Cleveland City Council approves contract with airport manager, denies chamber resolution

Jim Carson, chief executive officer for the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, pitches a resolution the chamber plans to present to state leaders in Austin in February. The resolution asks state leaders to abide by the Texas Constitution regarding school financing.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Cleveland City Council extended its lease agreement with Aviation Services owner Clay Dean for operation of the city’s municipal airport during its regular monthly meeting on Jan. 15.

The original contract for the airport’s management dates back to 1983 and was amended eight times prior to Tuesday’s meeting. The ninth amendment, unanimously approved by council Tuesday, pays Dean, as the airport’s fixed base operator, $4,200 per month.

“That’s 18 percent of the airport’s total income [per month]. The city would net over $19,000 per month,” said Bobby Pennington, the city’s finance director and assistant city manager. “If approved, the lease agreement would extend through December 2023.”

The new lease agreement will clean up some of the language in the previous contracts and simplify the payment system to Dean. Instead of paying Dean a percentage of monthly hangar rentals, the city takes over rentals and pays Dean the flat amount of $4,200. Any additional income he receives comes from the sale of aviation fuel through a system Dean owns, insures and manages.

Construction of new hangars at the airport is about 75 percent complete. The demand for hangars at the airport has created a waiting list in the past and the new hangars are expected to be leased as soon as they are ready.

“When we complete this next set of hangars, over a five-year period we will have doubled the size of the airport,” Dean said. “We are working diligently. We have a flight school out there now … We are growing and it’s busy.”

The council was asked to sign a resolution by the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce supporting the chamber’s efforts to get state lawmakers to address school finance in the 86th State Legislature.

Jim Carson, CEO of the chamber, pitched the resolution to the council. The resolution will be presented to state leaders when the chamber celebrates Cleveland Chamber Day in Austin on Feb. 20. Chamber board members and business members are set to meet with the Education Committee and the Governor’s Committee on Economic Development and Tourism during the Austin trip.

“The State of Texas is supposed to pay for the education of our students. When the lottery came in, it was supposed to be spent on education,” Carson said, adding that lottery funds were soon diverted to other parts of the state budget.

Carson told council five local superintendents have agreed to sign the resolution.

“The more people we have sign it, the more impact it will have,” he said.

Councilman Mike Penry objected to the language of the resolution that addressed private schools. He believes that private schools will allow Cleveland to attract more affluent residents.

“They have to have an alternative. We can’t sit here for a generation waiting for the public schools to catch up,” Penry said.

When the discussion wore on with other council members expressing support or opposition of the resolution, City Attorney David Olsen interjected that school finance is out of the jurisdiction of the council.

“You might want to reword this. I have a hard time seeing this council agree to this as it is worded. Everybody is going to disagree with a phrase. From a city perspective, it might simply be reworded to say that school finance needs to be tackled and we encourage them to spend time on it, and just leave it at that,” Olsen said.

Councilman Fred Terrell, who was in favor of the resolution, called for a vote after making a motion to approve. The motion, however, died when no other council member would second his motion.

In other business, the council approved a resolution that proclaims Feb. 12 of each year to be the Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer. Mayor Otis Cohn said that some holidays, like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, have lost their impact because they are rolled into a three-day weekend.

Cohn said that by having Feb. 12 set aside for this event each year, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls, it maintains its impact and meaning. The council agreed and unanimously approved the resolution.

At the start of the meeting, Cohn shared news about potential economic development coming to Cleveland.

“We’ve learned of several businesses coming to Cleveland. I won’t tell them all,” he said.

According to Cohn, Millennium Oncology is planning to open a full-service chemotherapy infusion facility in Cleveland.

“I know a lot of people in chemo who are from the Cleveland area. I think they are looking for the opportunity to have something here. It’s going to save a lot of people time and effort. I think it’s a good step forward,” Cohn said.

He also shared that an 800-acre property west of Cleveland off of SH 105 recently sold to a developer.

“What they plan to do there, I can’t talk about at this time. It will ensure major jobs to Cleveland, major growth industrial-wise and it will fill up a lot of those houses that are being built in the new subdivisions,” he said.

Councilman Penry has a new project on the horizon. After retiring in March from First Bank and Trust, Penry is coming out of retirement to help operate a new bank in Cleveland.

“I am proud to announce that Austin Bank is coming to Cleveland. It’s a privately-owned bank that has 32 branches in 13 counties. They have chosen Cleveland to come here. They will be a good community bank,” Penry said. “They want to hire local folks and my wife is more than happy for me to get out of the house.”

Austin Bank is currently in the process of obtaining its license to open in Cleveland, according to Penry. He told council that the bank owners have purchased property in Cleveland where a new branch will be built.

Penry, who holds the Position 1 seat on council, will step down from office in May due to term limits. Positions 1 and 2, as well as mayor, will be decided in May. Position 2 Councilwoman Marilyn Clay and Mayor Cohn are expected to seek reelection.

Applications for a place on the ballot opened Wednesday, Jan. 16. The application process runs through Feb. 15. Anyone wishing to run for office can pick up an application packet at city hall during regular business hours or print the forms from the city’s website,

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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