Council considers new parade and new employee

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by A.C. Hall

Mayor Ronald A. White has spent time on social media in recent weeks talking to citizens about the possibility of more free city events and the ways to make them happen.  This comes as some citizens have reacted negatively over the City’s money saving decision to scale back some annual holiday events like Christmas while canceling others. The annual Easter egg hunt at Veterans Park is one such event that has been canceled as council works to save money.  At last week’s White Settlement City Council meeting, Mayor White opened a discussion with the council about this subject.
“I think this is a good idea to have a parade for the Fourth of July,” Mayor White said.
He suggested getting multiple community organizations involved and said it would be great promotion for the City.  Mayor White also touched upon the possible cost of the parade, saying he feels like it wouldn’t cost much.
Assistant City Manager Jeff James was asked to respond.  James didn’t have exact cost estimates, but he did give specifics on how many city employees have to work these events.  According to James, five street department employees, eight police officers, one dispatcher, thirteen firefighters, and seven parks department employees are required to work a parade.  Many of those workers would be making overtime pay.
“It seems like it’s invisible, that there is no cost to putting on a parade, but there is a cost,” James said.
James added that he wasn’t against the idea of doing a parade but wanted to make sure the council understood what was involved in putting one on.  He gave a figure received from Stephenville who said it costs around $15,000 to put on a parade in their city.  It was also mentioned that White Settlement put on four parades in 2015 and that while each one had a sponsor, they still required a long list of city employees to work them.
“I thought it was a good idea but if we can’t afford it we can’t afford it,” Mayor White said.
Council member Steve Ott responded to this.
“Personally, I’d like to put that $15,000 towards a couple of the potholes around here,” Ott said.
One idea presented by James was looking into companies that handle the entirety of the parade themselves.  He told the council that many cities have gone to this parade outsourcing method.
A motion was made to look into the companies that handle parades for cities.  The motion also stated that the City will not hold a Fourth of July parade this year.  That motion passed unanimously.
New Code Officer discussed
Mayor White opened the discussion on this item as Council considered adding a second Code Enforcement officer.  To make this happen, a budget adjustment would need to be made as it would cost around $30,000 to employ a second officer over the next six months.
Mayor White pointed to the large amount of broken down and junked cars people have in their front yards, saying it could help bring in businesses if citizens would clean those up.
“I personally would like to see a code officer attacking that particular issue,” Mayor White said.
City Manager Jim Ryan told the council that the single code officer employed by the city enforced three hundred violations over the last three months.  He stated that a second officer would help to clean up the city even more.  Ryan stated multiple times that the goal wasn’t to write tickets, but just to get people to follow the rules.
“Our goal is for compliance, it’s not necessarily to write a ticket,” Ryan said.
One person who wasn’t in favor of this idea was council member Elzie Clements.
“Everybody keeps saying tight budget, tight budget, tight budget,” Clements said.  “We only have a five mile square area.  We’ve only used one code officer over the last many years.”
Clements went on to voice his displeasure that a previous code officer was allowed to move to a new position within the city, saying that employee was top notch and a second officer wouldn’t be needed if they were still with code enforcement.  Ryan responded to this, saying that the employee in question applied for the new position within the city and likely wouldn’t still be with the city if they had stayed in the code department.
Ryan also stated that he only brought this forward because several council members requested it.
A motion was made to set a public hearing for this matter for the April council meeting.  Since this item would require a budget amendment, it first requires that public hearing to take place.  This motion passed 3 – 1 with Clements voting against.
Medical Leave Approved
Council member Mike Arnold was not present at the meeting, missing due to medical reasons.  Arnold has battled health issues over the past year, missing several council meetings during that time.  Each time he’s missed, council has confirmed that his absences were excused.  Following a closed door discussion on the matter, the council voted unanimously to grant Arnold excused absences over the next 90 days for medical reasons.
Other Business
Council voted unanimously to approve $19,000 for new processing software at the Rec Center.  Originally in the budget at a cost of $13,000, the main benefit of the software is how it interfaces with the rest of the city’s systems, something that was raised as a concern in previous audits of the city.
“It provides financial visibility,” Parks and Recreation Director Rich Tharp said.
Using the software, residents will be able to go online to sign up for Rec Center classes, pay for those classes, and see their schedule.  Tharp stated that it will improve customer service while also reducing the amount of paperwork that has to be done.
There was some discussion over the three year agreement with the software company, with council members asking for specifics on the agreement.  Tharp called the $19,000 a “one time fee” while saying that after the three years they’ll go to a year to year deal with the company.  The agreement covers things like updates and training.
The city received their annual audit report and were given a clean opinion on the audit.  The auditor mentioned that for 29 years in a row the city has received the Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting and stated that they believe the city will get it again this year.  They noted the significant decrease in sales tax revenue the city is suffering but said that the fund balances are solid and the city appears to be in good shape.
Police Chief J.P. Bevering gave the required annual racial profiling report.  This report is filed with the State and tracks statistics that may indicate any racial profiling concerns.
“I’m proud to report that we’ve found no such concerns,” Chief Bevering said.
He said the report shows that police searches and arrests are consistent with prior years.