator for the search, conducted on site criminal, background, and social media checks as well as meeting references, neighbors and co-workers, for four of the five candidates. The fifth finalist now lives in California, so  research on her has been done by telephone. Mr. Wallace is in the process of preparing a written report of what he found, which will be given to the council for review. Another report on each of the five applicants will come from The Mercer Group, the firm that led the search and will provide additional information. Interviews will be scheduled on June 6, 7 and 8.

A public hearing on the city’s 2016-2017 budget took place Monday, and it was accepted unanimously on second reading. There will be no increase to property taxes, with the rate remaining at $1.7655 per $1,000 of assessed value.

At the May 9 council meeting it was decided to tear down a building at 266 Inman St. that had been given to Cleveland by Ben Moore.  At that meeting, Main Street Cleveland withdrew their proposal to renovate the building. On Tuesday, Main Street representatives returned and asked the council to rescind their decision in order to save the 100-year-old structure. It is in an area the organization is attempting to revitalize to create a pedestrian-friendly shopping area. A new parking lot was proposed for an unused piece of land nearby which has room for 20-30 parking spaces versus the 7-8 that would fit on the Moore property. This is a way to satisfy all interests including historic preservation, parking and economic development, it was stated. A proposal was made to rescind the demolition and for the city to return the property to Mr. Moore, which would allow Main Street to negotiate directly with him. Before that is done, a meeting will be held among the interested parties to determine what exactly Mr. Moore would like to see happen at the site.

Jimmy Morris, a representative with the Lifeforce Membership Program, gave a presentation and proposal to the commissioners which he said would benefit residents of the city. Lifeforce helicopters are positioned in five locations around the Chattanooga area, including one in Cleveland. The medical air transportation service is owned by Med-Tran, not Erlanger. If a person in an emergency situation is ever air-lifted to Earlanger Hospital by Lifeforce, the cost is not covered by health insurance and the cost is very high, he said. If the city opts to join the Municipal Flight Plan, every citizen in the city would be covered at no cost to them if they have health insurance. For the uninsured, the cost would be at Medicaid-allowed rates. Mr. Morris estimated that with the population of the city at over 45,000, the cost would be around $150,000 yearly. Last year there were 75 flights out of Cleveland. The commissioners asked him to proceed with a formal proposal for the service.

A request was made of the city by Cleveland/Bradley County Communications to fund an additional tower that would be located downtown. Multiple agencies such as the Cleveland Police Department, Bradley County and Cleveland Fire Departments, EMS, the public works department, city and county schools and the Bradley County Road Department all use this to be connected, mostly by portable radios.  The system was developed 35 years ago and does not work as well today because of the volume of users that causes interference. Issues of communication are the worst inside buildings, but would be helped with a tower in close proximity. The cost to the city would be $423,000 and would be an unbudgeted item. Mayor Rowland advised that the city first see if Bradley County would be interested in partnering with the city.

The developer of the Belllingham subdivision is preparing to begin phase two. When the first phase was built, a sewer was installed on the county property that was slated to be annexed into Cleveland. This never occurred because the state put a halt to annexations. Now the developer would like to tie phase 2 of the subdivision into the sewer that is not in city limits. The council gave approval for allowing the sewer extension.

The next meeting of the Cleveland City Council will take place on Thursday, June 16.

Retiring city manager with council
Retiring city manager with council
- Photo2 by Gail Perry

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