City Council commits to dog pound, discusses open records

As the last action on the agenda noted as the most time sensitive issue being discussed, the Brady City Council agreed Wednesday to designate a portion of the grounds at G. Rollie White Complex as the site of a new dog pound. Before making the determination on the site, Brady Mayor James Stewart opened the item for discussion by stating, “This is becoming a time critical issue of which I don’t think we’re any further along this month than we were last month.” Several options were addressed in previous council meetings including constructing a facility at the waste water plant or possibly near one of the local veterinary hospitals. The option for the waste water plant was dismissed because it would put the facility and its animals in the flood plain area. Another halt in progress came recently when the Texas Department of State Health Services advised against the city’s original plans to construct a metal facility. Brady Police Chief Tommy Payne, who spoke with TDH representatives concerning the issue, stated that health officials are not in favor of a metal building because of the erosion and rust that would most definitely occur due to the humidity and numerous washings that would occur on a day-to- day basis. “The construction is not as much of a concern as the location,’ said Stewart. “We need to determine a location and move forward.” Both Councilwoman Mary Bradshaw and Councilman Jesse Tate suggested an area at the G. Rollie White Complex be allocated for the project. “G. Rollie White is not a problem for me,” added Stewart. “We just need to make the determination and go forward.” With a vested interest in the dog pound, audience member Ralph Copenhaver addressed the council and stated, “This dog pound thing has gone on long enough. We’re going to have to make a decision pretty quick. We can talk it to death, and it won’t ever get a building built. We are going to take the best option we have and get it done.” In agreement, City Manager Merle Taylor added, “Whether we build it at the waste water plant, G. Rollie White or South Bridge St.,’we just need to get it done.” The money already budgeted for the project is $110,000, and early estimates to construct a facility came in at $90,000 for a 40×60 square foot building capable of housing 30 animals. Those estimates, however, were based on a metal structure and will have to be re-evaluated. “Time is of the essence on this project,” said Stewart. “The chief told us before that his animal control people are the ones set up to take care of the facility and the animals,” said Mrs. Bradshaw. “I don’t want to be out another expense when we have those people in place. We also don’t want to build something that in a few years will need to be replaced. Tate made the motion to move forward with pursuing a pound at the G. Rollie White Complex, and all members of the council were in agreement. An item addressed in a recent city council meeting ‘concerning the pole attachment agreement between the City of Brady and Suddenlink Communications’was back on the agenda for final consideration Wednesday morning. The current rate of payment to the city for use of existing poles is $5.35 per unit. In a previous meeting, the council agreed to request an amount nearly double in the new proposed contract. According to Taylor, a resolution allowing for the usage has been in place since 2001; however, the action entered into Wednesday was to officially approve the new rates as outlined in the agreement. “SuddenLink has agreed to go up to $10 per pole,” said Taylor. “This will increase revenue approximately $5,000 per year in our pole agreement (for a total of $10,000 per year). It’s virtually doubling our revenue with SuddenLink.” Councilman Jesse Tate was first to make the motion that the rate be approved, and the item was met by a unanimous approval. As the next item up for business, the council voted to enter into a funding agreement for voluntary local government contributions to transportation improvement projects with no required match. Plainly stated, they agreed to enter into a contract with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to fund the installation of a deceleration lane as well as a turn signal where U.S. Hwy. 87 South meets Lynn Gavitt Lane and the entrance to the Wal-Mart Supercenter currently under construction. The request was made by Wal-Mart representatives who have agreed to enter into a separate contract with the city to reimburse Brady for the expenses incurred. The addition of both the deceleration lane and turn signal will also benefit the Brady Independent School District which has school facilities directly in the proposed area. According to Taylor, the agreement required before the project can occur has to be made between the city and TxDOT, and the fee for the project is $279,765’all of which will be reimbursed 100 percent by Wal-Mart. Up next, the council voted to return $1.2 million to the Water Development Board’the portion of unutilized funds allocated for the utility line replacement along South Bridge St. “This particular issue was done to help provide funding for the Bridge St. utility relocation project,” explained City Finance Officer Lisa Remini as she addressed the council Wednesday. “We had to fund $2.4 million for the project, even though we knew we were going to get some assistance from TxDOT. We had to go ahead and acquire $2.4 million in debt to go ahead and get that project done. Now that the project is complete, we do not have to draw down on this debt. We are paying them back some of the money that they gave us. The amount is approximately $1.2 million (about half of the proceeds).” Mrs. Remini also added that the city will have approximately $900,000 left in debt service; however, $500,000 allocated in a checking account from TxDOT will be applied to the remainder of the note. “We can only return the issues that we did not exercise during the project,” she explained. “We have to go through a council approval authorizing the city to return the issues back to the Water Development Board, and they will then apply that to the loan.” With all council members in agreement to return the surplus funds, the item was unanimously approved. Moving on, Taylor briefed the group and audience on a recently activated program known as the Texas Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (TxWARN). “This is a new program that the state came up with after hurricanes Rita and Katrina,” he said. “They realized that the State of Texas didn’t have the utility network in place to respond to the needs brought on by those events.” In explaining the item further, Taylor added that, to better prepare for similar catastrophes, TxWARN developed a mutual aide agreement for councils to consider. “This would be an exchange of equipment between Brady and any other community who needed assistance,” Taylor said. Stewart, wanting to know the financial significance this might have on the community, asked electrical department head Randy Barrows if interlocal agreements such as this are usually the best way to do things. “Yes it is,” he told the mayor. “When you start pulling contractors in, it gets very expensive.” Tate gave his approval for the agreement, but not before adding that as long as the council makes the final decision in determining whether or not the city was capable of sending equipment and reinforcements at any given time he was in favor of participating in the agreement. The item was unanimously approved following a motion by Tate. In the next order of business, the council voted to retain the services of Brady National Bank as the city’s bank depository. In outlining the services and rates offered by two local lenders, Mrs. Remini thanked representatives from both Commercial National Bank and Brady National Bank for being present for the meeting and in offering its services to the City of Brady. “Both banks responded fairly equally, agreeing to provide designated needs at no charge. Both banks responded similarly in loans, as well. “We have’in the past’enjoyed a lending relationship with both banks. We have always enjoyed a favorable situation with either bank. The bottom line was what rates were offered regarding the deposits offered at either bank. With rates for interest bearing checking accounts and jumbo CDs from CNB coming in at 4.73 percent and 4.85, respectively, and those offered by BNB coming in at 5.34 and 5.95, Mrs. Remini made the recommendation that the city stay with Brady National Bank based on the rates they presented. “Brady National has always been very helpful with providing services that we requested.” As the last item on the agenda, a request to discuss open records, local business owner Bill Ricks spoke to the council about the number of road blocks he has encountered over the years in obtaining information from the council and city manager. “The reason I am here is to talk about open records,” he told the group Wednesday morning. “The open records law in the State of Texas are nothing but an effort to seek the truth. For many years I have had a problem gaining public information from the City of Brady’one way or another. “I’m concerned that we’re spending a whole lot of the citizens money trying to keep the truth away from the citizens of Brady. “For the last 15 years I have been maintaining documents concerning a lot of things that have happened in the City of Brady that not many people know anything about. I don’t feel like, in the past, we’ve had the whole story made available to the citizens. “I believe that today we have a group of council members interested in doing what the community wants’not what ‘I’ want or ‘we’ want. “Brady operates on public funds, and the citizens of Brady are the owners of the City of Brady. The council works for the citizens, the staff works for the citizens and I’ve got a big problem in that I see the money that is being spent for an Austin law firm that we’ve hired that appears to me to be doing all they can to manage the city.” Ricks went on to state that the City of Brady has paid about $19,000 to their Austin law firm over the past several months. “At that rate, we’re looking at $114,000 a year for just one law firm and that’s not just the only one we deal with. There are a lot of things that slip through the cracks. “The citizens of Brady don’t know that they paid $500,000 in violation of the law for health insurance for the city council. Mayor Stewart stepped in to clarify that that particular incident or “problem” was fixed last year, while Councilman Billy Patterson noted that the current council does not benefit from insurance coverage through the city. “It took me three years to get this information about the insurance,” Ricks added. “I understand and I appreciate you making those comments,” Stewart told Ricks. “It’s factual; it happened. I would like to say that that was then and this is now. I am asking everyone in this room to move forward and work on changing those attitudes. I have seen those attitudes changing. That’s what we’re focusing on’here and now. “I am going to challenge our council and employees to work with you. I want to take this as an opportunity for everyone to work with each other rather than against each other. “We need to find out who is working against and who is working for,” Ricks said. “I have a problem with y’all not recording every meeting because, up until five or six years ago, we recorded all of the council meetings. Then, our Austin law firm advised us that maybe you (the council) don’t want to do that. “Why don’t you record it if you don’t want the truth to be known by all. The Texas open records laws are nothing more than to seek the truth, and if we’re interested in Brady’provide the truth to the bill payers. We deal the cards on top of the table until the whole truth is out.” Linda Lott said she appreciated Ricks’ comments and commended him for speaking out with his concerns. “After I went through training, I realized there were some things people asked me that I couldn’t answer, but not because I was trying to keep a secret,” she said. “Some times we’re talking about an employee or city matter that shouldn’t be for the public. We can’t make their business public. “Since I’ve been here and especially since Mayor Stewart has, we have been moving forward. I appreciate your comments but I feel the council we have now is very open, but sometimes we do have to keep some things private.” “It is my goal to continue to have those discussions with everybody here,” Stewart concluded.

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