The Sweetwater City Commission met for a regular meeting on Tuesday morning, Sept. 13, 2011 at City Hall.
A public hearing took place during the meeting to discuss redistricting plans. No input was offered, but two representatives with the city's selected redistricting firm, Knight and Partners, gave a presentation on the process and plan chosen.
The initial need for redistricting prompted the formation of a redistricting committee of local citizens, who were praised several times by the firm for their assistance. Information presented to the committee was also shown during the meeting, such as a variety of statistics and the two initial plans drawn up by Knight and Partners.
Changes were made in Draft Plan 2 which resulted in the formation of Draft Plan 3, which was shown and recommended to be adopted. Geographic issues, demographics, race, active voters and maintaining commissioners within their district were several factors considered during the process.
Though changes are probable through redistricting, it was noted that a majority of citizens will eventually remain in their same district. The commission considered the first reading of an ordinance adopting Draft Plan 3 as recommended by the committee, which was approved.
Also, the second and final reading of a few ordinances were approved, including the ordinance adopting the new budget. The budget will raise more total taxes that last year's budget by $46,496 which is 2.74%; of that amount, $53,833 is tax revenue to be raised from new property added to the roll this year.
In addition, the second and final reading of the ordinance fixing and levying the tax rate of 48 cents per $100 valuation — which has been in effect since 2005 was approved. The ordinance amending the budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year and the appropriations ordinance for the 2011-12 budget were also approved.
Other approvals came in ratifying the property tax increase reflected in the approved and adopted budget for 2011-12. No changes were noted in the resolution approving the Investment Policy for the 2012 fiscal year, thus it was approved.
Also approved for the new fiscal year was the Financial Policy and the SEED (Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development) board's authorization to give a 3.3% cost of living raise to SEED employees.
In other SEED-related news, the appointment for two SEED directors for a three-year term beginning Oct. 1 of this year was considered. Each commissioner may nominate one person, though he has two votes — with one vote for his nominee. The two nominees with the most votes will be appointed.
The two names presented by the commission were David Welch and Bill Johnson. Mr. Johnson will be coming off a previous term with SEED and will continue to serve, whereas Mr. Welch will occupy the seat of John Jay, who will exit the board at the end of his term.
Furthermore, a committee was appointed and approved to review city and county interlocal agreements which will consist of commissioners Jim McKenzie and Jerod Peek and former Sweetwater mayor Jay Lawrence, along with city staff.
Some reappointments were approved as well in the meeting for the Board of Adjustments and the Planning and Zoning Commission. Charles Hamlin, Rhea Hendrix and Laila Sheridan will continue to serve in the latter, while Terry Bennett, Gil Cherry and Keith Brock will continue to serve in the Board of Adjustments.
All members were cited as good members who attend meetings and are willing to continually serve. Their new terms will run through the end of September 2013.
In addition, bids were opened and considered on five items for the new fiscal year: fuel, oil and lubrication products, hot mix cold lay asphalt, ready mix concrete and weed killer. The commission opted to go with and approved Johnson Oil Company on the first two items and Vulcan Materials, Coe Construction and Sweetwater Fire Extinguisher in Trent for the other items, respectively.
More approvals were given, including to pay the full rate to Texas Municipal Retirement System beginning Oct. 1 of this year. Funds are available in the budget to cover the costs, in which the study conducted several years ago should result in the acceleration of proper funding which was previously cited as lower than average. Approval was also given on the minutes of the meetings held on August 9, August 16 and August 23 of this year.
Eddie Brown, the city manager of Sweetwater, offered in his report that the city would be hosting Leadership Sweetwater on Oct. 11, 2011. The city was also awarded a Community Development Fund grant totaling $252,083 for sewer system improvements.
The sales tax allocation payment in August for the city, at $558,699.20, included a single payment of $211,029.87 from an anonymous taxpayer. The payment represented taxes collected by a business that was either located in the city or did business in Sweetwater.
Additionally, $60,856.68 of the collections were the result of audit recovery payments. Regular sales tax revenues are up 13% year to date and including the one-time payment and audit recoveries, the number is up at 20%.
Mr. Brown received a letter from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education relating to neglect of legal responsibility in racial profiling report. The issue stemmed from the state's transition from paper to electronic filing, and Sweetwater Police Chief Jim Kelley corrected the reporting problem.
Also, the city successfully accomplished the refunding of the series 1997, 1998 and 1999A bonds. A cost savings of $519,515 over the next nine years will be seen which benefits taxpayers.
During the Public Input session of the meeting, ONCOR representative Jim Clements discussed a series of incidents — namely the power outage which occurred late Saturday evening, Sept. 10. It is believed that while the weather may be a factor in some other events, wildlife may have attributed to Saturday's power outage.
Mr. Clements also noted that some false reports were given on Saturday, after the company investigated and found nothing corresponding with the reports. However, all issues have been inspected, corrected and repaired with the hope that the local incidents will subside.