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Council Votes Down Changes to Board Appointments

A full docket greeted those in attendance at Tuesday night’s regular session of the Van Alstyne City Council. Several in attendance were there to speak in opposition to a proposed motion regarding volunteer board appointments, while others were in attendance to speak on land usage issues.

A controversial set of agenda items — five in total — concerned passage of ordinances amending three board ordinances and two sets of bylaws. The issue amounted to board member absences. The proposed actions would automatically terminate the service of any board member missing three consecutive regular meetings. The ordinance amendments were to be applied to the Planning & Zoning Board, the Library Board, the Parks & Recreation Board, while the bylaw changes applied to the Economic Development Council (EDC) and the Community Development Corporation (CDC).

Councilman John Jennings was the first to comment on the items. Jennings spoke of having a step in place rather than waiting for three absences to result in a dismissal. Jennings suggested that two absences in six months should result in a letter to the board member and a council review of the situation with action thereafter. Jennings said that a third absence could result in dismissal.

For Jennings, there was a personal element involved. Though he didn’t miss meetings, Jennings said he could have easily missed four consecutive meetings last year when his wife was hospitalized. He said there could always be truly extenuating circumstances in any case. Ultimately, after some discussion, Jennings made a motion to leave the ordinance as written and make no changes. The motion passed 3-2 with Jennings, Russell Moore and Billy Plake voting for and Jim Smith and Kaaren Teuber voting against.

Three citizens showed up to voice their objections to the passage of the amendments. Timmerle Kelly, treasurer for the EDC, urged the council to leave the board’s bylaws as written and stated that one of her concerns was that the issue was never brought before the boards it would be affecting. Dr. Paul Westmoreland, President of the CDC, echoed Kelly’s remarks and said he worried that the action would kick people with good intentions off of the boards they wished to serve. Judy Womack spoke out on behalf of the CDC, as well, particularly about the lack of communication on the issue with the board beforehand.

“It felt very dismissive to have that done and not be consulted,” she said.

Ultimately, the three ordinance amendments and bylaw changes were voted down. The vote went 3-2 with the same results as before on all but the EDC vote which went 4-1 with Teuber voting to leave the bylaws as currently written.

Council also voted to authorize Mayor Teddie Ann Salmon to sign a pair of interlocal agreements with Tom Bean and Gunter for Van Alstyne to provide EMS service and passed an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 376 relating to the Atmos Energy franchise agreement as discussed in previous council sessions. Council also approved a motion to accept a drainage and utility easement from Paul Billingsley Interests, which will allow Collin County to proceed with getting those easements from the city. Council made their decision after hearing from Len McManus, of McManus, of McManus & Johnson.

A donation of land by Don DuPree sparked discussion regarding railroad right of way easements. DuPree was donating Main St. property from Jefferson to Van Alstyne Parkway to the city following Council approval. Jennings questioned a potential issue with a railway easement, while Smith got into a tense back-and-forth with City Manager Frank Baker regarding the $5,500 in funds necessary to cover the survey and plat work for the property. Eventually, both issues were put to rest and Council voted 3-2 to accept the land donation with Jennings and Smith voting against.

A proposed Farmer’s Market merited discussion, as well, with zoning being the key issue, as well as the need to limit it to handmade goods and self-grown produce. The zoning ordinance amendment passed unanimously.

The city also voted unanimously to authorize Baker to award contracts for bond counsel, an engineering firm and a financial advisor in relation to a low-interest loan for wastewater improvements. The only engineering firm to bid was McManus & Johnson, the firm currently employed by the city, and thus it was awarded the engineering contract.

COUNCIL NOTES: John Wade, the Cannon Baptist Church’s interim pastor, gave the invocation before Tuesday’s meeting…Police Chief Tim Barnes reported that court clerk Ashley Kennedy has been asked to instruct others in municipal court training throughout Texas. “It shines a good light on Van Alstyne,” said Barnes…Fire Chief Landon Smith reported that his department had received an $8,000 grant from the Foresty Service for bunker gear…Library Director Tracy Luscombe stated that the library has received a special projects grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission that will allow it to take print editions of the Van Alstyne Leader and put them on microfilm, as well as allow for the purchase of a reel carriage to hook to the computers for printouts and other services.

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