Cleveland mayor, councilwomen sworn in during May 21 meeting

Mayor Otis Cohn takes his oath of office from City Secretary Angela Smith during the May 21 Cleveland City Council meeting. Cohn was unopposed in the May election.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Cleveland City Council swore in Mayor Otis Cohn, Position 1 Councilwoman Carolyn McWaters and Position 2 Councilwoman Marilyn Clay after the three won their uncontested seats in the May 4 election.

Cohn and Clay already held their positions. McWaters, who formerly held Position 2 and then a seat on the Cleveland Economic Development Corporation, was elected to Position 1. Mike Penry, the previous Position 1 councilman, stepped down to devote more time to his new role as head of the Austin Bank branch in Cleveland.

The fiscally-conservative Penry told council he was pleased that he lived up to his campaign promise to not raise taxes.

“I promised not to vote for any tax increase when I was elected to council and that’s a promise I kept,” he said.

Cohn, who occasionally butted heads with Penry on money matters, was sad to see Penry go, but he said he is happy that Penry’s replacement is McWaters as she is an experienced leader.

“As a banker, Mike Penry was always looking out for our bottom line. He and [City Finance Director] Bobby Pennington put the city in great financial shape. With Mike gone, I don’t want that voice silenced,” said Cohn. “If something looks too good to be true, or too expensive, then don’t shy away. It’s important that we fill Mike’s shoes in that capacity.”

Position 5 Councilwoman Jennifer Bergman-Harkness joked that she might actually help the city get a water park now that Penry is off council, a reference to a friendly battle the two had at prior council meetings over her desire to get a water park installed at the municipal park on SH 321.

Cohn announced that the city received a $790,000 financial boon from the early completion of work on the water system in the Glen Park community. Principal Plant Services, a Tarkington-based company, finished refurbishment of the water system in eight months, 10 months ahead of the expected completion date, thereby producing a huge savings for the city.

“This local company finished way ahead of schedule,” said Cohn, adding that it was a sign of good things to come for Cleveland. “A local company outbid other companies. With Cleveland’s growth, I think it’s telling us we are getting competent companies here locally. It’s the good part of the growth process. I want to congratulate that company.”

Council agreed to amend the 2018-19 budget to transfer the cash from the savings.

Cleveland city leaders are also considering changes to the city’s noise ordinance due to concerns from residents living near a nightclub formerly known as Ro’s, located on Washington Ave. A couple of residents – Jim Bloss and Charles Patton – addressed their concerns during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Though the club is currently closed due to code violations, it is expected to reopen in a couple of weeks and neighbors are concerned, they said.

“I’ve found myself falling asleep on the way home. I saw an accident today on US 59 in front of Anderson Ford,” said Charles Patton. “I don’t want that to be me because I am falling asleep.”

Patton and Bloss say the loud booming sounds from the club’s speaker system keep them from enjoying the peace of their own homes.

“There are bad actors who don’t care. You are asking us to lay awake and suffer. I am asking you to consider this from a resident’s point of view,” Bloss said.

Bloss, who is the husband of Councilwoman McWaters, said he has looked at noise ordinances for other cities and found the City of Houston’s ordinances to be a good fit for Cleveland.

McWaters said that no one is trying to restrict the business. She just wants to see it reopened on the right foot.

The consideration of amending the city’s noise ordinance was on the agenda for discussion and action, but the council opted to table the item until City Attorney David Olson can review the ordinances and advise the council on what changes can be lawfully made to address the residents’ complaints.

In other business, the council approved a resolution in support of HR 759, the Ysleta del sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta tribes of Texas’ Equal and Fair Opportunity Settlement Act. The tribes are fighting state leaders to keep their gaming centers open.

Council also accepted former mayor Niki Coats’ resignation from the Zoning Commission and appointed Eisha Jones to fill that spot. Mike Penry was appointed to fill the seat of Carolyn McWaters, who had to step down in order to claim a seat on city council.

Brent McWaters was appointed to the Charter Review Committee to replace former mayor Jill Kirkonis, who can no longer serve due to non-residency. Cassie Campbell Yeager was appointed to the Airport Advisory Committee to replace Dennis Kirkonis due to his non-residency.

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