A pleasant surprise from the Shoreacres City Council last night but I’ll get to that in a bit. First off, let’s just scroll through the agenda with a few notes that caught my attention.
Ron Hoskins was on the agenda to discuss proper procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order. When he was called on, he stated that he had decided that the subject was too complex for a five minute presentation and asked that the council schedule a workshop on the issue. He’ll need at least an hour.
Chuck Haist talked about an “incident” on the pier but didn’t go into detail. He also requested that the council reconsider putting speed bumps on Miramar, stating that it is a two mile stretch with no stop signs and that people frequently use it as a racetrack. He mentioned that a car was recently in the ditch at the corner of Miramar and Meadowlawn and that the driver admitted to going 40 mph.
Vicki Montgomery talked about the “coyote situation”. She is against trapping because, although humans are the top species, it is cruel to move an animal to a strange environment and that we have no right to destroy their lives. She further stated that if people move to Shoreacres and don’t like the wildlife, they can move out.
Darlene Gamble-Bays came up with a creative solution to funding the park. If you recall, she had previously suggested adding a $1 or $2 fee to our water bills for improvements to Circle Park. Her new idea is to put a check box on the water bill so that if you want to fund park improvements, you can. It’ll be interesting to see if council likes the idea and then to see if citizens contribute. She’s also taken the initiative to meet with Port Commissioner Jimmy Burke and told council that he is willing to help improve the park.
When it was my turn, I told the council that Ms. Gamble-Bays idea was a good one. Then I gave props to the Public Works crew for repairing a water line in the rain last week after working a 22 hour shift the day before repairing another water line. Lastly, I pointed out an invalid legal notice that the city put in the Bay Area Observer last week. It is invalid because it has the previous mayor’s name on it.
City Administrator David Stall advised that the city had received another $204,000 check as reimbursement from activities surrounding Hurricane Ike. That should help restore the reserve fund. He also noted that a plaque that will hang in the newly named Randall J. French police station is almost complete and looks great. Street improvements continue but the recent rainfall has slowed progress.
Police Chief David Newman discussed adding two reserve officers for weekend work. These officers will work without pay on weekends only, providing extra coverage. Stall commented that the increased cost of the liability insurance for the city to cover these officers would be negligible. I’m always concerned when I hear about reserve officers – they have a reputation for being a little to gung ho in their jobs. Chief Newman will need to be very careful in selecting these officers and in monitoring their activities.
Public Works Director David Sutton introduced three new employees:
- Andre Griffin
- John Ruiz
- Eric Ingram
Sutton also discussed a non-agenda item when Alderman Schnell brought up a report he sent her on the cost of the city’s recycling program. It basically costs one eight hour day for one employee per week, plus fuel and trailer maintenance. Stall tried to address it in his monthly financial report but as it wasn’t an agenda item, he couldn’t go into much detail other than to say that we pay for it though our water bills and the revenue from that covers the cost of the program plus a little extra.
The council approved yet another extension for 518 Meadowlawn’s temporary housing permit (FEMA trailer). This time they set October 28, 2013 as the date.
There was a lot of discussion around the city receiving a grant to proceed with a ten year old application to rework the Miramar Park coastline. To say I’m dismayed at the negative statements toward this is an understatement. Former Mayor Nancy Edmundson had worked very hard in pursuit of this and she was a goldmine of information. We sure do miss her. Aldermen Wheeler and Moses both said that when they hear “marsh” they get heartburn. Wow. Marsh restoration would greatly enhance the Shoreacres coast and improve fishing tremendously. It would not block the recreational pier or the boat launch ramp. Here is a picture from the original proposal:
As you can clearly see, the pier and boat launch are protected. The small area of Miramar Park next to the Houston Yacht Club which has a picnic area would be removed but that is a small price to pay for the improvements that a restored marsh would bring. Contrary to comments, it would not become a breeding ground for mosquitoes – click here to read about that. Click here to read the entire report from the original study. Click here to view a presentation on restored marsh environments. I’m no tree hugger but Mayor Edmundson was an expert in this area and the plan she put together was very well planned and researched. I hope and trust that the current Aldermen will consider all of the work she put in as well as her expertise in this area, plus the input of other experts and citizens in the previous hearings, before ditching her plan.
Discussion on Alderman Schnell’s proposal to increase the number of city inspectors was postponed again. Schnell is asking the Texas Municipal League for an opinion on the current ordinance limiting it to one named inspector. She is of the opinion that the ordinance might be invalid and wants to wait for an opinion before proceeding. The goal is to increase the availability of inspectors as the current guy makes you wait for a specific day of the week when he is in the city, delaying projects.
Citizen of the Year – Long time resident, former alderman, and Planning and Zoning Chair Stan Krauhs. Mayor Webber read a statement from City Administrator Stall recommending Kraus. Mayor Webber had given each member what he called a “packet of information” which included the tallies from a citizens’ nomination form included in our water bills. He then stated that he didn’t think the citizen nominations were representative of the city and that he would join Stall in recommending Krauhs. And council went along with their recommendations unanimously.
Employee of the Year – vindication for Police Chief Newman, who was treated so badly at the first meeting of the new council. Alderman Schell nominated Officer Daniel Vela, and Alderman Moses nominated Officer Panky. Alderman Bo Bunker then looked down at the list of citizen nominations and stated that the people had chosen Chief Newman and that there is always talk about listening to the people, so that was his nomination. The vote to name Chief Newman Employee of the Year was 3-2, with Bunker, Steve Jones, and new Alderman Mike Wheeler supporting the chief, and Moses and Schnell voting against. That was my very pleasant surprise. This council is going to be just fine.
I was curious about that “packet of information” that Mayor Webber referenced so I filed a PIA (Public Information Act) request this morning. I received a prompt reply from Mr. Stall and you can click here to view it. Note that it is a scanned copy with Mayor Webber’s notes on it.
The next item on the agenda was coyotes. This was a long, long, long, discussion with competing sides. Mayor Webber is working with Texas Parks and Wildlife to obtain information on prevention – he doesn’t want to spend taxpayer money trapping the animals because that was tried last year, cost a lot of money, and no coyotes were trapped. Schnell doesn’t want to trap them because of the cost and the fact that Parks and Wildlife policy is to euthanize them because they are carriers of disease. One resident described a coyote running along his fenceline and in his driveway that is obviously ill and perhaps has its intestines hanging out. They called Shoreacres police, who in turn called Parks and Wildlife but no one came out.
Paul Croas had perhaps the best comment related to this issue. The animals are more than a “nuisance” and it is the city’s job to secure the safety of its citizens. Yep. Reminds me of when I said the same thing to council many years ago and I’m glad others are saying the same thing now. We need an animal control program and should consider contracting with the City of La Porte for it.
The last item on the agenda was to approve another $6,480 to replace the roof over the Public Works building. Council was so tired at this point that little discussion was necessary and it was approved 5-0. One citizen, Paul Croas, complained that City Administrator Stall had told the council previously that the roof was in too bad of shape to consider coating it, yet Stall had presented council with two different options for coating it at this meeting. He wanted to listen to the recording of the meeting in which Stall made that statement.
Okay, that’s a wrap. These meetings are long and getting longer. One suggestion if there are any council members reading this. I don’t know when it started but allowing citizen comments on each agenda item is not standard meeting practice for any governmental body that I cover – except Shoreacres. And it didn’t use to be that way in Shoreacres. The standard practice is to have citizen comments at or near the start of each meeting, limiting their time, and then council proceeding with business. There really is no reason to have citizens comment endlessly on items – we have a representative form of government. Citizens can contact the council members before the meetings to express concerns and we have the agenda 72 hours before the meeting and have time to prepare remarks for specific items. Limiting citizen comments in no way harms a citizens’ ability to be heard and would greatly increase the efficiency of these meetings. Just my two cents.