Editor: Shannon Cottongame
May 24, 2023
The Whitney City Council accepted an engineering services proposal from Clark Associates for a full survey and study of the city’s water system at a meeting held Thursday, May 18.
Public Works Director Billy Pribble told the council that the full study is needed in order for the city to continue to support controlled growth. Pribble’s research into the issue indicated that the last analysis was conducted by another firm in 2000, and the most current water maps used by the Public Works Department are from this survey.
The problem, Pribble said, is that the maps show planned improvements that were never actually carried out. He said that his research into the issue revealed that the plans were abandoned somewhere around 2004 or 2005.
According to the 20-year plan developed in 2000, Pribble said that the city should have had a new well in the ground by 2012. “This agreement will give us a new study on our water system,” Pribble said. “It will map our lines out, give us a printed copy as well as a digital copy and it will do an assessment on our water system to see where we’re currently at, where we need to be and what improvements they recommend.”
With the rapid growth that Whitney is experiencing, he emphasized that a study by an engineer is imperative.
Pribble said that the city approached two other companies when seeking bids for the project, but chose not to pursue one and the other never followed through with a meeting.
In February, the council approved an engineering and surveying services proposal related to the city’s wastewater treatment plant with Clark Associates, and Pribble said that the company has knowledge of the city’s water and wastewater system and recommended the firm as the best option.
The council approved a proposal from the company for the analysis and mapping services in an amount not to exceed $32,500.
In another agenda item, the council approved a development agreement with Shane Baker regarding a proposed subdivision on approximately 25 acres in the city’s extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) off Highway 22 east of town.
The property was initially subdivided under Hill County’s subdivision rules after Baker received a letter from the city in April 2022 stating that the city preferred not to police subdivision regulations outside the city limits. Based on that letter, Baker moved forward with the county’s committee, which forwarded its recommendation to the Hill County Commissioners Court for approval.
Prior to final approval by commissioners, the city entered into an interlocal agreement with the county allowing the city to regulate subdivisions in Whitney’s ETJ, which pushed the issue back to Whitney City Council.
Baker said that he did not have an opinion about who provided the inspection, saying that he just wanted to follow the rules. The council approved utilizing Bureau Veritas, the city’s inspector, as a condition of the development agreement.
The council also took action to ratify a vote taken by the council on March 8, 2011, to change the zoning classification of certain property in the city.
The action will not change any current zoning, but it addresses an issue with the city’s zoning ordinance not being updated to reflect approved changes in the past. Pribble said that he has been researching zoning and has found numerous instances of the council approving zoning changes in years past without changing the zoning ordinance.
“Essentially what you’re doing tonight is ratifying the ordinance by a council that voted and approved action on something in 2011,” Pribble said.
City Attorney Brenda McDonald said that the new ordinance will be published so that the city can enforce, through citations or other means, the zoning regulations on the properties.
With new mayor Janice Sanders in place and council members beginning new term this month, the council voted to select the mayor pro tem. The mayor pro tem is selected after each election to perform the mayor’s duty in the event of his or her absence. The council chose to have Council Member Valery Peacock continue serving in that role.
The council also voted to appoint Dianna Anderson to the Whitney Housing Authority Board of Directors. She will serve in a position previously held by the late Valerie Hunsaker.
In departmental updates, Mayor Sanders reported that the city accepted a donation from Republic Services to fund LED lights at the city park.
Library Director Denise Carter reported that the library had 484 visitors in April and issued 21 new cards. The library is gearing up for its summer reading program, with activities scheduled for children throughout the summer. The library continues to have displays honoring veterans, and Carter encouraged everyone to stop by and view the donated items. The library’s newsletter at http://www.whitneylibrary.org contains detailed information about the many programs offered at the library, and upcoming programs will also be featured in The Lakelander.
Police Chief Kevin Hughes reported that the police department received its Criminal Justice Information System Audit results from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and was found to be compliant. The department was certified to access DPS systems for three years.
He reported that the department has several new hires. Sergeant Kyle Nevil, who has over 28 years of law enforcement experience and in-depth investigative experience, recently joined the department after serving as a lieutenant at the Hill County Sheriff’s Office.
Octavio Aguirre, a recently retired police lieutenant, joined the department and has the ability to provide training on the department’s records management and radio systems.
Jeremy Adye, who has almost five years of law enforcement experience, was set to be sworn in to begin working for the department this week.
The chief reported that he has reopened the investigation into the November 2020 burglary of Eubank Drug, Edward Jones and Kitty’s Lakeside Barbers in Whitney. Chief Hughes said that it was one of the bigger crimes in the area and he feels that it is solvable, with leads available to help identify suspects.
He said that the police department has also investigated, identified suspects and recovered stolen property in many offenses, such as vehicle burglaries. Arrests of juveniles and young adults are pending, and the investigation has also led to the department solving several cases for Cleburne Police Department.
Fire Chief David Gilmore reported that the department responded to 54 total calls in April and received its letter from the Texas Commission on Fire Protection stating that it is in compliance after the recent inspection. New volunteers have recently joined the department or have expressed interest in joining.
Gilmore reported that the city’s letter stating its intent to withdraw from the contract with Emergency Services District (ESD) 1 had been drafted. The council recently discussed the issue after the chief said that the city contract is a bad deal for the city, and the department can continue to enter into mutual aid agreements to respond to calls outside the city without being bound by the terms of an ESD 1 contract.
The fire chief said that the new records management and training software approved by the city is working well, and insurance companies are paying out claims faster with the detailed reports that can now be provided. It is also improving record keeping related to maintenance, building inspections and other aspects of running the department.
Code enforcement efforts have been underway, and Gilmore reported that the fire department has also been cleaned up and the parking lot striped. He said that he felt it was important for the department to keep its own station clean before enforcing codes elsewhere.
In the water and wastewater update, Pribble said that installation of new water meters is temporarily on hold until new billing software is integrated. A new main cleanout has been installed on North Brazos Street, two lift stations have been repaired by contractors, water leaks have been repaired, backup batteries for the water system have been replaced and a number of other issues have been addressed.
Pribble said that work to improve drainage in the city is underway, with crews starting at the major thoroughfares before continuing into neighborhoods.
In public comments, Joe Corson told the council that Whitney Wildcat Football League (WWFL) sign-ups are underway for pre-kindergarten through sixth grades and encouraged anyone interested to register.