RUSK – City leaders – prepared to discuss and possibly act upon executive session items Thursday, regarding two city employee positions and a proposal to declare Rusk as a Sanctuary City for the Unborn – instead tabled action until a January meeting of the Rusk City Council to allow the full council a chance to weigh in.

Place 1 Councilman Ben Middlebrooks and Place 4 Councilwoman Martha Neely were not present at Thursday's meeting, but a quorum consisting of the three remaining council members voted unanimously to re-advertise the sale of surplus fire department equipment.

Interim Unit 303 previously was “put out with minimum bid of $7,500, and I think $500 for a cabin chassis. We've seen no bids,” explained City Manager Jim Dunaway, who suggested the new advertisement not include a minimal bid amount, to expedite liquidation of the equipment.

The interim unit was used for approximately three years, between the time the city's original Unit 303 was wrecked, to the time a new unit was received; it was purchased for $10,000.

The other vehicle is inoperable, and “is basically for sale for scrap value,” he said.

Council members also voted to:

• Cast the city's allotment of 54 votes to Jim Tarrant for a seat on the board of directors;

• Approve a canvass of the city's Nov. 5 charter amendment election as performed by Cherokee County officials, as the election was done in conjunction with the county;

• Accepted a 2019 Certified Tax Roll Levy for the City of Rusk;

• Awarded a bid to Citizen's 1st Bank for depository services to the city for a term beginning Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2022;

• Voted to deny a rate increase proposed by CenterPoint Texas Beaumont East Texas Division, which Dunaway described as “pretty hefty increase” for services; and

• Approved a consent agenda.

The quorum voted unanimously to also table a resolution authorizing the city to file an application for financial participation from Texas Water Development Board on a project.

Citizen input from the meeting included comments from two people supporting the council's consideration of creating a Sanctuary City for the Unborn, as well as two representatives from the pro-life organization Right to Life.

Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Life East Texas, addressed the council, reminding them that as community leaders, “we have this responsibility … to stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves.

“It weighs on my heart; you see, I'm someone who believes that all life is valuable. That life is something you've got to defend, you've got to stand up for it. … I have heard from people in this community that the issue is very near and dear to their hearts,” he said. “I'm asking you guys today to please consider your responsibility as the gatekeepers of Rusk, Texas.

“This is not something that says what you ultimately believe on the issue of abortion. We're not saying that you cannot go elsewhere to get an abortion. All we're saying in this ordinance is that they cannot come here to this community and have an abortion in an abortion facility.”

Katherine Pitcher, a legislative associate at Texas Right to Life, informed the council that “because this city has no abortion providers, it makes it highly unlikely you'd be sued” for adopting the resolution.

The meeting drew approximately 30 people; slightly more than half were children ranging in age from toddlers to teens.

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