The Houston City Council approved plans Monday to assist Texas County Memorial Hospital in applying for a $115,000 Community Development Block Grant that would be used toward the development of a COVID wing.

The Texas County Commission recently approved $476,463 to assist on the project using CARES Act funds given to Missouri counties.

TCMH needs a sponsor for its application for funding, and the move won’t hinder any future plans the city might encounter to tap the grant program, said Rob Harrington, economic development director for the city.  The hospital plans to use the money, if approved, for HVAC improvements. It hopes to quickly complete its application to receive a special allotment from the state.

In other matters, members:

•Approved $400 to aid the planning of a race that honors the memory of Mayor Don Tottingham.

•OK’d three measures related to utility rates. Sewer and water rates will increase 3 percent, as planned, but the council opted not to increase electrical rates in 2021.

•Approved purchasing three, $100,000 certificates of deposit at Simmons Bank under a special 1 percent rate program. The council also received a draft of a proposal from the city administrator to stagger expirations on certificates of deposits so all would mature at different points throughout the year  — with the exception of July.

•Approved several purchases included in the 2021 budget to beat price increases set for Jan. 1. A $17,763 mower from S & H Farm Supply at Dunn was purchased using CARES Act funding through MoDOT’s aviation division. No city funds are required. MoDOT also will reimburse the city for dismantling some old hangars at the airport. It also authorized a dump truck cab/chassis purchase at Piney River Ford in Houston totaling $45,883. A Kubota skid steer with attachments was purchased for $100,274 from Waydes Equipment in Cuba and Union.

•Authorized a $159,190 construction contract for phase I deployment of its fiber-to-home internet system. The area includes a region in and around Oak Hill Drive. Members also okayed spending $11,250 for a class of six city employees to train locally on fiber splicing using a firm, Light Brigade. Nokia, the vendor of specialized equipment used in the system, is set to be in Houston and complete its work no later than March 11.

•Heard Administrator Scott Avery report that work is underway on making repairs to sewer lines that are contributing to an inflow of water that ends up at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. A contractor is in Houston. Avery also reported progress on construction of a new pool house and deployment of an automatic meter reading system in the first phase. Members also received a draft monetary reserve policy for the city. The final product will outline the minimum amount of cash that city must hold in its coffers.

•Learned from Mayor Willy Walker that he plans to appoint in January a city councilman to fill the Ward II seat held by Charles “Chalky” Wells, who passed away, and make a decision related to hiring someone to act as municipal court judge.

•Approved the purchase of new rifles for the Houston Police Department to take advantage of discounts that are about to disappear.

•Learned the city’s planning and zoning commission was set to meet Tuesday night (Dec. 22) to discuss a fence recently erected at Opportunity Sheltered Industries in the Houston Industrial Park off West Highway 17.

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