Tuesday night’s regular City Council meeting started with a bit of charm as Council member Teddie Ann Salmon presented Mayor Larry Cooper with a 3-minute timer, complete with alarm, as the Council provides three minutes to anyone who wants to make comments on items not on the agenda. That agenda item was scrapped this time, though Cooper decided he would let people make their comments on items on the agenda as the items surfaced.
Four Council members, Brad Clough, Salmon, Robert Jaska and Lee Thomas were present in person, while member Suzon Crowell chimed in via the use of Skype.
First a public hearing was held to replat the corner property at Marshall and Preston streets, which was the former location of the Van Alstyne Hardware Store, and which now has been renovated to allow three separate businesses. Two of those open onto Marshall Street and the third one onto Preston Street. There were no comments from the public, and the Council later unanimously approved this replat request.
Crowell asked, before a vote was taken on the Consent Agenda items, that one item be removed. The removed item was to reappoint three people to the Planning & Zoning Commission. Crowell made a motion to approve two reappointments, those being Jim Atchison and Bob Hendricks. She explained that her reasoning on not including the third person in the motion was because the third, Wayne Womack, was already serving on other boards. Crowell asked that all the boards go out and advertise for people to serve on them as spots became open.
That motion passed with a vote of 3-2, with Clough and Thomas casting the nay votes. The Council also approved the reappointment of Rodney Williams and Jaska to the city’s Library Board. Jaska abstained from that vote.
The consent agenda passed unanimously and included the approval of the site plan for the new elementary school; changes in utility rates and charges, which will be reflected on the November water bill; routine approval for database maintenance and mapping; the closure of FM 121 east for October 21’s Fall der All being held downtown; and the closure of the S&N Enterprises Fund bank account.
And then, the meeting heated up. The agenda provided that the Mayor sign a resolution to certify local funding and support of Phase II of the Shared Use Path. Phase II, as it was originally introduced to the public, was to have added the walking and bike trail along Dallas Street and that went unfunded at a meeting a few months ago.
Crowell said that this new Phase II was a surprise even to the Council members, with the first information being given to them in their packets. Former Council member Karen Teuber said that she objected to this new Phase II, which is planned to go from the Middle School to the new Elementary School. “There were no public hearing on this, keeping the citizens totally in the dark,” Teuber said.
The city engineer, the city manager and others explained to the public that they told TxDOT, the funding agency, that the Dallas Street path had been rejected, and that TxDOT came back and asked them if they wanted to keep the application for a Phase II alive and if so, that must be done before Oct. 1. Hands continued to fly up with questions as officials continued to attempt to answer them. Cooper said that the school district is putting money into escrow for the project, and the Community Development Corporation has dedicated a large amount of its budget to the project. Therefore, the city’s responsibility would be between $17,000 and $38,000. This was similar to the funding for Phase I, which is approved and funded and for which bids are going out for construction immediately.
City Manager Frank Baker said that the appeal to parents and the school district is the ease of dropping students off at the new school. The Engineer said there is no front yard exposure on this path, that it is all on school property. The residential developer will build the roads through the new subdivision where the school is to be constructed, and the district has responsibility for the sidewalk. Crowell asked who is responsible for violating the policy — the violation refering to putting the new Phase II on the agenda without having had a public hearing.“So the citizens coming in here tonight thought we were going to be voting on something entirely different. That’s not fair, sir,” she said.
Baker said, again, that TxDOT “put an accelerated timeline on us, the school district is in favor of it, they are the property owners, and the opportunity is being presented.”
Thomas said he understands that the agenda item simple asks that the mayor sign the proposal to go ahead with it, in the planning phase. Crowell said, “The problem is we said we want the public to know and we violated that right off the bat.”
After considerable more discussion, the item was tabled until an agreed-upon special called meeting, Sept. 25, and some Council members asked that the public notice be posted The next item regarded the nature and format of the agreement between the city and the Economic Development Corporation about releasing the sales tax income to EDC as designated by law. At the end of a lengthy discussion, the Council agreed to have more information and a revised agreement that would include electronic transfer of the money from the city to EDC within a few days of the city’s having received the money from the state.
The second part of that agenda item, EDC’s funding of Phase I of the Shared Use Path, was not discussed or voted upon.
In other items, the Council:
• Approved the tax rate for the upcoming year;
• Approved changes in the agreement with the city attorney to include more itemizing on her monthly invoices;
• Approved the abandonment of an alleyway at the southeast corner of S. John Douglas and Shreveport roads.
• Took the final item, regarding review, upgrade and/or amendment of the city manager contract, off the agenda, at Salmon’s request.