Sunday, December 23, 2007






  Dissolving city on May ballot
Supporting police department bone of contention
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

PAYNE SPRINGS–The Payne Springs City Council agreed to put two nonbinding resolutions on the ballot in May to gauge the desires of the voters during its last meeting of 2007.
One resolution asks whether the police department should be dissolved, while the other asks whether or not the city should cease to operate as an incorporated municipality.
Councilman Carl Powell warned that people shouldn’t vote to dissolve the city just because they are upset with the council.
Councilman Odell Terrell, in the previous meeting and recorded in the minutes, said he’d go with what the citizens wanted. Terrell was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
However, the council is not bound to act according to the outcome, Mayor Michael McDonald explained.
It just gives the city’s nearly 400 voters a chance to express their opinion, he said.
Councilman Tom Hinkle made the motion, saying this vote will answer the unscientific online survey being taken by The Cedar Creek Pilot.
“I don’t believe 500 people in the city of Payne Springs wants to see the city dissolved,” Hinkle said, referring to the survey results. “This will answer that.”
“There aren’t even 500 registered voters in the city,” McDonald said.
Much discussion from the audience and between the council ensued, with the vast majority favoring a police department and the hiring of a second officer.
Currently, the city has just one officer, Shane Renberg, who is acting as chief.
Though included in the budget, the council voted against hiring a second officer.
“I think we should hire one now, and see what the people vote on in May,” Hinkle said in his motion to hire. Though Powell seconded the motion, he and council man Lynn Sorrell voted against the action.
Fred Carr, who’s had extensive experience in law enforcement, reminded the council that every time Renberg makes a traffic stop, he is putting his life on the line. “He needs backup,” Carr said.
Reserve officer James East performed 40 hours of service during the last two weeks – all for free.
Reserve officers are required to do 16 hours a month in order to maintain their licenses.
“Without his help, I don’t know what I would have done,” Renberg said.
The police reported 211 traffic stops, 68 citations and 27 calls to assist the county. Sixteen were arrested for driving while intoxicated, seven for drug possession and 13 felony warrants were served.
Sixteen vehicles were impounded due to no insurance or registration, or invalid driver’s licenses.
Three accidents were also reported.
“We have speeding up and down Southwood Shores,” Linda Carr commented.
“The men digging the sewer take their lives in their hands,” she added.
“The last council, I saw every night police in Southwood Shores – now, none,” resident Juan Monroy said. “We love our families and friends. Let’s take care of them.”
Payne Springs has gone through two police chiefs in five months and is now on the third, McDonald said.
It reflects the council’s diminished support for a police department, he added.
“Does anyone remember the number of bad accidents we used to have?” former councilman Rodney Renberg asked.
“That’s changed because of the police. Put the prejudices aside. We need a police department. We need each other,” he said.
John Lashwa was vocal throughout the meeting in support of the police.
“We have some good ones now, and we need to keep them,” Lashwa said.
“There are five officers per shift in the county and no way they can be everywhere,” former councilman Michael Juica said.
After repeatedly being challenged to explain their opposition to hiring an additional officer or giving pay raises to the police chief, Powell said the city would have to bring back the ad valorum tax if it wanted to maintain a police department.
“It could probably continue for a couple of years, but eventually it’s going to take that (the property tax) to support it,” he said.
McDonald disagreed, and said the 2008 budget includes wages for three officers.
However, before chief Tim Meadows left five months ago, the need for a new patrol car was brought before the council.
Annual pay raises for the city secretary and Renberg also failed, with Powell and Sorrell opposed.
The budget, approved at the end of October, allows for a 50-cent per hour raise for the secretary, who works 32 hours a pay period and a $1 an hour pay raise for the police chief.
Renberg earns $12.10 an hour, McDonald said.
Powell asked about considering a $26,000 salary for Renberg.
“That’s not on the agenda,” McDonald said. “It can be put on the next agenda, but that’s not the issue today.”
McDonald explained that a salary assumes working 40 hours a week. Should Renberg work more than 40, he still has to be compensated with overtime pay, he said.
Powell suggested a percentage raise.
“Again, that is something we can discuss at the next meeting or during budget talks,” McDonald said.
“Can we just give these poor employees a raise?” McDonald pleaded to no avail.
The council did agree to update the city’s animal control ordinance by redefining the term vicious dog from “one with vicious propensities” to a dog “engaging in vicious conduct.”
The wording change does not change the ordinance, which makes it a C Class misdemeanor to have a dog that bites or attacks a human being or other domestic animal on public or private property without provocation.
In other business, council members:
• named The Monitor its newspaper of record.
• received a report on the Southwood Shores self-help sewer project (see related story at right).

KHS among low-performing schools one last year
Math scores improved
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–Tenth grade high school students at Kemp Independent School District have a lot to be proud of.
More than 50 percent of them passed their Texas Academic Skills (TAKS) test in the 2007-08 school year, taking the campus off the PEG (Public Education Grant) list for future school years.
Math was the only exam students scored low in at the 2007 Recognized district and the Academically Acceptable high school.
Students came under the bar in school years 2004-05 and 2005-06.
“The two years preceding last year placed us on the PEG list,” academic administrator Debra Airheart said.
The two years on the PEG list include 2007-08 and 2008-09. Those are the years parents will be allowed to transfer their student, she explained.
Once placed on the list, the school must send out letters to parents advising them of the right to transfer their offspring.
“I wrote the letter last year and sent it out to the parents,” Airheart said, adding there will be another letter sent this coming year.
Teachers at KHS have been working diligently to see that sophomore students pass all the necessary tests to keep the campus off the PEG list, she said.
The campus has been among 831 low-performing schools.
Larger school districts, such as Houston (89), Dallas (74) and Fort Worth (32), have the highest number of low-performing campuses.
“We do have some new materials. We have a tutorial set aside for students before first period that doesn’t interfere with their other classes,” Airheart explained.
There is also an accelerated program to help them pass the TAKS, she added.
“If the math scores improve – as they did last year – we should be off the list by the 2009 school year,” Airheart said
“We have new materials, including the new textbooks adopted by the state, plus the A&M Consolidated Math curriculum,” she said.

ECCWFSD to help Southwood Shores
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–The new grinder units for Cedar Branch Park and Southwood Shores are a source of concern for East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District.
Cedar Branch Park is progressing on schedule, having installed 54 units in the subdivision, Athens engineer Chris Weeks reported.
But only 11 units have been installed in Southwood Shores, Weeks said. (Thursday, Walter Hellebrand said the latest count was 17.)
District directors agreed to allow employees to assist the Southwood Shores addition with its grinder pump installations.
In other business, directors:
• approved a transfer of $1,071,933.25 from the bond interest and sinking certificate of deposit (CD) into operation reserves to pay the regular bond debt payment.
• approved the outlay request expenditures for the Brookshire Clarifier project.
• approved an extended military leave of absence for an employee.
• named A.M. Construction as the successful bidder for the water main relocation project at the U.S. Highway 175 and State Highway 334 interchange at a cost of $29,958.
• abandoned the easement for property adjacent to SH 334, approximately 800 feet west of Southside Bank.
• approved the purchase and installation of chlorination equipment at the Brookshire Water Treatment Plant.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) requires a back-up chlorination unit, which costs $7,413, Weeks explained.
• approved material purchase and tapped Pumps of Houston to install three variable drive units at the McKay Water Treatment Plant.
• approved material purchase and awarded Boothe Electric the contract to install a recycle pump assembly at the North Waste Water Treatment Plant.
• postponed action on an agreement with the West Cedar Creek Municipal Utility District to purchase bulk water and discharge domesticate waste to and from the islands as referenced in the agreement..
Directors said they needed more time to review the document.