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Big Spring City Council held a regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. 

 

Highlights from the meeting [1] continue below:

 

Consent Items

All consent items on the agenda were approved unanimously, 7-0. These final readings were for the following items:

  • Resolution authorizing the City Manager and City Attorney to jointly negotiate with and retain outside legal counsel for the purpose of representing the City in an eminent domain proceeding relating to 1505 E. Second St; declaring that this action is necessary as the property will be used for a valid public purpose.
  • Ordinance amending Ordinance Number 029-2020 which adopted the annual budget for the City of Big Spring, Texas for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2020 and ending Sept. 30, 2021 by increasing the general fund budget to purchase additional equipment for the specialty built infectious disease ambulance.
  • Resolution amending the Big Spring Personnel Policies and Procedures Ch. VII entitled “Compensation,” section 2 “Administration of Range/Step Salary Schedules,” subsection C to remove employee merit raises; and amending Ch. XII entitled “Non-Disciplinary Separation,” by repealing section 4 “Retirement” in its entirety in order to remove mandatory retirement of employees at age 70.
  • Resolution amending Ch. IX of the Big Spring Personnel Policies and Procedures entitled “Conduct,” section 7 “Relations with Mayor/Council” to limit definition of the term “information”.

 

Vouchers

All vouchers were approved unanimously, 7-0.

 

Beautification of Main St.

Lori Henry and Michelle Hamlin, Co-Chairs for the Main Street Beautification Project, received permission from the council to seek donations for the purpose of beautifying Main Street from 3rd St. to 1st St. to provide a cleaner, safer shopping and entertainment experience for both residents and visitors. [2]

 

Recruiting Firms for City Manager Position

There have been three different proposals received from recruiting firms for the City Manager position. It was suggested that representatives would be invited to attend the next council meeting and provide presentations during open session.

 

Citizens Advisory Board

During discussion, it was noted that the Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) does not have a set board of members. Instead, there is a pool of volunteers, like a potential jury pool, that is assembled for the CAB as needed. CAB does not regularly meet, but when it is needed seven people are pulled from the pool to participate. This board meets very rarely, maybe once a year or once every two years.

 

In other cities the CAB is a standing board that works a liaison between community and PD – would help PD interact with community on regular basis. In these cases, CAB has no enforcement authority or ability to dig very deep into PD business. The CAB associated with the City of Big Spring, is more of a citizens review board.

 

CVB Minutes

CVB Committee minutes from Mar. 4, 2020 – July 27, 2020 meetings were unanimously approved.

 

Nominee for Howard County Joint Tax Appraisal District Board of Directors

A member of the Howard County Joint Tax Appraisal District Board of Directors for the 2020-21 term resigned. Councilmembers unanimously approved Sandy Smith as their nominee to fill the vacancy.

 

Safe Haven for the Unborn

First reading of an ordinance amendment was approved unanimously, 7-0, to amend the ordinance declaring the City of Big Spring a Sanctuary City for the Unborn by amending the title of the ordinance to “Safe Haven for the Unborn”.

 

Possible Appointment of Deputy Prosecutor and Attorney Pro Tem

An ordinance amending Ch. 34 of the Big spring Code entitled “Municipal Court” by adding a new section 34-5 entitled “Attorneys Representing the State in Criminal Prosecutions” authorizing the City Council to appoint a Deputy Prosecutor and the Municipal Judge to appoint an Attorney Pro Tem in cases in which the City Attorney has a conflict was brought before councilmembers.

 

City Attorney Andrew Hagen explained that he had no current conflicts of interest, but wanted to plan ahead in case a conflict of interest does arise. Adding the new section would give the council a voice in appointing a deputy prosecutor, fix the compensation thereof, and terminate the appointment for any reason. It also allows the Municipal Judge to appoint an attorney pro tem. The County Attorney is able to prosecute on behalf of the City, but don’t always have the time to do so and they don’t get paid.  

 

During the discussion, Municipal Judge Timothy Green advised that, most of the time, they would turn to the County Attorney as a first choice in the event that there is a conflict of interest. He went on to say that if it got to a point where he would need to appoint an attorney, he would want to exhaust all other avenues so the judge could continue to be an unbiased party and maintain the integrity of the court.

 

Mayor Shannon Thomason questioned if there was enough of a need for the ordinance, since the need for it has occurred less than 5 times in the span of over 20 years.  

 

Ultimately, council members approved the first reading of the ordinance with a 5-2 vote with Mayor Thomason and Doug Hartman, District 2, voting against.

 

Various Sections of Building Codes Amended

Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance amending various sections of Ch. 12 of the Big Spring City Code entitled “Buildings and Building Regulations,” Article II “Building Codes,” to correct the title of the various codes, declaring it unlawful to violate the provision regarding “Signs and Billboards,” and adding a new section 12-49 entitled “Enforcement” authorizing the Building Official or his/her designee to enforce the codes; repealing Article III “Violations” in its entirety in order to reinstate the ICC penalties; and amending Ch. 24 of the Big Spring City Code entitled “Fire Prevention and Protection,” Article I “General,” section 24-1 “Fire Code Adopted” to correct the title of the code.

 

Structural Standards

An ordinance amending the structural standards ordinance of the City of Big Spring was discussed by Councilmembers. A concern on Section 7.01 (pg. 80 in the agenda) was brought up during public comments – “Whenever the Building Official, or his designee, has inspected or caused to be inspected any structure and has found and determined that such structure violates the Building Codes, he may commence proceedings.” The concern was that there are many buildings built in Big Spring before 2012 and they may not meet the International Building Code 2012 and could be subjected to the ordinance.

 

Shane Bowles, interim City Manager, advised council that when building officials do an inspection, they only look at that area. For example, if the person pulls a permit to do just electrical work the inspector will not look under the sinks to inspect plumbing. Bowles advised that just because you do something to update your home, does not subject you to having to redo everything.

 

Camilla Strande, District 5, assured that the city would not be inspecting homes that are not obtaining permits, unless it was a major complaint that someone else had filed.

 

It should be noted, according to City Attorney Andrew Hagen, anyone doing work on their property should obtain a permit from the City. Doing so, ensures compliance with safety regulations and enhances value of the property.

 

Mayor Thomason stated that the ordinance was concerning because the hearing board -Board of Adjustments and Appeals or City Council - could choose to "put someone out of their house" and do so on a minor violation. He also went on to say it has potential to be misused by the board, a code officer, or the council to "put people out of their houses or knock their houses down".

 

During the meeting, it was noted the City already has a process in place to demolish buildings when there's space in the landfill. 

 

Hagen advised that the Texas Constitution protects private property rights greater than the U.S. Constitution.

 

The objective of the amending ordinance would be the same as before- to balance property rights with right of the City to establish rules and enforce its codes. This ordinance would make it easier to have civil enforcement for structural standards.

 

Raul Marquez, District 1, stated that the city needed to be cleaned up. They may have to do things that people may not like, but they have to be done. If the incoming councilmembers don't like it, they can change it. 

 

Ultimately, the first reading of this amending ordinance passed with a 5-2 vote with Thomason and Doug Hartman, District 2, voting against. 

 

Grease Traps

Unanimous approval of the first reading of an ordinance amending Ch. 12 of the Big Spring City Code entitled "Buildings and Bulding Regulations," Section 12-2 "Grease Traps" to clarify enforcement personnel, to require retention of maintenance schedules for five years, and provide appeals of these regulations through the Structural Standards Ordinance.

 

Rodent Control

Unanimous approval of the first reading of an ordinance amending Ch. 36 of the Big Spring City Code entitled "Nuisances," Article III "Rodent Control," by adding a new section 36-65 entitled "Enforcement" in order to provide for abatement of rodent control ordiannce violations and resolving the conflict iwth various ICC Codes.

 

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] - "Big Spring City Council Highlights, 10/13/2020 - Part 1", published 10/15/2020,  https://kbestmedia.com/kbest-station-updates/535788   

[2] - "Main Street Beautification Project permitted to seek donations", published 10/15/2020, https://kbestmedia.com/kbest-station-updates/535787

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