Houston’s Industrial Development Authority has decided to start improvements at the Northeast Industrial Park east of the chamber’s fairgrounds off North U.S. 63. The goal is to bring new jobs to the community.
Two members of the organization, Brad Rees and Chris Strickland, attended the Monday Houston City Council meeting. Rees said a Raymondville man, Randy Kell, has been hired to begin work on a pad. The project includes preparation of the site — including dirt work and chat — on the north side of the tract. Rees and Strickland reported there had been inquiries about locating on the property from industry prospects, but most want a building already in place.
One wanted a 20,000 square foot building that would house welders and assembly line workers for boat manufacturing. The welding component would have complemented a Piney River Technical Center welding program.
On the drawing board also is the need for electrical installation to the site. Service is within 500 yards now. The cost is estimated at nearly $58,000 for materials with more long-range electrical work eventually needed there. In 2012, the council brought sewer to the 57-acre site through a federal stimulus program that represented funds remaining from a major upgrade at the wastewater treatment plant. A road, also completed by Kell, was constructed earlier from North U.S. 63 to the park.
In other matters, members:
•Approved the purchase of 53 electrical poles for its stock inventory. The cost is $18,425.
•Heard an update on the manufacture of a bucket truck for the electrical department. It is set to replace a 2004 model.
The latest increase to a lease would add about $100 monthly. The city has been waiting more than a year. The latest signal from the company shows it might be another 18 months before it is made.
•Heard from two representatives of the Jefferson City-based Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System who answered questions about the city’s retirement system that includes employees, and elected officials may also join and are vested after five years.
The City of Houston entered the program in 1971.
Jeff Kempker, assistant executive director; and Jason Paulsmeyer, chief counsel, discussed the program that covers employees working at least 1,500 hours annually.
The question of council participation came up earlier this year. Former City Administrator Scott Avery said he had found no paperwork authorizing the expenditure for council members. The representatives said they were not aware of any state statute that requires that.
•Heard Mayor Willy Walker allege again that the council had violated state statute when it passed measures earlier that eventually allowed the council to fire Avery, who attended Monday’s meeting. Walker said the matter was initiated by Alderman Don Romines without an advance full council decision, it was drafted by City Attorney Brad Eidson and later passed by the council on a 4-2 vote. The mayor later vetoed both and was overridden by the council.
City Attorney Brad Eidson and Walker tangled again during the meeting on Monday over the legality. Eidson said he had requested that the mayor present any questions in writing and had texted the mayor three weeks ago and on Saturday when he saw that the matter was up for discussion again on Monday. He never heard back, he told the council.
Walker said he didn’t need to — Eidson should have written them down as part of his job. Later in the meeting, Eidson said he believed the matter was legal.
Members adjourned into a closed session following its open meeting.