Cleburne City Manager Rick Holden delivered a state of the city and Police Chief Robert Severance discussed crime and accident trends during Wednesday’s luncheon of the Cleburne Lions Club.
“I trust you all watched [President Obama’s State of the Union speech] last night,” Holden said with a laugh. “Fortunately, the state of the city is a bit simpler than that. We, unlike the federal government, can’t operate in a deficit and we’re not spending money we don’t have.”
Holden said his tenure as city manager included some of Cleburne’s best and worst times.
“Sales tax revenues have cratered,” Holden said. “The last six months have seen double-digit decreases and we’re about $3,000 below [budgeted projections] right now and, as any one of you who have leases know, gas royalties [from leases and wells on city owned properties] have largely gone. But we’ve still managed to function without cutting services or laying anyone off.”
The good news, city and county officials hope, is the arrival of Texas 121, a toll road linking Fort Worth and Cleburne, next year.
“The city is going to grow whether we want it to or not,” Holden said. “People from the Metromess are eventually going to find their way to Cleburne because we’re the last quadrant of the Metroplex still prime for development.
“We’re one of the only frontiers left that has not significantly grown. So it’s coming and it’s just a matter of how we prepare.”
Which presents a challenge in several ways, Holden said.
“I often jokingly say that Cleburne is 100 years of tradition unhampered by progress,” Holden said with a laugh. “I think we forget sometimes that we are growing and changing at times.”
Nonetheless, the future looks bright, Holden said, and city leaders are busy preparing for the projected change and growth before it arrives.
“[Mayor Scott Cain] is a great visionary and working to get things done,” Holden said. “There’s a lot of physical activity going on now to help us get ready for the growth coming and prepare to meet the needs of the community for the next 40, 50 years.”
The May 11 election brings the opportunity for voters to weigh in on proposed changes to the city charter, which was approved by voters in 1950 and rarely updated since.
Council members also appointed several committees last year to review and propose updates and changes to city ordinances. A downtown master plan study is under way to determine options for renovating downtown and funding those renovations. The city recently hired a Fort Worth-based company, Buxton, to help recruit business and industry to town.
Although retail business will likely come after the addition of new homes and population, several businesses have already expressed interest in opening in Cleburne thanks to Texas 121, Holden said.
Work on a new Chevrolet dealership is under way and a Bull Chicks Restaurant is on the way.
Meet the new chief
Lions also heard from Severance, who was recently chosen from more than 40 applicants for the chief’s position.
Holden said Severance, who began his duties on Dec. 31, brings a dynamic perspective to law enforcement.
Although he grew up in Grand Prairie, and served more than 20 years as a member of that city’s police department, Severance has deep ties to Cleburne.
“I came here a lot as a kid growing up to visit my grandparents and aunts and uncles,” Severance said.
While researching in the library Severance said he learned that his great, great, great grandfather came to Cleburne as early as 1872.
Severance discussed Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety, or DDACTS, a program he plans to institute in Cleburne.
“The program allows the department to access more real-time data to see where crime and traffic accident trends are so we can aggressively attack those areas,” Severance said.
Through crime and crash mapping the department can more effectively place officers and resources where they’re most needed, he said.
Severance said he’s not sure when Lions Club member Jason Cech asked if he knows the city’s plans for the old First Financial Bank building on North Main Street.
The city purchased the building about two years ago with plans to relocate CPD. City leaders subsequently determined that the building does not meet the needs of a new police station. City officials are considering options for that and other city properties.
Severance said the expected population growth will no doubt affect CPD, which now employs 53 officers.
“I was looking at Frisco Police Department and 20 years ago they had 12 employees including the chief and dispatcher,” Severance said. “Now they have 180 officers and 80 non-sworn employees.”
Lion Harold Burton asked if Severance would consider re-opening the former CPD substation in the east side of town.
“We’ll be looking at staffing and how to best allocate resources,” Severance said. “A lot of times it’s more effective to have a patrol car driving through the area than an officer sitting in a building though.”
Severance said “Ouch” when one woman asked if he could do away with the motorcycle cops, a request that resulted in laughter throughout the room.
The woman joked that she can’t help driving fast because she’s in a hurry.
Switching gears to serious, Severance said traffic accidents result in more deaths, and pointless deaths at that, than do major crimes. Traffic stops often also lead to major arrests.
“I remember pulling someone over in Grand Prairie for not having a front license plate on the car,” Severance said. “It turned out he was driving a stolen car, had felony warrants and also had a bale of marijuana and an assault rifle in the trunk.”
Cleburne Lions President Bobby de la Garza thanked Severance for addressing the club and said he is welcome back any time.
“You and your officers serve all of us,” de la Garza said. “The Lions’ motto is ‘We Serve’ and we’re here to serve and back you up.”