Editor: Shannon Cottongame
March 2, 2022
The Whitney City Council held its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, February 22, and heard citizen comments, departmental reports and voted on city business.
Whitney resident Sonya Lott spoke to the council in open forum regarding the need for a good playground in the city. Lott said that school playgrounds cannot be used during the day, and the city park’s playground facilities have no shade, no swings and few features. Lott said that she would also like to see Whitney offer a splash pad like Hillsboro and Cleburne so parents and grandparents do not have to travel to other towns.
Lott said that with Whitney growing, a playground is a feature it needs to offer. Mayor Brad Slaten thanked Lott for her presentation and said that the city encourages such comments.
Mayor Slaten read correspondence from another citizen, Eve Miller, who said that while she loves living in Whitney, she is concerned about out-of-control growth involving developments like storage buildings and RV parks. She encouraged the council to plan for the future and enact ordinances to ensure that growth is controlled. She also encouraged programs like a yard of the month effort to encourage residents to clean up the city.
In the mayor’s comments, Slaten said that the meeting marked what he hopes is a longterm cooperative agreement with Whitney ISD to have students lead the Pledge of Allegiance and with area clergy to lead the invocation. “It is my desire to encourage both participation in the actions of our city council and to recognize outstanding citizens in our local school district,” he said.
WHS student Kolt Byrd attended the meeting to lead the council in the pledge, and Reverend Jimmy Presley led the prayer.
The mayor said that he had been in contact with the Lake Whitney Garden Club and encouraged concerned citizens to identify small beautification projects in the city. “My hope is that we might bring these projects to the attention of citizens and other organizations who are willing to complete these projects.” He added, “This is not intended to be an official governmental action to complete certain tasks, as much as it is encouraging the citizens and other groups within our fine community to come together in an effort to make our community even more beautiful and welcoming.”
Slaten pointed out that individuals cannot enter private property without permission from a landowner and said that without the council’s approval, there is no city funding for the beautification projects, but added that many of the tasks can be completed at little or no cost.
In departmental reports, Library Director Denise Carter said that the library has been extremely busy and has been offering assistance to taxpayers and job seekers, among others. She said that the library’s website is kept up-to-date with the latest newsletter and offerings.
Whitney Fire Chief Wayland Price said that three firefighters attended regional fire training at Hill College in January, and two additional Whitney firefighters were instructors at that training. Price reported that firefighters responded to a fire on San Antonio Street the previous week, and it was extinguished in 22 minutes. City Administrator Chris Bentley said that the incident involved a extreme effort by all staff, including the water department, and the speed with which the fire was extinguished speaks to Price’s leadership.
Bentley reported that the average EMS response time is four minutes and 34 seconds, and Mayor Slaten said that the department is doing a wonderful job.
Public Works Director Billy Pribble said that his department has a lot of projects underway, including a large project on North Colorado Street to replace 1,000 feet of PVC pipe from Hayes Avenue to Highland Drive. Pribble said that city crews dug the area up to investigate sewer issues in the area and determined that the pipe needed to be upgraded.
“That is an astronomical undertaking for us,” Pribble said. “So far we’ve already laid 250 feet and it’s going flawlessly,” he said.
He said that bids have been received for street repairs at the corner of Colorado and Jefferson, which is in poor condition after it had to be dug up due to a recent water leak, but the city has not been able to nail down a time frame for repairs with a contractor.
“We’re exploring other options now,” Pribble said. “The chief and I are working with the state and our county commissioners and we’re going to try to come up with a better plan to get that repaired.”
He said that his department is also planning a solar lighting project for the downtown area and possibly the city park, and he hopes to have the lights installed by May.
Pribble added that there is still one open position to fill in the public works department.
Bentley reported that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality performed a surprise inspection in the city recently, and no violations were found.
Referring back to an issue the council has discussed in the past, Bentley said that the city was set to meet with Republic Services in an effort to close the alley behind the Lake Whitney Senior Center on North Colorado Street. The waste company has to approve street trash pickup in the area before the city can move forward with the plan, which will involve filling the area in with grass and a retention wall to alleviate drainage issues that have impacted homes in the area.
Moving on to regular agenda items, the council approved holding a joint election with Whitney ISD in May. Since that time, both entities have canceled their elections after candidates withdrew. (See accompanying story.)
The council also approved an increase in the amount of water it requests on its permit from the Prairielands Groundwater Conservation District (PGCD).
PGCD regulates the amount of water the city can pump, and Whitney is currently in about the 78th percentile of its allowable water usage. Bentley said that the city is asking for 60 million gallons a year, which will be adequate to meet its needs for the next seven to 10 years when taking expected growth into consideration.
Bentley said that there is a $1,000 fee to go before the PGCD board in March to make the request, and there will be an additional fee for the extra water pumped if approved.
The council voted to join the nationwide opioid settlement with manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and pharmaceutical distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. The Texas Office of the Attorney General is encouraging Texas cities and counties to sign up to receive funds to help combat the opioid crisis plaguing the state. The mayor pointed out that Whitney is only expected to receive $73 from the settlement funds.
The council also approved a zoning change for a list of properties surrounding previously rezoned property in the Trinity Street area. The change to Business District – 3 would allow any properties currently being used as primary residences to continue being used as residences if they are sold. Council member Jerry Barker voted against the agenda item.
The council’s next regular meeting date is Monday, March 21.