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City hires attorney for ‘last shot’ at reimbursement

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, November 24, 2012

The city of Bridgeport is making one final effort to recoup at least some of its losses from North Texas Community Hospital, which filed for bankruptcy Nov. 8.

Following a closed session Tuesday, council members voted 3-0 to secure Josephine Garrett as special bankruptcy counsel and set a $25,000 cap on expenses. The Fort Worth-based law firm would help the city “explore a few other options” before deeming the city out the money it invested in the now-bankrupt hospital – $3,393,580.74 to be exact.

That amount includes a guaranteed line of credit and credit extended to the hospital for utilities. It was the hospital’s largest unsecured debt.

“It’s the last shot we have,” Mayor McComis said Wednesday. “We felt we had a couple of avenues to look at, a few options to explore to be fair to the citizens. I don’t know that we’ll get anything, but we certainly won’t if we don’t try.”

Council members interviewed Garrett and officially hired her Tuesday, but she had already aided city officials at a bankruptcy hearing last Friday.

“She was there to help with that,” McComis said. “She is, in my opinion, an expert in bankruptcy and has ideas I hadn’t even thought of. She is very knowledgable … We have set a max amount that we’ll spend (in legal fees). After that, it’s pretty well done.”

BRUSH SIZE LIMIT IMPOSED FOR PICKUP

Prior to the executive session and the motion that followed, the council breezed through the first chunk of Tuesday’s agenda, which included considering an amendment to the brush and tree limb pickup ordinance.

City workers will continue to pick up brush piled behind the curb the last full week of each month, as outlined in the previous regulation. However, the brush must be cut to 6-foot lengths with less than an 8-inch diameter.

As in the previous ordinance, brush piled in alleys or streets, or obstructing rights-of-way, would not be picked up until appropriately placed.

The council had heard several concerns regarding the former ordinance in three workshops, initially prompted by councilwoman Kathy Kennedy in September. Kennedy said she was worried about the large amounts of brush throughout the city, including an area near the elementary school.

City officials learned the street department was not able to work its entire August route because of the large amount of brush from recent storms and trouble with the brush truck.

In October, staff presented two options, which council found too restrictive. Instead, they opted for the rule changes.

The council also:

  • heard a report on the city’s investment portfolio as of Sept. 30 – a $769,569 decrease in net investments from the previous quarter due to $822,174 in debt service payments and two certificates of deposits maturing and being renewed for an additional 12 months.
  • granted the temporary closure of Halsell Street, from Ninth to 16th streets, between 2 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, for the lighted Christmas parade and other holiday events downtown.
  • approved an airport hangar lease transfer from Larry Neal to Steve Doty for hangar No. A30 at Bridgeport Municipal Airport. Such a lease is used when a hangar located on city property is owned by someone other than the city. This lease expires Jan. 1, 2030.
  • appointed Brittany Mott to the Bridgeport Housing Authority Board to fill a vacancy, after Pat Slayton resigned effective Nov. 15. The term expires in May.
  • approved a $300 Dumpster credit to Brandi Davis for property at 1008 Halsell St. The one-time disbursement through the Main Street Matching Facade Grant progam is awarded for pre-approved restoration and renovation projects in downtown. At its last meeting, the council awarded Davis a $5,000 matching facade grant.
  • approved a disbursement of $2,000 from the hotel occupancy tax to the boys basketball booster club for their Dec. 28 and 29 holiday tournament.
  • took no action on a $2,000 HOT dollar request from the girls basketball booster club for a tournament Nov. 15 and 17. The request was not approved because the money would not be used as regulated by state law and city ordinance (HOT dollars are to be used to promote tourism and the convention/hotel industry through events that substantially increase hotel activity). Because the tournament was held on two separate days, staff does not believe hotel activity increased. It is believed that most teams went home at the conclusion of the Nov. 15 games and returned two days later.
  • approved the minutes of the Nov. 6 regular council meeting.
  • reviewed the Nov. 8 to Nov. 21 payment report.
  • heard the October budget variance report.

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