Editor: Shannon Cottongame
July 28, 2022
The Whitney City Council appointed an interim police chief and accepted the resignation of former mayor Brad Slaten during a meeting held Monday, July 18.
Former city administrator and police chief Chris Bentley recently resigned from his position after accepting another job. The council voted to appoint Hugh Corbin as interim chief, and he will help the city assess candidates for the permanent position. City officials do not expect to hire another city administrator at this time.
Corbin has a history in public service, having started his law enforcement career as a police officer for the City of Irving after serving in the Army National Guard and graduating from Grayson County College.
While at Irving, he worked in criminal investigations, internal affairs, tactical, vice and narcotics undercover, motorcycle traffic and ended his career there as a patrol watch commander in 2000.
Corbin moved to Whitney with his wife Kathy in 2014, and in 2015 he joined the White Bluff Volunteer Fire Department. In 2016, he became the fire chief and obtained his emergency care attendant license, which allows him to respond to medical calls in White Bluff.
In 2019 he joined the Whitney Police Department as its internal investigator and assisted with investigations as requested by Chief Bentley.
The council also voted to move Kathy Corbin’s position as a dispatcher under the supervision of City Secretary Kristi Woellert instead of the police chief while Corbin is serving as interim chief.
Last week also marked the first meeting in which Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Barker served as acting mayor. Former Mayor Brad Slaten, who also served as pastor of King Memorial United Methodist Church, left his position this month after he was called to pastor another church. The council formally accepted Slaten’s resignation at the meeting.
Barker will serve as acting mayor and continue voting as a council member until next May’s city election. Barker discussed the importance of transparency in Whitney government, and the council took action to move its monthly meeting to the third Thursday of the month to allow time for the agenda to be printed in The Lakelander Newspaper for the community to review.
Barker and the council also told those in attendance that they will correct issues that have occurred in the past in which citizen requests failed to make it to the council’s agenda.
Discussion was held regarding increasing the number of council meetings to two per month. Council member Martis Ward brought the proposal before the council, citing concerns about long waiting times for those who come before the council requesting action.
Council member Jason Ince pointed out that with some issues related to business development, tabling an item for a month could negatively impact the individual or entity requesting action by the council. Council members agreed that such issues should be addressed in a timely manner, but Barker explained that there is often not enough regular business to consider to warrant two meetings per month.
After discussion, the council opted to call special meetings as necessary to address time-sensitive concerns instead of scheduling an extra monthly meeting.
The council voted to appoint council member Valery Peacock deputy mayor pro tem, allowing her to serve in the acting mayor’s absence if needed.
In other agenda items, the council approved the annexation of property for proposed new development after no comments were made during public hearings.
Seventy-five acres located west of North Brazos Street behind Circle Drive was annexed by the city for a planned housing development, and just over five acres at 906 South Bosque Street was annexed for the development of an Allsups convenience store.
The council also approved a special event permit for the Lake Whitney Chamber of Commerce as plans are made for the annual Pioneer Days festival Saturday, October 1.
In other action, the council voted to create a City of Whitney wrecker rotation list that will include all three wrecker services that have storage facilities in the Whitney area. A towing ordinance will also be drawn up by the city’s attorney.
The council discussed a message received from Turner Place Apartments developer Perry Auten regarding a large increase in water bills at the location. Public Works Director Billy Pribble explained that the increase is part of the ascending rate structure that was approved by the council in April, which more heavily impacts high-volume water users in the city.
Pribble explained that at 231,000 gallons of water usage, the rate for Turner Place would be $49 per 1,000 gallons of water used. Low-volume users have much lower rates. For instance, a household using 5,000 gallons of water or less would pay $3 per 1,000 gallons.
He said that 84 apartment units are currently occupied, according to the city’s documents, and the property also has an irrigation system.
Prior to the change in April, the city had a universal rate structure for water billing, meaning that after the first 2,000 gallons used, the city charged a given amount per 1,000 gallons of water no matter how many gallons a customer used.
In April, Pribble said that the city had not passed along rate increases to customers since 2016 and cited the ascending schedule as a way to recover some of the city’s increasing costs without impacting the majority of citizens.
In departmental reports, Library Director Denise Carter said that the library has been busy with outdoor temperatures climbing and highlighted several library services. Technology help continues to be available on Fridays from 2 to 4 p.m. thanks to a library volunteer who assists residents with basic questions about their devices or who need help installing library Ebook apps on smartphones, computers or tablets.
The library also continues to assist residents as they navigate the sometimes challenging process of filling out government documents online.
The library’s complete newsletter outlining services and activities offered is available at http://www.whitneylibrary.org.
Fire Chief Wayland Price said that he is concerned about the number of fires in the area and the continued lack of rainfall. He reported that eight firefighters attended training on wildland fire strategies last month, and seven firefighters were trained in fire streams with foam. Additional live fire training is scheduled in August at Hill College.
Price’s June report showed that Whitney Fire Rescue responded to two fire investigations in the city, 10 in the district and 12 in the county. Last June, the department responded to two in the city, four in the district and three in the county. The calls have continued to increase and come in regularly this month.
Pribble presented the water and wastewater report, noting that two temporary employees hired through Top Notch Personnel have moved to full-time status, and one employee recently left to take another job. The department still needs to add two employees.
With the dry weather, Pribble said that seven active water leaks were addressed last month and water is a precious resource at the moment. He said that he and Barker are working together to monitor any action that might be necessary under the city’s drought contingency plan.
Pribble pointed out that while other areas are asking for voluntary water conservation efforts, most of those utilize surface water, while Whitney uses ground water. Still, he said it is important to be prepared in case such efforts are needed.
The council’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be Thursday, August 18.