The City Council of the City of Palestine, Texas convened in a Special Telephonic or Internet Meeting on Monday, April 6, 2020, at 3:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 504 N. Queen Street, Palestine, Texas, with the following members:
Present: Mayor Steve Presley; Mayor Pro Tem Ann Connor; Council Member Larissa Loveless; Council Member Mitchell Jordan; Council Member Vickey L. Chivers; Council Member Joe Baxter; Council Member Dana Goolsby
Staff Present: Leslie Cloer, City Manager; Teresa Herrera, City Secretary; Gary Landers, City Attorney
Other Staff Joined Virtually: Mark Harcrow, Interim Police Chief; Mark Miears, Development Services Director; Patsy Smith, Parks & Recreation Director; Shannon Davis, Fire Chief; Theresa Holden, Library Director

With a quorum present, Mayor Presley called the meeting to order at 3:32 p.m.
The following statements were submitted to be read; statements were read by City Manager, Leslie Cloer:
  • Jack Coleman statement regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, presenting an unforeseen communication risk by Mayor Presley for using his personal email address for official City communications.
  • Jeffrey Roberson statement regarding the residents and business owners of Palestine, Texas support for Mark Harcrow as permanent Chief of Police of the Palestine Police Department. A petition with over 750 signatures was presented.
City Manager Cloer provided an update. Anderson County still only has had one confirmed Coronvirus case. The individual is currently under home isolation under the care of a physician. This was identified as a travel-related case as the individual had previously traveled to an area within the state of Texas that already had confirmed cases of COVID-19. Citizens and business owners are encouraged to refer to our COVID-19 update webpage where we will post all Executive Orders from Governor Abbott’s office, orders from Anderson County Judge, Robert Johnston, and orders from Mayor Steve Presley posted.

City Manager Cloer reported on the following: all parks' public restrooms are boarded up and closed, and signage around the playground equipment in City parks are posted. The City discourages the use of Parks equipment; the Compost Facility will be open new hours beginning on April 6, 2020, from 8:00 a.m. through noon on Monday through Friday; City offices will be closed April 10, 2020; additional garbage carts are available for $5.00 a month through June; she added that although there are stimulus packages being discussed and reviewed in Washington, D.C. for response efforts for the Coronavirus (COVID-19), these funds are not guaranteed for reimbursement to City of Palestine or Anderson County. The stimulus and emergency funds will be allocated based on the total impact of COVID-19 in our county; City of Palestine, Visit Palestine, and Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce has had great participation in the “Going on a Bear Hunt” social distancing adventure.

Visit Palestine is currently updating their website daily to add stores in Palestine that will offer curbside pick-up, delivery, or drive through options during this pandemic.

City’s Palestine Economic Development Corporation has posted the following information on the webpage for Small Business Administration information to help our community business owners.

She reminded everyone that a Town Hall meeting with COVID-19 Task Force will take place at 6:00 p.m., today.
1. City Manager's Report.  City Manager, Leslie Cloer
2. Parks and Recreation Update
1. Discuss and take action on a temporary ordinance amendment to modify the juvenile curfew due to the current COVID-19 emergency. Interim Police Chief, Mark Harcrow
Interim Police Chief, Mark Harcrow provided staff comments. Staff is recommending to temporarily amend the juvenile curfew hours ordinance from 10:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m., Monday through Sunday. There are some exceptions to the ordinance.
  Motion by Council Member Mitchell Jordan, seconded by Council Member Dana Goolsby to approve Ordinance No. O-12-20 amending the juvenile curfew due to the current COVID-19 emergency. Curfew hours 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., Monday through Sunday.
  Vote: 7 - 0 - Unanimously
2. Discuss and take action on Voucher Program. City Manager, Leslie Cloer
City Manager Cloer provided staff comments. She explained how the Voucher Program worked; she added that 5,723 were mailed for 2020 First Quarter and only 196 vouchers were redeemed. Staff recommends to temporarily suspend the Voucher Program to reduce cost.

Staff is going to compare the cost of the City-wide Cleanup and cost of the Voucher Program for the April 13th meeting.
  Motion by Council Member Dana Goolsby, seconded by Council Member Joe Baxter to not approve the Voucher Program during COVID-19 Disaster Declaration in order to reduce the risk of exposure to City Staff.
  Vote: 6 - 1
NAY: Council Member Vickey L. Chivers
3. Discuss and take action on Emergency Leave Policy in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). City Manager, Leslie Cloer
City Manager Cloer provided a summary. Emergency Leave Policy in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  The FFCRA became effective on April 1, 2020, and the Department of Labor, Texas Municipal League, and various legal counsel have still been providing updated interpretations through this week.  Since they have still been providing updated information, the Department of Labor has extended the period for employers to make good faith efforts to comply through April 17, 2020.
  Motion by Council Member Dana Goolsby, seconded by Council Member Vickey L. Chivers to adopt the item as presented.
  Vote: 7 - 0 - Unanimously
4. Discuss and take action on Mall Lease Agreements during COVID-19 pandemic. City Manager, Leslie Cloer
City Manager Cloer provided an update. The City is still the owner of the mall. Aaron's and TNails have requested to withhold payments due to COVID-19.  Finance did send out invoices on the first of the month to tenants and the lease payment is due to the City of Palestine on the last day of the month.  Several of the stores in the Palestine Mall were required to close in accordance with Governor Abbott's Executive Order Number GA-14.  Mall tenants are requesting leniency for rent payments as their businesses are currently closed through April 30, 2020. Discussion was held.
  Motion by Council Member Dana Goolsby, seconded by Council Member Mitchell Jordan to wait to hear from the Christon Company before Council makes a decision.
  Vote: 7 - 0 - Unanimously
5. Discuss and take action on Coronavirus (COVID-19) response. City Manager, Leslie Cloer
Mayor Presley provided an update regarding transfers of inmates. He reached out to Rep. Cody Harris and Sen. Robert Nichols regarding COVID-19 and transfers within the prisons. A meeting was held with TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier and health officials. TDCJ has informed that all transfers will stop. COVID-19 inmate cases will not count towards Anderson County case count. Also, inmates that need treatment related to COVID-19 will be transferred to Huntsville or Galveston for treatment.  

Council asked how many tests have been done in Anderson County. Mayor Presley informed that NETHealth is not allowed to release those numbers. Mayor Presley did try to obtain the information, and he has been denied the testing numbers. Discussion was held.
The meeting was adjourned at 5:30 p.m.

Steve Presley, Mayor


Teresa Herrera, City Secretary


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