Council discusses West Nile, Memorial Wall

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By A.C. Hall  

This is part two of our coverage of the April 23 meeting of the White Settlement City Council.

With Mayor Jerry Burns absent, Mayor Pro Tem Elzie Clements ran the meeting of the White Settlement City Council last Tuesday.  Before things got underway, a moment of silent prayer was observed for those in Boston and in West, Texas.  

As the council moved into new business items on the agenda, they addressed the upcoming West Nile Virus season, and considered an interlocal agreement with Tarrant County to expand and modify the West Nile surveillance and response program.  Fire Marshal R.J. Schwartz presented this item to council, explaining that the city wanted to get an early start on the West Nile season.

The agreement will see the city getting traps from Tarrant County.  These traps will be laid out in areas of concern, and will be handled by members of the White Settlement Fire Department.  They’ll be sent to Tarrant County for testing.

With no deep freeze this year, there’s a chance the bug season will be worse than usual.  Schwartz said that by starting the process now, it will allow the city a head start as they prepare for the West Nile season.  He also pointed out that there were no cases of West Nile in White Settlement last  year.

The council unanimously approved the interlocal agreement.  Schwartz said that West Nile prevention and awareness info will start being circulated to citizens in the coming weeks and months.    

Mid Year Budget

City Manager Linda Ryan gave the council an update on the mid year budget, letting them know that there wouldn’t be one this year.  

“Normally when you have a mid year budget, it’s to increase the budget,” Ryan said.  “This year we are decreasing the budget.”  Ryan said city staff has worked to control their budgets since sales tax is down.  By year’s end, Ryan said it’s expected that the sales tax will be around twenty-four or twenty-five percent below expectations.  

Looking at other items in the budget, Ryan said that court and warrant fees are coming in above expectations, and said there have been some rebates that have also helped the budget.  She also referenced the past eight years, saying that money has been added back into the general fund at the end of seven of those years.

“I feel like we’re in good shape,” Ryan said.  

Veterans Park Memorial Wall approved again

After getting approved at the last council meeting, the memorial wall at Veterans Park was once again on the agenda.  The company building the wall did not agree to the five week timeline that the council put forward, which is why this item was being revisited.  Heartland Park and Recreation is the company looking to build the wall.  They also are the company that took on the Central Park revamp over the past year.  

The new agreement before the council saw even more cut out from the project, with some of the overall footage and some lights removed to lower the cost.  The new cost is $91,556, which is $11,000 less than the previous agreement.  The proposed timeline is sixty days.

Council member Danny Anderson questioned why there was $20,000 in the project for electric costs.  Project Manager Jack Bell explained that this was due to the need to run power from the other side of the pond. Anderson questioned if they could instead go with solar lights, but Bell said they were trying to make the wall “pop”.  

“The emphasis was to try to draw people,” Bell said.  

Anderson indicated that since there have been changes to the project, he feels the council should see a new drawing before voting.  Council member Mike Arnold said he’d rather see the project move forward, making a motion to approve the new agreement.  That motion passed 3 – 2, with Anderson and council member Steve Ott voting against.  

Board Appointments

A number of board seats were addressed by the council, beginning with the Crime Board.  Clements nominated Pam Clauson for the vacant place 2 on the board, and that passed unanimously.  Betty Newberry was unanimously appointed to place 4, which was previously held by Lawrence Cousin.  Cousin was then moved into place 5, which was previously held by L.T. “Pete” Ludwick.  That passed unanimously as well. Moving to the Board of Adjustments and Appeals, Clements nominated Paul Moore for place 2, which was previously held by Honey Lee.  That passed 4 – 1, with Anderson against.  Anderson then nominated Ron White for the vacant place 4.  That passed 3 – 2 with Hatcher and Arnold against.  Mark Simeroth was unanimously reappointed to his seat in place 6.  Honey Lee, was unanimously approved in place 7, keeping her on the board in a new seat.  Place 7 was previously held by Larry Tucker.  

Three vacant seats on the Parks and Recreation board were also filled.  Dusty Pulliam, Gary Bennett, and Amelia Alvitre were all unanimously placed onto that board.  

The Pride Commission also received three unanimous appointments, as the council placed Brandy Taborsky, Larry Tucker, and Daniel Munoz onto that board.  

Mutual aid agreement with base approved

The council unanimously approved a mutual aid agreement for firefighting assistance between the city and the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base.  The base is entering into a similar agreement with all cities surrounding the base to enhance fire and hazardous material protection.  This will also allow members of the White Settlement Fire Department the ability to attend hazardous materials training on the base. 

Other Business

A new security and fire alarm for the White Settlement Museum was unanimously approved at a cost of $3,545.  The price includes a year of monitoring.  This is being done due to the current system not fully functioning, and the cost will come out of either the $10,000 council reserve fund or the $10,000 City Manager reserve fund.  These funds are set up in the budget so unexpected items can be covered. Finance Director Phil Bray gave an update on the City’s investments, telling them that the last six months have brought a big increase in the yield on the interest rate the city is receiving.  That rate has gone from .16 of a percent to .28 of a percent.  Bray said this is due to the diversification of the city’s funds that have been going on.

Clements praised the work that Bray has been doing.  Bray, in turn, praised Ryan, speaking of how much it helps dealing with a City Manager that has a financial background.  

Public Comments

Citizen Dana Priest spoke to the council about a recently approved natural gas pipeline for the Ozona pad operated in the city by Chesapeake.  When originally approved, a mention was made that the Texas Department of Transportation wouldn’t want the pipeline running down 341.  Instead, the council approved having the pipeline run under the street in a neighborhood area of White Settlement.

Priest said that she got in touch with TXDOT and was told that they never said no to a pipeline being run down 341.  Priest questioned why the city didn’t explore this avenue before they decided to approve the pipeline being run through a neighborhood, calling it “insane” that they would put a gas pipeline where people live.