Last week, inclement weather resulted in the Big Spring City Council meeting being postponed until later in the week. Here are the highlights from that meeting.
Announcements, Presentations and Public Hearings
Proclamation – Municipal Court Week, Nov. 2-6, 2020
City Manager’s Report
Large Item Pickup for District 5 is November 18, 2020.
Award of Texas Dept. of Agriculture (TDA) Community Development Fund (CD) of $400k in support of water improvements. This will save the city approximately $180k to their existing project.
All consent items were approved.
#21 concerning the final reading of an ordinance amending Chapter 36 of the Big Spring City Code entitled “Nuisances,” by renaming Article I to “Property Maintenance Code” and adding new Sections 36-11 entitled “Timely Repair of Broken Windows,” and 36-12 entitled “Graffiti Removal” to establish Maintenance Standards for the Repair of Broken Windows in the downtown area and removal of graffiti within city limits was unanimously approved. During discussion on the item, it was stated that the “downtown area” referred to the area enclosed from Goliad to Gregg St. and 1st to 6th St. in Big Spring. Under this ordinance, broken windows in the downtown area shall be fixed and boarded up windows may only be temporary, effective Jan. 5, 2022. Also, property owners within the area will have to remove graffiti from the owner’s property upon receipt of notice from the City.
The final reading of an ordinance amending Chapter 34 of the Big spring City 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 approved by a 6-1 vote with Mayor Shannon Thomason voting against.
The ordinance amending the Structural Standards Ordinance of the City of Big Spring in its entirety was amended during the final reading. It was later approved with a 6-1 vote with Thomason voting against.
For more highlights from the meeting, visit our website KBST.com.
Discussion on the viability of exploring a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) in the downtown area. No action taken.
Discussion on City of Big Spring policies and procedures regarding accepting, handling, and responding to Information Requests under the Texas Public Information Act. Ultimately, it was noted by interim City Manager Shane Bowles that the city could adopt a more effective process to ensure that requests are being answered.
Discussion on the possible termination of the SAFER Grant from FEMA and the reimbursement of monies received to date. In September 2019 it was announced that the City of Big Spring had received the SAFER Grant that would allow the City of Big Spring to hire 10 additional firefighters. In December 2019, City Council approved the hiring of 10 additional firefighters. As of Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, the City had received $22,000 in federal grant money, but the 10 firefighters had not yet been hired. According to City Attorney Andrew Hagen, this puts the City in violation of federal grant rules.
In an email sent by Hagen to City staff and Council Members – which was read by District 6 Council Member Jim DePauw- he advised that the council should resolve this issue either by adopting a budget amendment or canceling the SAFER Grant.
Originally, it was believed that the grant would fully fund the salaries for the 10 firefighters. Later, Councilmembers were advised that the grant fund 75 percent of salary and benefits in the first two years, 35 percent in third year, and 0 percent in fourth year. 10 personnel would cost the city $878,871 in salary and benefits over 3 years, not counting equipment. A first reading of a budget amendment ordinance was unanimously approved at the time. The second reading was scheduled for Jan. 28, 2020 meeting but minutes show that it was removed from the agenda.
It was noted that the former City Manager Todd Darden had removed the item because he wanted to research more on funding with Fire Chief Craig Ferguson. It was revealed that the item was never rescheduled to return on the agenda for a second reading and Darden failed to include the funding for the additional firefighters in this year’s budget.
DePauw pointed out during the meeting that approving the SAFER grant would require, roughly, a 3 cent raise to the tax rate in the first 3 years, then a 7.1 cents increase in the fourth year and every subsequent year.
During discussion on the matter, Hagen stressed that the city was in violation of federal grant rules and it was important for those funds to be repaid. Failure to do so could result in the city not receiving future grants.
Ultimately, Thomson made a motion that city staff bring back a resolution to the next meeting in November to fully fund the SAFER Grant. It was seconded by Strande and unanimously approved.
It was ordered that city staff would get together and address the possible repayment of the $22,000 back to FEMA.
Upon Hagen’s recommendation, DePauw motioned that the Fire Chief and city staff get with FEMA officials and find how much needs to be paid back and remit that amount to FEMA, however, the motion died due to lack of second.
Bowles advised that city staff would contact FEMA and if immediate reimbursement was requested, they would make council aware and ratify it at the next meeting.
Emergency reading of a resolution declaring the official intent of the City of Big Spring (lessee) to be reimbursed for certain capital expenditures from proceeds of a lease purchase agreement was unanimously approved.
All other new business items were unanimously approved.