The Chester Gas System & City of Chester's council met on Monday Feb. 5 to discuss and act upon several important issues. Entergy's Sam Bethea updated them on their current franchise agreement which ends in March and after discussion, all approved a new 25-year agreement which keeps the same gas fee intact. This fee generates some income to the city based on amount of gas used by its 85 customers. The new agreement begins March 28 and does include an incremental fee clause, which the current council declines to use. Mayor Floyd Petri emphasized that this should not be confused with the recent changes in gas rates and installation fees approved by council: they were changed due to increased costs for gas.
One position on City Council remains vacant after the last election. Anyone living within the city limits who is interested in serving can contact the mayor or anyone at City Hall. The mayor also updated the board on the NIMS (emergency) training which can be done online and encouraged all to do so.
Guest Mike Davis asked about number of past due gas accounts and the recent changes to the basic charge and installation fees.
Since this was on the agenda, the current policy was discussed and the listing of 28 customers was reviewed. Past due notices are sent out monthly and once any account is more than 60 days past due, the service can be turned off.
The mayor mentioned that some vandalism had recently occurred at the city park and that the city will take legal action if a suspect is identified.
Related to the park and use of city facilities, the council reviewed current policy. Facilities can be rented at city hall. Renters pay $100 clean-up deposit and an electrical fee (if appropriate), and may be given a key if the event takes place outside of regular business hours.
The new Employee Handbook was presented and approved as revised after several months of consideration.
Woodville Mayor Russ Nalley opened a planning workshop Monday by announcing that the key to a successful 2018 is planning.
"You can't get anywhere if you don't plan," Nalley said.
The council and staff quickly reached consensus as to the need for the city's downtown area to look its best for the 75th annual Dogwood Festival.
Suggestions included coordinated efforts by volunteers to tackle troublesome areas of the city in early spring.
City Manager Mandy Risinger reported that Municipal Judge Judith Haney often assigns violators to community service as a way of working off fines.
"We provide the safety vest and bags, then they fill the bag and leave at the side of the road for city staff to collect in a truck," Risinger said. That process also allows city staff to track their efforts. The area around the housing authority and Cob Mill Road frequently have a lot of litter, she added.
Staff also will announce more detailed plans for heavy trash collection during the first two weeks in March. This effort allows residents to bring larger items to a dumpster at the warehouse at no charge.
Risinger noted that certain items such as tires, batteries and lead paint cannot be accepted.
Nalley asked members about other projects they would like to see the city pursue.
"I get lots of ideas from citizens, but they usually want them to be accomplished without higher taxes, raising utility bills and someone else volunteering," Nalley said.
Councilwoman Joyce Wilson asked about the status of a sidewalk project that was part of a recent engineering study. Risinger responded that the sidewalk proposal would be submitted for the next two-year cycle.
City Secretary Terri Bible mentioned the possibility of partnering student groups and business owners to provide planter filled with flowering plants.
"That's a good way to add a lot of color with minimal cost," Nalley said.
After transitioning into the regular January meeting, the council quickly handled its agenda of monthly reports.
A resolution naming the Tyler County Booster as the newspaper of record won unanimous approval.
In the City Manager's report, Risinger noted that city hall would be closed Jan. 15 in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday.
Staffers are closing out documentation for disaster recovery projects and the Pine Street Water Well. All the work has been accomplished, the final items all relate to closing out FEMA documentation releasing retained funds to contractors.
Risinger also is researching as to whether the city is required to designate a city health officer. Dr. Curtis Garner resigned from the position in November. So far, Risinger said she has not located any requirement that the city replace him.
The city manager also reported that documentation seeking reimbursement for emergency protective measures for Hurricane Harvey should be finalized soon. All the documents are in FEMA's hands, awaiting approval.
As far as damage repairs, Risinger said the contractor who installed the roof at city hall recently made an inspection and the damage should be under warranty.
In response to questions from Nalley, Risinger said water is likely continuing to leak into the attic area, but it's not intruding into the building interior. Some visible mildew damage is visible in the city council chamber where walls meet the ceiling.
"That's all superficial," Risinger said. "It's not in the Sheetrock and not in insulation. That's why we haven't been scurrying around pulling Sheetrock out."
"Budgetwise, we may be looking at a new roof," Risinger added. "It's pretty evident we got a poor job. The roof was replaced 10 years ago and the warranty was for 20 years — supposedly."
Elected officials continued a discussion that began at the December meeting regarding a request to amend a city ordinance on the use of fixed propane tanks for homes and businesses in the city.
Fire Chief Chuck Marshall and Public Works Director Charles Maclin expressed a number of potential hazards posed by increased use of propane within the city.
Marshall recalled Tyler County community faced those risks when a valve broke off a large propane tank at Warren Junior High, the chief said. Firefighters remained at that site for two days, shuttling water and containing the leaking propane by a technique known as "fogging."
The explosive limit of propane is considerable lower, meaning the risk of explosion is greater than natural gas. Natural gas is lighter than air, so when leaks occur, the gas drifts up into the atmosphere; propane dissipates along the ground — sometimes for great distances.
Risinger noted that there are concerns about service issues that accompany leaks. Currently, half of the city employees are members of the fire department. When a leak is reported, those dual roles allow them to enter a residence if necessary and shut off gas. They can also turn off the service at a safe distance from the fire.
If fire crews respond to a propane leak, they must dedicate one truck and crew to keeping that tank cool.
The request for a revision to the ordinance on propane will remain tabled, Nalley said.
Tammy Watts, right, administers the oath of office to Jimmy Tucker, left, at Monday’s meeting of the Woodville ISD Board of Trustees. Fellow trustees elected Tucker to continue as board president. Valerie Reddell photo.
Woodville ISD trustees Jimmy Tucker and Bret Smith each took the oath of office Monday after their election to a new term on the board. The board then re-elected Tucker as president, Bret Smith as vice-president and John Wilson as secretary.
"We will strive to do our best to serve you as officers," Tucker said.
Trustees also unanimously approved an application for a waiver from the Texas Education Agency for missed instructional days in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Woodville ISD closed for five days when much of Tyler County saw widespread flooding when Hurricane Harvey lingered over Southeast Texas.
Principals from each of the WISD campuses presented a summer of their campus improvement plans which were updated to help ensure the district meets accountability criteria set by the Texas Education Agency.
The challenge lies in the fact that the agency is still drafting the policy on accountability criteria. In effect, students, teachers and administrators are trying to hit a target for the current school year that hasn't been set yet.
In the meantime, campus leaders say they are working to improve reading levels among students who have struggled in prior years.
For example, all middle school students are participating in a "Drop Everything and Read" program in the mornings, according to principal Eric Holton. Students at that campus who have been identified as needing to improve skills are also participating in afterschool tutorials for the next six weeks to improve their mastery of skills and concepts that will appear on the mandated test.
High School Principal Morgan Wright told the board that his campus would not make any major changes since they mastered 14 out of 15 criteria, but they would not become complacent. "We know we've had some success, but we won't want to rest on that," Wright said.
Staff members have put together a plan on how to look at some students in special populations that could have an impact on the district's rating as a whole.
Wright said they are using the zero hour to help students master areas that they are struggling with. The other goal at the high school has been to focus on courses in multiple career pathways that students can pursue.
WHS started a criminal justice program last year. A second class has been added and they hope to launch a forensic science class next year.
Fourteen students are enrolled in a teacher prep program, and they are given the opportunity to get some hands-on experience with younger students.
Wright said they run surveys from time to time to judge what interests current and incoming students have.
"The building program has taken off," Wright said. "Students are building deer stands, chairs and other things. They are getting hands-on lessons on how to use a saw, how to measure and other important skills."
"The game we play is driven by data," Superintendent Glen Conner said. "We collect data about where kids are academically and where their interests are from a career standpoint when they get to high school."
Conner also commended the efforts to work closely to integrate lessons on all campuses, so that students have a smooth transition from one school to another as they move toward graduation. "We use the data to make changes in classrooms from a day to day basis, not a six-week basis," Conner said.
Trustees also expressed appreciation to the staff.
"Looking at all those plans, I heard from each of y'all the goals that we set (as a board)," trustee Trey Allison said. "I realize communication is flowing from the superintendent to you. Math and reading are No. 1."
Allison also praised the campus leaders for breaking down the goals and implementing steps to reach those goals.
"Many people set goals and don't really look at them till the next year rolls around," Allison added. During the superintendent's report, Conner informed the board that trees on the intermediate campus had received a "haircut" during the Thanksgiving break.
"It's more aesthetic, and it might get the grass growing on some areas of bare sod and eliminates the hazard posed by dead limbs," Conner said.
Work on drainage issues and gutters at the high school building was completed as well.
"We are still waiting on doors. I thought some would be installed over the holidays, but that didn't happen," he added.
Conner also would like to schedule a security workshop to harden the buildings in light of things that have happened recently at school facilities and other public buildings.
During a discussion on attendance and enrollment, Wilson asked why enrollment varies widely from grade to grade.
Conner answered that there are some classes that start with fewer students in early grades, then remain smaller as the students advance through the grades.
As an example, Conner pointed out that the current ninth grade class has been smaller throughout their school career.
Colmesneil City Secretary Mandy Pattillo swore in Duane Crews and Gene Allen to a new two-year term. The council also elected Crews to continue in the position of Mayor Pro-Tem.
A reading of the city budget for the 2018 fiscal year was tabled until the December meeting. All office reports, including financial and investments and water and sewer were approved, and council went into executive session to review and approve a salary increase for the city secretary.
A discussion to transfer funds from the general account to the savings account was approved. The council voted to put $50,000 into an interest-bearing account at Citizens State Bank. Signatories will be Mayor Baird, council member Duane Crews and Mandy Pattillo were retained as authorized signees.
Plans are underway to pave parts of Pine and Oak Streets, and the repairs to City Hall and the fence at the community center are finished. All city staff will have their Christmas party after next month's meeting, set for Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.
Woodville City Manager Mandy Risinger announced to members of the Woodville City Council that the $2 million project for a new water plant. The project will finish slightly under budget, Risinger added. It was funded through a public-private partnership with ETEC.
Work on the water well at the industrial park has finished and water lines have been pressure tests, she added. Once TCEQ obtains water samples and determines they pass testing, the well will go online.
The city is also waiting for insurance adjusters to assess damages to city hall related to roof damage and a water leak from Hurricane Harvey.
Rising has also contacted the contractor that installed the roof to determine if any warranty applies to the repairs needed.
"All in all we were very fortunate during Harvey," Risinger said.
Code enforcement officials are working with property owners who installed a communications tower on Sutton and Dogwood without pulling a permit.
"We have been unable to verify that the foundation meets code," Risinger said. "They have been instructed to lower the tower until an engineer can inspect the foundation."
"We are concerned that if the foundation fails, it could have serious ramifications. We are working with the inspector and property owner. Municipal Court Judge Judith Haney reported that 217 citations were processed by the court during September. Haney also discussed
Five of six Chester City council members met Monday, Sept. 11, in City Hall at 6 p.m. and voted to cancel November elections to fill two positions as no one had registered to oppose the current members.
Board member Jimmy Herrington's resignation was then accepted and with board approval, Patrick Cherry's appointment was accepted and he was sworn in by Mayor Floyd Petri to complete Herington's two-year term.
The mayor has been appointed Chester's emergency manager to work with the state and Tyler County officials. An immediate concern is to upgrade the emergency radio system which currently functions at a 50 percent level after repairs; this is part of the ARES which is used to facilitate communication during an emergency.
Chester does have one working antenna but needs another one and may need a new radio system. No action taken.
The city park's lighting and scoreboard needs were discussed with the decision to wait for the electric company to check out why lights do not currently work. Finding a compatible control box to run the scoreboard at the city park is also under way.
The meeting adjourned at 6:51 after a lively discussion on the reelection process for council members and usage of office space by non-official citizens.