Cleveland low-income housing complex slated for upgrades

Cleveland Square Apartments is pictured in this photo taken in January 2023. By next year, renovations should be underway.

Cleveland Square Apartments is set to get a much-needed facelift in the coming months. The prospective owners presented their plans before Cleveland City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Representatives of LCJ Management of New Caney explained that the 48-unit complex, located on Waco Street between College and Travis streets, will be upgraded over the course of nine months beginning in 2024.

“We need a resolution of support from city council. It takes us about a year to go through the application process. We are looking to close on the partnership by the end of the year and start the rehab at the first of next year,” said a LCJ spokesperson. “The reason we are here before you today is that the private placement tax credit exchange that we go through to get equity is governed by the State of Texas. One requirement is a resolution of support from the City of Cleveland.”

Among the improvements planned for each apartment are new flooring, cabinets, appliances, smoke detector systems and windows. The apartment complex will receive a new 30-year roof and structural issues are to be repaired. LCJ also plans to add new stairwells and a community room, and will upgrade the parking area.

Municipal Court Judge Ralph Fuller (left) and Juan Beltran (right), a library page, were recognized for their five years of service to the City of Cleveland during the Jan. 17 council meeting. Pictured with them are Mayor Richard Boyett and Library Director Mary Cohn.

LCJ pointed Council to other low-income housing units it owns in the neighboring cities of Liberty and Dayton as proof of their commitment to improving the lives of residents and beautifying its buildings.

Residents living in Cleveland Square Apartments will be accommodated throughout the transition, according to LCJ. Some residents will be allowed to remain in their apartments throughout the process with contractors doing small jobs until the entire apartment is renovated. In apartments needing more work, the residents will be relocated elsewhere at the company’s expense and receive help in moving their belongings. Once the renovations are completed on their unit, the residents will be moved back into their apartments, again with moving assistance from LCJ.

When Council members were told that the only requirement from them was to provide the resolution of support and agree to a one-time $250 reduction in a permit fee, they were all on board and agreed to LCJ’s request.

“I think they will be making something we will all be proud of,” said Mayor Richard Boyett.

Prior to the meeting, Council heard a presentation on a compensation study from Eric Smetana with Gallagher Human Resources and Compensation Consulting. The $26,000 study originally was performed in 2021 under different city management; however, due to some yet unexplained reason, it was never presented to Council.

Smetana shared the estimated costs of raising employees to a new salary range minimum that is in keeping with neighboring cities. As there is no funding available to increase City employee salaries at this time, City administrators and Council members plan to review the compensation study recommendations prior to the next budget season. During the Council meeting, they formally accepted the study from Gallagher.

The City granted a request from local realtor Phillip Cameron to deannex his commercial property on SH 321 near the Tarkington Bayou. Cameron explained that he was told by the previous city manager that the annexation of his property was a mistake and he was never provided city services like water and sewer.

Council agreed to the deannexation with one caveat: a non-development agreement will be in place, which means the property can continue to be used for Cameron’s business office, but if he ever develops it or sells it to another developer, the property will be subject to annexation again.

A sidewalk improvement project for downtown Cleveland is nearing completion, but there is still $17,951 in grant money remaining. As the grant money must be spent within the scope and area of the original project, Council agreed to use the remaining funds to add curb appeal and improve the aesthetics of downtown.

“You don’t want to leave grant money on the table, especially if you want to go out for more grants later,” Council was told. The leftover grant money could result in the City being penalized in the future.

The curb appeal project is expected to cost $18,000, leaving the City $49 short of the available amount. Mayor Boyett offered to make up the difference, though whether or not the City holds him to that remains to be seen.

Victoria Good, chief operating officer for the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, and Ashleigh Broussard, director of the Cleveland Civic Center, presented an agreement between the Chamber and the City for use of the civic center and Stancil Park. The City agreed to allow the Chamber to use the civic center for monthly meetings at no cost with the condition that the City be compensated with a table at these events. For the annual Chamber gala and other events at the civic center and Stancil, such as Taste of Cleveland and the Outdoor Expo, the Chamber will be billed the non-profit rate.

Council was set to hear a presentation on the City Sign Ordinance; however, the party that requested the agenda item was not in attendance. The item was tabled.

Council also made appointments to various boards and committees for 2023. Laderrington Baldwin, Rachel Hall and Niki Coats were voted to take the seats of Kelly Axton, Michelle White and Scott Lambert on the Cleveland Economic Development Corporation. Hall was also appointed to the Parks and Recreation Board.

Clay Dean, the fixed base operator of the Cleveland Municipal Airport, came to Council with a request to convert a 4,000-gallon tank at the airport for aviation gas instead of Jet A fuel. The tank was purchased more than two years ago and has been unused since that time. Dean explained that recently the aviation gas tank needed repairs, causing it to be down for a while. This left the airport without aviation fuel.

Dean hoped to use both tanks for aviation fuel to have a backup plan in place. However, Council was split on a decision even though the airport board was in favor of Dean’s plan. No action was taken. Dean was asked to bring back more information for Council at the next meeting.

Moving forward, council members will be insured for accidents that occur while they are performing their duties. Mayor Pro Tem Marilyn Clay prefaced the discussion by sharing that she was recently injured when she fell down an escalator at a training event. An insurance plan through the Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool will cost the City $192 a year and will provide worker’s compensation for accidents that happen while council members are on duty.

Council also approved calling for the May 6 election. Positions 1 and 2, and mayor will be decided in that election. They also recognized City employees Juan Beltran and Judge Ralph Fuller for their five-year work anniversary.

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