Mayor Tom Rowland outlined advances made by the city of Cleveland in his annual State of the City address delivered Thursday to the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland.
Mayor Rowland said, "Before I get into the State of the City address, I must preface this list of achievements by first telling you that you have an outstanding Cleveland City Council and Staff working every day of the year to make things happen.
All the great things I am sharing with you today have come about this past year as a result of team work between these two groups working with our local Chamber, local legislators and citizenry.
"Our city achieved several long term goals the past year, making 2015 an exciting time.
"But just as exciting, Cleveland is setting new goals and continues to move forward, looking to the future for growth and development.
"And we are doing it in the true fashion of the City With Spirit. Let’s examine just a few of the many achievements since we met here last year:
"STREETS AND HIGHWAYS
Exit 20 is one of our most visible missions accomplished in 2015. Our thanks go to the Tennessee Department of Transportation and its contractors for a dramatic overhaul of this important interchange. Wider and longer entrance and exit ramps and a five lane bridge over I-75 will spur even more economic growth along the APD 40 corridor.
"Because of the untiring efforts of State Representative Kevin Brooks to see this project through, the city council has passed a resolution asking the state legislature put the name of Rep. Kevin Brooks on the interchange. We feel it is only fitting. In Nashville he has worked so diligently on this that he has become known as “Mr. Exit 20.”
"Motorists have been waiting for several years for this bigger interchange to serve the high volume of traffic at our southern city limits. It’s about 5 ½ miles from the Chattanooga City Limits. The wider turn spaces will benefit trucks serving our existing Cleveland/Bradley County Industrial Park and the future Spring Branch Industrial Park which is under development.
"Meanwhile, construction began in 2015 on a new access to serve Spring Branch Industrial Park.
"As I have said before, the new industrial park without the interchange would be like building a new house without a driveway. I was proud and humbled when I learned this year the new access was named by the state legislature and signed by the governor to be known as the Rowland Interchange. The interchange is scheduled is to be completed in October, 2016 at a cost of $24 million.
"As all this construction continues, your city staff is working on plans for connector roads north and south of APD 40 at the interchange. These future connector routes will stimulate even more economic development in the area.
"On 25th Street this past winter and spring, another section of median work was completed by our Forestry Division of the Parks and Recreation Department and our Public Works Department. Crepe Myrtles and other perennial shrubs were planted above a ground cover of smooth stones .
This landscaping, which now extends from Keith Street to I-75 at Exit 25, does more than improve our city image at another important gateway. Beneath the stones are layers of sand and gravel and drainage tiles. It's all designed to quickly move storm water off 25th Street, making travel safer in that busy commercial district.
"Exit 25 is getting its own upgrade as well. TDOT has been expanding and improving Exit 25 from the interstate to the Georgetown Road intersection this past summer and fall. The next step, being taken by TDOT and our city, is to add an aesthetically pleasing wall on the high bank where the I-75 exit ramp meets 25th Street.
"There were other street projects throughout the year. TDOT milled and paved 25th Street. The work was done at night greatly benefiting motorists and merchants along one of our busiest streets. Our Public Works crews installed new sidewalks along North Ocoee Street leading to Ocoee Crossing.
"We are truly a city on the move in many ways.
Erlanger Medical Center stationed one of its LifeForce emergency medical helicopters at our Cleveland Regional Jetport in 2015. The helicopter ambulance and crew will soon have a new hangar and quarters of their own.
"The jetport is adding more hangar space to keep up with the demand from airplane owners who want their aircraft stationed in Cleveland.
"Also new is a weather observation system that reports directly to the Internet and is accessible to users on a global scale.
"We continue to make progress towards having a U.S. Customs Service agent assigned to the jetport. This will benefit international flights. For example, last summer an international businessman who owns several pharmacies in the region landed his jet here during visits to his business properties. But before he got here, he stopped elsewhere just for the required Customs inspection.
"During its brief history, the jetport has become an important part of the entire community. Recently a medical flight left here with a young patient suffering serious burns. The 25 minute flight to Augusta, Ga. quickly brought the patient to the needed expert help. Not long ago, it would have taken that much time to transport the patient to Chattanooga for the emergency flight.
"And it has become routine for private jet traffic to be diverted from Chattanooga to Cleveland during heavy fogs there.
"In just one week recently, our Jetport hosted an impressive group of visitors. All of these purchased fuel, helping the airport continue to turn a profit. Three major international corporations came in for meetings and, of course, purchased fuel and spent time in our community. The same week a presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio stopped here to refuel on the way to New Hampshire and a Delta chartered jet refueled on the way to Denver. Earlier in the year billionaire T. Boone Pickens visited the Jetport. These are just a few examples of the importance of a first class general aviation airport that incidentally was named Tennessee airport of the year.
"One of my personal highlights of the year was accompanying businessman Allan Jones and a large group from Cleveland to Thaxton, Va. Allan had learned there was no marker to commemorate the train wreck many years ago that took the lives of three of Cleveland's most prominent citizens. Through efforts of Allan and the Virginia Department of Transportation, an historical marker was dedicated at the sight. All this before the jetport celebrates its third birthday.
The Cleveland Urban Area Transportation Service replaced its entire fleet with new buses in 2015. The service, provided through the Southeast Tennessee Human Resources Agency, is headquartered in the historic Cleveland Railroad Depot building.
"Although the SETHRA bus service has been around much longer, 2015 was the tenth year of the designated route system.
"Bus ridership continues growing at a slow but steady pace.
"One personal note: Passenger rail service for East Tennessee has once again surfaced with support of TDOT and the MPO, or the metropolitan planning organization. Our MPO and others have approved resolutions in support of the effort.
Meanwhile at the previously mentioned Spring Branch Industrial Park on APD 40, work continues that will bring to reality the next great location for Tennessee industry. A conceptual master plan was revealed last summer prepared by TVA and the Bradley/Cleveland Industrial Development Board.
"At the Wacker Chemie site in Charleston, construction that began in 2011 is winding down. Production of polysilicone material began at the year's end. The economic benefits to Bradley County from this 21st century industry and its well paying jobs will continue for many decades to come.
"Another corporate friend made some unique Cleveland news this year. For two weeks in October Mars Chocolate opened a "pop up" store at the Village Green. Along with the specialty items found at M&M's flagship stores New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, London and Shanghai, our store featured items proudly labeled 'made in Cleveland, TN.'
"Proceeds from the sale of those made in Cleveland items benefitted MainStreet Cleveland's downtown promotion and preservation work.
"In December, Polartec, once known as Malden Mills, announced it is closing its Massachusetts plant and bringing 200 jobs to Cleveland. The company plans to make that move slowly over many months. Polartec, which manufactures fleece material for the military and high end outdoor clothing brands, bought United Knitting here in September. United Knitting had already been doing business with Polartec. So Polartec was already familiar with our city.
The number and variety of our retail stores continues to expand. During recent months, one Chattanooga outdoor opened an additional store here. Another outdoor outfitter expanded. A major jewelry chain opened a superstore here just before Christmas. At least four cafes started in recent months. More people are finding Cleveland and the surrounding area a desirable place to live. In addition to new homes, some large apartment complexes are being developed.
To accommodate this growth your city has started thinking about the next new school on a site already purchased. I have appointed a committee to explore funding options. This
committee includes Councilman Charlie McKenzie, Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel and Dr. Martin Ringstaff, our city schools director.
"This comes as construction ends on the new Raider Arena at Cleveland High School. It replaces an aging and unsafe dome gymnasium. The community watched throughout 2015 as a new structure rose on the site. It will be finished in March, in time for the graduation of the class of 2016
"The past year was one of achievement on many fronts for Cleveland schools. Congratulations to our Cleveland Board of Education for being named a Board Of Distinction by the Tennessee School Boards Association.
"In August, the school system dedicated the F.I. Denning Center of Technology and Careers. This new type of school for grades 9 through 12, focuses on academic recovery and intervention. It was named for retired city schools director, Dr. Fred Denning.
"Both of our higher education institutions, Cleveland State Community College and Lee University, started the 2015-2016 academic year with over 5,000 students enrolled at each.
"Lee began construction on its new School of Nursing building on Parker Street, bringing more students and faculty closer to our downtown business district. Lee also became a full member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Division II. That will introduce more people from many other states to our city when they come here as spectators for sports events.
In the 2016-2017 academic year, Cleveland State Community College will have a 50th birthday celebration.
"Cleveland's unique relationship with the University of Tennessee - called the Smart Communities Initiative - concluded in 2015. UT began its SCI relationship with us in the 2014-2015 academic year. Students from many different fields of study on the Knoxville campus came to Cleveland to study the challenges to a growing city, do research and propose solutions.
Cleveland was the pioneer city for this UT service learning project. The city benefited from their work. The students benefited by gaining real world experience. We expect a final report early this year (2016) on the SCI endeavor.
Your city government launched some new initiatives as well.
Both the Fire and Police departments organized career showcase events to show the duties and responsibilities of firefighters and law enforcement officers. Both were well attended by a diverse audience from the community. The hope is that some of the people who came to those sessions will consider careers with either department. These public sessions will grow stronger relationships between the public and the departments.
"The first steps were taken in 2015 towards creating Taylor Spring Park. The site where the city began in the 1830s was previously donated by attorney Jim Webb. Some site work was done by our Public Works Department in 2015. A committee was appointed to guide the park's development worked with a landscape architect during the year to create a concept plan.
"The new City Dog Park at Tinsley Park is now complete and will be ready for use this Spring, once the irrigation and grass is established and ready for daily use.
"Our expanded Codes Enforcement Division launched its Homeowners Education and Local Partnerships program. Codes Enforcement is reaching out to homeowners associations and neighborhood groups. Codes enforcement officers are working with city residents and explaining how city codes protect health, safety and property values.
"Steps continue to be taken towards a future Southeast Tennessee veterans home here. Late in 2015 the city, Bradley County and the American Legion signed a memorandum of understanding, reaffirming our support.
"Last summer your greenway got greener. The city installed recycle bins at certain locations. And the city held its first ever 5K Recycle Run/Walk. The admission fee was at least two items for recycling. We had a great turnout.
"In December we learned that City Manager Janice Casteel plans to retire this year. Janice is completing a 43-year career of service to city residents and taxpayers that began October 10, 1973. She has been city manager since July 1, 2007. Her retirement is effective May 31, 2016. Your City Council must now begin the task of finding the next city manager.
Our Cleveland Police Department was reaccredited in 2015 by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. CALEA accreditation only happens after a thorough review by outside experts in criminal justice. Accreditation shows a commitment to the best law enforcement practices and a commitment to public service by the department. Only four (4) percent of the nation's police departments are CALEA accredited. It's just one of the reasons we are proud of our men and women in blue.
"The past few years, Cleveland has received high rankings in national surveys highlighting our economy and quality of life. 2015 was no different.
In June, goodcall.com, a new Internet data research group, ranked Cleveland 45th on its list of the best places in the country for teachers.
NerdWallet, an Internet consumer data research group which has listed Cleveland on past national rankings on a variety of issues, ranked our city 14th on a list of 85 "best places to start a business in Tennessee."
"TVA awarded a $3.75 million grant to Impact Cleveland and the Blythe Oldfield Neighborhood along with Cleveland Utilities and the city. The funds will be used to improve energy efficiency in some 300 older homes in that community. The projects will begin in next April.
Our city felt the shock waves last July when a lone gunman attacked a military recruiting office and a Navy training center in Chattanooga. Four Marines and one sailor gave their lives to save others. A Chattanooga police officer was wounded.
"In those uncertain first hours after the attack our city and county law enforcement and all our first responders went on high alert out of an abundance of caution.
"Our city was never in danger. But our citizens rallied to show their support for our neighbors and the young families who lost loved ones.
"THERE WERE MANY POSITIVE EVENTS THAT IMPACTED US…..
".We unveiled Cleveland's first city flag.
".Mark Gibson was appointed in September as our chief of police.
".The Greenway Park at Raider Drive continued to grow as a popular venue for community events.
".The Museum Center at 5ive Points opened a new permanent exhibit celebrating the Red Back Hymnal. The hymnal, so well known by many congregations around the nation for many years, was published in Cleveland.
".Lee University's Jordan Smith took NBC television's The Voice by storm. Like me, many of you watched as another Lee university student brought national attention to this city and this great university.
"I have to tell you as an Honorary Alumni of Lee, I take great pride every time one of these fine men and women gain national attention.
"Cleveland Middle School's dance team took part in the 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.
"The Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce turned 90 years old in 2015. Cleveland Associated Industries and Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region, each turned 50. Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland celebrated 25 years by building its 124th home.
"Tonight, Governor Bill Haslam speaks at the Chamber’s 90th Birthday Celebration. It’s only fitting that the governor visit as our Chamber is one of only eight accredited in Tennessee. As we join in the 90th celebration tonight, we acknowledge the valuable role our Chamber plays in various aspects of this community. And no doubt through the continued support of our Cleveland/Bradley Chamber, its membership, our local and state leaders, and our community, the next 90 years promises to see us grow even stronger.
"The past year was a year of achievements. But a dynamic city like ours doesn't stop achieving. The New Year offers even more great opportunities for The City with Spirit.
"Thank you Kiwanians for the role you have played in our City through the years. And thank you for what you are doing now as you carry our “spirit” motto in all you do locally and around the world."