James Hobbs leads first meeting as Italy Mayor

The Italy City Council chambers were overflowing with residents Monday evening as James Hobbs led his first meeting as mayor.

One of the items on the agenda dealt with appointing Steven Farmer to fill the seat on the city council which Hobbs had filled until his election as mayor. During citizen’s comments, Frank Jackson asked why he was not being considered to fill the empty seat since he had applied for the position as well.

Jackson said Hobbs told him his expertise was needed on the council. Hobbs said that Jackson lives in Italy and can be contacted anytime there are questions.

Hobbs said Farmer had lost by six votes and he felt that he should be allowed to serve. Hobbs said he never saw Jackson’s application. After a couple of sharp exchanges between the two, Dean Carrell, public works director, said he hand-delivered Jackson’s application to Ronda Cockerham, assistant city administrator. Cockerham said she never saw the application. Terri Murdock, city secretary/administrator, said she had the application, made a copy and handed it to Cockerham.

There were several residents in attendance voicing their support for Farmer.

Elmerine Bell finally asked to be recognized. She said that she was not supporting either of the two men. She did point out that if Jackson had turned in his paperwork, then he had every right to be considered or rejected by the council for the vacancy. She also pointed out that she had not seen Farmer at any council meeting whereas Jackson had been mayor for 14 years.

Farmer, who was at the meeting, said he has only been to a handful of council meetings but said he wanted to be a voice for the citizens and said he didn’t have a hidden agenda.

Rodney Guthrie made the motion to table the appointment of Farmer until both names could be considered. A second was made by Bruce Utley. The motion to table the item passed unanimously.

Another item on the agenda was a request from James Johnson requesting the old city hall on Williams Street be donated to “A Call to Souls Outreach, Inc.,” a 5013c nonprofit entity.

Johnson said he could get philanthropic grants to update the facility and provide a center for people to apply for help with utility bills. He said he got this idea after Valerie Speed Nickerson with Community Services, Inc. approached the city council a couple of months ago.

Bell addressed the council again noting that she was standing in support of Johnson and his request. She said the current building is an “eyesore.” She said that she had addressed the council and EDC about doing something about this former city hall building with no results.

Following an executive session with the city attorney, Hobbs said the council wants to move forward with the request but said Johnson needs to fill out additional paperwork. He urged Johnson to contact Murdock this week to get the request moving forward.

The council took no action regarding an executive session request for an itemized list of topics discussed between Hobbs and the city attorney since his oath of office.

In other business, Steve Huffman with Huffman Communications and Federal Signal of Corsicana addressed the council about a new siren for the community.

Hobbs explained that the fire department recently tried to activate the warning siren and discovered it no longer worked. Carrell said they tried to find a firm to rewire the system but couldn’t find anyone that would touch the antiquated equipment.

Guthrie finally said he knows the city needs the siren replaced but said they do not have the $18,000 in the city’s budget to upgrade the equipment. Greg Richards made a motion to table the item with a second from Utley. The motion to table the item passed unanimously.

The council also tabled an agenda item regarding mosquito control.

Jennifer Stradtman with Vector Disease Control International addressed the council regarding her firm that offers a variety of mosquito control options, including spraying for mosquitos.

Bell said the Ellis County Commissioners had recently purchased eight traps for mosquito testing and suggested the city contact Commissioner Paul Perry before they made a decision.

Dennis Perkins Jr. made the motion to table the item with a second from Guthrie. The motion to table the item passed unanimously.

Darrell Rosemond, operations supervisor with Atmos Energy addressed the council regarding a resolution (#13-0610-01) to adopt a rate schedule. The motion passed unanimously.

The council also named Hobbs to the North Central Texas Council of Governments, approved minutes of the previous meetings, bills and earned compensatory time.

Department reports

During department reports, Italy Police Chief Diron Hill said the department received 211 calls to service in May. Officers made 28 arrests and worked 1,214 hours. The code enforcement officer was called to service 23 times and issued eight citations. The animal control officer received 34 calls to service, picked up five animals and issued eight citations.

Carrell said the city pumped 5,298,000 gallons of water in May with only a 2.46% loss ratio. He said they worked 564 work orders, noting the biggest complaint is street repair.

Manuela Martin, court reporter, said the police department issued 319 citations in May. She said 10 warrants were cleared.

Murdock said a trucking company has shown an interest in 36 acres on Dale Evans Drive behind Germania Insurance.