The Texas County Library system asked the Houston City Council on Monday to sponsor a state grant application for a new Houston branch.
The request came during a tumultuous meeting that saw calls for a councilman’s resignation and a mayoral veto of a street improvement bid.
Janet Fraley, a member of the Texas County Library board, asked the council to consider sponsoring an application to Missouri state government for funding a new library under a component of the American Rescue Plan Act. Missouri’s share of the act’s funding is about $2.7 billion. Guidelines for a variety of programs are under development by the state — ranging from broadband construction to help for not-for-profits.
When the Houston Storm Shelter was constructed in 2007 it was engineered to include the Houston branch of the library as the top level.
Fraley said the library board recently authorized spending up to $5,000 with an engineering firm for initial consultation work and to begin a search for a grant administrator. Additionally, state officials have said the earlier construction could be used as a match component.
If the city agrees to select the project as a component of the Community Revitalization Grant, it would incur no costs but wouldn’t be able to pursue anything else in the category. The construction outlay would be paid by the library system, which has already made improvements to branches at Summersville, Licking and Cabool.
Fraley, who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, said the funding from the act might be the best chance to complete a new library for Houston — without having to tap several different funding sources. The application period is expected to open Aug. 1 and closes Oct. 3.
Mayor’s wife calls for alderman’s resignation
The other public comment during the meeting came from the wife of Mayor Willy Walker.
Carla Walker called for the immediate resignation of Kevin Stilley, a Ward I alderman. She alleged that Stilley had retaliated against her at the Licking School District, which employs her.
She said he had reached out to someone in the superintendent’s office with the intent of having her fired. Walker’s social media postings concerning the council were apparently the motive. Stilley said he had copies of the deleted posts. Relations between the mayor and a majority of the council have been tenuous. Last month a special counsel for the City of Houston filed suit against the mayor alleging he improperly took insurance benefits without paying for them.
The mayor’s wife called Stilley’s alleged move to contact her employer “unfair, despicable, unprofessional and improper.”
The heated exchange between the mayor’s wife and Stilley brought a few words from Angie Stilley, the spouse of the alderman. The mayor asked Police Chief Brad Evans to remove her from the meeting. Mrs. Stilley quickly left voluntarily and told the mayor that his wife needed to be asked to leave, too.
In other matters, members:
•Will seek bids again for concrete for pickleball and volleyball courts at Westside Park after a proposal was over budget and a second one was incomplete. The area is about 50 x 80 feet.
•Heard an update on the status of vehicle purchases affected by manufacturing and supply chain delays from Darren Ice, city maintenance department.
•Heard a report from the street committee on efforts to mitigate drainage issues near C.W. Harry and Holder drives. A berm was constructed to help divert water after additional development in the area. Additional remedies will be done.
•Approved a street committee recommendation to accept a proposal from Willard Asphalt of Lebanon for asphalt overlay work on First Street and a gravel cul-de-sac on Primrose Drive in south Houston (4-2, Michael Weakly and Sam Kelley, no). The project was bid at $169,941 with work to be completed in the first two weeks of September. Mayor Walker vetoed it saying that a quarter-cent transportation sales tax doesn’t generate enough money to keep streets maintained without moving some of the work in-house. There were also questions about required millwork. Consideration of an override will occur at the council’s next meeting on Aug. 1. The mayor favored looking at the issue as part of next year’s budget.
•Discussed seeking bids for the rights for hay at the Houston Memorial Airport rather than have city crews mow it.
•Will consider implementing a policy that would allow city officers to take home their patrol cars if they live outside the city limits. A limit on the number of miles will be considered.
•Adjourned into a closed session.
Audit report presented to city council
A representative of a Springfield accounting firm presented the results of a financial review of the city in 2021.
Jon Cummings, a co-leader of the audit and assurance department at KPM, offered a clean opinion of the city’s operations. He gave an overview of the document, which is commonly used as a management tool to guide municipalities. Taken as a whole, Cummings called the results “pretty solid financials.”
Among the changes that may come is separating results from fiber service into a separate fund. Additionally, a loan from Missouri to municipalities with extreme utility bills in 2021 will be added. A look will also be given on financial reports generated for the municipal court system.