City council approves, denies public hearing requests

Image: Mayor Frank Jackson received a standing ovation for his 14 years serving the City of Italy.

Mayor Frank Jackson received a standing ovation for his 14 years serving the City of Italy. (Patty Grimes)

The Italy City Council held two public hearings to discuss rezoning and the issuance of a specific use permit Monday evening at its regular meeting.

The first public hearing was to consider a request from Brad Yates, owner of Loren Gray Investments, LLC, to permanently rezone 317 E. Poplar Street from Single Family Residential District 2 (SF2) to Two Family Residential District (Duplex -2F).

Yates said he purchased the property several years ago planning to restore the home. He discovered the house was beyond repair and decided to build a duplex on the site in question – at the corner of Poplar and Simms streets.

Jimmy Hyles, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, told council members that Yates had 100% approval from the P&Z. James Hobbs made the motion to approve the rezoning change with a second from Dennis Perkins Jr. The motion passed unanimously.

There was a great deal of vocal opposition at the second public hearing requesting the city issue a Specific Use Permit for a scrap metal processing center at 320 N. Hwy. 77.

Elmerine Bell, local resident and member of the Italy Economic Development Corporation, voiced her opposition to the request. She said the other entrance to the city at the south end of Hwy. 77 is unsightly and doesn’t want the same fate for the north entrance to the city.

Bell said that, despite what promises are made, it would ultimately become an eyesore. She asked if the current facility is in compliance with the state and questioned whether this facility would ultimately bale and crush vehicles. If so, she questioned what type of hazardous chemicals would leak into the ground and ultimately the ground water. She asked if they would keep records for payments over $25.

Bell said she wants to improve the city and welcomes new businesses into town but didn’t want to see this type of facility locate in Italy.

Luin McConnell, whose family owns the Necroplex located next to the property being discussed, asked about the runoff. He questioned who would check the runoff each time it rained. He also questioned what would happen to the property values of surrounding property should this request be allowed.

Jimmy Hyles, the lone member of the P&Z who voted against the specific use permit, said this type of business was not needed in Italy. He said Tom Little made the motion to allow the permit with the stipulation that outside storage would not be allowed outside for an extended period of time.

He said no one can enforce an ordinance worded as such since there were no specifics outlined in the motion. Hyles said he is not anti-business but doesn’t see the need for this type of business in Italy.

Italy Police Chief Diron Hill also recommended the council not approve this permit request.

He said after 20 years in law enforcement, he said these types of businesses become more of a nuisance than an asset. He said there is a 40-page code that he would enforce. He also said this type of facility always brings in a criminal element.

Albert Garcia also expressed his concern about this type of property. He said there was no personal issues with Braden but said he didn’t think this type of facility would help the community.

Hanna Braden, owner of Asset Metal Recovery, said this request is for a metal recovery processing center. She said she sees a need for small local transfer yards. The facility would include three peddler scales and one truck scale.

Braden said the sorting would be done inside the large warehouse. If anything is stored outside, she said they would be in large roll-off containers. She said there are no plans to accept vehicles at this location.

She said the original business, Jamieson Manufacturing, was left unsightly. She said they have done a great job cleaning up the facility. She said they would eventually employ up to 10 people and would only operate between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. She said they would like to join with the city and offer pickup service on a quarterly basis.

Braden said they have made great strides to upgrade the property, unlike the Necroplex next door. From the audience, McConnell ordered Braden “not to go there.” She continued, “Even with a couple of large containers outside, the property would still look better than the neighboring property.”

She said this is a green business and would provide a great service for the citizens of Italy.

Billy Ray Turner asked why the council was considering what these residents were saying when they had not done anything for the south end of Hwy. 77. He said she (Braden) only wants to help the city unlike the property on the other end of town. He said her property does look good and urged the council to give her a chance.

Rodney Guthrie voted not to approve the request with a second from Dennis Perkins Jr. The motion not to approve the specific use permit passed unanimously.

Awards, proclamations and resolutions

Jack Bingham with DCI Sanitation, LLC, presented Meagan Hooker and Brett Kirton, IHS seniors, with $500 scholarships for their essays about “Going Green.” Hooker was not on hand to accept her scholarship.

Mayor Frank Jackson read a proclamation acknowledging the success of the Lady Gladiators track team for their representation at the State 1A UIL Track and Field Meet in Austin this past weekend.

Kortnei Johnson won first place in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash, breaking records in both races. Halee Turner captured sixth place in Hurdles and eighth place in the Triple Jump. The 4×100 relay team, consisting of Turner, Kendra Copeland, Ryisha Copeland and Johnson, grabbed sixth place.

Coaches for the team included Hank Hollywood, Nate Skelton, Jessika Robinson, Lindsey Coffman and Brandon Duncan.

The mayor also proclaimed May 12-18 as National Nursing Home Week and as Police Week in the city. The latter publicly salutes the service of law enforcement officers in the community and in communities across the nation.

The council approved a resolution (#13-0513-01) to approve a 2,200’ walking trail at Upchurch Field.

Charles Hyles, a representative from the Italy Economic Development Corporation, said he initially approached the IEDC with a playground and walking trail. He said eight tons of 3/8” rebar has been donated and a local concrete company has donated 30 yards of concrete and will sell the remainder at a $10 discount per yard.

Hyles said they will eventually get trees at a reduced price to be placed around the walking trail. He said, “We can turn this into a great asset for the city.”

Greg Richards made the motion with a second from Guthrie to move forward with the walking trail project. The motion passed unanimously.

Department reports

During department reports, Hill said officers were called to service 203 times in April, made 11 arrests and worked 1,261 hours. He said the animal control officer picked up one animal, was called to service 12 times and issued three citations. The code enforcement officer was called to service 12 times and issued eight citations.

Hill said the department has begun Coffee with a Cop monthly at McDonalds. He said the first meeting was held May 11.

Dean Carrell, public works director, said the city has reduced water loss to 3.32%. He said the new meters are working at city hall. He said they have replaced three fire hydrants and have done a lot of mowing. He said the water bond project is now 50 percent completed.

The Italy Municipal Court received 327 citations from the police department, cleared 30 warrants and issued 100 collection letters.

Teri Murdock, city secretary/administrator, congratulated the scholarship recipients, the track meet winners and the baseball team, which is advancing in the playoffs. She thanked the volunteer fire department and local police officers who volunteered at West, Texas, following the recent explosion.

Murdock said the city has received confirmation that the city ranked 12th with a recent grant request from Glendenning and Associates. This $275,000 grant will replace lines on Harris, Hardeman and Williams streets. She said the city will have to match with $30,000.

She said ribbon cuttings were held in April for the new Taco Bell and Family Dollar Store and said the first annual Cinco de Mayo celebration went well. She said sales tax was down 2.98 percent this month but was up 3.9 percent for the year.

She said they would canvass the election May 16 at 6 p.m.

Other business

Valerie Speed Nickerson with Community Services Inc. pointed out that the organization assists the elderly, disabled and those with children under the age of five with heating and cooling bills. The former Italy resident said those that meet this criterion and are in need may contact the department at 800-831-9929.

The council also approved an ordinance (#13-0513-01) enacting a new code of ordinances providing a penalty not exceeding $500 generally or exceeding $2,000 for violations relating to fire safety, zoning or public health and sanitation.

Perkins made the motion to approve the ordinance with a second from Bruce Utley. The motion passed unanimously.

Following a brief discussion, the council approved naming the new pavilion across from city hall the Cargill-Gallman Pavilion. Guthrie made the motion with a second from Richards. The motion passed unanimously.

Frank Boyer had requested to be on the agenda to discuss the dog ordinance and what is being done about pit bulls but he did not show up at the meeting.

Hill explained to the council members that a municipality cannot outlaw a specific breed of dog. He did say that a complaint had been filed against a pit bull on Avalon Street. He said that issue is being addressed by the department.

The council also approved minutes from the previous meeting, bills and earned compensatory time.

Prior to adjourning, Mayor Jackson, a lifelong resident of Italy, received a standing ovation for his 14 years of service to the city.

Jackson congratulated Hobbs for winning the mayoral race. He thanked council members, especially those he has worked with for several years. He praised the staff noting that he could not ask for better department heads. He said, “They are the ones that are keeping this city going.”

Jokingly, Jackson said that he had hair when he started serving the city.