Editor: Shannon Cottongame
January 25, 2023
The Whitney City Council met in a regular session Thursday, January 19, to discuss renewal of the city’s contract with Emergency Services District (ESD) 1, hear departmental reports and review other monthly business.
Interim Fire Chief Roy McCleary and Wayland Price, the city’s former fire chief, spoke to the council about the annual contract with ESD 1 that is up for renewal this month.
When the local ESDs were created, Hillsboro and Whitney opted out of joining ESD 1 and 2, which oversee and provide fire coverage (ESD 1) and ambulance service (ESD 2). ESDs are political subdivisions of the state that have the ability to impose both property taxes and sales taxes to support emergency services in the district.
While Whitney is not a member of ESD 1, it has a contract with the district to respond to calls in the ESD 1 service area outside of the city limits. Price said that the city has received $10,000 per year from ESD 1 for a number of years, and that amount is not even covering the department’s fuel expenses for making the calls.
Price said that ESD departments received a payment for increased fuel costs this past year, but Whitney did not receive a payment for its increased costs and was told it would need to renegotiate its contract if it wanted more money.
McCleary reported that the majority of the department’s fire calls are outside of the city limits. In the last quarter of 2022, the fire department responded to eight calls in the city and 45 calls outside of the city.
Price also pointed out that switching to the new 800 MHz radio system that the district’s fire departments will be transitioning to in the next couple of years will be an added expense for Whitney if it wants to communicate with neighboring departments.
“I don’t believe the city is getting a fair shake,” Price said.
Mayor Jerry Barker and City Attorney Brenda McDonald said they wanted to start a discussion with the council about the next steps so that the contract can be renegotiated.
The attorney said that even in the absence of a contract with the district, cities and other entities can enter into mutual aid agreements.
Mayor Barker said that he was involved in the initial joint discussions when the City of Whitney and City of Hillsboro opted not to join the ESD, noting that both cities already had well-equipped departments and did not want their citizens to have to pay taxes to the district.
After discussion, the council expressed a desire to renegotiate the contract and try to get better terms for the city.
In another regular agenda item, the council voted to renew the city’s participation in the Texas SmartBuy membership program of the Texas comptroller’s office. The city can purchase certain items, such as those needed by EMS, at a discount through the program.
During the public forum, Library Director Denise Carter spoke to the council and said that she wants to make them aware of issues that existed with the current city annex building when the library was housed there.
Carter said that basic renovations on the building were done by volunteers who filtered in and out, and there were significant issues with the building that were not addressed when the library chose to abandon the building and construct a new facility. She said that with a new mayor and new council members serving now, she wanted to make sure they were aware of the issues so the building can be evaluated before any repairs are made.
The mayor thanked Carter for the information and said that the city is getting quotes for a full environmental survey of the building.
In departmental reports, Mayor Barker reported that monthly sales tax revenue in December was $74,448.68, up from $67,483.95, which is a good economic indicator for the city. He said that the opening of Allsup’s will further contribute to those numbers.
Event Coordinator Pam Townley reported that the Whitney Museum will hold a history tour March 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Attendees will be invited to wear clothing from past eras and tour the exhibits. Whitney native and published poet John Pelham will also be in attendance. Further information will be released as the event nears.
Carter reported that the library’s popular book sale will be held in February, and the Lake Whitney Amateur Radio Society’s winter camp will be held January 28 and 29. She said that the library can print income tax forms for the public, and the library is planning three days of assistance at the library for those filing tax returns. She encouraged everyone to look at the library’s newsletter at http://www.whitneylibrary.org for complete details about the library’s activities.
Public works submitted a reported stating that the city’s water and wastewater system made it through the freeze unscathed, and meetings have been underway with engineers about a water and wastewater study and planning for future improvements. The new water meters in the pilot program were reported to be working well, and public works has been able to notify several customers of leaks after the freeze last month saving them money. The mayor and public works are continuing to look for funding options to replace the city’s entire system with new meters.
McCleary reported that he is preparing for the transition to the new fire chief, and the department continues to look for new members.
Municipal Judge Trey Jetton presented a report to the council on citations issued in the city in 2022. There were a total of 702 tickets issued, with 24 in a school zone.
The council’s next regular meeting will be held Thursday, February 16.