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).
among low-performing schools one last year
to help Southwood Shores