Members of the Houston City Council on Monday received a broad briefing on numerous projects underway — ranging from construction of a new municipal swimming pool to improvements at the municipally owned golf course and installation of a high-speed internet system.
—Heard from Don Romines, a former long-time city councilman, who asked the city to consider adopting a previously discussed guideline that would restrict spending down reserve funds. He made the request because he and he said others in the community are considered about the city’s spending in the middle of global pandemic. City Administrator Scott Avery recommended last October a policy that would outline the number of months of reserves that the city must maintain and not access. Romines also asked the council to consider a personnel policy that would put the six-member body in charge of department head oversight rather than the city administrator.
—Authorized the purchase of a new heating and cooling system for the club house at the Houston Municipal Golf Course. The bid went to Jackson Heating and Cooling in Summersville. The cost is $16,300, and the system will replace one described as being too small and inefficient.
—Approved the purchase of an ice machine for use at the golf club house. It also will used for private events. The bid went to Ron Stow of Houston and will cost $4,227.
—Okayed a $9,561 bid for installation of full-court basketball court on Main Street at Emmett Kelly Park. It will have a polypropylene surface like one recently installed north of there.
—Approved new tables for use at Emmett Kelly Park pavilions. The new ones are manufactured to withstand vandalism and will replace wooden ones. The cost is $7,721.
—Approved the installation of stainless steel bathroom fixtures at restrooms at Emmett Kelly Park. The cost is $11,357.
Voters last year approved a one-cent sales tax with half of the proceeds earmarked for the parks department. Director Stetson Evetts made the presentations.
—Continued discussions to clarify the city’s ordinances related to the appointment of some city officials, the command structure for supervision of department heads and which officials’ appointments are governed by state statute. No decisions were made, and the matter is likely to be finalized at its June 1 meeting.
—Approved hiring C.M. Archer Group of Rolla for engineering services. Its scope of work includes design of a bath house for the Houston Municipal Swimming Pool and sidewalk work from near First Street on U.S. 63 to West Highway 17, as well as on King Street from Chestnut to Ozark.
—Are expected to finalize a policy June 1 that details the procedure for any forgiveness of an excessive water bill when a leak occurs on the owner’s side of the meter.
—Heard that for the first time in three months the Houston Municipal Court is set to meet June 25 following a shutdown of court systems throughout the state due to the coronavirus. When Houston’s court reopens there will be new guidelines in place: A temperature check before entering the building, wearing facemasks and a limitation on the number of people entering at one time. Additionally, the sessions will likely be limited to a meeting room in city hall and not the broader council chambers. It is hoped that the additional cost will come from a nearly $3 federal million grant for the response in the county. The county commission is overseeing the funds.
—Heard that a revamp of the city’s zoning ordinance is slated for a public hearing and first reading of the update on June 1. From there, the Houston Planning and Zoning Commission will develop new mapping and those documents will also be reviewed by the council as part of the process.
—Are expected to see the first draft for the adoption of building codes for Houston at its July 6 meeting.
—Heard City Administrator Scott Avery give an overview of the city’s revenue and expenditure picture with four months of data — or one-third of the year. For the most part, revenues are trending positively related to the budget, he said. He also highlighted several housekeeping matters related to placing expenditures in the correct budget category.
—Learned that a video study of the city’s sewer system had uncovered eight serious issues — with four of those corrected. Half of the trouble spots were identified as intrusions by other utility providers. Reimbursement will be sought, Avery said. The city commissioned the study to reduce infiltration of water into the lines, sending more volume to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
—Heard an update on the planned installation of an automatic utility meter reading system. The first step will include the installation of a communication backbone that will allow data to flow to city hall for billing purposes from across the town.
—Learned that a study of the city’s more than 1,200 utility poles identified 18 critical issues. Three have been replaced and a plan of action will be developed for the remainder.
—Received an update on a fiber-to-home internet system that will be operated by the city. Fiber to complete a main loop of the city and computerized equipment is slated for delivery in July.
—Heard that construction of a new municipal swimming pool appears to be on target with water added at the end of July for testing of equipment. The city’s parks board is expected to join the council June 1 for a discussion of plans for a pool house. Other capital projects highlighted included renovations of city hall, where the police department’s renovations are nearing completion.
—Learned that work on a gazebo on the Brushy Creek Trail had been delayed, and the city will seek an alternate means to complete it.
—Are examining information for the creation of an ordinance regulating food trucks in the city. Two operated in the community last week.
—Heard Evetts report some type of summer baseball league is expected, but no formal guidance has been released to the public yet. Most likely the season would last four to five weeks and start in mid-June with special guidelines in place.
—Heard from Rob Harrington, economic development head, who reported grant work on a USDA application for industrial development purposes, a DNR grant for engineering costs related to the city’s sewer system, a South Central Council of Governments waste management district application for a leaf vacuum and a Department of Labor application for parking lot and building renovations at the Piney River Technical Center.
—Adjourned into a closed session.