Richard Boyett, former mayor of Cleveland, will serve as the appointed mayor through the end of May 2021. He will complete the unexpired term of former mayor, the late Otis Cohn, who died in March 2020 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Boyett was sworn in at the conclusion of the regular Cleveland Council Meeting on April 21, which was held via Zoom and Facebook live.
“The City is going to have, or will potentially have, some problems with this Coronavirus and oil being down like it is, but we have a good bit of money in the bank,” said Boyett, commenting to council that he has been a part of helping the City through economically lean times in his previous stints as mayor.
The novel Coronavirus pandemic has created some budget challenges for the City of Cleveland, but despite shortfalls in sales tax revenue, use fees for Stancil Park and Cleveland Civic Center, and fines through the municipal court system, the City is on a solid financial footing, said Finance Director/Assistant City Manager Bobby Pennington.
Revenue shortfalls, however, will require delaying some capital expenditures, such as the construction of a new children’s splash pad and money that was earmarked for projects at Cleveland Fire Station.
In a worst-case scenario, the City can expect to see a loss in sales taxes this year of $900,000. The best case scenario puts the losses closer to $361,000.
“We have delayed capital projects until we know how bad this is going to be. I don’t see us needing to dip into our reserves,” Pennington said. “I think we will weather this storm.”
Pennington also shared encouraging news regarding this year’s housing starts, which is an indicator of economic conditions. This year, there have been nine new housing starts in Cleveland in March 2020, up from nine in March 2019.
The year-to-date total for housing starts in 2020 is 30. During this same time period in 2019, there were 23 new housing starts.
The housing starts have also created some extra work for HR Green, the engineering firm contracted by the City to review drawings and designs. Mike Halde with HR Green said that when the firm bid on the engineering services contract, they could not anticipate what the workload would be.
“It just happened that there were more reviews that were required this year,” he said.
The firm asked the City to pay an increase of $10,000 for work performed mainly on Grand Oaks Reserve and Pinewood Trails, up from the firm’s contract for $20,000. The increase was approved by Council.
“It’s actually good news for us because we are seeing a lot more activity than we anticipated,” said City Attorney David Olson.
With the reopening of Texas businesses, churches and organizations expected in the coming weeks, Councilman Fred Terrell suggested that the City form a task force made up of businesses, hospitals, Cleveland ISD and other stakeholders in the community. Council agreed with Terrell and appointed him as the City’s representative to lead the task force. Councilman Danny Lee will also serve on the task force.
The City also approved a resolution that will provide paid administrative leave for employees who are forced off the job as a result of contracting COVID-19 or being off work as a result of their exposure to COVID-19. Prior to the resolution, city employees were forced to take expend their personal leave time. The resolution will restore the accrued personal leave time for employees already impacted.
In other business, the City made proclamations for April Fair Housing Month, National Day of Prayer, which is set for May 7, 2020, and National Public Telecommunicators Week, which was held April 12-18.
The City also approved an ordinance amending the speed limits on the city portion of Plum Grove Road (FM 1010). The request was made by the Texas Department of Transportation. The new speed limits will be 30 miles per hour from SH 105/SH 321 to Southline Street, then 40 miles per hour from Southline Steet south 0.240 miles and then 50 miles per hour from that point to the Cleveland city limits.