BUDGET PUBLIC HEARINGS
The Crime Board budget was first to be discussed. The Crime Board had already approved the budget but before it went before Council citizens were given an opportunity to speak on it. With no one present wishing to speak, the public hearing was closed.
The council next moved to the Economic Development Corporation budget. This budget was already approved by the EDC. The public hearing was opened, but with no one wishing to speak the public hearing was closed.
The next budget that was discussed was the overall City budget. A public hearing was opened, and one citizen spoke. They questioned the need for the tax increase that was a part of the budget, saying home values are going up and so the City is getting more money anyways.
All council members were present for this specially called meeting. The agenda items for the meeting were to hold a work session on the budgets for the library and museum.
Council member Steve Ott questioned why this meeting was called. Mayor Ronald A. White explained that there was a citizen who raised questions about the library budget at a previous meeting and he wanted to make sure those questions had been answered. He also referenced what he called a “breakdown in communication”, saying he’d been informed that the museum didn’t receive all of the funds in their budget they had requested.
Mayor White asked Finance Director Phil Bray if the citizen’s questions about the library budget had been answered. Bray explained that the citizen was invited to come to City Hall where staff would go over the budget with them, but said that they did not come in. He stated that at a previous meeting when these questions were raised, staff attempted to answer them. The citizen was present, and said they’ve been unable to meet with staff, but would like to take them up on the offer and do so soon. They were told that the invitation is open.
City Manager Jim Ryan explained that the decrease in the library budget the citizen was questioning was from two years ago, when higher salary employees left the library and those that replaced them didn’t have the same qualifications, meaning that the new employees’ salaries were lower. Ryan again stated that the current library budget had not been cut or lowered, saying it was the only department to not be cut.
Moving to the museum budget, Deputy City Manager Jeff James addressed the council. He stated that it was simply a miscommunication, explaining that the budget documentation submitted by the museum made it appear as if they were only asking for $24,000 in funding. Lower on the document, there were an additional $6000 in expenses listed, but James stated that since the additional money wasn’t expressly being asked for it was thought that the museum was going to pay for those expenses using their donations. James said that moving forward they will use a more clear form of budget documents and will work to communicate more clearly with the museum and their board.
A discussion was held regarding ownership of some of the exhibits at the museum. While discussing using funds to repair exhibits, both Ryan and James touched upon the fact that this could mean spending tax dollars on something the City doesn’t own since there are exhibits at the museum that are on loan and not actually owned by the museum. “I don’t know if we really want to take taxpayer dollars and benefit a private citizen,” James said, saying this wasn’t advisable.
Ott pointed out that the museum board isn’t appointed by council, saying that the museum is its own entity that uses City property and is funded by the City. He suggested that this might need to be addressed, offering options such as making the museum an actual part of the city like the library and seniors center, or to stop funding the museum since it’s not officially a city department. Ott stated that it’s an auditing issue having the museum set up the way it is now.
Returning the discussion to the museum budget, council member Clements and Mann voiced support of funding the additional $6000 that is being asked for. Ott stated he was against it until he had more documentation about why they needed the additional funds.
One of the museum’s board members addressed the council in an attempt to answer some questions regarding the extra funds they requested. Ongoing security costs, damage to the museum building, and utilities were some of the things the extra money would go towards. They also said they believed making the museum a City department was an excellent idea.
Since this was a work session, no actions were taken by the Council.
Council member Steve Ott was absent due to an illness.
BUDGET WORK SESSION
The council continued their ongoing budget discussions. First up was the Crime Board budget, which Council has to either approve or deny and can’t make changes to. Council member Elzie Clements spoke first, thanking the Crime Board and the Police Chief for how much they were able to cut their budget. He spoke highly of the WSPD and said he appreciates the cuts, but hopes they didn’t cut too much. Council member David Mann, echoed this sentiment. City Manager Jim Ryan reminded them that much of the WSPD budget is also contained in the main budget in addition to what is in the Crime Board budget, saying it was the “single most important and expensive thing the City spends money on.”
All council members were present at the meeting.
INSURANCE TRUST AGREEMENT
Human Resources Director Mark Huff presented this item to the council. Huff explained that Cities have the opportunity to avoid being taxed by the state when it comes to insurance premiums if they set up a benefits trust. That trust has to be set up by the Council through a resolution. Mayor Ronald A. White asked how this benefits the City and its employees. Huff explained that it will save the City around $15,000. The City pays all of the employee’s insurance and subsidizes dependent coverage.
Council member Paul Moore made a motion to approve this resolution. That motion passed unanimously.
PROJECT UPDATE: Work on the Community Development Block Grant Program project is now underway on West Place. This comprehensive sewer line project will run from West Place through to Lanham Street. Homeowners may be asked to accommodate work crews regarding fence line issues in the work area. The City shares the cost of this project with Tarrant County. A timeline of 120 days has been estimated for completion of this project.
All council members were present for the August 9, 2016 meeting.
QUARTERLY INVESTMENT REPORT
Finance Director Phil Bray presented this item to the City Council. He highlighted the yield the City’s investments are bringing, saying that they are “significantly better” than they would be if the City was using one of the available Texpool options.
The 2016-2017 school year for the White Settlement Independent School District got underway today. That means the return of 20 mph school zones. Please be extra attentive while driving near the schools in the mornings and afternoons as our neighborhood children come and go. Also, remember that there is a complete restriction on using cell phones in an active school zone. This includes making and receiving calls. There are only three permitted cell phone uses in an active school zone. If there is an emergency situation and you are calling police or fire or medical, any emergency or safety personnel that are using their cell phone in the performance of their duties, or the use of a completely hands-free method of using your cell phone. Let’s all work together to make this a safe and prosperous school year for all those in the WSISD!
All council members were present for the August 9, 2016, meeting of the White Settlement City Council. After opening the meeting, council voted to move the executive session set for the end of the meeting to the beginning. This was done to avoid paying more attorney fees than necessary as part of the executive session required the council to speak with an attorney. Items highlighted on the executive session agenda were to seek advice from City Attorney and to conduct the performance reviews of City Manager Jim Ryan and City Secretary Amy Arnold.
After meeting in executive session, the council reconvened in open session. Council member Steve Ott made a motion directing staff to proceed as discussed in the executive session. That motion passed unanimously.
PUBLIC HEARINGS POSTPONED
Ott made a motion to postpone several planned public hearings that would deal with re-zoning, platting, and re-platting. Ott stated that he would like to see more documentation on these issues before council considered them. That motion passed unanimously.
The three members of the City of White Settlement Marshal’s Office spent part of their day last week testing for their annual firearm certification. City Marshal Jeff James, Deputy City Marshal Melvin Wilson, and Deputy City Marshal Randy Rogers traveled to the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department to do their testing on the firearms range there. The test requires the marshals to fire 50 rounds at a target from four different distances, from 3 yards, 7 yards, 10 yards, and 15 yards. All three members of the WS Marshal’s office scored 96% or better and received their annual certification. They certified on their duty weapons, backup weapons, and off duty weapons. This certification makes sure that the Marshals remain trained and ready should the need arise to use their weapon.
“Firing your weapon isn’t something you ever take lightly,” Deputy City Marshal Melvin Wilson said. “You’re accountable for every single shell you fire.”
The Marshal’s office has many duties within the city, from serving warrants, contacting those with warrants, participating in code compliance issues, assisting animal control, and even acting as security for Splash Dayz waterpark.
“The Marshal’s do pretty much everything,” Wilson said.
In addition to working as Deputy City Marshal, Wilson also serves as the City’s Fire Marshal.
On Friday, the White Settlement Senior Center held their monthly food bank. The food bank is held on the second Friday of the month with help from the Tarrant Area Food Bank and the Senior Center Services of Tarrant County. The Center selects and purchases the food that will be available at the food bank at a reduced price from the Tarrant Area Food Bank, then volunteers go pick it up. A team of volunteers helps unload the truck and set up the food on tables in the Center. Volunteers also staff each table, helping load up the seniors with food as they make their way through the line. With many seniors living on a fixed income, the food bank helps them keep food in the pantry. Seniors looking to participate in the food bank need to eat lunch at least four times a month at the Center, including eating lunch the day the food bank is held.
For more information about the White Settlement Senior Center or to see a calendar of the numerous events and activities being held there, head to http://www.wstx.us/seniorcenter/
The northernmost park in the City of White Settlement is John Griggs Park. This is the second oldest park in White Settlement and was once known as North Park. It was renamed in honor of John Griggs by a unanimous vote of the City Council in November of 1986 to honor him for his 24 years of service as the Fire Chief of the White Settlement Volunteer Fire Department. At the November 1986 meeting, Council considered renaming Saddle Hills Park in honor of Griggs but ultimately decided to rename North Park. At the meeting, Griggs was referred to as a remarkable leader.
Griggs joined the White Settlement Volunteer Fire Department in 1954 and was named Fire Chief in 1956. He served as the chief until 1980. He also served in the leadership of the Tarrant County Fire Fighters Association. In addition to being honored with a park in his name, there is a plaque at the base of the flagpole at the current Fire Station in remembrance of Griggs and all he did for the community.
Hanging in the White Settlement Fire Station on Hanon Drive is a massive hand-painted map of the City of White Settlement. This map was created in 1992 by volunteer fire fighters. They used an overhead projector to project the image of a map onto the large wooden canvas, then traced it by hand. If you zoom in close enough you can see that each individual street is labeled. The handwriting on each of those streets? That of current White Settlement Fire Chief Brian Thompson, who at the time was one of the volunteers helping to create the map.
There are many structures and areas around town that are named in honor of people. From time to time we’ll be focusing on one of these to remember who the person was that was honored and why they were deserving of such an honor. One of the most recent structures to be named is the amphitheater at Central Park, which since 2013 has been known as the Norris and Ella Chambers Amphitheater. This honor came shortly after Norris passed away. Norris was born in 1917 and his life was full of adventure and love. He served in the Merchant Marines during World War 2, owned and operated radio and television repair shops, operated a one man printing shop, and was an electronic technician with General Dynamics. He also served as a trustee on the WSISD school board and served on multiple City boards. He was also heavily involved in the White Settlement Historical Society and Museum. His long life and history is uniquely preserved through his “Old Timer’s Tales” that he posted online and later ran in a local newspaper. Those tales painted a vivid picture of life in a bygone era.
It’s impossible to say much about Norris without talking about his wife, Ella. She was always by his side and their long partnership in life inspired those around them. This was evident in the words of then Mayor Jerry Burns, who spoke about their marriage at a council meeting in September of 2012 when Norris Chambers was being honored and September 6 was established as Norris Chambers Day in the City of White Settlement.
“He and his wife have led a life that will inspire others,” Mayor Burns said. “If you want to know how to live, you want to know how to love, watch this man and his wife. They set an example that will last through eternity.”
Did you know that the sign that hangs above the City Council in the Council Chambers has been around since 1952? The sign was originally placed on the outside of City Hall in 1952. In 1976 it was removed while renovations were done. The sign reappeared in 1985 when it was hung inside the Council Chambers where it has remained for 31 years. The photo above shows the sign as it was in the 1980’s and the way it is today.
It’s budget time here at the city which means it’s one of the busiest times of the year for our finance department. Did you know that the people who make up the White Settlement finance department have a total of 76 years in finance work experience with 47 of those years spent in municipal finance? The City of White Settlement’s finance department has received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award 29 years in a row for their outstanding work on the city budget year after year. This award is presented by the Government Finance Officers Association and is the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting. Of the over 90,000 local governments in the United States, less than 2,000 received this award last year.
Finance Director Phil Bray spoke about his time with the White Settlement finance department. “It’s been nice to work with such an organized and efficient finance department. It’s not that way everywhere you go,” Bray said.