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Council OKs fuel pre-pay requirement

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Decatur City Council Monday night approved an ordinance requiring fuel retailers to get paid before customers can pump gas or diesel.

The measure, approved on first reading, is similar to what most Metroplex cities already have in place, according to Police Chief Rex Hoskins. It requires the merchant to receive payment in full before activating a pump or allowing a customer to dispense fuel.

Hoskins said all but one of the city’s gas retailers already requires pre-payment. But that one, Allsup’s, generates a substantial number of calls to police as customers look to get away without paying for an expensive fill-up.

“Gas drive-offs are a problem,” he said. “This requires retailers to take whatever steps are necessary to get pre-paid.”

With the ordinance in place, when police are called about a drive-off, they will ask if the clerk followed the ordinance by demanding payment in advance – and if he did not, the police can write the clerk a ticket.

“It’s not about writing citations, it’s about eliminating drive-offs,” Hoskins said. He pointed out that the amount of the theft usually makes it a misdemeanor, and police must often track suspects down to distant locales if they’re going to pursue prosecution.

The measure will be back on the agenda next month, and will take effect after final approval.

CITY CHANGES BANKS

The City of Decatur is changing banks after an evaluation process that involved four local financial institutions.

Finance Director Brad Burnett told the council he got four responses when he sought bids on the city’s depository contract, which is currently held by Wells Fargo and ends Oct. 1.

“The main thing is the cost of services,” he said. “Making an apples-to-apples comparison from their fee schedule is basically impossible.”

To provide a basis for comparison, Burnett sent each of the four bidders the city’s June 2012 bank statements and asked them what their charges would be based on that amount of business. Based on that evaluation, First Financial Bank, with a $250 a month cap on its fees, won out over State National, Citibank and Wells Fargo.

Under the points system that included all of the items in the evaluation, First Financial scored highest.

The council followed Burnett’s recommendation and awarded the three-year contract to First Financial, with an option of extending it for two more years.

The city has four days to make the change.

FEE CHANGES TO TAKE EFFECT

The council approved on second reading an ordinance raising fees for a wide spectrum of city services including administrative and building fees, public swimming pools, code enforcement, water and wastewater rates and garbage bags, at the same time eliminating some library fees.

Among the fees affected are building permits and the charges imposed for code enforcement if the city has to mow a property, demolish a substandard structure, clean up trash or secure a vacant structure.

But the one that affects the largest number of people is the rise in water rates – although it’s a small one. The base residential rate goes from $16.75 to $17.59 under the new schedule, and rates per 1,000 gallons will increase about 50 cents across the board. The commercial base rate goes from $18.50 to $19.43 for meters less than two inches, from $60.75 to $63.79 for two-inch meters and $121.58 to $127.58 for commercial meters bigger than two inches.

Per-thousand rates also rise about 50 cents across the board, and wastewater rates will also go up.

No public comment was offered at either hearing. The new fees, which take effect Oct. 1, are included in next year’s budget projections.

OTHER BUSINESS

The council heard reports in a pre-council session from Airport Manager Mike Sayers, Civic Center Director Lori Sherwood, Burnett, Main Street Director Frieda Hanley and Rex Hoskins. The council also:

  • approved an interlocal agreement with Wise County for fire protection and first responder services, with the county paying $4,200 a month for the city’s personnel to cover county calls;
  • approved a contract with Wise County for library services, with the county paying a little over $52,000 so that all Wise County residents will have equal access to the city’s library facilities and services;
  • approved closing State and Main streets on Tuesday, Oct. 2, from 5 to 9 p.m. for the police-sponsored “Texas Night Out” festivities on the square;
  • approved Decatur High School’s homecoming parade, to be held Oct. 19;
  • appointed Joe Lambert to the Civic Center Advisory Board to take the place of his wife, Flora, who resigned from the board;
  • held an executive session for an annual evaluation of City Manager Brett Shannon.

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