A Houston alderman rebuked the conduct of the city administrator and some staff during a fiery exchange during a city council meeting Monday.
Kevin Stilley, who represents the city’s Ward I, addressed several grievances during the meeting that was limited to the council and clerk due to the ongoing order related to gatherings of more than 10. A video and audio feed was available for the public.
Stilley took the floor during the council’s comment portion of its meeting to address a water issue at his home on April 11. The city’s water department responded to turn off the water and repair damage to a meter. Stilley received a bill, and he questioned the city’s charges for the call and whether a written policy was in place. If not, it needed to be, he said. City Administrator Scott Avery said later he has been told the policy has been in place since the 1950s.
Stilley went on to question Avery, who became administrator in September, concerning the city’s handling of the Houston School District’s plans to construct a $6.5 million gymnasium project. Stilley said the city’s accommodation to the district’s needs had been lacking. Stilley works for an electrical firm that was awarded a contract as part of the project and has been on the site.
He said water continues to be unavailable while a line awaits relocation for weeks and a water meter isn’t set to arrive until late May. In the meantime, Stilley wondered what would have happened if the district wasn’t already closed for the year due to a statewide executive order. He said water is unavailable for a potential graduation there.
City Administrator Scott Avery and Mayor Willy Walker said the line was required to be relocated because it would be situated under the building. Avery noted a building permit has yet to be issued for the project to the school because he is lacking construction documents.
Councilwoman Kim Bittle, defending the city, said if there are issues, the school needs to address them with the city’s leadership.
Avery called Stilley’s discussion “irritating” and Stilley told those in the room and online that he as a city alderman had the right to do so and wanted to bring the matters to the council’s attention.
Walker bristled at Stilley’s comments, telling him he was not under trial and he wouldn’t tolerate his conduct at meetings he oversees.
Stilley also questioned the lack of movement related to a contract for services between the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce and the city. The document outlines terms under which the city provides an annual stipend to the chamber. Stilley questioned why the two groups were at odds. Avery said he received no further communication from the chamber. Later, Avery said he took his direction on the matter from the council in a closed session.
Stilley, who is unopposed in the June municipal election, also wanted answers about structural repairs in a mechanical room that were approved after a contract was let for the main pool construction. After the meeting, Avery said the council had approved the work unanimously after engineers determined that removing a piece of the floor for a drain had shifted a block wall.
With Stilley winding up, the video and audio disappeared at about 7:40 p.m. and didn’t return. The city later apologized in a social media post for the loss of signal.
The council also was expected to hold a closed session following the meeting.