Sulphur Springs City Council Approves Curfew, Postpones Election
The April meeting of Sulphur Springs City Council may have been delayed while technical kinks were worked out of the viewing and teleconferencing systems but, once under way, officials wasted no time Tuesday night making short order of the agenda.
Due to the stay at home safe and social distancing parameters in place during the global COVID-19 pandemic, Sulphur Springs City Council members and city staff signed in for a Zoom videoconferencing meeting.
Community members were able to use a provided link to watch the meeting live online. Although afforded the opportunity to comment during public hearing and public forum portions of the meeting, no calls were received via the designated phone line during the meeting. The meeting began at 7:22 p.m. and concluded at 8:16 p.m. April 7.
Curfew for Minors
The Curfew for minors ordinance was unanimously approved by all four members of the council.
City Attorney Jim McLeroy noted there had been no revision of the policy since the official first reading in March. The measure was tabled and put on hold in both January and February.
“This does have a 2-year sunset provision. We’ll see how this goes and, hopefully, this will help our police department have some enforcement as needed,” Sulphur Springs Mayor John Sellers said.
The curfew ordinance includes a 2-year” sunset provision,” which will give the community time to try it out for two years, then decide whether or not to extend it or allow it to expire at the end of the two years, according to the city attorney.
McLeroy reported the city hadn’t really received feedback over the last month, save a few positive comments.
A curfew was proposed after a couple of downtown business women in expressed concerned in December about the number of unsupervised middle school-aged youth congregating around downtown on weekends and late at night.
The curfew, as proposed, goes into effect on May 1, 2020 and would remain in place until April 30, 2022. The city ordinance will require minors younger than 16 years of age to be accompanied by an adult if in public between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday-Thursday or 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Friday-Saturday.
Exceptions to this policy would include emergency, work, being in the company of a guardian, running errands for a parent or guardian, if the minor is exercising First Amendment rights protected by the United States
Constitution, or married or has been married. The youth would be allowed to be on the sidewalk outside the home or neighboring residence as long as the neighbor doesn’t report them to the police.
Also an acceptable exception is if the minor is attending “an official school, religious, or other recreational activity supervised by adults and sponsored by the city, the Sulphur Springs Independent School District, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility for the minor, or going to or returning home from, without any detour or stop, an official school, religious, or other recreational activity supervised by adults and sponsored by the city, the Sulphur Springs Independent School District, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility for the minor.”
As anticipated the City Council unanimously agreed the Special City Council Election slated May 2 would be postponed until Nov. 3, when it will be conducted along with the General Election.
The City Council on Feb. 4 called a General Election on May 2 for Place 6 and Place 7, as well as a Special Election Places 1-3 and 5, to replace council members who resigned in December. On March 3, the City Council cancelled the General Election due to the absence of contested races.
On March 18, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation authorizing political subdivisions that would otherwise hold elections on May 2, 2020, to move their general elections for 2020 to Nov. 3, 2020, due to public health and safety concerns related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
McLeroy noted that in the last correspondence from the Governor’s Office those with May 2 election were “more strongly encouraged than recommended” to postpone the election until November.
City Manager Marc Maxwell said the city really has no choice but to postpone the election. In addition to public health concerns due to COVID, the city had been notified by the company that programs election machines that would not be able to program them for the May election day anyway.
Sellers said postponing the election could potentially mean bigger voter turnout as many who might not normally vote in smaller local elections do tend to turn out for the General Elections for state and national officers in November.
Councilman Doug Moore asked how moving the Special Election to November would affect voting. He asked if voting would be conducted all over the city or county, and whether there’d be a separate ballot for Sulphur Springs residents to vote for their choices for council member.
City Secretary/Elections Officer Gale Roberts reported the election would be conducted in the same manner as the November 2019 Special Election to allow a portion of EDC funding to go to the city to construct a new Senior Citizens Center and improvements at Pacific Park.
Litzler noted that after approving the resolution to postpone the Special Election, the City Council will be required before Aug. 17 to adopt a revised order that includes information for voting places, election judges and alternates.
“By postponing the election date, the City is preserving all candidate filings and ballot order actions that have already taken place. This postponement does not have the effect of reopening candidate filings,” the resolution states.
Place 1 has four candidates: Jay W. Julian, Mark Bradley, Vanessa Diosdado and Justin M. Brown. Place 5 has two candidates: Ricardo Chavarria and Gary Spraggins. Harold Nash Sr. was the only candidate to file for Place 2. Oscar Aguilar was the only candidate filing for Place 3.
The City Council also approved on first reading Ordinance No. 2766 amending and updating Pretreatment Ordinance No. 2538.
James Jordan with the city’s utilities department explained that the city has a pretreatment ordinance in place that requires industrial users to pretreat their wastewater to a certain standard. The proposed ordinance does not include significant changes, and most of the changes are fine tuning the document.
The ordinance, as proposed, “gives legal authority and outlines the procedures to implement a revised industrial pretreatment program. It sets sewer discharge parameters and requirements that each industry must meet in order to discharge into the city’s sewer system. The changes are required by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and should have no financial impact,” city staff reported.
Maxwell noted only three industries in town produce any effluent, which would impact them. City staff recommended approving the ordinance request, he noted.
The 40-page document can be viewed on the City of Sulphur Springs website, under the City Council link on the main page, then by selecting it from the Ordinances menu.
Clearwell Modification, PH Enhancement
Also as recommended, the City Council at the April 7 meeting rejected the bid received for Clearwell Modification and PH Enhancement at the Water Treatment Plant.
“The bid’s drastically higher than predicted. I don’t want to downplay this project. It’s on the state’s radar. It needs to happen, but we want to be good stewards for city. I suggest we reject the bid and find out where we’re going to be in the next few months,” said Jordan, referring to the current COVID-19 pandemic and it’s potential economic impact on the city.
The City Council agreed to reject the bid.
The council also approved a new $4,000 per step increase in pay for all certified police officers at Sulphur Springs Police Department to help with retention and recruitment of officers.
City Secretary Gale Roberts presented the consent agenda, which includes meeting minutes from city board and council meetings. It received council approval.
The Marc Maxwell gave the monthly city manager’s report on capital improvements, wastewater treatment plant operations, and accidents and claims for the month.
Finance Director Lesa Smith gave a presentation on how city staff think the COVID-19 pandemic might impact the city. She noted things is currently doing and potential ways to recover from economic impact of COVID-19.