Copperas Cove city council okays proceeding with annual bond funds, scholarship pageant program ordinance
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The city’s annual bond funding was on the agenda at Tuesday night’s Copperas Cove city council meeting. The Certificate of Obligation bonds for 2023 will total $9,685,000. The tax-supported part of the bond funds for 2023 totals $3,120,409.
Among the projects funded for this fiscal year are replacing sports lighting at ballfields fields 1, 2, and 3; installing a walking trail around the pond in City Park, as well as replacing the bridge and installing another bridge ($450,000) at the park; funds earmarked for a new senior center building ($482,569); and renovation/construction at the city’s Municipal Court building ($400,000).
The Miss Five Hills Scholarship program was back on the agenda for this meeting. The discussion was brought back to the table on whether or not to make the program an official activity of the City of Copperas Cove, via an ordinance.
After more than 30 minutes of discussion, the vote to create an ordinance for the program was approved by the council, but narrowly passed with a 4-3 vote. Voting for the creation of an ordinance were Joann Courtland, John Hale, Manuel Montanez, and Jack Smith. Voting against the creation of an ordinance were Fred Chavez, Shawn Alzona, and Vonya Hart.
The last time the council discussed the city’s involvement in the program was February 2022, when the council agreed to request an “audit” of the program’s records. The program has more than $40,000 in unexpended funds, part of which are scholarships which are being released to past titleholders as they pursue higher education. At Tuesday’s meeting, the audit was waived, as to do more than a financial audit of the program would drain much of the program’s remaining funds.
The program had been under the city’s “umbrella” after it separated from the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce, per the chamber’s request, back in 2016. At that time, the City of Copperas Cove agreed to take it on, and act as the fiduciary agent for the program, which was run by Volunteer Director Wendy Sledd.
Sledd, as well as a past committee member, and the pageant program board chair, David Morris, were present at the meeting.
Councilmember Jack Smith commented during the discussion that he missed seeing titleholders at local events and all the things that they brought to Copperas Cove.
Councilmember Vonya Hart, who voted against bringing the program back to the city as an ordinance, questioned Sledd if there had been any other volunteer efforts done by any of the program participants since February 2022.
Sledd replied that there had not, since there were no new titleholders crowned to execute any of the projects.
“That’s how the volunteer base is collected by the winners of the Scholarship Pageant. So when there was no pageant, there’s no representation of volunteers to carry that forward other than our board,” Sledd told the council. “But that’s how we select the volunteers that take on the leadership roles that lead those major events that give hours of volunteer service and grant money and all kinds of other contributions to this city. So without the representatives selected to take on those leadership roles, then that discontinued.”
Councilmember Joann Courtland initiated the motion to create the ordinance for the program. Courtland likewise came up with a proposal for the program to become a city-run program, executed by a board of volunteers.
This could potentially bring back events such as the Howl-o-Ween Puppy Pawlooza, which brought in thousands of dollars as well as donated food and supplies for the city’s Animal Shelter. The program’s volunteers also facilitated the $50,000 grant from Raising Cane’s for the city’s dog park which opened last year.
If the program returns, its fundraising activities would be at least 60 percent focused on the city’s departmental programs, such as the library and the animal shelter, to name two. It can also raise funds and champion the causes of Copperas Cove-based nonprofits, such as Cove House and Operation Stand Down Central Texas.
One concern from the city’s administration was the “liability” that the program itself created.
Before the program can continue to move forward, the city will work with the program’s board and the City’s legal team to draft an ordinance which will come back to the council for final approval.
Also on Tuesday evening, the council also authorized the city to participate with Coryell County in securing HUD Disaster Recovery Grant funds through the Texas General Land Office. If the county gains these funds, those funds can be used for various drainage improvement projects.
The Hill Country Community Action Association (HCCAA) made its presentation to the city council, requesting a payment for $7,500 toward its Meals on Wheels program. So far for this fiscal year, HCCAA has distributed a total of 6,076 meals. The council had previously approved earmarking $7,500 for this expense. There are 43 clients in Copperas Cove who receive meals Monday through Friday.