A special session of the Van Alstyne City Council on Monday night got off to a controversial start when Alderman Billy Plake addressed the council as a citizen. Plake took to task both remarks made at the last council meeting by Mayor Teddie Ann Salmon and the truthfulness of some of his fellow council members.
Plake’s first issue was with comments Salmon made at the February meeting in her closing comments. The mayor described an effort by former alderman John Jennings to get an item on the agenda and her disapproval of communications he had made with City Manager Frank Baker and aldermen Russell Moore and Plake in doing so.
"That last council meeting…there was Council closing comments and we’ve been instructed on it from the attorney on what should be and what should not be covered during the time," said Plake, who then read the Texas Government Code pertaining to covered comments at city council meetings. "Since the mayor chose in her time to present an ultimatum about how a certain item relating to an agenda item wasn’t handled properly in the way it was brought forth – when in reality it was brought forth correctly – I don’t think we need to do things like that.
"What I think the mayor did in that case was an illegal activity. Now, I’m not trying to get you prosecuted for that," Plake said to Salmon, "the intention is to make sure we don’t do stuff like that again."
Plake went on to discuss what he termed "the truthfulness of council members." This stemmed from a comment made during a discussion on an office for Salmon at that same meeting by council member Kaaren Teuber. Teuber stated then that she had contacted the Texas Municipal League and was told that there was only one other city in the state in which the mayor did not have an office in city hall, information which later proved to be false.
"It’s very important that we represent the people [and] we be truthful about what we’re finding out," said Plake. "If we get information, we’re not supposed to embellish it and make it look better than it is by creating statistics of our own or ideas of our own."
Another item which created a bit of a stir also harkened back to an earlier meeting. In a previous council meeting, an agenda item was approved to issue a refund to residents for water billing issues. An item presented on Monday night’s agenda by council member Robert Jaska sought to rectify what he and city engineer Len McManus considered to be a mistake. According to Jaska, the previous item approved by Council did not take into account the volume at which each resident was billed and, therefore, would be refunded. The Monday night agenda item then would correct that issue.
Councilman Jim Smith strenuously objected to bringing back an item the council had previously approved. Smith and Plake went back and forth on whether or not the city should just have let this go or not after finding the mistake. Eventually, Salmon suggested more research be done and the item be brought back to Council next month. A motion was made and Council voted 5-0 to table the item until the April meeting.
The majority of the evening was spent considering the fiscal year 2012-13 city audit presented by Susan LaFollett of LaFollett & Abbott, PLLC. LaFollett went over the major points of the audit, touching on the city’s total assets ($15,547,914) and it’s net position after liabilities ($6,221,275.) She declared it a clean audit and it was approved by Council unanimously in a 5-0 vote. The complete audit, including a PowerPoint presentation, will be available soon online at www.vanalstyne.us under "Financial Transparency."
An agenda item to approve nearly $1 million to purchase vehicles (including a diesel vehicle and two four-wheel drive vehicles) and equipment for the public works department was tabled until next month as the interest rate on the loan could not be provided to Council on Monday night.
Van Alstyne Sports Authority was named the preferred sports league for youth sports in the city as Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution making it official. VASA President Gary Evans spoke to the council about his organization’s work in keeping up the fields and taking "ownership" of the field scheduling for the city. VASA will collect fees and pay the city in its role as preferred sports association.
In his City Manager Report, Baker outlined the dilemma surrounding the community center and its damaged roof. According to Baker, the Texas Municipal League insurance representative did not believe the adjuster’s report turned in relating to the monetary amount to repair the damage. TML sent out its own adjuster who found even more damage and recommended the roof be torn off of the center and the fire station and the supporting structure replaced. TML is reviewing the new information.
"It didn’t work out in their favor," said Baker.
On a more positive note, Baker pointed to the Texas Comptroller’s Leadership Circle Award for financial transparency. Awarded cities are recognized for making spending and accounting practices available and open to the public. Van Alstyne was awarded Gold level for "setting the bar with their transparency efforts," as noted on texastransparencyagency.org.
COUNCIL NOTES: John Jennings was presented with a wood plaque commemorating his service to the city by Frank Baker and Teddie Ann Salmon…May 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Grayson College will be the time and place for a public hearing to consider updates to the Land Use Assumptions, Capital Improvement Plan and Water and Wastewater Impact Fees amendments…Bill Benton was selected by Council for the capital projects committee.