Big Spring Councilmembers met for a regular session yesterday evening on 08/25/2020, and here are the highlights:
Public Comment - none
Announcements, Presentations and Public Hearings
#6. No comments were made by the public nor councilmembers during the public hearing on the annual budget for fiscal year 2020-2021.
City Manager's Report
#7. Large Item Pick-Up completed for District 2. Collected 16 tons of trash in District 2 since program began. District 3 large item pick-up is scheduled for Sept. 16, 2020.
#8. Ports-to-Plains Virtual Meeting held earlier that day (08/25/2020). Another virtual meeting will be held today (08/26/2020) at 4 PM. This is an opportunity for the public to comment on the project. Written response can be submitted about the project.
#9. Census Update - City is in the final stages of the Census, will continue through October 31, 2020. Very important to the community for everyone to complete.
#10. Kisosk Payment Update - The kiosk is installed and being used. It's an item that was made possible through use of COVID-19 funding.
Animal Control - AC installed at Big Spring Animal Control Center / Animal Shelter. Facility is now cooled to an appropriate temperature.
Consent Items – All items approved unanimously, including item #11 – minutes of City Council minutes of the Regular Meeting of July 28, 2020 – which had been previously tabled. District 5 Councilwoman Camilla Strande advised that these minutes were now accurate. All items passed unanimously.
Vouchers – tabled due to District 1 Councilman Raul Marquez stating that he did not get around to reviewing them. Approved unanimously, 7-0, to table vouchers ‘til next meeting.
Bids – all were approved unanimously
#15. The Installation of Fiber Optics Innerduct for Landfill bid was awarded to ITD Services, LLC for the amount of $100,584.00. Public Works Director Shane Bowles advised that this would work for skill software and allow them to take credit card payments at the new landfill and connect it to the city network.
Budget for the project was $100,000. Local contractors were asked to look at the project. There was interest, but no one submitted bids. Due to a lack of local bids, the city looked at outside contractors. ITD Services, LLC was the only bid that was received.
#16. Bids for Building 19’s alarm system and sprinkler system were awarded to the CO-OP “Sourcewell” (in which COBS has membership), and the Lubbock unit of the Western States Company to purchase the fire alarm equipment and services. Cost of installed fire alarm system is $87,234.00. Cost of installed fire suppression system is $173,330.00. It was noted that City Airpark Staff will remove the old sprinkler system to help defray the cost.
According to Colonel James Little, Airpark Director, Building 19 is one of the key buildings in the Airpark. There is much interest in the building for use by businesses. One business is interested in using the entire building, but the alarm system and sprinkler system are required inside of the building.
#17. Big Spring Police Department requested permission to apply for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. This is a 0% match grant. Department is eligible for approx. $11,300.00 in funding from this grant, which would be used for technology equipment improvements. - Approved unanimously.
#18. Emergency reading of a resolution of the City Council authorizing the transfer of Song, one arson K-9 service dog, retired due to health problems, from the City’s inventory into the ownership, care, control and custody of Song’s handler, Fire Marshal Dan Hendrickson. – Approved unanimously. Since this was approved as an emergency item, it will not require a second reading and is effective immediately.
#19. First reading of an ordinance setting the No-new-revenue tax rate of $0.717300 per $100 valuation for year 2020. – Approved unanimously.
#20. First reading of ordinance adopting the annual budget for the City of Big Spring for fiscal year 2020-2021. – Approved unanimously
#21. First reading of ordinance providing for an additional 20% penalty to defray costs of collecting delinquent taxes that remain delinquent on July 1 of the year in which they become delinquent; providing for severability; and providing an effective date.
COBS has contracted with an attorney in pursuant to Section 6.30 of the Texas Property Tax Code to represent the City to enforce the collection of delinquent taxes.
According to Don Moore, City Secretary, just about every taxing entity adopting this since about 2004/2005, where it’s a flat 20 percent. When he and the City Attorney looked into it, it was noted that it was not made to pass every year, just done once. The law firm that is used by COBS was surprised that the city does pass it every year.
Moore stated that the City Attorney decided it would be better to make modifications to ordinance so it could go in the codifications of the ordinance and stay that way.
During discussion on the topic, Mayor Shannon Thomason questioned the amount of the rate that is charged by the attorneys collecting the delinquent taxes. Moore advised that the flat rate of 20 percent, which is the max rate, had been used by all local taxing entities for many years. City Attorney Andrew Hagen advised that the contract is on a year-to-year automatic renewal, but the city is capable of negotiating a new rate and that there is nothing that requires them to keep the rate at 20 percent.
Councilwoman Strande asked if it was possible to adopt the ordinance now and go back to amend with a different rate once was it was renegotiated. Hagen advised that it was possible, but it would most likely benefit future tax years.
District 5 Councilwoman Strande motioned to approve the ordinance, and it was seconded by District 4 Councilwoman Gloria McDonald.
Mayor Thomason stated that he thought 20 percent was too high of a rate and it would negatively impact people, especially this year.
Strande asked if it was too late to renegotiate. Hagen advised that the current contract ends September 30, 2020 and it was possible to renegotiate, but didn’t think the collection agency would accept rates of 5-10 percent when other entities are still set at 20 percent. He did advise that the council would have an option to find another firm who would agree to a lower percentage, but noted that they may be the only entity seeking to do that on their own and encouraged councilmembers to continue to ask questions.
District 6 Councilman Jim DePauw advised that the 20 percent penalty not only affected this year’s taxes, but also previous tax years and could lead problems.
Strande stated that taxes people who are currently delinquent on taxes, became delinquent long before the COVID-19 pandemic. She pointed out that the water bill grant was not allowed to be given to people who were past due prior to a certain date, and stated that she didn’t see this situation being any different.
Ultimately, council approved the first reading of this ordinance with a 6-1 vote; Thomason voted against.
#22. First reading of an ordinance granting a partial residence homestead exemption for tax year 2020; and granting a partial residence homestead exemption to any individual who is disabled or age 65 or older. This will give a $5,000 homestead exemption for anyone aged 65 or older or anyone who is disabled. It should be noted that this does not allow anyone aged 65 or older AND disabled to receive a $10,000 homestead exemption. In this instance, they’ll only be able to choose one exemption or the other.
According to Moore, the homestead exemption is open to anyone at any age, even if they have no disability, if the property is their primary home. In this instance, the exemption is for 20 percent reduction of the market value of the residence, not to be less than $5,000. – This was unanimously approved.
#23. First reading of an amendment that prohibits the issuance of payment cards to Councilmembers, prohibits Councilmembers from having a key to any city building, and restricts councilmembers from establishing an office in any city building. – This was unanimously approved.
#24. Agreement with Cap Rock Holdings, LLC was not removed from being tabled by the council.
#25. Discussion lead by District 1 Councilman Marquez on the possibility of a resolution or ordinance regarding restrictions to manufactured housing within permitted zones. - No action taken.
#26. Consideration and possible action on a First Amendment to the lease agreement with Isometric, Inc. – Approved unanimously.
#27. Approval of the Big Spring Economic Development Corporation Board of Director’s Minutes for the Special Meeting of August 6, 2020. – Approved unanimously.
Council Input – Councilmembers urged citizens to be cautious of COVID-19, wear masks, wash hands, and social distance. They also noted their appreciation for city staff, reminded drivers to look out for school zone areas, and noted that the new landfill was impressive.