COUNCIL MEETS

The Houston City Council met Monday night at Houston City Hall to consider the 2019 budget.

Members of the Houston City Council heard Monday that the community’s fire chief is resigning and received information on a planned Community Improvement District that would aid in the completion of a surgery center on the Texas County Memorial Hospital campus.

The six-member council and mayor held a short meeting before adjourning into a closed session to discuss legal matters.

At the meeting, Mayor Don Tottingham announced that Joey Moore, the town’s fire chief, had notified the city he would be stepping down at the end of the year and recommended that Robbie Smith – a U.S. Forest Service firefighter – be promoted to the role.

Moore assumed the job with the retirement of Don Rust in 2014 after 31 years at the helm.

JOEY MOORE

JOEY MOORE

In other matters, members:

•Authorized seeking funds for two sidewalk projects — on King Street from Chestnut to Ozark streets and on U.S. 63 from Subway to First Street. City Administrator Tona Bowen said some planned transportation work on the west side of Houston Elementary School, conducted by the school district, also might also aid in the match component of the grant program.

•Heard an Upton man, George Sholtz, present information about a proposed Community Improvement District near the hospital campus that would temporarily create a quarter-cent sales tax for completion of a surgery center. He presented paperwork he’d acquired from the county commission that included the last time a TCMH hospital tax issue had been on the ballot. He called the new proposed money as part of a “shuffle game.” Sholtz asked that the council to reject the petition. Sholtz routinely is allowed by the council to speak and film its meetings outside the “guest portion” of its meetings.

TCMH CEO Wes Murray said he was there to answer any questions and said much of Sholtz’ presentation contained misinformation.

He said rural healthcare remains a challenge, but the hiring of two local doctors who will lose their jobs with a Mercy decision to pull out of the community, was a positive development. He noted the hospital hoped to purchase the Mercy clinic to accommodate the new hires and said the addition of the surgical center would contribute to the financial health of the hospital, one of the county’s biggest employers. A second surgeon recently began duties there — making an on-call surgeon always now available. He acknowledged funds are limited, construction bids were higher than expected and the CID would provide much needed funds where there weren’t many options. The hospital had to give up one grant because it didn’t have all the funds gathered in time for the surgery wing, which dates back about 40 years.  

•Heard that work continues on a report to assess the condition of the town’s sewer system and what line repairs might be required to reduce water inflow at the water treatment plant. Further discussion is expected next month by the council.

•Heard that Bowen had attended meeting on U.S. 63 with a group focused on expanding it to four lanes in the state.

•Decided during a closed session to increase the pay of two electrical department employees, supervisor Mike Williams and Scott McKinney.

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