As expected in the days leading up to Tuesday night’s Van Alstyne City Council meeting, allowing alcohol in city parks was the hot button topic.
A little background is in order here: at the Music in the Park event sponsored by the Van Alstyne Chamber of Commerce held at Dorothy Fielder Park on May 15 alcoholic beverages were handed out. Concerned citizens, led by Mayor Teddie Ann Salmon, questioned the legality of allowing alcohol in city parks. Police Chief Tim Barnes pulled the ordinance (Ordinance 320) and discovered that it is illegal to consume alcoholic beverages "on any public street, sidewalk, alley, public parking lot, private parking lot of any shopping center or of any retail or commercial business or businesses or at any place where an athletic event or contest is being conducted within the corporate limits of the the City of Van Alstyne." The ordinance did not mention city parks.
Salmon introduced an agenda item, item number six, regarding passage of an ordinance "regulating the possession of alcoholic beverages in open containers and the consumption of alcohol on all property owned or controlled by the City of Van Alstyne."
Some of those concerned citizens came forth to express their opposition to allowing alcohol in city parks. Among those was Pastor Shannon Jackson, who expressed his opposition and presented criminal justice data linking alcohol and crime.
"Drinking in public areas is bad news," said Jackson. "I have major concerns about the safety of our citizens and our reputation."
"We don’t need it here," added resident Sandy Hill.
Salmon read an email she received from Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas stating his opposition to alcohol in city parks, calling it "a potentially destructive decision." Jeffress’ email was noteworthy because, according to Salmon, he is the grandson of Robert and Dorothy Fielder, for whom the park is named.
There were actually three ordinances presented to Council, with the first a total ban on alcohol on city-owned property and the other two carrying allowing alcohol with special event permits Ordinance 716, calling for a complete ban of alcohol on city property, was passed with a 4-1 vote (Ordinance 320 will still remain in effect) with Larry Cooper the lone dissenting voice. Cooper based his opposition partially on the fact that, as he stated, all sides were not allowed to be heard.
That curious statement was explained later when item number 13 came up for discussion. Wendelyn Tilleman of the Van Alstyne Chamber of Commerce spoke on the adoption of a special events ordinance. It was clear that Tilleman did not appreciate not being heard before the alcohol vote as she stated that she was voted out before even having a chance to speak. Tilleman was miffed because her plea for a special events ordinance had footing in the alcohol on city property discussion as a special event could entail alcohol sales. Responding, Salmon stated that the earlier ordinance passed did not refer to a special events ordinance, just alcohol on city property.
Citizens backing this special events ordinance spoke of molding Van Alstyne into the thriving center of activity it once was. Some of those speaking, including Cheryl Snyder and Judy Womack, talked about a commercially distressed downtown and the need to infuse money back into the local economy.
Ultimately, Council agreed to form a committee to discuss the issue and hold a special public workshop in the future.
Another liquid occupied an important part of Tuesday night’s agenda: water. More specifically, the city is running out of the precious compound. Engineer Bob Johnson, from the city’s engineering firm McManus & Johnson, addressed Council regarding a water conservation plan. Johnson stated that, because of the lack of rainfall, the city is running out of water for public consumption and is within five percent of that mark. Johnson suggested adopting a water conservation plan (which is notably different from a drought management plan) to educate the public and get it to voluntarily reduce the amount of water used. This plan will be discussed in greater detail in next week’s Leader, but the highlights of the plan are:
— limit watering to no more than two days per week
— limit watering to one day per week from November to March
— prohibit watering from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. year-round
— encourage restaurants to not serve water unless requested
— allow car washes only with a hose that has a shut-off nozzle
The plan carries with it fiscal penalties, among them a fine not exceeding $500 for violaters. City Manager Frank Baker underlined the urgency of this plan as the city is fast approaching a breaking point with its water supply and urged the council members to vote and not table the issue. Heeding Baker’s words, Council voted 5-0 to approve the water conservation plan.
Another item of interest to Van Alstyne residents is roads — and it has been roads for the past several years. Council approved the undertaking of street repairs by Grayson County crews to the tune of $181,221. These repairs will affect 16 streets: Hill, E. Clements, W. Cooper, E. Cooper, E. Clements, North John Douglas, S. Preston (from Houston to Fulton and Houston to Umphress), N. Main, Austin, Gentry, Littrell, Dallas, Fulton, Moody and Paris.
Grayson County Commissioner Jeff Whitmire was on hand to inform Council that the rate offered was substantially reduced due to the large amount of work needing to be done. Whitmire stated that the roads will be grinded down, a proper base will then be added and topped off by chip seals. The motion to approve an interlocal agreement to have the work done was approved 5-0.
Former council member Kaaren Teuber was honored with a wooden plague for her service to the city…The property at 361 W. Van Alstyne Pkwy. was approved to be changed form a commercial district designation to a single family residential…The property at 173 Offill Way had a zoning change from central business district to planned development to allow for the light manufacturing of deer blinds…Billy Plake was elected Mayor Pro Tem…Zoning was approved for an O’Reilly Auto Parts to be located between Kwik Car Lube & Tune and Landmark Bank on Van Alstyne Pkwy. west of Highway 75…Kimberly Uselton was appointed to the Van Alstyne Community Development Corporation Board of Trustees…Council authorized Police Chief Tim Barnes to request and receive a Special Service Vehicle (Hummer) at no cast as part of the 1033 program…Council authorized City Manager Frank Baker to execute a trust agreement to establish a trust fund for city employee premiums with Wellspring Insurance Agency…Council discussed establishing building permit regulations in the City of Van Alstyne’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. No action was taken.