Sunday, May 25, 2008





Energy-saving appliances tax-free Memorial Day holiday
Monitor Staff Reports
AUSTIN–Memorial Day weekend, Dad may be planning a barbecue and a day at the lake, but Mom is taking him shopping for a new fridge or dishwasher.
Starting at midnight Saturday, May 24, and ending at 11:59 p.m. Monday, May 26, major appliances will be tax-exempt.
Texas House Bill 3693, passed by the 80th Texas Legislature, became effective Sept. 1, 2007, and allows citizens to purchase certain energy-saving products tax-free.
Products eligible to be purchased without the sales tax must be designated as Energy Star qualified under the program, operated jointly by the United states Environment Protection Agency and the United States Department of Energy.
In addition to the Energy Star rated appliances, certain other items will also be eligible, such as both room and central air conditioning units priced under $6,000, clothes washers, ceiling fans, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, light bulbs (incandescent and fluorescent), programmable thermostats and refrigerators priced under $2,000.
The tax-free status also applies to layaway, whether the item is put on layaway or taken out of layaway during the tax-exempt time.
This is the first opportunity for Texans to take advantage of the energy-efficient product tax-free weekend.
The energy conservation program also requires state agencies, as well as school districts, to purchase more energy-efficient products.

Council splits over police car
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer

PAYNE SPRINGS–The police department was again the center of attention at the Payne Springs City Council meeting Tuesday, as a new council voted to buy the city’s lone police officer a new bulletproof vest, but balked at buying a new patrol car or naming him as the chief of police.
In addition, the council approved a new ordinance giving the council sole authority to approve overtime pay, and threatening immediate dismissal of any employee who violated the ordinance.
Each motion – to table action on a new vehicle, approve the new ordinance and the police chief passed 4-1.
New councilman Rodney Renberg was the lone dissenter.
Shane Renberg, who has operated as the city’s only police officer since October, 2007, objected to the ordinance wording, which allows overtime only in an emergency.
“I want it clarified what you consider an emergency or not an emergency,” Shane Renberg said. “I don’t want to be working for free, and I don’t want to have to tell someone on the phone that I can’t come.
“It (the ordinance) just makes it harder for me to do my job,” he added.
New city attorney Raymond Shackelford said if Renberg’s response was generated by a 911 call, that would qualify as an emergency.
“The council should not hamstring him (Renberg) in any way on 911 calls,” Shackelford said.
“I don’t think anyone would call 911 if it was not an actual emergency,” councilman Odell Terrell said, which drew incredulous murmurs from the audience.
“What about 911 hang-ups?” Shane Renberg asked.
“Forget ’em,” Terrell said, which brought gasps of shock from the audience.
“We can’t do that,” Shane Renberg said. “What if they were shot, and can’t respond to the phone” Shackelford agreed.
“911 dispatchers don’t have truth meters,” Shackelford said. “A law enforcement agent needs to go when called.
“The city would be remiss if you don’t allow Mr. Renberg to respond to a 911 call,” he added.
“I don’t think anyone at this table is qualified to decide what constitutes an emergency,” Rodney Renberg said.
Rodney Renberg also challenged the legality of an ordinance clause giving an employee compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay.
Shackelford said the city could do that under the Fair Labor & Standards Act.
“Everybody may not agree that would be fair,” he added, “but the ordinance as written does comply with the law.”
In contrast to the lengthy debate over councilman Carl Powell’s proposed city ordinance, the council approved the purchase of a new bulletproof vest without discussion.
However, Powell put forth an additional motion to require Shane Renberg to leave the vest with the city if he chooses to go to another job, which also passed unanimously.
Police car
New mayor J.T. Noble pointed out the city has three broken-down police cars now sitting in storage.
Even though J&L Towing is not charging the city a storage fee, Noble said he was asking the council to either fix or sell the vehicles.
If the cars were sold, the city could use that money – plus any funds collected on past-due ad valorem taxes that remain unpaid – and put that toward a new vehicle, Noble said.
“The way we got in this situation was relying on used cars bought from other (police) departments,” Rodney Renberg said. “Those cars were worn out.”
Renberg made a motion to sell the cars and use the money to buy a new vehicle, but the motion did not receive a second.
“We need some (cost) figures,” Terrell said. “If we knew the dollars and cents of it, we might be able to make a decision.”
Noble said the last figures he got showed a Dodge Charger going for about $28,500.
“I’d certainly like to see us use every possible method to collect past-due ad valorem taxes,” new councilman Vic Brazzell said. “We also should look into the cost of other brands (of vehicle).”
The council voted 4-1, again with Rodney Renberg dissenting, to table the matter.
Police chief
Toward the end of the 90-minute session, the council turned to naming Shane Renberg as the chief of police.
As the city’s only officer, Renberg has been the acting chief since October.
“I move to make a motion to table this item indefinitely,” Powell said, but his motion did not receive a second.
Rodney Renberg motioned to name Shane Renberg as the police chief, which again did not receive a second, and Noble said the council would move on to the next agenda item.
In other business, the council:
• agreed to add Gun Barrel Wrecker Service to the city’s towing rotation, following a lengthy discussion.
Rodney Renberg cast the lone dissenting vote.
• named Noble, Powell (the mayor pro-tem) and city secretary Shirley Leonard as official check signers.
• heard Noble announce council meetings will not be conducted as they have been for the last couple of years.
“There will be no rude or disrespectful behavior from the audience,” he said. “There will be consequences.”
Noble also said the council would be meeting Thursday for a workshop on the rules of order.
“In the past, we’ve kinda drifted out into left field,” he said. “In 1984, the council adopted Robert’s Rules. We will learn as mayor and the council to follow the guidelines we established.”
• heard Brazzell and Powell volunteer to co-chair a committee reviewing the state of the city’s roads and road signs.
They agreed to enlist the help of other residents to make a survey, and report their findings to the council next month.
• discussed, but took no action, on the city’s telephone bill, which has been running in the $230 to $250 range.
Much of the cost can be attributed to text messaging, Brazzell said.
Shane Renberg said he did a lot of text messaging, but pointed out he and the city secretary were told when buying his new cell phone the city had unlimited texting and unlimited minutes.
“If it costs 15 cents per message, then we were misinformed,” Renberg said. “We were told it was a flat rate.”
• agreed to seek the “cheapest and best” service on a new telephone contract.

In search of Noah’s Ark

Athens artist Summer Lyle Lawrence unveiled her 18-month effort – a 15x8-
foot mural depicting the Biblical Noah’s Ark coming to rest on a mountain – last
Sunday at Dogwood Baptist Church, just west of Athens. The mural is a tribute
to a 2006 Texas expedition led by McKinney resident Arch Bonnema to locate the
famed ship. His group brought back 16 specimens, including petrified wood and video.
He was told by his Iranian guide that this was the first time is 50 years that snow and
ice had receded enough to uncover the relic at the 13,000-foot level.

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