By Greg Ritchie
CROCKETT – The Crockett City Council met Monday, Sept. 19 and voted to pay off a 2004 debt owed by the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation (CEIDC). Mayor Pro Tem Mike Marsh and Precinct Two Council Member Darrell Jones were not in attendance.
Crockett Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher started the meeting by thanking the city and the residents for the great success of the Hispanic Heritage Day held in Downtown Park Saturday, Sept. 17. Fisher said her Spanish language skills were put to the test – but noted the event was a huge success.
City Administrator John Angerstein informed the council of continuing work to water mains and streets – along with the installation of fiber optic cables along South 4th Street. He said water lines were being repaired along Goliad and East Houston Avenue from the Crockett square to East Loop 304. Angerstein reported there should be more expansion of the sidewalk network in the city approved – although construction would probably not being until fourth quarter of 2023. As for the city swimming pool, Angerstein reported the city is still looking for bids and – in order to save money – might begin construction in the winter when prices drop.
In other business, Crockett Police Chief Clayton Smith told the council in the month of August, the police department responded to 563 calls, including 61 arrests and 296 citations issued. The police force comprised 13 officers, totaling 2,685 man hours worked in that month. Chief Smith said he was optimistic about the future of the force, receiving five new applications for open positions and interest from two formers officers looking to return to the department.
Crockett Fire Chief Jason Frizzell reported his department responded to 32 calls in August and assisted with another 18 calls throughout Houston County. The chief said he has two volunteers being trained at the fire academy. He said the force still needs volunteers – the department will train anyone who steps forward to help.
The council voted to submit a request to Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to close the Crockett square for the Christmas in Crockett event. Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Liza Clark petitioned the council to expand the closure this year in order to accommodate more visitors and vendor booths. This was approved unanimously.
The council then took up the matter of a 2004 debt CEIDC owes to Prosperity Bank. Executive Director James Gentry explained to the council that CEIDC has approximately $700,000 on hand and voted to pay off this debt, which is currently $315,000. Gentry noted the loan was generated before his time, saying the interest rate of 3.95% would save the CEIDC over $27,000 in interest if the loan were paid now. The loan was renegotiated in both 2014 and 2016.
Mayor Fisher told Gentry it might not be prudent to make any large disbursements of money at this time – given that a forensic audit will begin soon. Precinct One Councilman Gene Caldwell asked how long an audit might take – around 90 days came the answer. Caldwell told the council maybe they should wait until the end of the audit and just pay the extra two months of interest. He made a motion to table the discussion and the payment until after audit – but there was no second to his motion.
Precinct Three Councilman Ernest Jackson made a motion to allow CEIDC to pay off the debt which was seconded by Precinct Four Councilwoman Marquita Beasley. The vote passed with Jackson and Beasley for – and Caldwell against.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]