City council denies additional payment for water bond project

The Italy City Council members, in a rare occurrence, split their vote regarding a financial shortage with the water bond project Monday evening at its monthly meeting.

Scott Hoelzle, an engineer with KSA Engineering, told council members the contractors prepared the foundation for the ground storage tank. After inspection from the geo technicians, he said they discovered clay deposits marbled around the weathered limestone and had them dig an additional two-and-a-half feet. This cost additional unbudgeted money.

Hoelzle said the contractor is willing to work with the city; rather than asking $22,000, he is asking for $12,000.

Greg Richards, council member, said he has oversaw road construction for the state for more than 30 years and said that he understood that you never know what type of soil you are going to hit in this part of the county. With the state, however, he said the contractors usually absorbed the cost to do the job right after the contract is signed.

Rodney Guthrie, mayor pro tem, said that the city cannot get slapped in the face every time there is a problem.

Teri Murdock, city administrator, said this was not a mistake the city made and asked why they expected the city to pay the entire $12,000.

James Hobbs, council member, said that it looked like a $12,000 mistake on their part.

Hoelzle said estimated this project conservatively.

After discussion, Guthrie made the motion to pay the additional $12,000 with a second from Richards. Guthrie said this was a one-time deal. The motion failed in a two-to-three vote with Hobbs, Bruce Utley and Dennis Perkins Jr. voting against the additional payment.

Hoelzle asked what the next step will be. Mayor Frank Jackson said, “The council has spoken. They aren’t going to pay the additional money.”

In other business, the council repealed the existing sign ordinance and updated with ordinance #13-04211-01. Murdock said two changes were made to the existing ordinance – updating the maximum sign height to 20’ within the city and 100’ on the interstate. Richards made the motion with a second from Hobbs. The motion passed unanimously.

They also approved an ordinance amending the police reserve force. Diron Hill, police chief, said the change in this ordinance (#13-0211-02) gives reserve officers more flexibility to work the required 16 hours per month. Hobbs made the motion to make the change with a second from Utley. The motion passed unanimously.

Murdock said the Ellis County Emergency Services District #3 requested a joint election with the city on May 11. Again, the motion passed unanimously with a motion from Guthrie and second from Richards.

The council also approved an ordinance (#13-0211-03) to continue participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The purpose of the ordinance is to approve the county’s new flood map. Murdock said this will lower homeowners flood insurance rates.

Albert Garcia addressed the council regarding deed restrictions on the remaining railroad property that runs parallel with SH 77 toward Waxahachie. He talked about the junk yards along SH 77 south of Waxahachie. He said he didn’t want Italy and Forreston looking like that and urged the council to put restrictions on the remaining railroad property the city still owns. He said these types of businesses lower property values to surrounding acreage.

Jackson said they would talk with the city attorney as to what steps the city can pursue. Murdock said they cannot enforce deed restrictions on the property already sold but said they could put deed restrictions on any remaining property that might be sold at a later date.

Misty Culpepper, with Culpepper & Lawrence, CPA, PC, briefly outlined the 2012 audit. After going through revenue and expenditure totals for 2011 and 2012, she said there were no significant recommendations, just a few bookkeeping updates.

During department reports, Chief Hill said police officers were called to service 213 times in January; they made four arrests and worked 1,337 hours. The animal control officer received 28 calls for service, picked up two animals and issued eight citations. The code enforcement officer received 27 calls to service.

Dean Carrell, public works director, said the new water meters are working, noting that they are discovering meter leaks with this new system. He said the water loss is the lowest percentage he has seen. He said the crew worked 648 work orders in January. He said there are still issues with pumps and motors on the wells and said the sewer lines are in need of repair behind Citizens National Bank.

Murdock said Family Dollar and Taco Bell construction is moving along and said sales tax is up.

She also noted that anyone wishing to run for the city council must turn in a completed packet by March 1 at 5 p.m. She said packets are available at city hall.

The council approved minutes of the January meeting, approved bills and approved compensatory time.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 11.