Copperas Cove city council narrowly approves extending city’s disaster declaration, 4-3
Mayor casts tiebreaking vote
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The Copperas Cove city council held a special meeting on Friday to vote on whether or not to extend the city’s disaster declaration, set to expire Friday evening.
The council ultimately voted to extend the disaster declaration through June 15, but the decision was not unanimous. With the absence of place 3 councilman Dan Yancey, Mayor Bradi Diaz cast the deciding vote to break a split-vote.
Council members Joann Courtland, Fred Chavez, and Marc Payne voted in favor of extending the declaration, with councilmen Jay Manning, Diane Campbell and Jack Smith voting against the extension.
Prior to the vote, City Manager Ryan Haverlah reported that the city’s previous declarations mirrored Governor Greg Abbott’s executive orders, but those orders have been changing much more frequently than the city is changing disaster declarations.
“In the last couple of weeks, he has significantly changed executive orders by allowing additional businesses to open at different capacities, removing certain penalties that are authorized for enforcement of certain portions of his executive orders. In discussing with Mayor Diaz and our emergency management team, we decided to move forward with a declaration before you to consider which would extend the disaster declaration for 30 days, remove any specific orders that would mirror the governor’s executive orders at that time, and simply declares a disaster.”
Haverlah said the disaster declaration gives the city the “first step to ensure that we can request resources from the county and the state and the federal government, which would include resource support from staff, or materials, or supplies, or funding.”
He added that the city is submitting an application for $40,000 in CEFD funds and that the city has been notified that it will be receiving $1.7 million from the Federal CARES act. The gross allocation is based on a formula of $55 per capita, Haverlah said. The city is in the process of clarifying on how the funding is to be spent, and Texas A&M’s Extension office has been assigned by the governor’s office to help facilitate the application and review of expenses for the CARES act.
Haverlah said there is not a specific program the city has planned for the funds, nor has the city received any funding yet, but the city will be bringing the CARES act funding and potential uses to the council once more is known.
“We do know that the majority has to be used for community healthcare in some aspect. What the definition of that is, I don’t know yet. We will continue researching and asking for clarification.”
Place 5 councilwoman Diane Campbell asked if some of the funds could be used to reestablish the Cove Cares program that provided meals for senior citizens.
Haverlah said that the city coordinating with Hill Country Community Action Association, which provides weekday meals for eligible senior citizens, and that there is a possibility of looking into resuming the Cove Cares program.
Also, regarding the city’s CARES act funding, Haverlah said that several percentages have been given, that the city can request and use funds without any documentation submitted to the site up front, by a resolution from the city council. Otherwise, the city must document and submit receipts for any use of those funds. Also, the city is subject to an audit for the use of any type of grants or resources from county, state, or federal government.
Place 7 councilman Jack Smith asked how the disaster declaration would affect CCISD holding summer school, and that he believed the city should support them in doing whatever needs to be done in regard to educating students.
Mayor Diaz said the city has yet to be contacted with them in regard to that, with Haverlah echoing that response. .
“We need to tell them that we support them, doing whatever they need to do to educate students,” Smith said. “We don’t want to put anything in their way.”
Smith wanted to ensure that the declaration does not affect the district’s ability to have in-person classes.
Robin Katz, city attorney, attending via phone call, said that the extension of disaster declaration is simply an extension of just the declaration of the disaster, and there are no specific rules within the declaration other than to reference the governor’s latest orders
“The school district is going to have to follow the rules just as any other school district throughout the state of Texas, under the governor’s rules as well as working with the TEA (Texas Education Agency). All this is doing is exactly what Ryan mentioned, which is extending the disaster declaration, which is going to allow you to reoup founds and have access to other resources and things of that nature.”
The only question from councilman Jay Manning was if the printed paper declaration was the same as in the electronic packet the council had received prior to the meeting.
Councilwoman Diane Campbell wanted to clarify that the declaration was a simply declaration.
“This does not require any enforcement or penalties for social gatherings, closing of any businesses, or privately owned business. It does not include penalties for social distancing, etc. It is simply acknowledging there is a disaster.”.
Katz did confirm that the order that the governor has issued, along with any rules and regulations, is still enforceable within the city of Copperas Cove, and that the police department can enforce at their discretion. But any citations would go to the county system, not the municipal court.
“This is still enforceable – just the governor’s rules,” Katz clarified.
Campbell spoke out against recent enforcements in other areas of the state.
“I think the governor, whenever that took place, they realize that what they’ve done is tyrannical. When you take away the freedom and civil liberties of the American people, and don’t allow them to have a business and operate their business so they can provide for their families, and isolating well people - that falls under tyranny. That’s why they backed up, in my view,” Campbell said.
After the discussion, the council took a vote, with the result to extend the declaration another 30 days, through Monday, June 15.