Rhome City Council ratifies mayor’s decisions

After meeting behind closed doors for almost three hours Monday, the Rhome City Council breezed through the four action items on its agenda in less than three minutes.

The only action coming from the executive session was to proceed with a $10,000 bid for fencing presented by Public Works Director Sam Dorsett, as “advised on a TCEQ report.”

Also during the special meeting, the council ratified raises given to city employees and hires made by Mayor Louis Godfrey without prior council approval.

During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, five police officers received a raise, based on their tenure and the salaries of officers in surrounding towns, according to City Secretary Ramah Burns.

Godfrey also hired Dorsett to replace Preston Gilliam; Brandon Davis to take over as police chief, the post previously held by James Rose; and Sherrie Dast, who took over as the city’s municipal court clerk after the retirement of Sherry Taylor.

“This is just some housekeeping,” council member Jo Ann Wilson said. “Inasmuch as these were replacement hirings and in the best interest of the city … let’s ratify these.”

City attorney Walt Leonard also advised the council to clarify that “the interpretation of the ‘hiring freeze’ is for additional hires as opposed to replacing turnover.”

The council also amended a city ordinance regulating parades and processions so that city-sponsored events were not required to pull a permit.

“But they would coordinate with the police department for safety,” Wilson said.

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Rhome City Council approves budget, tax rate

After a long Saturday workshop and some discussion, Rhome officials are ready to move forward with a financial plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

At its meeting Thursday, the city council approved an $1,834,578 budget for 2014-2015.

It will be funded, in part, by a $0.5833 tax rate, also approved at Thursday’s meeting.

Although the overall budget has a surplus of $1,687.55, it features a deficit of $327,423.29 in the police department fund.

Stories on the budget ran in the Wednesay, Aug. 13, and Wednesday, Aug. 6, editions of the Messenger.

Distinguished Citizen

DISTINGUISHED CITIZEN – Rhome officials honored Marie Moore (third from right) with the Distinguished Citizens Award at the city council meeting Thursday. Pictured are her son and councilman Ronnie Moore; city secretary Ramah Burns; Mayor Louis Godfrey; council members David Wilson and Jo Ann Wilson; Moore; and council members Michelle Pittman and Charles Pennington. Messenger photo by Erika Pedroza

IN OTHER NEWS

The council also:

  • after an almost two-hour closed session, authorized Mayor Louis Godfrey to submit the proper information about a pavilion at Rhome Family Park to the city’s engineers. Since January, the council has been deliberating how to complete its construction.
  • appointed Renee Marks as an alternate judge;
  • modified, at the request of councilwoman Jo Ann Wilson, the community center rental form so entities that perform “appropriate community service” may use the community center free of charge.
  • recognized Marie Moore with the Distinguished Citizens Award for her longtime service to the community, especially senior citizens.
  • approved implementing a purchase order system and authorizing City Secretary Ramah Burns to explore the options. “It’s a good idea,” said councilwoman Michelle Pittman. ” … It’s a way to track your spending and manage your cash.”
  • approved selling the fire department’s skid unit for $3,500.

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Rhome City Council to vote on budget

With the exception of the police department fund, Rhome city officials are projecting surplus budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.

The numbers were presented at a budget workshop held earlier this month.

While the PD is looking at a budget deficit of $327,423.29, the court fund has an excess of $176,000, with expenses projected at $177,130 and anticipated revenue at $355,000.

The city anticipates collecting $350,000 on warrants, up $60,000 from the amount budgeted last year.

The water and sewer fund looks to generate $942,600 while spending $918,765.99.

Fire department revenue went from $122,400 budgeted last year to $162,000.

Expenditures are tabbed at $149,951, with the biggest increase a $1,000 bump for training personnel.

In general fund expenses, the city forecasts collecting double the amount on permits – from $25,000 to $50,000.

“There’s been about five businesses that have talked to us,” City Secretary Ramah Burns said. “I believe that as much all the growth is coming out this way, that’s a fair figure.”

—–

The council will consider action on the proposed budget during its regular meeting Thursday.

In addition, they will consider retaining the $0.5833 interest and sinking and $0.4083 maintenance and operations tax rate.

The meeting will begin with a closed session discussion on potential litigation with the park pavilion/concrete and personnel.

In open session, the council will consider those matters as well as water/sewer projects; appointing an alternate judge; purchasing an order system; community center rentals; and selling a skid unit to another fire department.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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Rhome City Council eyes surplus budget

In planning for the upcoming fiscal year, the Rhome City Council is looking at a budget deficit of more than $300,000 for the court/police department.

But they plan to spend less than the projected revenue in the other accounts – general fund and fire – for an overall surplus budget.

Following a budget workshop Saturday morning, the council is looking at bringing in $2,778,866 while spending $2,753,344.

More than a quarter of those expenditures are for the court/police fund. The city expects to spend $732,423.29 for a department that should generate only $405,000.

The biggest increase is $20,000 for a “new auto loan,” which was budgeted at $25,531 this past year. The city will again pay $25,531 on the note for an already purchased Chevrolet Tahoe, and the additional $20,000 will go toward purchasing another vehicle to establish a rotation.

“I’m taking the older vehicles, and those are the only ones that are going to be in service. I’m trying to stretch these vehicles as far as I can,” Police Chief Brandon Davis said. “With that being said, we have three vehicles that are either approaching or over 200,000 miles, and 200,000 miles on a police vehicle and personal vehicle are two different things.”

In the new system, the department plans to purchase a vehicle every two years and remove the most worn vehicle from the fleet.

“At 200,000 miles, I don’t think I’d want to go down a highway at 100 miles an hour,” said Ronnie Moore. “The front end can’t be very strong.”

The budget also sets aside $10,000 – up $3,000 from last year’s budgeted amount – for vehicle repairs.

“That has increased for obvious reasons,” Mayor Louis Godfrey said. “There wasn’t really anything being done to them [the vehicles].”

There is also a line item for a $14,000 note payment for COPsync, an information-sharing law enforcement network that is expected to drastically reduce the number of man-hours used in data input.

The software “efficiently gathers information at the point of incident and immediately shares data with officers on the network.” It can also serve as a safety alert system, with a GPS-based vehicle locater and automated ticketing features.

The council also OK’d an increase of $2,000 for a total of $3,000 for uniforms.

“What we’re moving to is the vest carriers where they come in to work at the office, they can take their vest off,” Davis said.

Davis also requested an increase of $4,000 – up from $1,000 – for training that includes management, a chief’s course, a field training officer, bike school, etc.

Allotments for equipment repair also increased from $1,000 to $5,000, while money budgeted for equipment itself jumped $1,498 to $10,000.

In addition, anticipated improvements budgeted at $20,000 to the police station will come from the general fund.

This will remove and replace insulation in the ceiling that has been “contaminated with cat urine.”

Savings made in the department include reductions in gas and utilities.

With a couple of months left in the current fiscal year, the department has spent $32,126.22 of the budgeted $35,000 amount for gas. However the police chief believes his department will stay under the $31,200 allotted for next year.

“I don’t think there is any reason why we would go over $31,000, especially since the vehicles are no longer take-home vehicles and there is going to be a required two hours of foot time per shift,” Davis said.

More on the budget for the city of Rhome will be included in an upcoming issue.

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Final post filled

The city of Rhome has hired a public works director – the last position to be filled after a mass exodus of department heads two weeks ago.

Sam Dorsett, public works director in Boyd, was hired for the same job in Rhome and will start Thursday.

The decision was confirmed Tuesday by Rhome city secretary Ramah Burns, who said Dorsett had previously worked for the city 10 or 11 years ago.

Former Public Works Director Preston Gilliam resigned June 23, along with Police Chief James Rose. Municipal court clerk Sherry Taylor retired the week of June 16-20.

The only department head who did not leave was Burns, who is married to Mayor Louis Godfrey.

Within days of Taylor’s retirement, Godfrey had hired Sherrie Dast to replace her. Dast, who had previously worked as a court administrator, had filled in for Taylor on occasion.

Godfrey also moved quickly to replace Rose, hiring former Rhome city councilman Brandon Davis the day after the chief resigned.

Rose has declined to comment on his resignation, but Gilliam said the way things were handled with the chief – coupled with a growing uneasiness about how city business was being conducted – led to his resignation. He declined to elaborate but said he was not forced to resign.

Rumors have swirled that Rose was forced to resign by Godfrey, but the mayor has denied those allegations. He told the Messenger June 24 that no one was forced to resign or retire, although he was given the authority just the week before to hire and fire department heads independent of the city council.

Gilliam said his decision was made after much thought and consideration.

“When I lost the desire and felt like I wasn’t working for the citizens of Rhome and just watching personal agendas fly instead of taking care of city business, I just washed my hands of it,” he told the Messenger June 26.

Gilliam was contacted for a June 25 story, “City of Rhome officials jump ship,” but he did not respond by press time, saying later in the week that his city phone had been shut off and he never got the message.

Gilliam, who had been with the city eight years, offered in his resigation letter to work six more months with his last day being Jan. 9, 2015. In the meantime, he would help the council with the budget for his department and help them find a replacement.

In the June 23 letter, which he brought to the Messenger June 27, he said, “I have taken this decision after thorough deliberation and assessment, and I believe it’s in my best interest to move on.” He ended it with, “This decision is not negotiable!”

Gilliam also provided the Messenger with a copy of Godfrey’s response, which is also dated June 23.

It reads: “I spoke with the council concerning your resignation. Neither the council or myself know why you’re wishing to resign, but you have indicated quite clearly that you do not wish to talk or negotiate why you’re leaving.”

Godfrey went on to say that he was sorry to hear Gilliam was leaving, but he and the council felt it was best for him to resign immediately instead of waiting until January.

In the letter he says Gilliam will be on vacation until June 27 because he had already been paid for that week, and on the 27th he was to turn in his keys, cell phone and vehicle.

“You will also pick up your check for any monies owed to you by the city and leave,” the letter says. “Friday is your last day here. This too is not negotiable.”

Gilliam said he felt like Godfrey already had a replacement lined up for his position, and “what happened would have happened anyway … just a little farther down the road.”

“I put the gun to my foot,” Gilliam said in reference to his resignation letter, “and Louis pulled the trigger. And I’m fine with that.”

—–

Rhome City Council’s next regular meeting is 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 105 E. 1st St.

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Rhome City Council to appoint 2 to P&Z

The Rhome city council will restructure its planning and zoning commission in more ways than one.

In a public hearing Thursday, council members will discuss changes to the requirements to serve on the planning and zoning commission.

After acting in accordance with the discussion generated, the council will then fill two vacancies on the commission.

Also at its meeting, the council will consider:

  • a donation plaque for the Veterans Park;
  • the contract on electrical work at Family Park;
  • the 2013 annual drinking water quality report in a public hearing;
  • updating fire department ordinance; and
  • setting a budget workshop.

The council will recess into closed session to discuss personnel, real property and potential litigation with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Officials may consider and act on the matters in open session.

In the consent agenda, officials will review the June 16 meeting minutes and the check registers for June 10 through July 7 and hear departmental reports from police, fire, public works and administration.

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City of Rhome officials jump ship

The city of Rhome lost almost every department head in just one week’s time.

Police Chief James Rose and Public Works Director Preston Gilliam resigned Monday, and Sherry Taylor, municipal court clerk, retired last week.

Only city secretary Ramah Burns is left.

Mayor Louis Godfrey confirmed the exodus Tuesday morning and said the city had already hired replacements for Rose and Taylor.

According to Godfrey, Brandon Davis was hired Tuesday as interim police chief of the Rhome department.

The mayor said Davis had been an officer “for a while.”

“He’s kept up his certification through the years,” he said. “He’s about to retire from the military. He’s a captain. He’s former military police. He was a police officer in another city.

“As soon as we knew (Rose) was resigning, we talked to (Davis).”

Rose declined to comment on his resignation. He’s been chief of police for six years.

Godfrey said Taylor retired to care for her husband, who is ill. Her replacement will be Sherrie Dast of River Oaks. Dast, who has previously worked as a court administrator, has filled in for Taylor on occasion.

Godfrey said they have no leads yet on a replacement for Gilliam. The former public works director did not return a call by press time Tuesday.

Council member JoAnn Wilson said the city will pull through the shuffling of city officials.

“We’ve got a good city, and we’ll survive all this,” she said. “The gentleman that is interim police chief has taken over, and we won’t miss a beat.

“We have a lady coming on board [the new municipal court clerk] that’s highly trained, and she’s already helping us out on a contract basis,” she said. “I think we’ll land on our feet.”

At a June 16 meeting, city council members approved amending an ordinance designating officers of the city. Godfrey said over the years many positions had been added to the ordinance, but last week’s action reduced it to the mayor, city secretary, city attorney and city administrator, if there was one.

The ordinance was also amended to give Godfrey the authority to hire and fire department heads without the council’s approval.

Since that time, three of the four have left, although Godfrey said no one was asked to resign or retire.

“It was like this some time back, and even Mark Lorance had that power years ago when he was here,” Godfrey said. “Some time back it was removed. They just put it back in the hands of the mayor.”

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Rhome City Council proceeds with carport ordinance

Let the carport construction begin.

Rhome City Council Monday night authorized the city staff and Mayor Louis Godfrey to finalize an ordinance outlining the rules for carport construction. They also approved it being a special exception to the zoning ordinance.

City attorney Walt Leonard said the city requires that a structure be built 10 feet from the side boundaries of a property, but the council needed to decided the distance requirement from the front property line.

“In Rhome, we have old, old platting where property lines go to the middle of the street,” he said. “If you measure from the property line in front, it might give you weird results.”

He said the distance could be figured from the right-of-way.

Leonard said they also needed to consider if they wanted to require every homeowner to present their plans to the council for approval.

“Anyone who wants one has to come to the council and show that it’s compatible and meets the general spirit of the ordinance and make some sort of promises to show where it will be placed,” Leonard said.

Mayor Pro Tem Charles Pennington said he thought that was a good idea.

Although the mayor and staff will finalize the ordinance, the council agreed that it should include construction requirements that a carport be built 10 feet from the side boundaries of a property and 5 feet from the right-of-way in front.

Leonard said if those dimensions don’t fit a particular piece of property, owners could ask for a variance.

Before discussing the issue, the council re-opened a public hearing on carports, but no one present spoke. The topic proved to be controversial at a council meeting in April, as citizens on both sides of the issue expressed strong opinions.

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Rhome City Council fills vacancy, creates another

Rhome city officials have done a lot of shuffling to fill posts on the council and on boards/commissions.

In May, voters elected then-council member Louis Godfrey mayor. But with a year left on his term, the council was tasked with appointing someone to fill the vacancy.

At a special called meeting last Friday, officials named former mayor and council member David E. Wilson to that post.

Wilson, however, was serving on the city’s planning and zoning commission – a post he must now resign after his council appointment.

The council will consider accepting at its regular meeting, 7 p.m. Thursday.

Also on the agenda is resuming a public hearing on carports. The topic proved to be controversial at the council’s meeting in April, as citizens on both sides of the issue expressed strong opinions.

“I’ve lived in neighborhoods before where this has been an issue, adding carports,” resident Diane Fletcher said at the April meeting. “What it started looking like was a trailer park Things started looking trashy I think it’s definitely not going to make Rhome look very good. I don’t want Rhome looking like a trailer park.”

Nathan Robertson spoke up for the other side.

“I’ve lived here for 24 years, and I don’t think it’s going to decrease my property value,” he said. ” There’s a lot more to worry about with eyesores than carports.”

At the April meeting, Charles Pennington – who was named mayor pro tem at last Friday’s meeting – agreed to conduct an impact study and present the findings at this June meeting.

The council will consider taking action on the matter.

They will also:

  • consider authorizing the mayor to execute any papers necessary to complete the sale of property in Crown Point;
  • discuss improvements to the city’s wastewater plant including a gate on the east side and a building on the west side;
  • update the requirements of the planning and zoning commission;
  • discuss old business including a veterans park donation plaque and electricity in Family Park;
  • recess into closed session to discuss police personnel then discuss, consider or act regarding the matter;
  • consider routine business including meeting minutes, check registers and staff reports.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at City Hall, 105 First St.

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Godfrey wins mayor’s race

Louis Godfrey will transition from the council to Rhome’s top job after winning the mayor’s race Saturday.

He defeated Mark Lorance, who once held the mayor’s post, 117-88. Lorance said he was asked by several people to come back and run again.

“I gave it a shot and tried to get my message out there the best I could, and it just didn’t work out,” he said. “If the citizens want someone else to step into that position, then that’s OK.

“I volunteered my services, tried to get my message out and I guess Louis had a better message.”

Godfrey says he feels “fine” about the win, and he wants to see the city grow in a positive way.

“I want the city to have positive relations all the way around,” he said. “It’s time to get a master plan into effect, but not all of this will take place overnight.

“… I plan to work very hard for the people of this city, whatever it takes to get the job done,” he said. “I’m not afraid of long hours, and I’m not afraid of hard work, as long as we can all stay on track and do things together, I think we’ll all do just fine.”

Two at-large council seats were up for grabs and were secured by incumbents Jo Ann Wilson and Michelle Pittman. Wilson received 122 votes, and Pittman got 90, beating Timothy Robison (79), Shawn Holliman (48) and Jason Miller (38).

“I am pleased that people wanted me back in, and I got more votes than I ever have,” said Wilson, who is starting her fourth term. “I really enjoy it. A lot of people have my cell phone number, and that’s good. If I can be of any help, I will try. I think that’s important, particularly in a small town. I just appreciate all the support I’ve been given.”

Wilson said she would like to address water needs and road repair in the next two years.

Pittman’s win secures her second term, and she wants to see the city develop a five-year plan for a safety complex that would house the police and fire departments. She also wants to include a community center and sports fields in that plan. She said they also need to evaluate infrastructure for water and sewer to ensure everything is in place to accommodate growth, especially commercial growth.

Pittman said she’s honored to be re-elected.

“It’s been a rocky two years, but it’s been a privilege to get to be a part of helping people,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of challenges, and I feel like I’ve been the Lone Ranger sticking up for some things that I feel strongly about … I want to get away from that.”

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Rhome Councilman makes heartfelt request for collaboration

Big changes could be coming to a trademark event in the city of Rhome.

The council discussed several modifications to the traditional Pioneer Days festival at its meeting last Thursday. The festival is held the fourth weekend in September.

At the request of the event committee, officials changed the event’s name to Rhome Fall Festival “to allow for more options theme-wise” and “recover reputation from past mistakes.”

Committee members said Pioneer Days could be held later, possibly coinciding with Founders Day.

The aim, they say, is to incorporate more games and activities and create more of a carnival atmosphere instead of the old western theme.

The council also considered changing the location of the event to the park.

But the biggest change may come in response to a heartfelt request from Councilman Ronnie Moore.

A lifelong Rhome resident, Moore requested the committee collaborate with other organizations in the city to put on the event.

“This thing started because my mother helped create this deal,” he said. ” … It was the fire department and the city, they all worked together. When the function started, the fire department was always there to help. Then six years ago it just … up and smoke …

“It has to change,” he continued. “Every organization in this city is important to the city, and they all ought to be asked … This city’s got to turn around and start working together. And I know everybody’s looking at me saying, ‘Ronnie Moore is saying this?’ But this coming from my heart.”

Committee members are to meet with representatives of other organizations in coming weeks. They will present a budget at the council’s next meeting.

The festival is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 26-27, with proceeds going to city parks.

IN OTHER NEWS

The council also:

  • approved a contract with American Municipal Services for fine collection. “We add 30 percent for every violation, and they collect the 30 percent,” City Secretary Ramah Burns said. “They all do work. We just put it on an Excel sheet and get it to them. Sherrie Dast [city of Reno court administrator] said they went from three or four drawers of file folders down to about a drawer … [AMS] sends us weekly reports, monthly reports and the check. They take out their 30 percent and send us the difference. They work on payment plans, vouchers, however they can with the people who owe the fines to get collected.”
  • tentatively set the Memorial Day program for 2 p.m. Saturday, May 24, at the Veterans Park. Speaker is J.D. Clark. Although Councilwoman Jo Ann Wilson said Clark won the primary election, “has no competition” and “will be the new county judge come Jan. 1,” he is in fact opposed by Democratic candidate Jim Stegall on the November ballot.
  • approved transferring $42,000 from the general fund to the water/sewer budget, where the money “more aptly belonged” – $12,000 for the water tower lease and $30,000 as reimbursement for personnel who provide maintenance work for the city. “It’s not going to raise water bills … It’s just reallocating some money,” said Councilwoman Michelle Pittman. ” … The water department works on city buildings and services the city itself, so that $30,000 will pay the water department for their service.”
  • agreed to talk with an engineer to design a restroom facility for Family Park.

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Council, citizens debate carport issue

Carports proved to be a hot topic at the Rhome City Council meeting Thursday.

Residents engaged in a heated discussion over allowing the structures in newer parts of town, like Crown Point. The current ordinance only regulates the structures in “Old Town.”

“I’ve lived in neighborhoods before where this has been an issue, adding carports,” said resident Diane Fletcher. “What it started looking like was a trailer park … Things started looking trashy … I think it’s definitely not going to make Rhome look very good. I don’t want Rhome looking like a trailer park.”

Fellow citizen Sue Isbell concurred.

“Most of the people I’ve talked to do not want carports,” she said. “We’ve lived in that neighborhood for eight years. We had zoning restrictions, and we knew that when we moved there. This has gone on for years about putting carports there. This would depreciate our property value and take away the beauty of our neighborhood.

“We take pride in our homes, and this would not be an appropriate zoning change because it truly would bring the neighborhood values down.”

Nathan Robertson spoke up for the other side.

“I’m all for carports,” he said. “There is no homeowner’s association where we live at. The carports are going to protect my cars. Have you seen the hailstorms that came to Denton and tore up all the cars?”

“We all have garages,” Isbell retorted.

When Robertson asked if her garage was clean enough to get her car in, Isbell said one is.

“OK. Mine’s not, and I have three vehicles at my house,” he said.

When Isbell suggested he get an outbuilding to store his belongings, Robertson informed her he had one and it wasn’t big enough.

“Well you know what? Have a garage sale, I guess,” she said.

Mayor Chris Moore hammered the gavel, insisting all discussion be directed at the council.

“I’ve lived here for 24 years, and I don’t think it’s going to decrease my property value,” Robertson said. ” … There’s a lot more to worry about with eyesores than carports.”

Tony Isbell said he would not be against carports that met certain requirements. Otherwise, he said, they can be “a blight.”

“A blight is a disease and a deterioration and it takes away from everybody else, and I don’t want to do this to Rhome,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to do this to Rhome.”

Citizen Jimmy Johnson stood in the crowd and labeled himself the guilty one.

“I’ve pushed and pushed and pushed and will continue to push until you kill me,” he said, ” … a carport is nothing but a property increase in value. You don’t have one. I have one. Identical houses sitting side by side. I can get more for mine than you can get for yours. I’ve got a boat, a $20,000 little sports car – all I want to do is protect it.”

Sue offered another alternative.

“When somebody has that much property, or toys, they really need a big lot,” she said. “Why would somebody move into a neighborhood like ours and accumulate all this stuff and expect the rest of the neighborhood to adjust to what they want?”

“… and make it look like a car lot,” Fletcher added.

Later in the meeting she asked the council how much research they had done on the matter.

“It’s not a simple matter,” she said. “You’re affecting a lot of your citizens one way or another. I think some more in-depth investigation of what this can do to your community [is needed].”

The council did not approve an ordinance that outlined building standards for carports, essentially permitting them.

Instead Council member Charles Pennington volunteered to conduct an impact study, and officials will consider allowing the structures on a case-by-case basis, as suggested by Council member Jo Ann Wilson.

“I am the owner of a carport, and I’d hate to beat somebody up,” she said. “Mine is attached to my home, it has brick and the roofline goes with it. It’s served a purpose for me … I’d like to see it be a special exception because it wouldn’t just apply to Crown Point. It would apply to Old Town and any other additions that we have. It would be a one-by-one exception.”

Councilwoman Michelle Pittman agreed with the idea.

“I like that idea because I think the people that really want to have the carports, that would do a good job, will go through the effort,” she said. “If we just do a blanket one we’re more likely to have people just throw stuff up.”

The city attorney chimed in, “… and end up with something that doesn’t fit … This way the council and everybody else has input.”

Councilman Pennington asked residents who opposed the idea how they felt about the special-exception system.

“I think it’s going to inhibit the growth, or even more building of subdivisions,” Tony Isbell said.

“Jo Ann Wilson has a carport; Crown Point didn’t fall apart,” Johnson retorted. “Louis has a carport; Crown Point is still there.”

“I didn’t drive by Jo Ann Wilson’s house to get to Crown Point,” Tony Isbell said.

“But did you drive by Ramah Burns’ house?” Robertson interjected. “You had to have.”

“But that’s the older Rhome, though,” Sue Isbell said. “There were no zoning restrictions when you did that.”

Mayor Moore sounded his gavel again and allowed one more comment.

“City of Saginaw – BOOM!,” Johnson proclaimed. “And they have carports everywhere.”

The council will hold another public hearing and further discuss the matter at its meeting in June.

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Rhome residents need permits for PODS

In a move to prevent PODS from becoming eyesores, Rhome residents must now obtain a permit from the city before parking temporary outside storage units in front of their homes or businesses.

If they don’t, they could face a steep fine.

At Thursday night’s regular meeting, Rhome City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring the permit for use of PODS (Portable On-Demand Storage) or a similar short-term storage device.

For a $5 fee, City Hall will issue a seven-day permit after registering with the city. If the person can show cause, they can receive a 30-day permit. Anyone requiring a permit longer than 30 days must gain approval from the city council during a regularly scheduled meeting.

Those who don’t get permits can be fined up to $500 for every day they are found in violation.

The council is also working on making changes to an ordinance covering carports. The new rules touch on setbacks and the materials used in building carports. A public hearing on the ordinance change will be held at the next regular meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. April 10 at City Hall.

In other news:

  • council will hold a hearing April 10 to adjust the budget. They plan to move $30,000 from the general fund to the water and sewer department for maintenance reimbursement. They also intend to shift $12,000 earned per year from leases on the water tower over to the water/sewer department.
  • council approved Wanda Richardson to serve as election judge during the May election and Leon Brookens to serve as alternate judge.
  • council approved spending $1,300 to repair the roof on the community center but denied allowing the senior citizens to use part of the old Rhome School for a garage sale. The council condemned the building as unsafe and had it boarded up more than a year ago.

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Rhome City Council eyes new rules for PODS

An ordinance being considered by the Rhome City Council may put a limit on the numbers of days a resident can keep PODS in their yard.

PODS – Portable On-Demand Storage units – are trailer-shaped containers typically used for moving or temporary storage. At Thursday night’s regular meeting, the council will eye an ordinance requiring residents who use PODS to get a permit from the city.

“The council has asked what we can do with these animals,” said city attorney Walt Leonard. “It’s OK to have them out for a short time, but what if someone lets it sit out for an extended period of time as a permanent storage building? You can issue a permit that is good for a certain amount of time.”

At an earlier meeting, the council had discussed making the permit good for five days, renewable one time for five more days.

Mayor Chris Moore suggested at that time that the size of the lot be considered, since the city has two PODS of its own.

The council is also slated to discuss an ordinance related to the appearance of carports. If approved, new carports would have to meet certain requirements, such as having a certain amount of brick, stone or other masonry material used.

Other items on the meeting’s agenda, which starts at 7 p.m. Thursday at Rhome City Hall located at 105 First Street, include:

  • replacing the gas light at the Veteran’s Park,
  • consulting with a concrete company,
  • using part of old Rhome school for a senior citizen garage sale fundraiser,
  • repairing the community center’s roof,
  • warrants, and
  • city department heads keeping “council up to date.”

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Firestorm over Rhome VFD service fizzles out

After months of wrangling, Rhome City Council rejected an ordinance tied to dual service on the council and fire department.

Council members decided to take no action Thursday night on a proposed ordinance that would have limited the number and voting power of volunteer firefighters who also serve on council.

The proposed ordinance would allow no more than two members of the Rhome Volunteer Fire Department to serve on council and/or as mayor. They would also have to recuse themselves from voting on items related to the fire department.

The proposed ordinance had been discussed at length in council meetings for months, and it was a topic at a council workshop held last month.

But at this week’s regular meeting council member Louis Godfrey gave a compelling argument against the measure. He said imposing such a limit could breech the voting rights of elected officials and the people who elected them into office.

“I think we need to be careful about what we are doing here,” Godfrey said. “We could get into legal trouble. We have council members talking about what other council members can or can’t vote on.

“Should we take away the right of people to vote who have been elected by people to vote for them on these issues?” he asked. “Everyone should have a right to vote on these issues. Why should you take that away?”

He added that preventing votes for anything related to fire department would basically prevent certain council members from taking any action on the budget since it includes funding for the volunteer fire department.”

“I have an issue with the voting,” added Mayor Chris Moore who also serves as assistant fire chief. “Council members were elected to vote on this stuff. It’s doesn’t benefit me or the department or anybody else, but equipment for the fire department does benefit the entire city by improving our ability to protect citizens and their property.”

City attorney Walt Leonard said it’s common to see volunteer fire departments also serve on the local council.

“You’ll see a lot of small towns where multiple members of the city council also serve on the VFD,” Leonard said.

David Wilson, former mayor and council member and former longtime member of the fire department said “it’s a bad deal.”

“I don’t like the situation down at the fire department right now by any means, but I don’t like hamstringing the council like this either,” he added.

“It’s unfortunate this has come up at all,” said council member Michelle Pittman. “I feel like you’re picking on one person, me.”

Pittman serves on the Rhome Volunteer Fire Department.

“Everyone is really tired of this,” she said. “This is tearing the town apart. … This has never been an issue before. What has changed? What has happened?”

“No one is against the fire department,” said council member Jo Ann Wilson, who has supported the ordinance. “We just want accountability to the taxpayer on where the money is going and how it’s spent.”

“Nobody on the fire department has access to any money,” Pittman said.

Current city law prevents only the fire chief from serving on the council or as mayor.

“What we have in place is fine,” Godfrey said. “I say we should forget this, and if there’s a problem in the future, we’ll address it.”

In the end, the rest of the council agreed and took no action on the proposed ordinance.

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Rhome City Council to discuss pavilion, VFD limit

It’s “old business” on the agenda, but the Rhome City Council will continue discussions on the city’s pavilion and volunteer fire dept. when it meets Thursday.

The ordinance limiting membership on the volunteer fire dept. to no more than two city council members has been the focus of controversy in recent meetings. The measure also requires those members to recuse themselves anytime the council votes on RVFD issue.

The council will set a date to move Rescue Revenue to City Hall, and consider draft ordinances on PODS and carports.

Among the new business on Thursday’s agenda are contracts with the Wise County Elections Office and Northwest Independent School District for the May 10 council elections to be held jointly.

Another contract will finance equipment for the public works department.

The council will also order a plaque to recognize major donors for Veterans’ Park, review incentive pay and the city’s depreciation schedule, and set dates for an Easter Egg Hunt, the candidate forum and chili cookoff.

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Rhome City Council looks to take over parks board, limit firefighters

After struggling to find enough members, the Rhome City Council will likely take over the duties of the Parks and Recreation Board – at least temporarily.

“Everyone (on the city council) appears to be in agreement it will go to the council,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jo Ann Wilson. “Different council members will coordinate different events, and we’ll have help from volunteers. We’ll just have to see how it works.”

The council discussed the issue in detail at a workshop held last Saturday night at city hall. Although no action could be taken during the workshop, the council expects to take action at the next council meeting.

The workshop also covered how to proceed to complete construction of a pavilion at the Rhome Family Park. So far, just the concrete foundation has been completed. Councilman Louis Godfrey was appointed to find out the best way to proceed and bring a recommendation back to the council.

The council also discussed the fate of several ordinances regarding the fire department, including one related to membership on the department and serving in city government.

“By law the fire chief can’t be the mayor,” Wilson said. “But an ordinance that the council might approve at the next meeting might limit no more than two members of the fire department can serve on the city council and mayor position.”

Currently, the mayor and one council member serve on the volunteer fire department.

“The reasoning for limiting it to two people is not a personality issue,” Wilson said. “But if a fire emergency is called out during a meeting, we need to keep enough there to have quorum.”

The proposed ordinance would also prevent council who are members of the fire department from voting on funding issues related to the department.

When asked what the council would do if a third member of the fire department was elected to the council or mayor position, Wilson said if that happened, they’d just have “to look at options at that time.”

“We’re not trying to limit volunteering,” Wilson said.

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13.

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On call: Rhome city council to discuss fate of fire department during workshop

The right of a city council member to also volunteer as a member of the Rhome Fire Department will be discussed in detail tonight.

Rhome City Council has scheduled a workshop to discuss the fire department ordinance. Also on the agenda is the Parks and Recreation Department, who’s board is unable to reach a quorum since it’s down to one member. The workshop will also tackle the fate of the pavilion at the family park.

At a Jan. 9 meeting, several council members discussed amending a fire department ordinance. The ordinance currently allows anyone to serve on both the council and fire department so long as they are not the fire chief. Currently, Mayor Chris Moore and council member Michelle Pittman serve on the volunteer fire department.

Council member Ronnie Moore has argued that serving on both constitutes a conflict of interest. City attorney Walt Leonard said according to state law, conflict of interest only occurs if one is making 15 percent or more of their income from an entity. City council members and firefighters volunteer their time.

The workshop is scheduled to start at 6:45 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18.

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Rhome officials question service on fire department, council

On Thursday night, Rhome City Council discussed ways to change an ordinance regarding whether or not someone can volunteer for both city council and the fire department at the same time. Although no action was taken on the item, council was close to making a motion that, if passed, would have forced Mayor Chris Moore and council member Michelle Pittman to choose between serving on the council or the Rhome Volunteer Fire Department.

“It is too much a conflict of interest to help run the city and be on the fire department,” said council member Ronnie Moore.

“I’ll resign from the fire department tonight if you do this,” Moore said.

Current city law says only a fire chief can’t serve on council or as mayor. Options posed included forbidding anyone from serving on both, limiting the number of elected officials that can serve as members of the fire department and/or preventing them from voting on actions that affect the fire department.

“We’ve set a precedent where this has been OK for many, many years,” Pittman said. “I wonder why everything is different now when it’s been this way for 20 years.”

Moore has served as council member and mayor for several years all while being assistant fire department chief.

“I was on the fire department and the council for 13 years,” echoed former council member David Wilson.

The fire department has had low membership numbers for the past couple of years, which resulted in late to no response on several daytime calls. The council took some steps to increase membership, and Pittman joined as a volunteer firefighter herself last year to help bolster protection. The fire department currently has eight members.

“I don’t understand why you’d do anything that could reduce the number of firefighters,” Pittman said. “You better put fire department response on the next agenda if you pass this because we won’t have enough.”

According to Texas law, a conflict of interest only arises if an involved party receives 15 percent or more of their income from it, said city attorney Walt Leonard. In this case, neither volunteer fire department members or elected city officials earn any income for their efforts.

Council members Jo Ann Wilson, Charles Pennington and Ronnie Moore all leaned toward some kind of change to the current ordinance. But they eventually agreed to take no action and discuss it further at an upcoming workshop. No date was set for the workshop, but it’s expected to be on a Friday or Saturday night sometime in the next couple of months.

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Department up for discussion again

Once again the issue of elected officials volunteering with the fire department will be discussed when Rhome City Council meets 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

Two agenda items are related to ordinances concerning membership on the city’s volunteer fire department.

In meetings last year, some questioned if it was a conflict of interest for someone to serve on the council and as a member of the volunteer fire department.

The only rule regarding that in the current ordinance language is that the fire chief can’t serve on the council. Rhome Mayor Chris Moore is a longtime volunteer with the fire department. Council member Michelle Pittman also volunteers.

Moore has contended there’s never been an issue with serving on the fire department and serving on the council.

Council will also revisit the first responder position. Other items include term limits, parking at the community center and the status of the pavilion at Rhome Family Park.

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