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MINUTES
The City Council of the City of Palestine convened in a regular meeting by telephone/video conference on Monday, April 13, 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 members present:
Present: Steve Presley, Mayor; Ann Connor, Mayor Pro Tem; Larissa Loveless, Council Member; Vickey L. Chivers, Council Member; Joe Baxter, Council Member; Dana Goolsby, Council Member
Absent: Mitchell Jordan, Council Member
Staff Present: Leslie Cloer, City Manager; Edena Atmore, Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer; Teresa Herrera, City Secretary; Gary Landers, City Attorney; Felipe Garcia, Utilities Director; Mark Harcrow, Interim Police Chief; Mark Miears, Development Services Director; Theresa Holden, Library Director
             
Council Member Chivers left the meeting at 6:35 p.m. Council Member Mitchell Jordan was absent for the work session and regular meeting.

WORK SESSION
With a quorum present, Mayor Presley called the work session to order at 4:11 p.m.
             
1. Discussion and update on external financial audit.  Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Edena Atmore
Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Edena Atmore provided an update. She explained that most of the annual audit is complete, still waiting on a report from the actuary hired to analyze the Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) for retired employees. Once that is completed, the report will be provided to the auditor. Most of the questions from the auditor have been answered. She is hoping to have a draft of the audit by the end of April to present to Council.
             
2. Discussion and update regarding fiscal year budget 10/01/2019 - 09/30/2020.  Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Edena Atmore
Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Edena Atmore provided an update on the following, as of March 31, 2020:
  • General Fund – She explained that 69% of the projected revenue has been received and 44% has been spent. The fund balance may be adjusted in accordance with the audit. She is projecting that the City will take a hit on sales tax and HOT tax.
  • Utility Fund - She explained that 50% of the revenue has been received and 42% has been spent, the year to date target is 50%.
  • Hotel Occupancy Tax Fund, the fund balance is at 104% of the expenditures; 38% of the budget has been spent at this point. She asked staff to be conservative with the resources.
             
3. Discussion and update regarding fiscal year budget 10/01/2020 - 09/30/2021.  Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Edena Atmore
Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Edena Atmore explained that it is early to look at where the City needs to be. As of April 27th, she will start to meet with departments to discuss the upcoming budget. She added that Fiscal Year 2020-2021 will need to be conservative.

City Manager Cloer informed Council that additional financial reports will be provided and discussed at the April 27th meeting.

Mayor Presley adjourned the work session at 4:36 p.m.
             
REGULAR MEETING
             
A.
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Presley called the Regular Meeting to order at 5:30 p.m.
             
B.
INVOCATION AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The invocation was given by Pastor Tony Watson, First Baptist Church, and was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
             
C.
PROPOSED CHANGES OF AGENDA ITEMS
There were no proposed changes.
             
D. PUBLIC COMMENTS, PUBLIC RECOGNITION, AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Members of the public may submit their comments by completing the required Request to Speak form by using the weblink below. All comments submitted prior to the meeting will be read during the meeting.
http://cityofpalestinetx.com/government/city-secretary/policies-forms/request-to-speak/

Maggie Smith submitted comments regarding COVID-19 read by City Manager Cloer.
             
E. CONFLICT OF INTEREST DISCLOSURES
No action was taken.
             
F. MAYOR'S REPORT
Mayor Presley spoke regarding the following: COVID-19 and current orders in Anderson County to reduce the spread of the virus.
             
G. ITEMS FROM COUNCIL
There were no items from Council.
             
H. CITY MANAGER'S REPORT
City Manager Cloer reported on the following: COVID-19 cases in Anderson County and the Governor’s current order; all City public restrooms have been closed; Compost Facility is opened from 8:00 a.m. – noon, Monday through Friday; contact Customer Service to request one additional garbage cart; City offices closed through Monday, May 4th; she thanked those who participated in “Going on Bear Hunt” over the weekend; she provided an update on unemployment claims in East Texas; the City is still collecting data for Anderson County with Connected Nation Texas.

City Manager Cloer informed that department directors were present to address questions from Council regarding reports.

The following departmental reports were provided:
             
1. City Manager's Report
             
2. Development Services March 2020 Monthly Report. Building permits and certificates of occupancy are still being issued via email or phone; all the forms are online. City staff is still working on demolition projects.
             
3. Fire Department Monthly Report March 2020. Fire Department issued five controlled burning permits, responded to several accidents, and fires during March.
             
4. Municipal Court February 2020 Monthly Report
             
5. Municipal Court March 2020 Monthly Report. The caseload was higher for February than March due to COVID-19.
             
6. Palestine Public Library March 2020 Monthly Report and Summer 2020 Updates. Remind the citizens to return items in the drop-off box in front of the mall and continue to download digital books. Library staff has assisted residents to fill out the Census report.
             
7. Parks and Recreation March 2020 Monthly Report. Due to COVID-19 Parks Depart. has not had assistance from the inmates to help mow the cemeteries and wrapping up the City pool modification. Not sure when the City pool or Splash Pad will be opened; and an engineering firm has not been hired to assist with the Athletic Complex master plan.
             
8. Public Works March 2020 Monthly Report. Streets Dept. repaired 676 potholes and Utilities Dept. replaced 50 water meters.
             
9. Fiscal Year 2019 - 2020 Hotel Occupancy Tax budget re-forecast due to COVID-19 impact on tourism in Palestine. Tourism Marketing Manager Mary Raum provided an update. The City has already collected 50% of the year and even with March coming in down 26.7% we are right on target at 50% of the annual income booked. The City will see a 77.9% drop for the year. They are looking at ways to cut expenses.
             
I. 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 approval of minutes of the Work Session and Regular Meeting of January 27, 2020.
             
2. Consider approval of minutes of the Special Meeting of February 3, 2020.
             
3. Consider approval of minutes of the Work Session and Regular Meeting of February 10, 2020.
             
4. Consider approval of minutes of the Work Session and Regular Meeting of February 24, 2020.
             
5. Consider approval of invoices over $25,000.  Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer, Edena Atmore
 
  Motion by Council Member Joe Baxter, seconded by Council Member Larissa Loveless to approve the Consent Agenda as presented.
  Vote: 6 - 0 - Unanimously
             
J. REGULAR AGENDA
             
1. Discuss and take action on approved Hotel Occupancy Tax grants.  Tourism/Marketing Manager Mary Raum
Tourism/Marketing Manager, Mary Raum provided a summary. She explained that there are four applications that were submitted and approved by Council. Texas Jailhouse, LLC submitted an application to remodel their facility in the amount of $15,000; Jamie’s Therapeutic Touch submitted an application for Young Living Rally in the amount of $2,000; Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce submitted an application for Marketing and Promotion of the Arts funding for the Dogwood Trails Festival in the amount of $15,000; and Palestine YMCA submitted an application for Whataburger Spring Soccer Tournament in the amount of $8,000.

The applicants would like clarification on if the funding will be available based on a shift in the date/timing of their contract/event.

Texas Jailhouse has completed 50% of the work and they stopped not knowing if the City would put a stop to all spending. Jamie’s, YMCA, and the Chamber will need to reschedule their events. Council will need to make a decision either to grant extensions or ask them to apply for the grant once their events are rescheduled.
  Motion by Council Member Dana Goolsby, seconded by Council Member Joe Baxter to extend the Texas Jailhouse, LLC. contract until September 30, 2020.
  Vote: 6 - 0 - Unanimously
  Motion by Council Member Joe Baxter, seconded by Council Member Larissa Loveless to ask Jamie's Therapeutic, Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce, and Palestine YMCA to re-apply for Hot Occupancy Tax grants once their projects are rescheduled.
  Vote: 6 - 0 - Unanimously
             
2. Discuss and take action on previously approved Downtown grants.  Main Street Manager Rachel Nichols
Main Street Manager Rachel Nichols provided a summary regarding unfunded Main Street grants. City Attorney will review the entire program. City Attorney Landers added that he has not reviewed the program yet and is unable to provide an update. The attorneys are verifying compliance with all the grants. The public hearing will need to be held for these grants.
             
3. Consider authorizing the City Attorney to create lease amendment agreements for mall tenants.  City Attorney Gary Landers
City Attorney Gary Landers provided a summary. Staff recommends that Council authorize the city attorney to draft lease amendment agreements for any existing tenants who have made this request so even with the transfer of ownership of the Palestine Mall to Christon Company. Aarons and TNails are requesting deferment of payment. Aarons is still open while TNails closed their doors in April. All mall tenants with the exception of Aarons made their March payments. Aarons was not granted a deferral.
  Motion by Council Member Larissa Loveless, seconded by Council Member Joe Baxter to defer TNails rent payment on the mall property for 60 days after Governor Abbott lifts the band on non-essential businesses.
  Vote: 6 - 0 - Unanimously
             
4. Consider authorizing the Economic Development Corporation Attorney to create lease amendment agreements for Business Park tenants requesting leniency on payment of lease payments due to COVID-19.  City Manager Leslie Cloer
City Manager Leslie Cloer explained The Results Company requested leniency on their payment for their lease agreement. The Results Company has not closed its doors. Council deferred the item to PEDC Board.
             
5. Consider approval of contract for City Attorney Services.  City Attorney Gary Landers
City Attorney Gary Landers provided an update and status chronology of where he is right now. The standard contract was signed by Mayor Presley with the Bojorquez Law Firm. This is an opportunity for Council to ask questions and remind Council that the role of the city attorney is to be the lawyer for the Council. He is directed to do as the majority direct as a group. He takes daily direction from the city manager, as CEO. Council should have a copy of the response to the proposal and a copy of the contract. There was no amended contract provided.

Council directed the City attorney to provide a revised contract without errors. The contract needs to be reviewed at the next meeting.
             
6. Discuss and take action for response to Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Mayor Steve Presley and City Manager Leslie Cloer
Council wishes to continue to meet weekly until further notice to continue to obtain weekly updates. The next meeting will be Monday at 4:00 p.m.

Mayor Presley provided an update regarding the prison system. Also, TDCJ cases will not be counted in Anderson County, only the Correctional Officers that live in Anderson County and test positive will be counted towards the Anderson County count. All TDCJ Coronavirus patients are going directly to Galveston or Hunstville.

City Manager Cloer informed that City offices are closed through May 4th, all items can be conducted via phone and email.

Council Member Goolsby commended staff for creating more content with graphics on the City’s Facebook page.
             
K. CLOSED SESSION
Mayor Presley announced that Council would go into Closed Session pursuant to Texas Government Code, Chapter 551, Subchapter D. The time was 7:00 p.m.
             
1. Section 551.071 consultation with attorney: pending or contemplated litigation or a settlement offer including the Laza lawsuit and status of pending claims.
             
2. Section 551.072 deliberation regarding real property: the purchase, exchange, lease, or value of real property including interlocal agreement with a government entity.
             
3. Section 551.087 deliberation regarding Economic Development negotiations including Project Potter.
             
L. RECONVENE IN REGULAR SESSION
Mayor Presley reconvened Council into open session at 8:29 p.m.
             
1. Take any action necessary regarding real property.
No action was taken.
             
M. ADJOURNMENT
With no other business to come before Council the meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
PASSED AND APPROVED THIS 26TH DAY OF MAY 2020.

Steve Presley, Mayor

ATTEST:

Teresa Herrera, City Secretary

    

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