City inks military community covenant

Jacksonville Mayor Randy Gorham stands with local veterans after reading a resolution in support of service members, veterans and their families.

It was standing room only Tuesday during the Jacksonville City Council meeting as several employees, officials and local veterans were honored.

With many of those in attendance in uniform, the proceedings began with two pinnings for Jacksonville Police Department officers Jennifer Gillham (corporal) and Chase Berryhill. (lieutenant)

The presentations continued with a captain pinning for Jacksonville Firefighter James Suggs, whose father did the honors.

The utility billing department was recognized as the “Employees of the Month” for their work during the transition to new automated water meters, while finance director Roxanna Briley received a Budget Achievement Award.

Western Pulp was recognized as the “Employer of the Month,” for their efforts to operate after a large fire in August 2018.

Dist. 3 Councilman Tim McRae was honored by the Jacksonville Economic Development Corporation for his work with them before being elected to the council.

Also, Jacksonville Mayor Randy Gorham read a resolution in support of military service members, veterans and their families, part of a joint resolution with Cherokee County in sustaining a military community covenant initiated several years ago.

JPD Chief Andrew Hawkes also was recognized for his service to the city for the past three years. Hawkes recently tendered his resignation and will be going to Sunnyvale to create a police department from the ground up.

In other business, four local residents spoke during the Citizen's Participation portion of the meeting.

Christy Wheeler spoke about concerns with the animal shelter and ways to better inspire people to adopt pets. James Foster spoke about flooding concerns on Holly Street, while Helen Cromwell expressed concerns about funds in the budget to be used for the care of Rest Haven Cemetery and the City Cemetery. She also suggested that the police officials receive a raise for their service to the city.

Lake Jacksonville resident Fred Lupfer was particularly concerned about an issue with his neighbor and having city officials enforce lease rules. He said a structure had been built on his property, and that there were other issues, as well.

“Y'all have done nothing about it, and y'all are silent like the stooges … if this were your property, you'd do something about it,” Lupfer told the council.

Afterwards, two public hearings were held. The first was the second installed hearing to receive information on the proposed tax rate of $0.6900 for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The rate proposal is the same as the previous year. There were no speakers, and the hearing was closed.

The next public hearing was to receive information on the proposed 2019-20 city budget. Patricia Robinson spoke during the hearing to ask about plans for the city's recreation center and expressed concerns that she did not see any money budgeted for it.

Jacksonville City Manager Greg Smith told Robinson that there is a proposal “in the works” and that the budget can be amended if needed.

A new public safety complex was approved for a reimbursement resolution for its design, as well as a contract with Quorum Architects to design it. The project is projected to take 12 to 14 months to complete and is set to built on city-owned property on South Bolton Street.

The council also approved a resolution in support of a Texas Parks and Wildlife Grant for a boat access facility at Lake Jacksonville. If approved in the spring, it will take a year to a year-and-a-half to complete. The proposal includes a new double boat ramp, additional parking (boats, vehicles), new gas storage, new gas point of sale, mooring dock and other related items.

District 2 Councilman Jeff Smith asked if it will be handicap-accessible, and Smith said the city can apply for at least one handicapped accessible boat slip. The grant is a 75/25 matching grant of up to $500,000.

An ordinance approving a new franchise agreement with Centerpoint Energy was also approved.

During open forum, Greg Smith said the Splash Pad at Nichols Green Park will remain open through at least the end of September and maybe longer, depending on the weather.

He also said the installation of the new automated water meters has gone well.

A consent agenda was also approved during the meeting. It included:

Minutes from the regular council meeting on Aug. 13 and a workshop agenda on Sept. 5;

Moving the Oct. 8 regular council meeting to Monday, Oct. 7;

Closing Austin Street from Rusk to Wilson streets for all JISD events;

An ordinance approving the 2019 Water Conservation Drought Contingency Plan; and

The return of a baby grand piano that was donated to the Jacksonville Public Library in the 1980s.

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