City Council holds work session

The new City Administration held its first work session on Monday night. Because it was an informal work session, no votes were taken and citizens were allowed to speak during the session.

“We have a vacant seat on the council,” said Mayor Jackie Cate. “To be fair, we will create a form for citizens to apply if they are interested in serving on the council. Anyone interested should go to City Hall and fill out the application. I want to fill the position at the next meeting.”

Cate stated he hoped the work session would move the City forward with input from citizens. He asked the council as well as the citizens where we go from here with the old city hall. Amber Cunningham reported an engineer would charge $9,000 to inspect the old city hall and police department/council chambers.

Several possibilities were discussed of what could be done with the structure from saving the front façade and demolishing the remainder of the building and building a new structure in its place to completely restoring the structure which could cost as much as $500,000. Elmerine Bell is working on getting historical designations for several buildings in Italy. She said that once that is accomplished it would be easier to receive grants.

Cunningham spoke to Jake McAdams with Public Management regarding grants. She was told there are no grants out there at the present time and suggested seeking a private loan.

The purchase of the Cornerstone Building owned by Central Baptist Church to be used as a City Hall was mentioned. Stevan Varner stated there were no plans at the present time to sell the building. The price of $75,000 was mentioned for purchase of the building.

Possible uses for the old fire station were also discussed. Cate said there were negotiations between the ambulance service and the ESD to move the ambulance service to the new fire station. The old fire station could possibly be back to the City within 2 to 3 months. Using the building to house the police department or community center was mentioned.

Cate asked Elmerine Bell about the Old Black City Hall. She said she did not want the Old Colored City Hall torn down even though it is in poor condition. She added it would cost approximately $150,000 to restore and hoped someone would donate the money to get that done.

Bell also asked about annexation of property when it changed ownership. Cate said he is hoping the City can begin to “clean up” their boundaries in the near future. He stated the new sports complex at the school is not in the city limits.

The Christian Church building on Poplar Street that the City owns was also discussed. Varner said it should be treated as a high priority because of the shape the building is in. Cunningham said Thomas Little had submitted a bid of $14,076.40 to remove the stained glass windows, tear down the building and remove the debris.

The council discussed a possible enlargement of the City’s CCN. Shawn Holden said the CCN establishes boundaries for water service. He said the City and South Ellis County Water met to discuss the City possibly purchasing a portion of SEC’s CCN containing all four corners at IH 35 and Hwy 34. They would need a third party to determine a fair value of the CCN. The city is presently furnishing water to the businesses in that area.

Holden asked the citizens and council if they are satisfied with trash service DCI is providing. He said that several months ago he had received numerous complaints about missed trash pickup. He said he had received bids from two companies for trash service, but they both use double axle not single axle trucks. This would not comply with city ordinance. Holden said the service had improved.

Troy Kowalsky said since DCI’s service had improved and if they continue to provide good service, the City should continue to use them as our trash service provider.

Holden also reported that Ellis County Pct. 3 should begin work on Stafford Street, Waco Street, E. Travis Street, Richards Street and Simms Street during the first couple of weeks of July.

Police Chief Mike Taylor said he would like to improve the department’s image. He said he wanted to re-sticker the police cars to make them move visible. He said he would also like to have signage for the Police Department area. He is hoping to get the community involved with the services the department provides. He mentioned creating a crime prevention district in the future which would use sales tax to fund department programs. This would free up city monies that could be used in other areas of the city.

It was reported that the annual Shop With a Hero softball fund raiser is set for Saturday, July 15, 2017 at Johnny Jones Field at Italy High School beginning at 5:00 p.m. Activities include a Home Run Derby, Softball game between Fire and Police personnel, raffles, concession stand and fireworks show to end the night. Sponsors and volunteers are needed. Contact Karen Mathiowetz at 972-268-0655 or Jenna Chambers at 972-921-4801.

Cate said he hoped to have these informal work sessions three to four times a year.