By Greg Ritchie
GRAPELAND – Grapeland City Council met Tuesday, Nov. 14 to hear a number of issues from citizens, including concerns about water bills and grants for roads and infrastructure.
The meeting began with a water report from City Manager Kevin Watts, who told the council eight million gallons ran through the municipal system with less than 2% loss. Grapeland Police Department reported 31 calls for service with five arrests, noting there was only one minor call during the recent Peanut Festival, which Grapeland Mayor Mitchell Woody commented was good news, considering how many visitors the city receives during the festival.
The Grapeland Volunteer Fire Department recently had a change in leadership and Tim Howard was on hand to give the council the update, which thankfully included no structure fires and seven minor grass fires.
Local resident Martha Childress was on the agenda to discuss a small rental property she had rented for a new business. Childress told the council the fee to transfer the water bills to the new business would entail a payment of $750. Childress said this would make the opening the business not worth it to the small business owner and said it was her belief other businesses had declined to open businesses in the space because of the high cost of transferring the name on the water bill. Mayor Woody told the council they could make an exception in this case and they did so, offering Childress the residential rate for a transfer of $350.
Water came up again as Watts asked for council’s approval to purge the lists of those who owe money for water from more than five years back. He said the city auditors had requested such a move to keep the list and the city books cleaner and council approved.
The council also approved grant money from Grapeland Municipal Development District for $60,000 to partner with a local property owner to make improvements to historic downtown Grapeland. The project will be known as, “2023 Downtown Revitalization Plan – Phase Two..”
The council approved a series of measures to ensure grant monies for the city, including proclaiming April as “Fair Housing Month” and other measures including an excessive force policy and civil rights policies.
The council had received a letter from the state of Texas regarding the city’s curfew law, which is now prohibited under state law. Several council members expressed concern about this, saying this law helped keep underage kids from being out and either causing or getting into trouble. Mitchell and Watts both agreed the curfew served a noble purpose, but the city would be forced by the state to dismiss the ordinance which affected residents under the age of 17. The council begrudgingly approved.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]