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MINUTES
The City Council of the City of Palestine, Texas convened in a Regular Meeting on Monday, March 23, 2020, at 4:00 p.m. for the Work Session, and at 5:30 p.m. for the Regular Meeting in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 504 N. Queen Street, Palestine, Texas, with the following people present:
Present: Steve Presley, Mayor; Larissa Loveless, Council Member; Mitchell Jordan, Council Member; Vickey L. Chivers, Council Member; Joe Baxter, Council Member; Dana Goolsby, Council Member
Absent: Ann Connor, Mayor Pro Tem
Staff Present: Leslie Cloer, City Manager; Teresa Herrera, City Secretary; Gary Landers, CityAttorney
             
Other Staff Joined Virtually: Felipe Garcia, Utilities Director; Lisa Cariker, HR Director; Mark Fletcher, Streets Director; Mark Harcrow, Interim Police Chief; Mark Miears, Development Services Director; Patsy Smith, Parks & Recreation Director; Shannon Davis, Fire Chief; Theresa Holden, Library Director; Mary Raum, Marketing Manager; Andrew Sibai, Interim Finance Director; Greg Laudadio, Planner/HPO; Terry Johnson, Project Manager

Council Member Chivers and City Attorney Landers joined the meeting virtually. Interim City Attorney Jeff Herrington was absent for the work session and regular meeting.

WORK SESSION
Mayor Presley called the work session to order at 4:00 p.m.
             
1. Discuss Enterprise Fleet Order for Fiscal Year 2021 - 2022. Enterprise Account Manager, Ursula Fetsko and City Manager, Leslie Cloer
Ursula Fetsko provided a summary. This is the third year of replacements. Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV) and non-ERV vehicles were discussed. The following vehicles will be obtained: three Tahoes for PD, two ½ Ton Pickups, two ¾ Ton Pickups, one 1 Ton Pickup Flatbed, and one 1 Ton Cab Chassis. The non-ERV vehicles will be two for Streets, two for Construction, one for Parks, and one for Water. The report included estimated annual mileage, monthly lease cost, annual lease cost, upfront AME cost, and annual lease charges. There is no upfront AME cost for non-ERV vehicles. City Manager Cloer explained that CFO Atmore has not reviewed the replacement program; once she reviews it then it will be decided whether to order the additional vehicle for PD Administration. The vehicles will need to be ordered sometime between May through September. Quotes will be emailed to the City Manager and the City Secretary.

City Manager Cloer explained that the City may not be able to commit to all these purchases not knowing what will happen with COVID-19 and how it will affect our community. She added that Ms. Fetsko has not met with the Police Department but has met with all the other departments and with CR Nicholson. She explained that this is only a proposal. Council will receive an update on the vehicles that have been sold.

City Manager will come back with a recommendation at a future meeting.
             
2. Hot Pepper Festival Event Recap & Discussion. Tourism Marketing Manager, Mary Raum
Tourism/Marketing Manager Raum provided staff comments. The financial cost of the City for the previous management of the Hot Pepper Festival was discussed. The 2019 festival total income was $23,750.81 and after expenses, it had a shortfall of $3,564.42. The plan is to transfer the operations to the Chamber to allow a smooth transition and provide support to the Chamber. We would support them equally with Police, Streets, Parks, and Main Street. She added that she thinks the Chamber will request HOT funds to help offset the cost. She explained that it would be the same type of support that is issued to Dogwood Festival. Also, the Chamber board has voted and approved to take this on.

Council Member Baxter requested on paper how many people stay at the local motels/hotels for Hot Pepper, in order to support them with HOT funds. He would like a letter from motels/hotels on their letterhead.

Council does not want to continue to support something that is operated in the red. Council Member Loveless asked that moving forward it needs very well delineated and spelled out what our relationships are if we hand this to the Chamber and what our expectations will be; it does not need to be subjective at all. The Chamber cannot count on getting HOT funds just because they are getting the festival from the City.

Council will revisit this item in 30 to 60 days. Staff should not focus on the business of creating events. The staff’s focus is to market and promote the events.
             
3. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response Update, City Manager, Leslie Cloer
City Manager Cloer provided an update. She asked that citizens and visitors refer to the City’s COVID-19 Updates Webpage for the most accurate information for our community. She added that updates will be provided whenever City Staff receive additional information to share. She asked people with questions regarding Coronavirus contact their primary care physician first or individuals may call 211 and select “Option 6” to speak with a medical health professional about symptoms. The City has been working with NET Health. There are no known confirmed cases in Anderson County and the City is strongly suggesting social distancing. She asked that people complete Connected Nations survey, respond to the Census 2020, and practice good hygiene while practicing social distancing. Net Health is not disclosing how many have been tested in our community. COVID-19 testing is only being conducted at medical facilities, and NET Health will only release information of confirmed cases.

Council directed Staff to improve the sound quality for the meetings, adding that there is no excuse for such low quality; the public has the right to hear. City Secretary answered that it will be resolved by the next meeting. Also, Council requested an update of the new phone system. City Manager answered that the phone system switches were delayed but the main phone tree directory is working.

City facilities are still open, and it seems that we (the City) are encouraging the public to come to our parks. We need to discourage the public from coming to our parks and to our facilities in order to slow the spread. The Library is closed to the public as of 5 p.m. Friday. The City does not have a Public Health Official, the City is using NET Health’s Public Health Official Stephanie Walker. Some Council Members feel that the City does not have a plan in place in the event that employees were to become ill and argue that there is no cross-training being done; and lack of communication to Council and employees.

Council requested an update on City’s financials. Does the City have sufficient cash flow reserve for the next six months? City Manager answered, no not for six months. Also, Assistant City Manager/CFO Edena Atmore will provide financials at the next meeting, she was not able to attend this meeting, and she will be full-time as of mid-April. Council will make decisions on waving late or disconnect fees on utility bills.

With no other business to come before Council the work session was adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
             
REGULAR MEETING
Mayor Presley called the regular meeting to order at 5:35 p.m.
             
A.
CALL TO ORDER
             
B.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Mayor Presley read Joshua 1:19 and was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
             
C.
PROPOSED CHANGES OF AGENDA ITEMS
Item K6 will be the first item discussed during the Regular Agenda.
             
D. PUBLIC COMMENTS, PUBLIC RECOGNITION, AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Any citizen wishing to speak during public comments regarding an item on or off the agenda may do so after completing the required Request to Speak form. All comments must be no more than five minutes in length. Any comments regarding items not on the posted agenda may not be discussed or responded to by City Council. If you would like to submit comments of public interest or comment on agenda items, send those electronically by 3:00p.m., March 23, 2020, to our City Secretary, Teresa Herrera at therrera@palestine-tx.org. Please include your name and either a phone number or e-mail address, so we can reach out to you if we need any clarification prior to the City Council meeting.

There were no public comments or announcements.
             
E. CONFLICT OF INTEREST DISCLOSURES
             
F. MAYOR'S REPORT
Mayor Presley spoke regarding Coronavirus and asked every one to refer to CDC guidelines in order to slow down the spread of the virus. Also, he asked that we communicate with and check on our neighbors. He reminded every one to donate blood. The blood supply is low.
             
G. ITEMS FROM COUNCIL
Council Member Loveless reminded every one that Palestine ISD will begin handing out the meals-to-go tomorrow along with homework/learning assignments; she provided details for the parents.

Council Member Jordan recognized the Neighbors Helping Neighbors in Anderson County led by Diane Davis and Christine Alexander. This is a group of individuals filling boxes of goods for locals in need. He encouraged anyone who wants to donate either money or good to contact the group.

Council Member Baxter thanked the restaurants that are staying open with a drive-thru and delivering food free of charge. He thanked City staff for working and keeping the City going. He added that if you see anything or anyone suspicious, please contact the Police Department.

Council Member Chivers reminded everyone to not panic during the crisis and reach out to each other.
             
H. CITY MANAGER'S REPORT
City Manager Cloer provided an update on the following: 1) all City offices are closed to the public. All business is being conducted via phone, email, or internet; 2) Economic Development Projects; 4) City-owned pool; 5) Connected Nation Texas surveys; and 5) SMART911 emergency notification system.

City Manager Cloer informed that department directors were present to address questions from Council regarding reports. She asked that the public limit face-to-face interaction with first responders.

The following departmental reports were provided:
             
1. City Manager's Report
             
2. Library's monthly Statistical Report, Narrative, and Calendar
             
3. Development Services February 2020 Monthly Report
             
4. Fire Department Monthly Report Feb. 2020
             
5. Finance - Sales Tax Update
             
6. Finance - Property Tax Update
             
7. Parks and Recreation Monthly Report February 2020
             
8. Police February 2020 Statistics
             
9. Police P.L.A.C.E. Team February Report. The P.L.A.C.E. team will still be responding to illegal dumping and Code Enforcement issues. Residents are concerned regarding the trash pick-up being reduced to once a week and the children are home producing more trash.
             
10. Utility Billing Monthly Summary February 2020. Council Member Loveless requested a copy of a map with all the billing cycles. City Secretary Herrera answered that she would email the map of the billing cycles.
             
I. OPEN BIDS
             
1. Open Sealed RFQ 2020-001 Engineering Service.
Bids were received and opened for RFQ 2020-001 Engineering Service as follows:
RLG Consulting Engineers Dallas, TX
Brannon Corp. Engineering & Consulting Tyler, TX
             
J. CONSENT AGENDA
The following items may be acted upon in one motion. No separate discussion or action is necessary unless requested by the Mayor or a Council Member, in which event those items will be pulled for separate consideration. Approval of the consent agenda authorizes the City Manager to implement each item in accordance with staff recommendations.
             
1. Consider a resolution authorizing continued participation with Steering Committee of Cities served by Oncor: and authorizing the payment of seven cents per capita to the Steering Committee to fund regulatory and legal proceedings and activities related to Oncor Electric Delivery Company, LLC. City Secretary, Teresa Herrera
             
2. Consider approval of Lease Agreement with Xerox for the Library. Interim Finance Director, Andrew Sibai
             
3. Consider approval of invoice over $25,000. Interim Finance Director, Andy Sibai
 
  Motion by Council Member Mitchell Jordan, seconded by Council Member Dana Goolsby to approve the Consent Agenda as presented, adopting Resolution No. R-13-20.
  Vote: 6 - 0 - Unanimously
             
K. REGULAR AGENDA
             
1. Consider and take action on an ordinance re-zoning 101 Trail Hollow Lane, McFarlane Estates #1 Lot 2 in the McFarlane Estates Addition from R-1 Single Family Detached, Low Density District to C-3 General Retail Commercial District contingent upon the property closing with SCC Development Corporation. Planner/HPO Greg Laudadio
City Manager Cloer provided Staff comments. Applicant Kathy Westbrook submitted an application requesting to re-zone and sell the property at 101 Trail Hollow Lane to SCC Development allowing for the potential development of future retail and restaurant establishments. Notices were mailed to the four property owners located within a 200-foot radius of the location of the proposed zoning change. Three have been returned in favor and one has been returned in opposition of the request. Public hearing was held at the previous City Council meeting. Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing and voted unanimously to deny the request. She read a statement from SCC Development Corporation. 
  Motion by Council Member Dana Goolsby, seconded by Council Member Mitchell Jordan to approve Ordinance No. O-10-20 as presented.
  Vote: 6 - 0 - Unanimously
             
2. Discuss and take action on the Fiscal Year 2021 - 2022 Enterprise Fleet Order. City Manager, Leslie Cloer
Item tabled in order to allow the Asst. City Manager/CFO to meet with PD and will be brought back within 30 days.
             
3. Second reading and take action on a resolution regarding Palestine Economic Development Corporation and City of Palestine notice of intention to grant $19,420.00 to Kaycee Hamilton and Mark Stoup, property located at 105 E. Main Street. Tourism/Marketing Manager, Mary Raum

Mayor Presley conducted the second reading of the resolution. City Manager Cloer provided Staff comments. She explained that the damage presented in the pictures was not apparent at the time of purchase. This is the first time they have applied for funding. The work for this project has been completed.

City Manager Cloer added that the City Attorney will review the application process. City Attorney will do some research regarding the City's financial liability. Council directed staff to take a look at the regulations and in the meantime not to take new applications for this program.
  Motion by Council Member Mitchell Jordan, seconded by Council Member Larissa Loveless to approve Resolution R-14-20 as presented.
  Vote: 6 - 0 - Unanimously
             
4. Consider and take action on the management of the event from the City of Palestine to the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce. Tourism Marketing Manager, Mary Raum
Item tabled.
             
5. Discuss and take action for response to Coronavirus (COVID-19). City Manager, Leslie Cloer

Council directed Staff to improve the flow of communications and friendly reminders need to be posted on Social Media. Council recommends that the community liaison for PD help with this role to add information to social media and the website. Council added that it is extremely important to have the information in English and Spanish.

The City parks are not closed but signs need to be posted to discourage people from using the equipment. The information needs to be added to social media and the City's website.

The City needs to have a backup plan in the event power goes out at the Water Plant. City Manager Cloer with work with staff on a plan. The operational plan for PD and Fire will be emailed to the Council by the city manager.

Trash services were discussed. Council recommends to not disconnect accounts for non-payment for a month, an entire billing cycle. Late charges will not be automatically removed but will be evaluated on a case by case basis. Municipal Court is following guidelines set by the State. Payments for Municipal Court and Utility Bill can be made online, by phone, mail, or dropbox at City Hall. The online fee will be waived to customers paying online. Incode is working to remove the fee.

Council asked the city manager to start looking at expenses that can be cut from the budget, adding that not everything in the budget is necessary.
  Motion by Council Member Joe Baxter, seconded by Council Member Larissa Loveless to approve Ordinance No. O-11-20, amending the poly cart rate from $10.00 to $5.00 per month for each additional poly cart for residential garbage collection services. Limit one per household. This rate will be effective through June 24, 2020.
  Vote: 5 - 1
 
NAY: Council Member Mitchell Jordan
             
6. Consider a Resolution declaring a state of disaster and emergency because of the impact of COVID-19, confirming and ratifying an emergency proclamation, and adopting, approving and ratifying certain rules to protect the health of persons in the City. City Manager, Leslie Cloer

City Attorney Landers provided a summary. Consider a Resolution declaring a state of disaster and emergency because of the impact of COVID-19, confirming and ratifying an emergency proclamation, and adopting, approving and ratifying certain rules to protect the health of persons in the City.

City Attorney Landers explained that this is the best way to show the community that the Mayor and Council are unified.

Mayor Presley explained that the City has followed the Governors' and County Judge's guidelines. Mayor Presley read the declaration that will be issued for the City of Palestine. Mayor Presley will issue Declaration of a Local State of Disaster and Emergency Order of the Mayor.
  Motion by Council Member Joe Baxter, seconded by Council Member Mitchell Jordan to approve Resolution No. R-12-20 as presented.
  Vote: 6 - 0 - Unanimously
             
7. Discuss and take action by resolution authorizing City Manager to update, maintain, and enforce employee policies and regulations. City Manager, Leslie Cloer
City Attorney Landers explained that the current employee policies and regulations were adopted by resolution. The current handbook needs to be updated. Staff recommends that Council take action to allow the city manager and the city attorney to make changes as needed to get it current, then bring it back to Council or allow the city manager to make changes and begin implementing without Council approval. A discussion was held. The city manager will bring needed changes to the Council to review and discuss.
             
8. Consider and take action on authorizing the City Manager to work with Employee Benefit Consulting to take employee benefits plans out to bid. City Manager, Leslie Cloer
City Manager Cloer provided a summary.
  Motion by Council Member Mitchell Jordan, seconded by Council Member Dana Goolsby to approve the item as presented.
  Vote: 6 - 0 - Unanimously
             
L. CLOSED SESSION
Council will go into Closed Session pursuant to Section 551.071 consultation with attorney: pending or contemplated litigation to discuss the last time in closed session.
             
1. Discussion and update regarding City of Palestine v. LS Equipment Company, Inc. - Case Number DCCV17-003-3. City Attorney Landers explained that it is currently on appeal at Tyler Appeals Court. He has not talked to lawyers on either side, if there is anything new or unusual he will talk to Council about it. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 23rd.
             
2. Discussion and update regarding Baze Chemical, Inc. v. City of Palestine, Texas, Case No. DCCV20-1523-3. City Attorney Landers explained that they are just maintaining status quo to get more time. The next step is a conversation with Baze Chemical owner and their lawyers. He will provide an update in two to three weeks.
             
3. Discussion and update regarding Union Pacific Railroad Company v. City of Palestine, Texas, Case 6:19-cv-00574-JDK. City Attorney Landers explained that the City is just moving through the process and proceeding with recommends from City's lawyers.
             
4. Discussion and update regarding Michael lvy v. City of Palestine, Case 6:19-cv-00242-JDK, in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas. City Attorney Landers explained that there is nothing new to report on this case.
             
5. Discussion and update regarding City of Palestine v. Jerry Laza, Cause No. DCCV 16-359-349, 349th District Court, Anderson County; and Jerry Laza v. City of Palestine, Cause No. 6:17-CV-00533-RWS in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas. City Attorney Landers explained that Council needs to take action on the compromise and settlement agreement. The settlement, if approved, will take care of all the pending lawsuits.

Mayor Presley announced that Council would go into Closed Session pursuant to Section 551.071. The time was 8:28 p.m. 
             
M. RECONVENE IN REGULAR SESSION
Mayor Presley reconvened Council into open session at 8:54 p.m.
             
1. Take any action regarding City of Palestine v. LS Equipment Company, Inc. - Case Number DCCV17-003-3.
No action was taken.
             
2. Take any action necessary regarding Baze Chemical, Inc. v. City of Palestine, Texas, Case No. DCCV20-1523-3.
No action was taken.
             
3. Take any action necessary regarding Union Pacific Railroad Company v. City of Palestine, Texas, Case 6:19-cv-00574-JDK.
No action was taken.
             
4. Take any action necessary regarding Michael lvy v. City of Palestine, Case 6:19-cv-00242-JDK, in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas.
No action was taken.
             
5. Take any action necessary regarding City of Palestine v. Jerry Laza, Cause No. DCCV 16-359-349, 349th District Court, Anderson County; and Jerry Laza v. City of Palestine, Cause No. 6:17-CV-00533-RWS in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas.
  Motion by Council Member Mitchell Jordan, seconded by Council Member Joe Baxter to accept the settlement agreement as presented.
  Vote: 6 - 0 - Unanimously
             
N. ADJOURNMENT
With no other business to come before Council the meeting was adjourned at 8:55 p.m.
PASSED AND APPROVED THIS 27TH DAY OF APRIL 2020.

Steve Presley, Mayor

ATTEST:

Teresa Herrera, City Secretary

    

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