Mayor, council members sworn in, get to work
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Frank Seffrood was sworn in as the newest mayor of Copperas Cove by Justice of the Peace F.W, “Bill” Price on Tuesday evening, along with James Pierce Jr. for city council place 2 and Dan Yancey for city council place 3.
After applause and thanks from those assembled to outgoing mayor John A. Hull and former place 2 councilman Mark Peterson, Seffrood took a moment to share a brief prepared speech about the meaning of city and community.
The seated council then entered into the workshop agenda, that of discussion and providing direction to the city's attorney, Habib Erken Jr., about the formation of a code of conduct for city council members, as well as those appointed to city boards, committees and commissions.
Following on the heels of the workshop came the meeting, during which the council conducted several public hearings, among them the rezoning of city properties as Public land. These properties include the Central Fire Station, Fire Station No. 2 currently under construction, along with the future site of Fire Station No. 4, City Park and Ogletree Gap Park. The rezoning brought the properties into line with the city's Future Land Use Plan. After the hearings, action followed during the action items with the council approved ordinances designating those zoning changes.
Two other public hearings were held for amending both the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 city budgets.
For the 2014-2015 budget, the city's General Fund requires a transfer of funds from Non-Departmental in the amount of $4,585 to the City Attorney budget in the amount of $3,053 for legal services, and to the City Engineer budget in the amount of $1,532 for work related to the Engineering Subcommittee Workgroup. This does not use fund balance, so the council only needed to hold one hearing before approving the ordinance approving the amendment.
The 2015-2016 requested budget amendment contains a list of encumbrances or purchase orders and other commitments that remained outstanding at the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The encumbrances were rolled forward into 2015-2016. However, the unexpended budget is not rolled at the time the encumbrances are rolled, which requires a budget amendment to cover the outstanding encumbrances from prior years in the current 2015-2016 budget.
“It is the first large budget amendment we do each year,” said Ryan Haverlah, the city's budget director and assistant city manager. This amendment requires two public hearings because it uses fund balance, but fund balance from last year. Haverlah went through the details of each item. A second hearing will be held about this amendment.
The council voted to give its support to D Squared Development for its application for housing tax credits. D Squared Development is planning to build a 90- to 100-unit multi-family, income-based housing complex in Copperas Cove.
The council also voted to approve a professional services agreement with BSP Engineers for the completion of an access analysis, intersection analysis, engineering analysis, environmental surveys, geo-technical reports and testing and easement or right of way acquisitions for the Business US Highway 190 Master Plan, at a budgeted cost of $300,000 included in the 2015 debt issuance.
“This is another item we have been working on for close to two years,” said city manager Andrea Gardner. “Back in February, the work group presented to this body a layout for what we hope will become the future Business 190.” She said the plan includes a landscaped median, along with places for the HOP.
“We presented the option of having several analyses completed, rather than just adopting the draft.
So council directed staff to move forward with including the necessary funds to have this completed in a future bond issuance, which took place earlier this year, so we do have the money for all the analyses you asked us to do,” Gardner said.
The lease for Cove House Emergency Homeless Shelter was up for renewal again. The city in the past has leased five properties which make up the shelter for $1 per year. The current three-year lease expires on Dec. 31, 2015. Councilwoman Cheryl Meredith had made a motion to approve the lease renewal. However, councilman George Duncan asked that the motion be amended to reflect a 90-day extension.
“We have several properties within the city limits that we offer in a lease at $1, which is almost like free rent.” Duncan proposed the lease continue through March 31, 2016 as-is until the city can develop a policy on how it actually handles leased property, so it is fair and equitable to every entity, and not just one. Council agreed to the amendment and lease extension, as well as developing a police for the city's leased properties.
The council also discussed and gave direction to the city staff concerning professional development expenses for city council members, an item which was called for by councilman George Duncan at the last city council meeting.
“It's an observation what we don't have and I think is necessary, is an approved list of those things council members attend, or are approved to attend, on the financial back of the citizens,” Duncan told the council. “In my mind, a professional development course through TML (Texas Muncipal League), or something of that nature is probably in our best interest, but trips to AUSA (Association of the United States Army) serve no use as a council member, but they may for the mayor and the city manager.”
Each council member is budgeted $2,500 annually for professional development, which each council member can use to attend conferences designed to educate elected officials.
Marty Smith weighed in with her opinion, as she has attended the AUSA conference multiple times in the past.
“I understand what Ccuncilman Duncan is saying, but as a representative that went to the AUSA convention the last several years, last year was first time the city paid for mine.” Smith said she is a past AUSA president, is associated with the AUSA, and has footed the bill herself to attend the conventions, as well as paid for any funds over and beyond herself. She said last year, she did pay for her airfare to attend that conference.
“It is our way of choosing what we are interested in, and what we feel is dear to our heart and associated with,” she added.
“We're not all going to agree on everything, but I think we should leave it the way it is,” said councilwoman Cheryl Meredith. She said it should be left up to each council member how to spend their professional development funding.
Mayor Seffrood called for confidence in the people they serve with to use the money it was intended for.
“I think we should be responsible adults, and ethical behavior is to take what we are given and to use it wisely,” Seffrood said.
City manager Andrea Gardner said some council members have, in the past, approached her to ask other council members to use some of their unspent professional development funding. She said those requests put city staff in an awkward position.
“i do think a policy is necessary because it has been proven more than once that they can't follow the budget that is set,” Gardner added.
Also, she questioned why council members up for reelection would spend the entire year's money, leaving the new council member without funds available for professional development training, something Gardner called unfair. She did confirm, at Smith's request, that none of the present council members were the ones who have repeatedly come to her with such requests.
The council did agree to place this discussion and creation of a policy for a future council workshop.