It was another nearly-packed house at the Van Alstyne Community Center on Tuesday night for the City Council’s regularly scheduled session. There were several items on the agenda for the night, but one in particular that seemed to galvanize was an item regarding a requested zoning change from a single family unit to a two-family unit.
The property at the heart of the matter is located at 211 W. Marshall St. The currently unimproved lot is the subject of a zoning change request by owner Linda Morgan. Morgan wishes to build a two-family town home on the northwest corner of the property.
"The concept I have will not be sub-standard to the neighborhood," Morgan said to the Council.
Council members questioned Morgan on the type of floor plan, whether the foundation was poured as one or two, what the parking situation was and whether there was enough room on the remainder of the lot to build another of the same two-family town homes, the latter to which Morgan replied that she had no intention of doing.
Several Marshall St. residents were on hand to voice their displeasure at the proposal. Most vocal among them was David Barr, who had passed flyers around the neighborhood alerting them to the possibility of a potential "duplex" being built on the street.
"Nobody wants to be near duplex homes," said Barr. "I talked to renters — they always make a big deal about rental homes [but] you’re going to have that everywhere — renters don’t even want to rent a house near a duplex."
Council closed the public hearing and opened the regular agenda part of the meeting by taking action on the zoning change request. Jim Smith, who stated that he disapproved citing "too many variables we can’t control" relating to such things as parking, made a motion to decline the change. The vote was unanimous, and the request was denied.
Council approved the fiscal year 2011-12 audit following a presentation by Susan LaFollett, CPA. Some of the more salient points of the audit included:
— Van Alstyne’s total net assets amounted to $15,881,650
— capital assets amounted to $12,766,885
— according to LaFollett, "Assets do exceed liabilities."
— the city’s total expenses amounted to $5,126,338
— the city’s General Fund balance was $655,708
LaFollett declared the audit "clean."
Recommendations for the city included the suggestion to refine year-end closing procedures and post before the audit begins and to appoint a staff member to oversee ambulance receivables which amount to $4,798,000 and is currently handled by Intermedics.
Smith questioned LaFollett on a few points of interest, the most notable regarding an item that had previously been discussed only in executive session at the March council meeting. Mentioned in the audit was a check written in November of 2011 that transferred money from the Police Seizure Fund and into the city’s General Fund. This is a strict no-no and is monitored by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Texas. The money was discovered and reported by Police Chief Tim Barnes and City Secretary Jennifer Gould.
The funds — $12,591. 39 — could not be matched to any expenditures in the General Fund. The Leader talked to City Manager Frank Baker and Chief Barnes regarding the funds, and both men said they could not match up the funds to either one big purchase or a number of different purchases, even on the police account. The police seizure fund is a serious matter, monitored by the Attorney General’s office, so Barnes sent a letter alerting the AG to the matter. Council, in that executive session, directed city staff to reimburse the seizure fund from the general fund, in effect moving the money back to where it came from.
It’s important to note here that the people who were involved in this transaction — and those individuals have not been named specifically — are no longer with the city.
Baker spoke on why the matter was discussed in an executive session and not in open session.
"The people that were involved, when they left the city the prior city administrator let them go with a separation agreement. That’s the reason for the executive session," he explained. "The prior administration let two of the people involved go with separation agreements, and that was part of explaining to Council, ‘Listen, they have no responsibility to explain this, we can’t find where the moneys were expended out of the General Fund nefariously, we’ve done all of our due diligence, there isn’t anything we’re covering up, we just need to reimburse the Seizure Fund to make sure the police department is in compliance with the state.’ That’s why this was all done."
The $12,591.39 has been reimbursed to the Police Seizure Fund.
Another matter that garnered serious discussion time was the awarding of a depository agreement. The decision came down to two local institutions — Independent Bank and Landmark Bank. The benefits offered were so neck-and-neck similar that the decision for city staff came down to two things: one-tenth of a percent and later ACH deposit times for Independent Bank. Council unanimously voted to enter into an agreement with Independent Bank.
The final item on the regular agenda was the naming of an election judge and alternate judge. Gould informed Council that Vicky Cupit had agreed to serve as judge and Donna Hill would serve as alternate.
Teddie Ann Salmon filled Council in on a structural review done on the Van Alstyne City Museum. While the review declared the museum building "structurally sound" Salmon said there is cause for concern with rotting wood, bad glass and moisture in the structure due to drainage from adjoining buildings. Councilman John Jennings questioned the thoroughness of the review and said that a more in-depth review might be in order. This was a discussion item only…Council appointed Kaaren Teuber as its permanent representative to the Van Alstyne Economic Development Council Board of Directors…Mayor Kim DeMasters and the City of Van Alstyne issued a proclamation for Motorcycle Safety Month 2013. Motorcycle Safety Month will be throughout May, and on hand were local motorcyclists. The safety awareness program reminds everyone that motorcycle awareness is the responsibility of everyone on the road and distracted drivers kill bikers…Baker informed Council that the city — and the county — are without qualified animal control officers and may be looking to solicit a private vendor for the service.