CALERA – The Calera Town Council decided upon many weighty measures on Tuesday during a two-hour meeting which revisited several items from previous agendas.
The council approved the “Blackboard Connect” mass communication system with a 4-1 vote in the issue’s fourth agenda appearance in the last six months. Vicki Barkley was the lone dissenter.
“We have to remember we are spending our taxpayers’ money,” she said. “I would hate to put something in place and, from the start, it not be clear and not be done right. I would rather not move forward with this.”
At issue was the system’s selection of people to call in case of a citywide emergency or other announcement. Barkley and others questioned whether this call system would benefit non-residents on the edge of Calera’s city limits.
The system will cost $2,500 to install and $2,200 per year to maintain. Debt collection was listed as a way some municipalities justify the cost of the system, but Barkley said Calera already has a debt collection system in place.
A company representative addressed the council in April, and the issue was tabled at that time.
“This is a communication system we’ve been working on for two years,” said council member Brian Norton. “We’re sitting here beating a dead horse. We’ve taken a 30 minute meeting and turned it into two hours.”
Calera residents will have the power to opt in or out of the call service, with details forthcoming in the near future as the system gets set up.
In other business, council member David Westbrook presented a motion outlining new employee sick leave and vacation policies as discussed in several recent meetings. Some council members wanted to have further discussions on the issue, despite approval from department heads about the specifics outlined by Westbrook.
“We’ve been arguing about this for two or three months now,” said Mayor James Eaton as he offered a second to Westbrook’s motion. The new employee handbook was approved 3-2 with Barkley and James Burnett in the negative.
The council also held a lengthy discussion about a mutual aid agreement with Denison, Texas, which would allow city resources and manpower to be used across the Texas state line in case of disasters. The issue is insurance coverage, as one councilor said insurers have found a “loophole” to deny coverage to municipalities and manpower working across state lines without such an agreement.
Insurance rates would not change as a result of the agreement, but Bryan County was said to be among the first to reach such agreements with the Texas counties. The council approved the agreement.
The council denied a variance request from a city resident seeking to build a fence which was partially on city property. The enclosed area would include a six-inch water main, but the landowner vowed to allow city access to the main. The landowner also agreed to re-survey their lot and build the fence on the property line.
Notes from the council meeting: Calera residents with fallen limbs from this week’s storm may pile them up curbside. The city will be picking up the piled limbs in the coming days… A tree fell on a Calera resident’s home in the storm, but no injuries resulted… Calera VFD members Jacob Toews and David Westbrook were honored for 20 years of service to the city… Calera Emergency Management lent its four-wheeler to a Bryan County manhunt south of Colbert on Sunday, the first deployment of the new resource… The 2012-13 city budget was approved Tuesday after a budget hearing drew no comments. There were a few comments during the vote about the dilapidated structure line item.