The theme of the presentation of City Manager Joe Fivas to the Cleveland Kiwanis Club Thursday, at the downtown Elks’ Lodge, was about priorities and ideas for improvements to offset the …
The theme of the presentation of City Manager Joe Fivas to the Cleveland Kiwanis Club Thursday, at the downtown Elks’ Lodge, was about priorities and ideas for improvements to offset the downsides of growth and progress.
Fivas, who came on board with the city last August, opened his talk with the comment, “It’s a delight (for me and my family) to be in Cleveland.”
He went on to talk about the astronomical growth of the city and surrounding community, which has received multiple accolades as one of the most progressive and successful municipalities in the nation.
But with this growth, Fivas and his staff, as well as the Cleveland City Council, face challenges of providing improvements to services and other concerns. Fivas used some preliminary number from a recent community survey campaign to lists priorities to be determined by the city for its citizens.
The staff is in the process of compiling data from these surveys, and from a series of six community meetings. This final report is expected in May, but the city manager gleamed some of the early numbers for his presentation Thursday, and for other discussions with interested individuals and organizations.
He also saved some time near the end of the talk for questions from the audience.
He said after he came to Cleveland he spent time getting to know the people and the community. “You then say, ‘What now?’” he noted.
“We (Fivas, his staff, and the Council) wanted to do a deeper dive to see where we were are at, and what we can do,” he continued.
Fivas said this was when they launched the community survey campaign, seeking at least 500 responses. The survey collection ended Feb. 24, with 1,076 replies— in person and online.
He said they are continuing to put this information together to determine what the community’s priorities seem to be.
The info included that Cleveland’s citizens are reportedly 86 percent satisfied with public safety (Police and Fire departments). Only 3.88 percent were dissatisfied.
Maintenance of streets and sidewalks received 55.41 percent approval, with only 23.72 percent unhappy. The flow of community traffic and traffic congestion is on the downside with 39.57 percent dissatisfied, and only 35.69 satisfied.
“These numbers give us an idea of what we’re doing, and what we should do,” the city manager added.
The No. 1 priority for the city, and with city officials, appears to be improvement of traffic flow and congestion. The No. 2 priority is maintenance of streets and sidewalks, with No. 3 the quality of public safety.
The city manager emphasized that the perception of the quality of life in Cleveland is at a lofty 85.32 percent, with only 5.16 in disapproval. The image of the community is at approximately 74 percent, with less than 2 percent in dissatisfied.
Entertainment opportunities are in the negative, 36 percent to 32 percent; the quality of the downtown area is positive at 39 percent to 30 percent; quality of schools is very positive, 61.89 percent to 7.66 percent; and the quality of the Cleveland/Bradley County Public Library is high at 75 percent to just over 2 percent.
“These numbers — for schools and the library — are off the chart,” said Fivas.
He said there are indications of the need for retail development and re-development in the city for entertainment, development of vacant property, and planning for future growth. He said, “Planning for future growth was the highest priority.”
The city manager also discussed the community’s responses on the city’s need for additional parking, retail shopping destinations, entertainment, quality public events, dining options, safety (at night and during the day), and the number of public events.
Fivas said the top four priorities for future projects for the city include:
No. 1 — Improvement for traffic flow and congestion (67.92 percent); No. 2 — Downtown redevelopment (56.23 percent); No. 3 — Downtown entertainment ( 53.39); and No. 4 — Redevelopment of South Cleveland (50.75).
He also covered the replies to three questions related to whether or not citizens would be willing to pay up to $3 per month for formation of a redevelopment plan, additional recreation and sports programs, and improvement to traffic flow and congestion. For each of these questions, the responses were 55-60 percent in favor, and 40-45 percent said they were not willing to pay.
In budget priorities for the coming year, the No. 1 project is the construction of the new Candy’s Creek Cherokee Elementary School on Georgetown Road in Northwest Cleveland.
The No. 2 priority is a combination attempt to lower the city’s street paving cycle from 27.5 years to around 20 years, making intersection improvements, and double sidewalk improvements. No. 3 are recommendations for the Police Department of hiring 12 new officers and creation of a crime suppression unit.
The No. 4 priority is the construction of a new fire station in South Cleveland to serve the needs of the new Spring Branch Industrial Park and surrounding community, and operating that station. The No. 5 priority is implementation of a downtown Cleveland redevelopment plan.
At the end of the meeting, Fivas answered some questions relating to vacant buildings and properties in the downtown area, and other concerns about redevelopment, revitalization and other matters.
“Downtown revitalization is a science and we must have everyone’s support,” Fivas said. “Downtown redevelopment is not just about downtown, but across the surrounding areas.”
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