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Members of the Houston City Council heard Monday several updates on projects, elected a mayor pro-tem and will seek bids for a firm to perform asphalt overlay work.

The council handled these matters:

•On a 4-2 vote (no, Michael Weakly and Sam Kelley) the council signaled its intention to return to an outside firm doing asphalt overlay work.  Alderman Don Romines said the city had neither the equipment nor expertise to do the job. He praised the city’s workforce for its commitment to citizens. Mayor Willy Walker said the earlier purchase of machinery for the city to do the work had saved money because of the cost of hox mix mobilization by others and more projects could be done.  

City of Houston grounds department employees work at a paving project at Rutherford Park last summer. HOUSTON HERALD FILE PHOTO. Credit: HOUSTON HERALD FILE PHOTO

Romines said the earlier purchased equipment could be used for patching and repairs. A long-time quarter-cent city sales tax pays for capital improvements, such as street work.

•With Kelly voting no, the board elected Romines as its mayor pro-tem or acting president of the board.

•Heard the board later will hear presentations related to “general orders” that govern the police and fire departments. The police portion will look at such things as handling pursuits and requiring body cameras to be on.

•Learned that following a review by the Houston board of education, a new radio communication system will be put in place for transportation and administrative needs. One antenna will replaced on a city water tower for a new one.

•Authorized a license for the availability of beer at a Texas County Memorial Hospital Foundation event at the Houston Municipal Golf Course. The vote was 4-1 (no, Sheila Walker) with Angie Gettys abstaining.

•Continued its ongoing discussion about elected officials receiving retirement benefits under the Missouri Local Government Employer Retirement System (LAGERS), if vested for five years. The topic started in January. City Administrator Scott Avery said earlier at a meeting he found no authorization for the payments. Mayor Walker called for outside counsel review rather than the city attorney, who he said had a vested interest as a participant. A vote to hire someone was defeated with members depending on its legal counsel to guide it. (Weakly and Kelley supported the hiring). On an identical vote, the council voted to resume LAGERS remittance under the system. At the last meeting, it was estimated the total cost is about $154 monthly.

•Heard Avery give an update on work to identify troublespots that cause water infiltration into sewer lines, heard progress on installation of equipment that allows remote reads of water and sewer meters and the status of underground fiber installation, preparations for the opening of the Houston Municipal Swimming Pool and bids sought for lighting improvements at Houston Memorial Airport. He also gave a report on preliminary work by a broker, Connell Insurance, for employee health insurance benefits that expire June 1. The current plan — without any alterations — would jump significantly. Further discussion will occur. Avery also reported on the success of the weekend Emmett Kelly Festival and praised Shannon Jordan, a city community development employee, volunteers and staff.

•Heard from Avery that the city is supporting an Armed Forces Appreciation Day from 10 to 3 p.m. May 21 at the chamber fairgrounds.

•Heard Kelley endorse required training for all new elected officials and a refresher course periodically. He attended one last week. He also called for term limits for elected city officials.

•Heard Romines express concern about the financial picture for the municipally owned high speed internet system. He suggested a focus be made on hooking up customers on a waiting list to improve cash flow.

•Adjourned into a closed session.

Special board meeting for Houston council planned

Members of the Houston City Council will hold a special meeting Monday to consider two ordinances.

Houston City Hall
Houston City Hall on Oak Street. Credit: HOUSTON HERALD FILE PHOTO

One would add the word “elective” before “officers” related to suspension of city officials — in Section 2-50 (c). The second city ordinance (amending Section 2-89) would be changed to say the city administrator serves at the pleasure of the board. It reads, “The City Administrator shall serve at the pleasure of Board of Alderman. The Mayor may, with the consent of a majority of all members elected to the board of aldermen, remove the City Administrator from office at will and the City Administrator may be so removed by a two-third (2/3) vote of all the members elected to the Board of Aldermen, independently of the Mayor’s approval or recommendation.”

Alderman Don Romines said he had asked that the matters be placed on Monday’s agenda last Wednesday in an email to City Administrator Scott Avery. Mayor Willy Walker said it wasn’t placed on the agenda because he felt like it “blind sided” the board without any previous discussion. It was drafted by the city attorney, who said he offers legal counsel to any elected official who requests it. Walker, who said the council should work as a “whole” and not separately in its work,  said he’d tried to have a discussion with Romines on Monday about it.

Ordinances on the books can be found at houstonmo.org under “About us.”

The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.  

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