Jourdanton Council approves budget, property tax rate

All members were present at the last Jourdanton City Council meeting: Donnie Blue; Robert “Doc” Williams; Raul Morales, Patsy Tymrak-Daughtrey, Chester Gonzales and Mayor Susan Netardus.

The meeting opened with many citizen comments regarding the proposal to build a new swimming pool at the complex with the baseball fields. Most were for the new pool and closing the old one. Former Mayor Larry Pryor reminded everyone that the money for this was not coming out of property tax money, but from the Hotel/Motel Occupancy Tax. He asked that the city be run like a business and that council members put aside any personal agendas and look out for what is best for the citizens. Robert Herrera asked if there were any drawings or designs, since it would be an easier sale if people could see it. Jack Harrison said that the committees for the pool and for the complex need to start working as one team and get things moving forward.

One person voiced his concern about the money involved. Steven Mueller said he has worked on pools twice that size and they were not nearly as costly as the numbers being bandied around. He agrees that the fields need to be updated, but does not think spending the money to totally rebuild them is the best use of the funds. Rhonda Lem said, “Just because we have a field does not mean that it’s efficient or sufficient.”

Netardus opened a Public Hearing at 6:34 p.m. on the adoption of the tax rate and budget. A couple of people complained about not being able to get a copy of the budget, although Dan Nick, City Manager, stated that they were available during previous budget workshops. Tymrak complained that the budget presented was not official, since it fails to meet the law. She also claimed that she was not allowed to give her input during the workshops. Lem voiced her opinion that the council was elected by the people to take care of business and take care of all the citizens of Jourdanton. They are expected to do what is best for the community. The Mayor answered some of the complaints by saying that during the workshops, they went line by line and everyone had ample opportunity to discuss any concerns at that time. She closed the hearing at 6:48 p.m.

Tymrak moved to table the approval of the budget, but motion failed due to lack of second. Motion was made to accept budget as presented. Tymrak voted against it since she claims it is non-compliant. Gonzales asked City Attorney Habib Erkan which budget was the certified one, since they have one stamped on July 31, but have one with different amounts dated August 6. After a short recess, Erkan replied that they can vote on it, since the official budget is in the record. It passed with majority vote, with Tymrak voting negative.

The next vote was to ratify the property tax rate of .4722. Motion passed with Tymrak voting negative.

Due to the nature of the complaints filed by Robert Hernandez against Steve Estrada and Dan Nick, Netardus thinks it is best for the Texas Rangers to come in to investigate. She and the police department are accused of collusion, so the attorney recommended that they bring in an outside resource. Vote was unanimous. The council was supposed to go into executive session to discuss the complaints, but Erkan advised they wait until the investigation is completed.

City Engineer Raul Garcia provided three drawings to the council showing the water and sewer lines replaced since 2005. A total of 41% of the existing lines have been replaced, which is about 37.5 miles. There are a lot of connections left to do on the fire hydrants, since 104 new ones have been added to the 95 existing ones. The plans were based on the existing map, which was done in 1960, which has proven very inaccurate. Things had to be redesigned as they went along and that added more time to the project. Nick added that the Pecan Well has a new generator and they are trying to address the existing galvanized lines. Tymrak claims that the work is two years behind. She wanted to know why Ram was not fired and charged a penalty for the overage. Garcia explained that this has developed into a very different project than the one at the beginning and they have been having manpower problems. There is $600,000 left on the USDA grant, but it cannot be touched until the project is 80% completed.

About eight miles are left in replacing sewer lines that date back to the 1960s and are concrete pipes, which tend to collapse over the years. The current lift station is very outdated and small, so it needs to be replaced.

Garcia also discussed the proposed sports complex. The preliminary layout has five fields; two softball fields, two little league fields and one senior field. There will be a total of 208 parking spaces, but there is room for 500. There will be a 44 X 68 foot concession stand and storage area. The pool will be the same size as the existing one.

Jeff Kuhn was suggested as the counsel for the HOT debt and the certificates of obligation. There needs to be an interlocal agreement with the county and an agreement with the Little League to go forward. Motion passed, with Tymrak voting negative. Erkan said this is a good path forward to find out what is needed to go out for bonds. Payments will then be done with the HOT monies and this does not increase property taxes in any way.

Municipal Judge Dolores Cordova requested signing an agreement with Mc- Creary, Veselka, Bragg and Allen, P.C. for the collection of delinquent court fines and fees. Cordova said that she and Ivy J. Arroyo, representing the company, have been talking about this for a couple of years. The court can only do so much and an outside firm would be a great help. Tymrak voted negative, on principal, but motion passed.

An ordinance amendment was proposed that would limit the amount of records a council member could request. Someone had asked for records of non-payments from the Municipal Court and that amounts to 500 pages and much of the information had to be redacted, which was taking 20 hours a week from the judges duties. The amendment would limit the time allowed per week to two hours unless the council member paid for the time. Normal responses should be done in two days: redacted responses should be made within 10 days. Erkan said this is an attempt to balance requests and doing everyday business. Motion passed with Gonzales abstaining and Tymrak voting negative.

Clerks and workers for early voting were approved, with Tymrak voting negative. Judges and clerks for Election Day were approved unanimously.

Gonzales requested that the city review and update personnel policies, which are 25 years old. It was decided that he would work with Nick and Erkan on this project.

Discussion of the expansion of 431 was up next. Tymrak moved to direct Nick to send a letter to the county judge and county commissioners for a full set of expansion plans so that it doesn’t impede on Jourdanton water lines. Nick assured her that the engineer said it would not impede the lines. Tymrak answered that she’d seen no plans or specs and would like to see something in writing about exactly where it was going to be. It was decided that they would ask Commissioner Bill Carroll to revisit with the drawings.

Tymrak and Gonzales wanted a written estimate for the additional bulky trash from the garbage collection company and have their representative come in to discuss it. Nick said that he had received the amount verbally. Votes were three against and two for.

Tymrak moved to rescind the resolution done previously that listed Sleep Inn as a Texas Enterprise Zone. She claimed that an ordinance has to be passed by the city, which was not done, and public hearings have to be held. She wants a copy of the application that has to be filed with the state. Also, according to Tymrak, the city has to kick in tax abatement for five years. Erkan said the state website does require an ordinance, but that area is already shown in the Enterprise Zone. Tymrak wants to contact the governor’s office and let them know the resolution is null and void. Erkan said that could be done, but only after extensive research for the ordinance. Tymrak voted to rescind the resolution, but all others voted against it.

Tymrak moved to publish the delinquent taxpayers in the newspaper, complaining about the low collection rate. Debbie Molina, City Secretary, said there are 350 pages of delinquent taxpayers and the tax attorney has the list. Many names would have to be pulled, like those in bankruptcies, those with contracts, those in deferral and those over 65. The county has chosen not to do this because of the high cost. Tymrak voted affirmative, all else voted negative.

Tymrak moved to cancel the earnest money contract with Waste Management for the property in the Industrial Park, claiming that the legal description was not in the motion that was voted on and passed earlier. Gonzales voiced his concerns about paying that much money when the monies could be used for so many other things. Three voted against the motion, two voted for.

An ordinance allowing for erection of stop signs at Hickory Street and Marion Avenue at Bluntzer Road was approved with Tymrak voting negative.

A motion to increase the meal per diem and mileage reimbursement was made. The appraisal district and sheriff’s department receive $50 per day for meals and the federal government suggests 56 cents per mile. Blue voted against, Williams abstained, all others voted for the change.

Meeting adjourned at 9:46 p.m.

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