Council places moratorium on smoke shops, gaming rooms

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by A.C. Hall

The White Settlement City Council voted unanimously to place a 180-day moratorium on smoke shops and recreational gaming rooms opening up in the city.  New Building Official Joe Ashton brought this item before the council as recent Fort Worth changes have placed many more restrictions on where these types of businesses can be built.  Ashton said that this in turn could make White Settlement a target for these businesses since there are few restrictions currently in place against them here.  

Ashton cautioned that he didn’t want to be reactionary but instead wanted a chance to figure out the will of the citizens on this matter.

“We want to be able to sit down, have some Planning and Zoning workshops for the public to attend as well and sort of get the consensus of the community as far as where they actually want these,” Ashton said.

Ashton stated that there is currently no restriction on how close to a school smoke shops can be built.  He also pointed out that there is a difference between family gaming rooms such as Chuck E Cheese and the recreational gaming rooms that this moratorium is targeting.

Two assistant positions returning to City

Last week council approved the reinstatement of the Assistant Finance Director position as they look to help ease the workload on the finance department.  On Tuesday, council voted unanimously to approve a budget amendment to pay for that new position.  The city is advertising for that position and expects to pay a salary between $50,000 and $80,000.

Also reinstated on Tuesday night was the Assistant City Manager position.  City Manager Jim Ryan said that his contract allows for him to have an Assistant City Manager and that the money is in the budget to make it happen.

Ryan went on to say his intention is to promote current City Marshal Jeff James into the position of Assistant City Manager.  James will continue to serve as City Marshal with Ryan saying he may need a little help from the police department to complete those duties now that he takes on the role of Assistant City Manager as well.

“In general, I feel that Jeff has the qualifications, the background and the education to greatly fulfill this job,” Ryan said.

He went on to say that putting James into this position will provide for continuity of leadership and will help the city do some long range planning.

When asked about the cost pertaining to this, Ryan stated that James’ salary will be bumped up to $80,000 a year to reflect the duties of his new position.

Mayor Ronald A. White spoke on this matter, saying that normally someone in this position would have a degree in public administration.  Ryan answered, saying that James has two bachelor’s degrees and is fully qualified.

“He is one individual that can cross between departments and actually get the job done,” Ryan said.

A motion to reinstate the Assistant City Manager position passed unanimously.

Council approves roles and responsibilities

  Council member Danny Anderson presented the next item that would lay out the roles and responsibilities of the council members, mayor, and mayor pro tem.  Anderson said he felt this was important since the council voted last week to place a moratorium on the code of ethics.

Council member Steve Ott had several changes he wanted to see made to this new document, most of them minor.  However, Ott did run into some resistance when he suggested that one of the council member’s duties be attending city board meetings when they can.  Anderson argued that he works nights and wouldn’t be able to do this.  Ott continued to stress the importance of council attendance to these meetings.  Council member Elzie Clements stated that if council members are going to be required to show up to the board meetings then they should get paid for their attendance.

A motion was made to approve the roles and responsibilities with Ott’s wording changes.  The addition of encouraging attendance to board meetings was not a part of the changes in the motion.  That motion passed unanimously.

Settler’s Day returning to Veterans Park

Parks and Recreation Director Rich Tharp presented this item to council as he looked for guidance on the 2015 Settler’s Day event.  2014 was the first time the event wasn’t completely run by the city, with much of it taking place in Hawaiian Falls.  Tharp stated he’d like to see the event held at Veteran’s Park in 2015.  Ryan added on that Hawaiian Falls will still be involved, but this will spread the event out more and give it more space.  There will also be a focus on having more free attractions for citizens, something that drew criticism last year when Hawaiian Falls was in charge of the event.

Anderson spoke about complaints he received over the cost of the event last year, saying he wants it to be clear that there will be more free booths and attractions in 2015.

A motion to approve Veterans Park for the location and October 17 for the date of Settler’s Day 2015 passed unanimously.  Tharp has a $20,000 budget for the event.

Las Vegas conference attendance approved

  The possibility of sending representatives to the RECon Global Real Estate Convention in Las Vegas this May was discussed at length by council.  Anderson championed this idea last year and once again was fully behind sending some city staff members and council members, saying they need to step up and work to draw more businesses to White Settlement.

“We’ve been sitting waiting for them to show up and they’re not showing up.  So here’s your chance to go knock on their door and say hey, come check us out,” Anderson said.

Anderson and Clements both voiced their desire to go with new council member Paul Moore also being mentioned by Anderson as someone who might want to go.  Economic Development Director Kyle Reeves was also mentioned as someone who should go with the suggestion being made that one more staff member should accompany him.

The registration cost for each attendee is around $600, with hotel and flight fees yet to be determined.  A motion was made to approve city staff and council attendance.  That motion passed unanimously.

Board appointments

  Council addressed several board appointments as their lengthy agenda neared its close.  Sonya Smoat was named as an alternate to the Board of Adjustments and Appeals by a unanimous vote.  Alan Price was reappointed to his place on the Crime Board by a unanimous vote.

Mayor White used his appointment on the Crime Board to remove long time member Stan Bastek and replace him with Gunnar Rasmussen.  That motion passed 4 – 1 with council member Mike Arnold voting against.  White then made a motion to have Bastek replace David Mann in another position on the Crime Board.  That motion received no second and died.  Eventually, a motion was made to reappoint Mann to his position on the Crime Board and that motion passed unanimously.

Marie Blanco was unanimously appointed to a vacant spot on the Pride Commission while Daniel Munoz and Larry Tucker were both unanimously reappointed to their positions on that same Commission.  All Library Board members were reappointed by a unanimous vote.

Executive Session

Council met in a lengthy closed door executive session to discuss a personnel matter regarding City Attorney Warren Spencer.  The nature of the discussion was not disclosed and when council returned to open session no action was taken.

Other Business

  The required White Settlement Police Department racial profiling report was given to the council.  For the third year in a row, the department has received no racial profiling complaints.  A representative of the department stated that they had 8,100 contacts with citizens last year and that a slight decrease in Caucasian contacts and a slight increase in Hispanic contacts can be associated to changes in the local demographics.  Several on the council spoke highly of the report and the department.

The Judd Street low water crossing project is completed.  Expected to cost $98,965, the project came in slightly over budget at $112,000.  Ryan stated this was due to some additional work that was done as well as some curb work that hadn’t been budgeted.

“It is finished and I think a good job was done,” Ryan said of the project.