Granite Shoals, ESD3 stalemate continues

Glynis Crawford Smith/The Highlander

Granite Shoals Mayor Carl Brugger, left, proclaims September as ‘Know Your Neighbor’ Month in honor of the program of the same name begun by Alan Williams of Chick-fil-A, next and continuing left, and the Marble Falls Faith Alliance represented by the Revs.Randy Taylor of First Baptist Church – Granite Shoals, Jackie English of Christ Redeemer Fellowship and Suzy Mitchell and the Rev. Mike Mitchell of Granite Fellowship. The Tuesday night, Aug. 22, proclamation added recognition of Lowe's home improvement store for providing picnic tables for the a Turquoise Table program to go along with free sandwiches and a bounce castle provided by Chick-fil-A for neighborhood block parties bringing citizens together in friendship.

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

In another lengthy Granite Shoals City Council Meeting Tuesday, Aug. 22, the council and Burnet County Emergency Service District 3 (ESD #3) remained at loggerheads over a contract for fire coverage.

The two had moved closer but, to finance in one year, three additional firefighters for 24/7, two-man coverage, a proposal for a five-year contract from the ESD #3 falls short of the budget the city has planned. So, the debate continues and the council has sent City Manager Ken Nickel and Finance Director Wendy Gholson back to the drawing board for an even more detailed set of options to be presented at the first formal public hearing on the budget tonight, Thursday, Aug. 24.

Based on the back and fourth discussion between council members and ESD #3 Board President Steve Tatom, information going to the council could include refinement of figures in the city's current proposal for a five-year contract; numbers for the gradual addition of new full-time firefighters, while relying on additional part-time staff, and the possibility of a one-year contract, suggested as a compromise by councilwoman Anita Hisey.

Before beginning discussion with the council, Tatom presented a letter from his board that stated in part, “Our offer (of an additional 2,30,247 in funds, a 39 percent increase over the previous five-year period) represents 37 percent of (the increase for new full-time staff), though we experience only 27 percent of the emergency calls for the department.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Davant pushed hard on the apparent ESD contention that a contract be based on call value rather than property value.

They charge their members a tax rate based on property value, but they don't want to be charged based on assessed valuation,” said Davant.

A complication in the discussion is the fact that Web Isle and Beaver Island subdivisions, currently in the ESD, are now on the verge of city annexation. Their property value would shift from the ESD to the city and, even though the ESD letter referred to percentages of calls, property value also was referenced.

They are close to 18 percent of our property value,” said Tatom. “By that measure the ESD would pay 18 percent less (in years following their annexation).

And, the board's letter said: “...If the city consummates plans to annex Web Isle and Beaver Island later year, our fee would remain unchanged for the first year of the contract, and be reduced in proportion to assessed value in future years.”

It all lead to an exhausting debate that left Davant saying, before a brief adjournment. “If the sticking point is assessed valuation, then I would support Anita Hisey's proposal to look at a one-year contract.”

Mayor Carl Brugger called the uncertainty of a one-year contract a “nuclear option,” but it was included in the figures staff members are to presented tonight.

All the council members have had a chance to see the ESD counter proposal now, and their instructions are to come back with a proposal in dollar amounts,” said Nickel. “The major jump to three more full-time firefighters is hard to fund on both sides. We are working back through the numbers to transition from part-time to three more full-time firefighters at the end of the five-year contract.

That has to go back to the ESD board to ponder.”

In the meantime, budget hearings will continue without final figures.

We have a balanced budget to present,” said Nickel. “A good management team always has options to present and we are working to have those ready. There often are changes in a budget during hearings. We have another Aug. 31, but the budget is not set to be finally adopted until Sept. 7.”

The discussion with the ESD president touched on one additional point, that being the district's large cash reserve. It has, what Tatom has called, a “working fund” of $215,000, and “rainy-day funds” that total $235,000. Asked out right by Council member Tom Dillard, if that money was amassed for an independent department, Tatom said nothing like that had ever been discussed and the reason for a large reserve pre-dated his service on the board.

Jim Bourgeois is a resident of Beaver Island, who was strongly against the first annexation of his subdivision that ended in reversal by the court, disannexation, reparations of taxes collected and to the development agreement that, finally, is to make it a part of the city. But Bourgeois also was one of the most active supporters of the creation of the ESD and has attended many of its board meetings. He said he supported city spending oriented toward the fire department had personally been concerned about a large reserve with no apparent purpose.

I have inquired and have never gotten an answer that could be construed as a professional answer,” he said.

Annexation and SB 6

The fire contract was only a portion of the Tuesday night agenda. It included also three public hearings on annexation, including one each for Beaver Island and Web Isle.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Aug. 15, signed Senate Bill 6 (SB 6) to reform and restrict the municipal annexation process in the state. Under the new law he championed some Texans will be able to vote on whether a city can annex areas outside of its limits. That was on the mind of Tess Henry, who objected to annexation.

Some property owners were not signatories to the 2011 settlement and do not believe it should be applicable to them,” she said, calling also for an Attorney General review of the annexation as it relates to SB 6.

What the new law does under SB 6,” said City Attorney Brad Young, “is to divide cities and counties into Tier 1 and Tier 2 (counties with populations over 500,000). Cities in Tier 1 counties do not fall under (the annexation limits).

Burnet County has a population of about 45,000.”

Debra Brothers, also of Web Isle, received information about the annexation service plan and City Secretary Elaine Simpson noted the plan (Exhibit B to Proposed Ord. 715) is available for viewing on the city website, www.graniteshoals.org.

Still with the hope of a development agreement, rather than annexation, one concerned Mezger family property east of the city. Second hearings on annexation will take place on Aug. 29.

Other action

A number of city committees, boards and commissions have openings, but the final remaining seat on the Planning & Zoning Commission was filled when the council appointed Ron Munos as a new commissioner.

A replat request from Laurie Dunn was approved. It allows her to join eight lots on Green Valley Lane and Valley High Lane into one, Lot 48A. However, two other citizens were disappointed in requests to the council.

A request by Eric Carvajal, who has planned a structure on Hill Circle South that would not comply with setback rules, had proposed purchase of city right of way to put the plan in compliance. That request was denied.

Councilman Todd Holland, a surveyor by profession, noted that the house could be repositioned on the property within the rules for construction.

Councilwoman Shirley King, recalling instances when bits of property and been sold in the past, was inclined at first to grant the sale, but changed her mind in part because of the complication of a granite outcrop on the opposite side of the street.

It is the kind of short-sighted thinking that has plagued this city for decades and city deals with the consequences,” said Councilman Tom Dillard.

The council also denied a request by Emanuel Riojas for a future zoning change for the Kingspoint neighborhood from Residential-1 (R-1), requiring stick-built homes, to Manufactured Housing (MH-1).

Speed limit signs were approved for Hillway Drive and new stop signs were approved for the intersections of Hillway Drive with Hill Circle East and West, and at two points where Hillwood meets Woodland Hills Drive and then continues on.

Discussions concerning the Camping Ordinance have dealt, rather than with tent camping, with overnights in recreational vehicles and travel trailers. The council took the recommendation of the P&Z and did not reopen the discussion over the objection of Hisey and King.

The ordinance remains the same, barring overnight sleeping.

Know Your Neighbor

Also at the meeting, Mayor Brugger declared the month of September as Know Your Neighbor Month in honor of the program of neighborhood block parties being sponsored by the Granite Shoals Faith Alliance with the help of Granite Shoals resident Alan Williams and his Marble Falls Chick-fil-A franchise and of Lowe's Marble Falls. Hot sandwiches and a bounce castle are provided by the restaurant and blue picnic tables for the Turquoise Table project, by the home improvement store.

Pastors of the Faith Alliance identified groups of 50-100 households in 26 neighborhoods for block parties on alternate Thursdays to "encourage citizens to gather as neighborhoods, to meet one another and build relationships for the betterment of the city," Brugger said.

 

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