City passes on plea to elect water board directors
Mayor Larry Jones cast the tie-breaking vote Monday as, by a 4-3 vote, the Rockdale City Council declined to endorse a drive to elect directors of the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (POSGCD).
Council members Doug Calame who made the motion, Joyce Dalley and Willie Phillips had voted in favor of taking no action on a November plea by Curtis Chubb and Joy Graham to change board selection from appointed to elected.
Council members Melody Dawson, Toby Johnson and Colby Fisher voted against.
Dawson’s earlier motion to endorse election of directors died for lack of a second.
Meeting in regular session at City Hall, council members also held an executive session discussion on the future of the H. H. Coffield Industrial Park and added three holidays to the 2013 schedule for city employees.
POSGCD—Council members quizzed Gary Westbrook, POSGCD general manager, on the creation of the district and why it maintains an appointed board.
In November, Dr. Chubb told council members that 75 percent of Texas water districts have elected boards.
Westbrook said the enabling legislation that created POSGCD in 2001 took into account Milam’s small population and assumed “someone with a lot of money could come in and get some extra votes.”
He said when the district was formed the concern was that large water entrepreneurs were already at work and that 35,000 acres of Milam land had been leased.
He added that directors are appointed as representing specific areas of interest, including agriculture and rural water companies.
LEGISLATION—Dr. Chubb said backers of an elected board understand that legislative action would be required.
“And it’s already too late for anything to happen in this session,” he said. “This would be at least two years away.”
He said what’s sought from the council was a letter endorsing an elected board to take before county commissioners.
Dr. Chubb challenged Westbrook’s assertion that fee-based district, like POSGCD, generally have appointed boards while tax-based districts have elected boards.
“(Fee based) Fayette County’s (groundwater conservation) board is elected,” he said.
Dr. Chubb said he believed elected boards undergo more scrutiny from the public and feel more of an obligation to explain their votes.
“Right now, if the judges like you, then you’re going to get reappointed,” he said.
He also asked if the water district’s representative had ever visited with the council.
PRECINCTS—Dawson asked if an elected board could be organized so candidates would run for positions in each of the specialties mentioned by Westbrook.
Westbrook said in current districts with elected boards elections are by precincts, similar to wards in city council elections.
Dawson made a motion to endorse the elected directors initiative and write a letter of support to the commissioners court.
It died for lack of a second.
Dalley made a motion to take no action, noting that no changes were possible for two years, with the matter coming too late for this legislative session
That also died for lack of a second.
Calame then made a motion to leave the district “set up as created” (appointed directors).
It was seconded by Dalley. During the discussion the motion was amended to “take no action,” effect of which was not to endorse the effort to change POSGCD from an appointed to an elected format.
According to city council guidelines, had there been no vote Monday the issue could have been re-discussed at future meetings. With the official “no action” vote, it could not again come before the council until six months have elapsed.
INDUSTRIAL PARK—The council went into executive session to discuss property issues at Coffield Industrial Park with Municipal Development District (MDD) executive director Tom Manskey.
After emerging from the executive session, the council instructed City Manager Kelvin Knauf to work with the MDD on possible property acquisition.
The MDD is attempting to further develop the industrial site.
HOLIDAYS—The council accepted Knauf’s recommendation and added Presidents Day Veterans Day and a “f loating” holiday of the employee’s choice for city employees this year.
Vote was 5-1 with Dawson voting against.
Knauf said the additional holidays brings the total from 10 to 13.
In other business, the council:
• Conducted a public hearing—no one from the public spoke—on the Comprehensive City Plan and gave first-reading adoption to the plan.
• Called for a 2013 city election and voted to enter into a joint election with the Rockdale ISD. Terms expiring this year are those of Mayor Jones and council members Dalley (east ward) and Johnson (west ward).
• Okayed a tax abatement agreement, in accordance with those already adopted by Milam County and the City of Cameron.
• Approved an expenditure of up to $ 3,753 for the 2013 Milam County Nature Festival to be held at Fair Park and conducted by El Camino Real Master Naturalists. (Dalley, who is a member of the sponsoring organization, abstained).
• Appointed a total of eight members to the Planning & Zoning Commission and the City Library.