Council accepts fire chief’s resignation, appoints interim

A change in department heads was officially approved Wednesday morning when the Brady City Council met in regular session and voted unanimously to accept the letter of resignation of Fire Chief Randy Rankin. Approved to fill his place at an interim level was Joe Foster, who has been employed full- time with the local fire department for eight months now. Both Councilmen Billy Patterson and Jesse Tate expressed their disappointment in the resignation and stated how they “hated to see him go.” Councilman Rey Garza questioned the sudden action on behalf of the former fire department head. “We hired a consultant to help us evaluate our emergency services,” said Mayor James Stewart. “We received the booklet back from that consultant and distributed it to each department head, as well as the county and hospital district. “In trying to use the departments supervisor’s efforts and expertise, there were two meetings that happened.” A six-member ad-hoc committee was comprised (two each from the fire, EMS and volunteer fire departments) to review the options available to the city and its emergency response staff. According to Stewart, the committee met later and presented their ideas to the entire group and the supervisors, and it was at that point and time that Rankin tendered his resignation based upon his personal opinion about his ideas. “Nothing has been decided,” Stewart told the council and audience prior to taking formal action on the item. “There are a lot of unsubstantiated rumors going around, but as of this point in time nothing has been decided.” With clarification made regarding the resignation, Councilwoman Mary Bradshaw made the motion that the item be accepted. Seconded by Patterson, the item was later met with unanimous approval. After private interviews conducted prior to Wednesday’s meeting with Foster, City Manager Merle Taylor made the recommendation that Foster’s appointment be accepted. With 30 years of experience with fire departments, Taylor noted that the new appointee is capable of training and has a lot of qualifications for teaching classes which, according to him, the city desperately needs. Foster has been employed as a full-time fire employee since June 12, 2007. “The fire department is still operating at its normal level of activity,” Foster assured the council. “Trucks are still getting out the door, equipment is still running at an operating level, we’re working with the volunteers, and everything is pretty normal for us right now.” “The bottom line is the City of Brady is a business and has to be run as a business for the best interests of the citizens of this town,” said Stewart. As the final action item on the agenda, the council agreed to adopt a resolution for the City of Brady’s Water Conservation and Drought Contingency Plan. “This addresses the different levels of conservation, assuming we have problems with our lakes or water supply,” said Taylor. “It’s something we have to adopt to continue being in compliance with the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). “This is simply a continuation of a plan in which the city already participates. ” In a discussion item on the agenda as an update, property owner Richard McClure addressed the council concerning his property at 506 N. Bridge St. which was initially planned for demolition. With a new hope for renovating the property, McClure explained how he and his building engineer had presented reconstruction plans to the city prior to the meeting Wednesday for review. Despite a difference of opinion on the current state of the building, Taylor noted that he still feels that the building should be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system. “We’re worried that the building is being constructed out of flammable materials, and we feel like we continue to need the fire protection in the building. ” With the city manager, property owner and his engineer in disagreement on the percentage of damage to the building, McClure gave a firm statement that, if the sprinkler system has to be installed, his company won’t be able to afford the repairs, which will increase an estimated $20,000-$25,000. McClure did confirm that nothing to be stored in the building will be flammable, only metal. “If McClure is ready to rebuild this facility, but is not required to have a sprinkler system, are there objections to that'” Stewart questioned. “I want everyone (the fire department as well as the building department) to be on the same page with the plans,” said the Randy Hall, the city’s building inspector. With the order placed on McClure to present plans to the council, it was noted by the city’s attorney Matt deFerranti that no action could be taken during the meeting. “There is a general concept in the rule, and sometimes, depending on the specific of the statute, you can continue under a grandfather clause,” deFerranti said. “The order that he had was for repair of the building. One of the steps was to have the plans presented to the council by today. I recommend we post it on the agenda for the next meeting. We should have whatever discussion for today, but over the next week I can have discussions with you (McClure), Hall and Taylor.” DeFerranti added that he didn’t feel the city could take steps during the meeting to determine if a grandfather clause would apply but felt confident they could take the necessary steps to do so before the next meeting. “I do not want to get into a pushing match,” said Stewart. “That does not benefit anyone in this community. I want to make sure all of the restrictions are met, but I also want the city to work together with McClure to fix this building. We’re prepared to do otherwise, but I don’t think that’s in the city’s best interest.” “I respect the council’s attempt to clean up the city,” added McClure. “I want to see it done, as well. The reality is I will leave the building open to the fire chief to check it on a regular basis, and he can cite us if there’s anything flammable in there. As a practical matter, I’d like to get moving on it to get it done. If we have to put another $20,000-$25,000 into it, it’s going to take another six months. “It will not be electrified; it will not have water,” McClure said. “Respectfully, I just want to let my thoughts be known: I’m here to work with the city.” In another discussion item, property owner Joe Sanchez was next to address the council concerning unsafe and unhealthy building structures in the City of Brady. Sanchez acquired a property located on W. Commerce in 2003, and, according to him, has had issues with the city denying him access to a dumpster. After accusations were made about an adjoining property owner given special access not afforded to Sanchez, a lawsuit was filed against him and later dismissed. Now, with Sanchez’ property in the downtown area in negotiations for possible demolition, Stewart commented, “My concern is where we are today and where we’ll be tomorrow. I’m not interested in any court case you may have had. There are two buildings that have not been touched and need to be cleaned up.” Stewart referenced a telephone call which he personally made to Sanchez asking him to bring items to a free clean-up last April in which he stated Sanchez did not participate. “I noticed there is a notice of violation on these two buildings,” stated deFerranti. “I’m glad you mentioned the open meetings act. We’ve heard all of your comments. My responsibility, as the city’s prosecutor, is to do justice and pursue violations’if there are violations of the code.” According to Taylor, Sanchez was only denied a three-yard dumpster because there was so much construction material and rocks placed in it on previous occasions that the city’s dumpster truck could not pick up the load. “Our trucks are not designed for that, and the City of Brady does not want any liability concerning asbestos or construction debris,” he said. Sanchez went on to state how he believed he could not get any cooperation from the city. “This town’under my direction and this council’s’is making a concerted effort to clean up this city,” said Stewart. “We’re not going to hold anyone to double standards.” “It doesn’t seem productive to have a debate,” deFerranti commented. “You (Sanchez) have said you wanted to have an opportunity to be heard, and you’ve been heard today.” No action was taken on the item; however, Sanchez stated he would be seeing both the council and its attorney in court. Up next, Brady Police Chief Tommy Payne gave a quick update on the 2007 racial profiling statistics. With no problems recorded, he told the council that there were 796 citations issued in 2007 with 690 warnings and 261 arrests. Of those cases, 1,065 individuals (69 percent) were Caucasian, followed by 410 Hispanics, 38 African-Americans, two Native Americans and two Asian. Also, dispatch received 4,778 calls for the police department, 1,047 for the sheriff’s office and accounted for 984 EMS runs and 401 fire department runs. The 911 calls averaged 225 per month, with an additional 50-75 abandoned calls recorded. In Taylor’s city manager’s report, he noted that South Bridge Street has finally been striped and that construction crews were back in town Wednesday putting some additional concrete in to cover valve boxes in a number of man holes. Also, Bradshaw explained that the McCulloch County Industrial Foundation will conduct an open house ribbon-cutting for the new home constructed at 800 S. Cypress St. in Brady. In closing, Stewart asked members of the council to consider appointments to the Economic Development Corporation. Current members are Lynn Farris, Danny Neal, Grant Evridge, Glenn Miller and Kim King. Two positions will be considered, and Stewart asked the council to have their recommendations submitted to him prior to the next meeting so they could be acted upon. Also, Stewart gave a brief update on Brady’s proposed aquatic park. He stated that the VFW Hall has agreed to work in tandem with the City of Brady and offer access to their property for “co-parking.” In addition to being a parking lot for both, it will also serve as the main entrance to the park. Stewart added that the park’s pavilion size and style is being finalized, as well as design, and specifics for the pool. “Things will begin happening very quickly’as soon as a few more decisions are made,” he said. “There will be visible progress, I hope very soon.” With full intentions of honoring his father’s memory and adding patriotic colors to the Ed Davenport Civic Center, local banker Mackie Ranne presented a generous donation of both a Texas flag and United States flag to be permanently displayed at the center. After noticing the absence of such at the annual McCulloch County Livestock Show and Sale, Ranne felt obligated to take on the project and did so in honor of his father who served during World War II. “Growing up, he instilled in me the importance of the flag, and I would like to donate these today in his honor,” Ranne told the council Wednesday morning. “We need to remember them (our veterans) and what it (the flag) stands for. It is with great pride that I would like to donate these to the civic center.” The base of each flag is inscribed in honor of Tink Ranne and will remain at the property for future events. Also addressed during citizens’ comments, Two local citizens, Carolyn Carson and Dick Winters, spoke with council members during citizen’s comments with questions and concerns. Up first, Mrs. Carson explained her displeasure with the city’s lack of policy concerning funeral processions and more specifically, the inability to provide either on- duty or off-duty officers to direct traffic and enforce laws governing processions. In a separate address to the council, Winters requested the city’s assistance with constructing a fence on just over two miles of property separating his land from the city’s land. Stewart stated that both items would be placed on the council’s next agenda for possible consideration and/or action.

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