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Council Approves Skating Rink in Crockett; Updates to City Charter

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT –  Crockett City Council met Monday, Oct. 16 to approve the opening of a skating rink and arcade in downtown and to conduct a formal review of the city’s home rule charter and form a commission to make recommendations to the city’s existing charter. Prior to the council meeting, the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation (CEIDC) held a meeting to approve the incentive agreements for the two new companies soon to open in Crockett, A&A Texas Capital, LP and Stealth Vision, LLC.

Crocket Police Department (CPD) Chief Clayton Smith presented the department’s crime numbers for September, noting CPD had 16 officers who worked a total of 2,808 hours during the month. CPD responded to 460 calls, making 47 arrests and making 246 traffic stops. Eight of the arrests came from assault, three from burglary with another four caused by incidents of drunk driving. 

Crockett Fire Department (CFD) Chief Jason Frizzell followed up with his report, telling the council CFD responded to 21 calls within the city in the month of September, down from 54 in August at the height of the summer heat and burn ban. CFD assisted HoustonCounty responding to 18 calls in other areas. 

“We cut our calls in half since we got a little rain,” Frizzell said. “We had 80 calls last month and we welcome the slow-down.”

Crockett Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher remarked how just a little rain made such a difference in the county. 

“I still don’t know how brown grass can turn green that rapidly,” Fisher joked. “It was all brown and we already had to mow a couple of times in the last week! It was scary; it was so dry. We are grateful to God for the rain and grateful we had such good patrolling (from CFD).”

The council then took up the matter of variances between the city’s charter and its operations. Crockett City Administrator John Angerstein told the council the matter was placed on the agenda to get some initial discussion about the city’s charter to make sure it is up date and functional. A consultant recently assisted the city with the charter, but Angerstein said it might be time to review it. 

“We have had three legislative sessions since then and in the last session this spring, over 200 bills were passed that directly impact the city and its operations,” Angerstein told the council. “Every couple of years there are new things the city needs to adhere to and as things update, we need to update as well.”

There was an amendment made to the city’s charter in 1999, but other than that, there has not been a revision of the city’s charter since the 1960’s. A city’s charter defines how a city is organized, how it functions along with all the related procedures. 

“This gives the citizens the ability to know how the city operates,” Angerstein explained. “The charter is kind of the Bible of the city – it’s something that we can refer to as the minimum requirements and guidelines.”

Angerstein proposed 30 items to begin discussions in a committee to decide if the city should revise their charter and in what way. Issues such as annexation have been impacted by new state regulations. The city charter demands a candidate for city council must own property in the city, although this is now unconstitutional in the state of Texas. The number of terms a mayor can serve as well as the nominal salary for mayor and council members were all determined in the 1960’s. 

Councilman Ernest Jackson agreed, saying there are issues regarding public access to council members are lacking in the original charter and should be addressed. 

“People have that right, and they should be able to come, within the means of this charter, and address the council with whatever concerns they may have,” Jackson said. “That is critical, because at the end of the day, we are seated on behalf of the people.”

Fisher agreed, telling the council the charter has been manipulated over the years and the city needs to update it and stick to it. 

“If we are going to have a foundation and a foundation you are going to operate under, it is only reasonable that is be accurate. If it hasn’t been officially updated since the 1960’s – we’re in trouble.” Fished said. 

An expert in working with cities on these matters, Don Edmonds told the council the project was supposed to be taken on five years ago and it was important the city complete the revisions to the city charter.  

“Crockett has an astounding history, being one of the earliest home rule cities in the history of the state,” Edmonds noted. “Your history is important and you should be very proud of it. In my 25 years of experience, I have seen charters in worse shape than this, so you’re not alone. Changes to the charter can only be amended by a vote of the people and getting a charter up to date is a pretty good challenge.”

Edmonds told the council the process should take about three months, given the council can provide well-thought-out ideas and commissioners. The city needs to hold a special election for the voters to approve any changes as the council is set to hold six meetings to discuss and approve any modifications. 

The plan would be to deliver the final proposals by February, so the city can order ballots to place the amendments for the May elections. The council would hold meetings during the weeks there is no city council to expedite the process. The plan to create the commission was approved unanimously. 

A public hearing was held regarding the roller-skating rink and arcade which proposes to open on the second floor of the building located at 500 East Houston Avenue at the corner of North Fifth Street in downtown Crockett. One member of the public asked if the facility would be wheelchair-accessible, saying some disabled parents were concerned they would not be able to access the facility with their children, given the rink would be on the second floor. 

Owner Juanita Stout had earlier presented the plan to the city’s planning and zoning committee which voted to recommend the project to city council, effective based on Stout owning the building and as long as she owns the building and complies with city ordinances. 

The project was approved unanimously. 

The council also approved:

  • Nominating a new member to the Crockett Library Board
  • Payment of CEIDC bills 
  • Awarding concrete construction services bid to Velasquez Brothers Construction 

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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