After the resignations of council members Josh Hill, Monty Ward, Jr., and Reggie Thompson following the contentious May meeting left the City with a council of only two members and questions about how the city government would continue to function.
Councilman Thompson kindly agreed to retain his seat until a replacement has been appointed or elected, allowing a quorum and opening the floor to some of the City’s more basic motions.
“The Texas Constitution actually has a provision in it that requires any elected official that resigns, which includes a city council member, to continue to fulfill their duties until such time as a fulfillment, or someone fills that seat by either election or by appointment,” said City Attorney Blake Armstrong, explaining the holdover provision, which could require Hill and Ward to resume their role until the November election which will fill the vacant seats. “The reason for that is pretty simple. Way back when that provision was adopted I think the legislatures in Austin did have the foresight to understand that we can’t stop government. Government has to continue to operate. We can’t have a vacuum in government. So, in the situation that we find ourselves in now we very likely could have two council members which would put us in a position where we could not have a council meeting.”
Armstrong went before the council seeking permission to obtain a judicial order to invoke the provision, essentially forcing Ward and Hill to perform the duties for which they were elected.
“That’s important for two reasons moving forward,” said Armstrong.
“One, the reason we’re here tonight, to hold a simple, regular meeting. but two we’re getting into budget season. We just had an item on the agenda that we could not discuss because it involved taxes. So there are going to be as part of the budget process meeting that will need to be had to discuss a tax rate, the emplementation of a tax rate, and the adoption of a tax rate. For those reasons we will need four council members.”
The remaining members of the City Council did vote to approve Armstrong’s proposed course of action.
The unexpected resignation of the recently-hired secretary Laurie Kaczmarek left an important opening in city staff. Available council members voted to appoint city Finance Director Connie Chasteen as Interim City Secretary.
A request from Allan Cook to connect to the Overton water supply was granted by the council after a query from councilman Williams regarding Cook’s intent for sewer, which will be aerobic systems, barring the purchase of a 10-acre plot.
Council held a public hearing to consider the rezoning request made by Lance Dunton to replat and rezone three, two-family duplex, and multifamily lots of the Hillcrest Addition at the corner of Holly and Elm Streets. City Manager Shane West presented the request and its intricacies to the council in hopes of obtaining approval for specific portions of the build.
“What he’ll build will be six homes and three sets of duplexes,” explained West. “The thing that is kind of in question with some of the neighbors right around the area was the duplexes, but planning and zoning looked at that Tuesday night and they approved all that.”
City attorney Armstrong informed the council of rezoning rules based on citizens that may protest changes to the property.
“Under local government code, if we have...I don’t know how many notifications we sent out to property owners within 200 feet of the property that’s going to be rezoned, but in response to or related to protest letters that were provided. If 20% or more of the property owners that were sent those to within 200 feet protest the rezone then it requires 75% and three-quarters approval of the city council to rezone it. So, I just want to make sure that everybody’s aware,” he said.
According to Mayor Curtis Gilbert, of the six protest letters sent out, five were returned, with only one in opposition. City Manager West spoke with the homeowner behind rezoning protest and showed them evidence of the homes scheduled to be built on the property. That homeowner is no longer protesting the rezoning.
A ratification vote for a No-New-Revenue tax rate for purposes of the Fiscal Year
Councilmember Thompson motioned that call-out reimbursement rates be raised from $5 to $10 per call.
“I’ll make it clear,” said Lewis of the Overton Volunteer Fire Department, “Gas prices are what, four-something dollars a gallon now, your guys are getting $5 a call. They’re volunteers, they don’t have to come.”
Council moved on to regular business, in which they approved May’s meeting minutes and approved and ordinance ordering a special election, and resolutions authorizing Mayor Gilbert to sign contracts with Rusk and Smith county elections offices for the November 8, 2022 General and Special Elections, to fill the three vacant council seats. The city will be posting notices of election in area newspapers.
Council quickly approved a resolution suspending a rate increase from the Oncor company. Oncor representatives are requesting that councils refuse the rate increase which will pass on savings to customers and allow them to go before the Public Utilities Commission and negotiate an acceptable rate.
They also approved a Zoning Board recommendation for Hillcrest Addition and for bids submitted for three tracts of defaulted land in Smith County, submitted by Linebarger and Sloan.
Council considered and approved a resolution updating the list of signers on the City of Overton Banking and Investment Accounts to add council member Chris Hall.