A Bridgeport resident was escorted out of City Hall Tuesday night after he tried to make a public comment about a closed session agenda item out of turn.
Gerald Groves stood up to speak as Mayor Corey Lane was about to make a motion to pass the consent agenda, an item that always immediately follows the public comment section of Bridgeport City Council meetings.
Lane said Groves never filled out a comment card before the meeting, and therefore had no grounds to speak since the council was not prepared for him to take the podium.
Groves said he did not hear the mayor announce the opening of the public comment section.
“The mayor moved through the agenda so quickly, and my hearing’s not that good anymore,” Groves said later. “When he said consent agenda, that’s when I stepped up because I knew that’s about when the public comment part would be.”
Lane did not recognize Groves to speak and asked him to sit down three times before asking Police Chief Randy Singleton and Assistant Chief Steve Stanford to walk Groves out of the building.
“This is America, and we the people are the master of the government, and you’re supposed to be the servant,” Groves said as he was walking out.
Groves said if he could have made a comment to the council, he would have spoken out against the consideration of home rule that was listed on the closed session part of the agenda.
Home rule, wherein a city can govern themselves in a way they see fit as long as they abide by the state and federal constitutions, is an issue that “tore the town apart” years ago, Groves said.
“I have no reason to believe things have changed since then,” he continued.
Mayor Lane said Friday he believes home rule is an important issue for the city of Bridgeport.
“I think we need to be a home-ruled community because it’s a protection maneuver,” Lane said. “As Fort Worth sprawls out and keeps inching closer to Wise County, we don’t want our residents paying Fort Worth property taxes and so forth.”
Part of the council’s nearly hour-and-a-half closed session was spent discussing the legality of the home rule issue, Lane said.
“It’s not even at the point where we can put it on an agenda, but once it is, we will gladly accept anyone who wants to discuss these items with council as long as they follow proper procedure,” Lane said. “We want to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, but in an orderly manner.”
Currently, the city code does not mandate that citizens fill out a comment card, but strongly suggests it for ease of communication. It does allow each resident three minutes to speak before the council.
“I’ve experienced a lot in watching 40 years of Bridgeport politics, but I’ve never been as taken aback by anything as I was Tuesday night,” Groves said.
The council also:
- awarded a contract to Pavecon Public Works for construction of the Halsell Street Sidewalk Improvement Project to the tune of a $6,084,862.45 bid;
- voted to opt out of the city’s interlocal agreement with the city of Decatur and Brown Outdoor Advertising for billboard advertising, choosing instead to use that $2,100 a year for Main Street projects;
- approved the Bridgeport Police Department to apply for an $80,000 reimbursible grant from the state for a new radio console;
- amended the Fa ade Grant Improvement Program to make the maximum grant allotment $5,000 with a 50/50 match between the city and the business owner; and
- lowered the animal voucher fees at the Bridgeport Animal Hospital from $90 to $60 to make it easier for people to adopt and vaccinate strays.
The council’s next meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, at 900 Thompson Street and is open to the public.
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