CLEVELAND — Prior to taking office in January, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb promised a modern and responsive city hall that would provide enhanced basic city services all over the city. In the months since, members of the Bibb administration said Tuesday that workforce deployment changes have yielded positive results, especially in the areas of grass cutting, pothole patching and the clearing of illegal dump sites.
The city’s chief operating officer, Bonnie Teeuwen, said city mowing crews began making their rounds in mid-April and have already cut the vacant lots in wards 1, 8, 16 and 17 with the remaining wards scheduled to be serviced over the next several weeks. Additionally, Teeuwen told reporters that the city’s pothole patching crews are roughly 60% complete with their residential pothole patching program. At this point last year, they were only 26% complete.
Although progress on these fronts can often depend significantly on the weather, Teeuwen said a reshuffling of the city’s workforce has played a major role in overall productivity.
“What are we doing different than we have in the past is we’re basically working from sunrise to sunset with our cutting crews,” Teeuwen said. “The key is utilizing the same equipment but capitalizing on additional hours of work. If you see late at night our crews out there, that’s what they are doing.”
Similar to other large employers in the area, the city has had some difficulty in filling open positions. However, Teeuwen said the city has benefitted from an increase in the number of qualified applicants as well as the willingness for some temporary workers hired in the winter to remain on through the spring months.
One of the first challenges that greeted his team has also provided one of the best lessons, Bibb said.
“In that (January) snow storm we learned that we could do a better job at City Hall of using the existing equipment that we currently have in our fleet,” Bibb said. “ [It also taught us] to find different ways to manage our workforce internally to optimize all the assets we have internally.
On the illegal dumping front, Bibb said his staff and Public Safety Director Karrie Howard on a proposal to install surveillance cameras in areas that have a high concentration of illegal dumping. Additionally, Bibb said his staff has had conversations with city council on drafting legislation that would stiffen the penalties for those caught to be illegally dumping.