By Teresa Holloway
PALESTINE – Repairs and upgrades to the city’s water system were the main topic of discussion in the Dec. 12 Palestine City Council meeting.
In the city utility arena, Utility Department Director Tim Perry addressed upgrades to the infrastructure.
“The current budget identifies $1.5 million to be financed for the water meter change-over project, dealing with the condition of the water filters we have at the water treatment plant and the TCEQ violations we are under,” Perry said.
“We’d like to go ahead and allocate some of those funds to go directly to those projects … to get the water meter projects started and research other funding for the remainder of the project through the Texas Water Board or other funding opportunities out there,” he added.
Perry reminded the council the funds had already been approved but the Utilities Department would like to reallocate some of the monies toward the water meter replacements.
“This would have a direct effect on the city’s water quality,” Perry told the council. Water meter replacement would remain secondary to the TCEQ mandated water filter project for the city’s treatment facility.
The estimated cost of the water filter project is $800,000 to $900,000, according to preliminary figures.
When questioned by Precinct 4 Council Member Joseph Thompson about the need for $1.5 million, Perry explained the leftover funding would be used for a water meter replacement project and by the time the loan came through, the project should be ready to bid.
After discussion regarding borrowing lump sums as opposed to piecemeal sums, Presley motioned to approve the utility staff recommendation of $1.5 million in financing to start the water meter change out process and for other projects as needed including water filtration systems.
The council approved the motion with one dissenting vote by Thompson.
In other city news, the council was introduced to three new firefighters being welcomed to the department.
Interim Fire Chief Shannon Davis introduced Grant and Hunter Clifton and Korey Musil to the council members and audience. The Clifton family has a long history of service to the City of Palestine.
Davis highlighted further changes in the fire department.
Jeff Croft was promoted to Battalion Chief, Tim Ingram was promotoed to Captain, J.P. Manley to Lieutenant and Kaylon Wade to Driver/Engineer.
“Ingram is a great leader and will do even better as the Shift Captain,” Davis told the council. Davis complimented the fire fighters and welcomed the new personnel to the team.
Perry introduced new staff placements of his own in the Utilities departments.
Ami Ashworth will be the new Public Works Ofice Manager and Courtney Nieto will now serve as the Public Works Administrative Assistant.
Kevin Watts and Dakota Morris earned their Class C Water Distribution Operations License earlier in December and Perry publicly commended the two for the combination of on the job training and study, followed by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality testing.
Perry introduced and commended John Roesslein and Trevor Cazier for their work in earning a Class C Surface Water Operator’s License. The licenses were earned through training, on-site work and testing with TCEQ, Perry said.
Kim Thrasher of the Palestine Police Department is now a Master Certified Dispatcher and was commended by the Palestine Police Department and Lt. Gabriel Green.
City aesthetics and sign placement were next on the discusson table.
There will be a new off-premise sign installed on 2209 S. Loop 256. The sign will be used by the Texas Spine and Joint Hospital for advertising their business located at 2211 S. Loop 256.
The sign meets all required statutes governing signage, according to Development Services Director Jeffrey Lyons.
Marketing Manager Jess Mouery, of the Texas Spine and Joint, spoke in favor of the sign. The hospital leased the area in which the sign will be installed.
“We would hope the people would see the sign and come to see us if they are hurting,” Mouery said in response to queries about the importance of the sign.
No one spoke in opposition to the sign’s installation.
The Mayor’s report from Bob Herrington followed public business. Herrington commended the city staff and volunteers who made the Parade of Lights possible.
The mayor lauded participants in the procession. “The floats were absolutely amazing. The creativity … that was some of the best collection of floats I’ve ever seen.” he said.
Herrington applauded the churches, citizens, city employees and other groups participating in the toy gathering efforts for kids in the community.
District 6 Council Member Steve Presley agreed. “All year round, but especially this time of the year we need to think about those people who need help from time to time. I know I see and hear of that all the time here in Palestine. It’s a really great experience to live in a community where people do take care of each other.”
Mitch Jordan reminded the public the holiday season is the time to really help those less fortunate. “If you can, if you are able, please reach out to those in need to help make sure their Christmas is good.”
Presley continued his public comments and told the audience the Texas State Railroad is operating the Polar Express train rides again this year.
“The goal is 60,000 tickets and the TSRR is at 52,000 so far, with about 1,000 coming in daily. They expect to make their goal this year,” he said.
Places on several advisory and city boards were up for member appointment and council members turned their attention to filling the gaps on those boards.
The council reappointed Edwina Miller to Place 5 in the Planning and Zoning Commission with only Councl Member Vickey Chivers voting in opposition.
Stuart Whitaker and Fran Lindsey were unanimously reappointed to Places 6 and 7 on the Tourism Advisory Board.
Rafael Hernandez was appointed to Place 5 on the Tourism Advisory Board by unanimous vote.
With gaps in the advisory boards filled, council members opened bids for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Building project.
Bids opened in the meeting were from Hyper Construction of Palestine, who submitted a bid of $47,550 for the project and Austin Construction of Palestine, who submitted a $55,000 bid. No actions were taken on the bids as the project is still out.
The Golden Shovel Agency was awarded the contract to develop a comprehensive website for the Palestine Economic Development. The contract is valued at $26,400. The council voted unanimously to approve the contract.
Closing unused city streets was next on the agenda.
Dollie Lane, 400 feet north of the intersection of Loop 256 and Court Drive, will be closed and abandoned by the City of Palestine.
“We have no utilities or plans for the area, it’s abandoned and of no use to the city,” Lyons told the council. The city council unanimously approved the move.
The city’s law enforcement personnel require several upgrades to maintain tactical proficiency and reporting mandates through the State of Texas, PPD Lt. Gabriel Green told the council.
Green requested permission to apply for a $35,000 grant to outfit the officers with upgraded, tactical body cameras from WatchGuard body cameras. The police department will have to match those funds with 20 percent.
Mandatory crime reports submitted through a national system are a State of Texas requirement, Green continued.
The state has a new grant program to allow departments to upgrade their equipment and come into compliance with state statutes, Green explained, and requested approval to apply for those grants.
Council voted unanimously to approve both grant applications.
By Teresa Holloway