City review: Growth primary target
by JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Jan 02, 2014 | 1227 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Cleveland City Council discussed many issues related to industry and development during 2013.

One of the issues was approval of an extension of a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Mars Chocolate North America.

The 2012 PILOT agreement granted a seven-year deal with the company for payments of 50 percent of the otherwise due personal (equipment) property tax on equipment installed as part of upgrades to the plant.

“That was a unique project in that they actually had a series of investments and our conversation began in 2010,” said Doug Berry, Chamber of Commerce vice president for economic development. “They have expanded that investment to about $90 million.”

This exceeds the original proposed investment by nearly $24 million.

“They had an addition of $10 million worth of equipment investment that they needed to make,” Berry said.

The Council approved adding the equipment to that which is already receiving the PILOT tax exemption.

The city of Cleveland will receive an estimated $84,000 from this additional equipment investment.

The city also celebrated the opening of the Cleveland Regional Jetport last year.

Local Interstate Connectors to improve access to a future industrial site were also a major project.

“The South LIC will go into a commercial and industrial development of several hundred acres,” Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said. “When the LIC North is completed it will strictly open up the neighborhoods to the north and make it easier for those folks to get out onto the interstate.”

Renovations to Exit 20 have also begun and will continue through 2015. The renovations will change the traffic flow patterns to correct years of congestion and issues at the site.

Near the end of 2013 the Cleveland City Council voted to study the possibility of annexing APD-40 and the adjoining right of way in order to have more control of the maintenance of the area. Whether such a plan would be financially possible was not known by the Council at the time of initial discussions.

The Cleveland City Council received a request from the Cleveland City Schools system to fund construction of a new elementary school. The land has been purchased and is said to be “construction ready.”

The school is estimated to cost $18.1 million.

Financial issues were reviewed as the Council heard reports from department heads of needs, such as redevelopment downtown, flooding issues installation of sidewalk and keeping up with the needs of the police and fire departments.

An 18.51-cent increase was passed in addition to the 9-cent hike in the certified tax rate. The Council passed a budget of $228.2 million. Several revenue sources are a part of this budget. The actual general operating fund was set at $38.7 million.

The city hired a new finance clerk with Cleveland resident Shawn McKay filling the role.

On his first day on the job, McKay said he was looking forward to serving his community in his new role.

“It’s serving the city where I’ve grown up,” McKay said.

Earlier in the year the city’s former finance director, William Watson, and other budget leaders were presented with the Government Finance Officers Association Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the 15th consecutive year.

In 2013, a group of Cleveland Police Department officers came together to ask the Council to develop a plan for pay raises and filling needed positions.

“Currently, we have about 83 sworn officers, which happens to be the lowest number of officers in the 15 years that I have worked. We are told that these are ‘frozen’ positions and are necessary actions because of the economic condition of the city,” said Lt. Mark Gibson during a Council meeting early in 2013.

Some issues remained unresolved as the city began 2014. An understanding about the distribution of mixed drink (liquor by the drink) tax had not been reached by the city with the Bradley County Schools. The county school system, along with the County Commission asked the City Council late in 2013 to give the county system a portion of the tax that had been owed from previous years’ collections.

Attorney James Logan, who is working with both county entities, had said the city owed the school system more than $700,000. The city officials said according to their information they had distributed the funds according to state law. A meeting between the City Council and the school board is expected.