Editor: Shannon Cottongame
April 27, 2022
The Whitney City Council approved a final plat for a new subdivision that could bring up to 57 homes to Whitney and considered several other agenda items in a meeting held Monday evening, April 18.
Last year, the council began discussions with Gary Finch, CEO of Teamworktown Inc., which is planning to build custom homes on land located off North Trinity Street in Whitney.
According to the company’s website, custom homes ranging from 1,897 to 3,095 square feet will be offered in several models with prices starting at $428,000. The project is expected to be completed in phases, with approximately 37 homes planned in the first phase.
The homes will be built on minimum .4 acre lots in 2.5 acre sections and spaced out to accommodate five homes in each section. No more than 57 homes are to be constructed, according to the company’s information.
Finch requested approval of a final plat for the subdivision, which the council granted after hearing more about the plans. City Engineer Jed Sulak told the council that he had reviewed the plans and found them satisfactory.
Council member Jerry Barker asked Sulak, Finch and the project engineers for more information about drainage, saying that his biggest concern about new development is it worsening the drainage and flooding problems that the city already has.
The engineers explained that the subdivision will have a detention pond that will improve the problem instead of adding to it.
After reviewing the plans, Barker made a motion to approve the plat subject to an executed contract that ensures the pond will be properly maintained by the developer in the future, and the motion passed.
Another agenda item related to the project proposed rezoning approximately 39 acres stretching to HCR 1240 from agricultural to residential use. Council member Barker questioned whether the required 200-foot notification had been made to property owners in the area, and after learning that the city did not make the notification, action was tabled pending that process.
The council also voted to adopt an ascending schedule for water rates. Public Works Director Billy Pribble told the council that the change will not impact 90 percent of the city, but it will result in an increase for those who use over 5,000 gallons of water per month.
Currently, water customers are charged the base rate of $33.15 plus $3 per 1,000 gallons. Pribble said that with the ascending rate structure, that fee will increase a dollar in 5,000-gallon increments. For example, those using 5,001 gallons will be charged $4, at 10,001 gallons it will be $5, and increases will continue based on usage.
Pribble said that the city has not passed along rate increases to customers since 2016, and this is a way to recover some of those increased costs without impacting the majority of citizens.
Fire Chief Wayland Price told the council that the department is educating businesses in town about the requirement that they have a key box to comply with Section 506.1 of the International Fire Code. The requirement ensures that the department has a master key and can access a business after hours to prevent damage if needed.
Council members discussed a proposal to cover the expense of replacing a fence at Turner Place apartments. The city recently installed vaults for fire hydrants in the area and had the owner remove a portion of fence to accommodate the work. Public Works Director Billy Pribble said that the city thought there was an understanding that it would be the responsibility of the owner to put it back up, but the owner believes that the city should pay for the repairs.
Pribble contacted a fencing company and said that he did not yet have a firm number to give to the council, but the company estimates the cost to be under $5,000.
After discussion, the council voted to delegate the decisions to the mayor with a cost not to exceed $1,500.
A plan to begin replacing downtown streetlights with LED lights was approved by the council. Mayor Brad Slaten said that he traveled to Rio Vista to view the LED streetlights and found them to provide more pleasing, usable light without a lot of noise light. The transition is expected to reduce overall electricity costs, but there will be an initial fee of $104 per light. The city plans to eventually begin switching out other lights in town after the downtown area is completed.
The council discussed closing the alley behind the property at 504 North San Marcos Street to address drainage issues in the area. The mayor said that the property owner requesting the project has requested that the city take an alternate action and not close the alley. The agenda item was tabled.
Two agenda items were tabled relating to a preliminary plat and annexation application from Allsup corporation. No additional information about the company’s plans were discussed, and the city manager said that additional paperwork is pending regarding economic development discussions.
Bentley discussed the city’s plans for this year’s Fourth of July activities on Saturday, July 2. Plans in the works include a parade, 5k run, downtown games and water slides, music and a 15-minute fireworks show to wrap up the evening.
Two individuals spoke to the council in open forum. A Whitney resident said that she received a door hanger from code enforcement and expressed concerns about what she called burdensome conditions in the city’s brush ordinance. She said that she is not physically able to cut brush due to her age, and she is not financially able to hire someone to do the work.
A business owner just outside the city limits on the north side of town spoke to the council and said that he has heard that the city is considering annexing property outside the city limits and asked the city to notify him if the issue is going to be on a future agenda. He was concerned about additional taxation that could burden his business if his business is annexed.
Anne Chastain of Juniper Cove Winery, a Whitney Business Alliance member, spoke to the council to offer the alliance’s support for the city’s Fourth of July activities. She said that the alliance is working on promotions to encourage local shopping and increase sales tax revenue. The alliance is also proposing a program to encourage the placement of flags on downtown businesses on several holidays.
In the mayor’s comments, Mayor Brad Slaten said that he had met with Whitney Business Alliance President Carol Eubank to discuss potential downtown Whitney beautification projects as part of the micro projects that are being planned in town. The mayor said that the goal is to make the area more attractive to visitors while partnering with local businesses, civic organizations, school organizations, churches and private citizens. He encouraged citizens with ideas to increase the appeal of Whitney to contact him through City Hall.
In the administrative report, City Secretary Kristi Woellert said that it had been a busy month, processing 58 work orders for water connects and disconnects in March and 1,028 water bills for collection. The municipal court was also busy in March, processing 115 payments, issuing 100 warrants and 150 reminder letters sent for payments.
Library Director Denise Carter provided her packet to the council, highlighting the library’s participation in the Central Texas Library System and the arrival of new large print books at the library. Carter said that large print books are expensive, and the program allows libraries in the state to share large print books and get 50 new books every three books.
The library continues to offer technology assistance on Fridays, helping the community with their technology problems.
The library’s April newsletter is out and can be viewed at http://www.whitneylibrary.org.
Police Chief Chris Bentley said that the police department is beginning the process of become accredited. He said that there are 1,700 police departments in the state and only 187 departments in the state are accredited. The process could take up to a year, and the department began the process the previous week with submission of an application. The Texas Municipal League Risk Pool funds the process, which involves a crew visiting the police department, riding with officers and ensuring that best practices are followed.
The chief said that two new police officers will be joining the department, and they will be introduced next month. The department will be fully staffed with the new hires.
Bentley said that Whitney EMS staff has been through training recently and the department is fully staffed and maintains impressive response times under five minutes.
Fire Chief Wayland Price said that grass fires have slowed down after the recent spike in calls. He said that the department will participate in county-wide training next month.
Price said that grass is growing and code enforcement has been notifying citizens who are out of compliance with city ordinances via visits, door hangers and letters.
Council member Sam Pierce praised firefighters for putting out a recent vehicle fire quickly during high winds and preventing damage to surrounding areas.
Public Works Director Billy Pribble gave the water and wastewater report and said that staff has been in training recently. Pribble attended two classes the previous month, and two employees have been in training and are now eligible to test for water and wastewater licenses.