Rhome City Council limits mayoral powers

Just three months after granting them, the Rhome City Council has limited the powers of its mayor.

Without Mayor Louis Godfrey in attendance, the city council met in closed session for more than three-and-a-half hours Monday to discuss his authority.

At the suggestion of City Attorney Walt Leonard, the council by a vote of 4-0-1 approved five changes to the mayor’s powers. Councilwoman Michelle Pittman abstained.

Those changes include:

  • The hiring and firing of department heads “or those above” will be done by the city council. “Persons below that will be by mayor, in conjunction with department heads,” Leonard said.
  • Discipline and firing decisions may be appealed to the city council at the next regular session. “Whether that person remains on the job in the interim is at the discretion of the mayor and department head,” Leonard said.
  • Staff is to prepare proposed job descriptions for all employees as part of a general review of the personnel manual.
  • Overtime for all employees will be as authorized by the department head.
  • Each department head “may utilize their own resources as per the budget and in conjunction with the mayor and council.”

At a June 16 meeting, city council members approved amending an ordinance to give Godfrey the authority to hire and fire department heads without the council’s approval.

Although discussion to revoke that power took place behind closed doors, Councilman Ronnie Moore spoke with the Messenger during a phone call Monday afternoon.

“We gave him the power to fire and hire, not to abuse that power,” he said. “We are doing this to slow him down on his abuse of power.”

Moore also claimed that a statement Pittman made in an article in the Sept. 27 edition of the Messenger was incorrect.

“We never told that man [Mayor Godfrey] to fire anyone,” he said. “Every person he has fired he has done on his own. We gave him that permission, and what he did, he took on his own … But when you start picking on the chief of the police department, that is abuse of power.

“We are taking it away because that man was abusing his power – that is why.”

Also during Monday’s meeting, the council extended by six months the probationary period for Police Chief Brandon Davis.

Davis, who has lived in Rhome for 14 years, was named interim police chief June 24 after Police Chief James Rose resigned the day before.

Posted in News0 Comments

Rhome City Council calls meeting, again

For the seventh time since the newly elected officials took office four months ago, the Rhome City Council will meet in a special session Monday.

The meeting was originally scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday for the council to discuss, in open session, “powers of the mayor” and the possibility of the police chief resigning.

That meeting was canceled and rescheduled for 7 p.m. Monday. However, according to the agenda for that meeting, the matters will be discussed in executive session. Any action will be taken in a public forum.

At a June 16 meeting, city council members approved amending an ordinance to give Mayor Louis Godfrey the authority to hire and fire department heads without the council’s approval.

“Interesting enough once all the former employees and volunteers were removed by termination or resignation by the mayor, (other members of the council) now want to take back that same power three months later when someone they want to remain with the city is brought up,” Councilwoman Michelle Pittman wrote in an email to the Messenger Wednesday. “To me it appears the mayor was set up to do dirty work by cleaning house of certain individuals and now he is the fall guy. But that’s just my opinion.

“The council had the power to remove all those individuals all along before giving the mayor that power,” she said. “Why did they not do it themselves?”

Of the seven called meetings, four have been held on either a Friday or Saturday.

The meeting Monday, which begins at 7 p.m., will be at City Hall, 105 First St.

Posted in News1 Comment

Rhome City Council haggles for SRO contract

Rhome city officials are willing to renegotiate with Northwest ISD officials regarding school resource officer services.

Rhome Mayor Pro Tem Charles Pennington and council members David Wilson, Ronnie Moore and Jo Ann Wilson, along with city secretary Ramah Burns, attended the school board’s meeting Monday to express their eagerness.

“The council and I came tonight in support of the SRO at [Chisholm Trail Middle School],” Pennington said during the public comment of the section. “The contract had come up for renewal, and we met with Ms. Beam, a couple of other folks three or four times and was unable to come to an agreement on the contract.

“I just wanted to let y’all know that we’re open for negotiation. If you want to talk about it, contact me or the mayor, and we will be willing to discuss it.”

In February, the school district and city agreed to a 4-percent salary increase for the SRO, which set the school’s portion of the salary at $36,000.

Since that time, the city has seen several staffing changes, including a new mayor and police chief.

New mayor Louis Godfrey and the new police chief, Brandon Davis, said the city needs help in meeting its expenses and requested $55,137.75 from the school.

Northwest countered with an offer of $45,807.82, which would represent a 27 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. But that figure was rejected by city officials Sept. 11, and they instead requested another $2,000. After Northwest ISD rejected that request, the city pulled its officer from Northwest schools Sept. 12.

The school district initiated discussions with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office to provide an officer, and WCSO sent a deputy the following Monday.

At Monday’s meeting Rhome officials vouched for the relationships already established by its officer, Jeff Douglass.

“Officer Douglass loves being down there,” Pennington said. “We’ve had numerous emails from teachers, talked to students and they would love to have him back down there … Officer Douglass is involved in some mentoring programs that are going to fall way behind, that he spent a lot of time on the last eight years. We just wanted to let you know to contact myself or the mayor, Louis Godfrey, and we will be happy to answer any questions.”

Northwest Superintendent Karen Rue thanked Pennington for his statement

“It’s nice to hear you say you’re interested in renegotiating,” she said. “I would say that the pieces as we move forward with this have been ones that we believe are reflective of the cost of that program. We are regretful that that was not acceptable, and that the officer was pulled last week.”

Pennington said that the council just “wanted to break the taxpayers of Rhome even.”

“We didn’t want it to cost them any money,” he said. “Like I said, Officer Douglass has a lot of time invested down there.”

“If there is a consideration that is different than we last heard from the city, that might be something we could consider,” Rue responded. “Although we have moved forward with an SRO who came in Monday, and we will have SRO services through the Sheriff’s Department in Wise County.

“We’re very pleased to know that our students and our faculty and our community are all served in that way.”

IN OTHER NEWS

Trustees also:

  • approved by a vote of 5-1 a class-size waiver for the 20 kindergarten through fourth-grade classes exceeding the 22:1 student-to-teacher allowable class size. The waiver increases the ratio to 25:1 and saves the district approximately $845,000 compared to the cost of staffing additional elementary classrooms at 22:1. Trustee Dr. Anne Davis-Simpson cast the dissenting vote.
  • reviewed campus improvement plans.
  • updated policy, as outlined by the Texas Association of School Boards, regarding school security personnel, district and campus improvement plans, employee health and life insurance, public information, records management, employee contracts, advertising, student records and revocation of student transfers.
  • heard reports on the design of the Outdoor Learning Center and on technology deployment.

Posted in News0 Comments

Rhome City Council considers restructuring fire dept.

Rhome officials continue to try and work out the city’s relationship with the fire department.

“We have a fire department, which consists of everything that’s tangible – equipment, everything – but we have no firefighters,” city attorney Walt Leonard said at the council’s meeting last Thursday. “The VFD provides the firefighters, but they have no equipment.

“For this to work, the city and the VFD have to get along and work together. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.”

Fire Chief Jason Miller questioned the organizational structure.

“Are you telling me we’re our own VFD organization, not city related?,” he asked.

“You are a separate entity,” Leonard responded. “You have no trucks, and we have no firemen. That has to be worked out some way.”

He outlined several options to the city council.

“You could have more input in their bylaws, work out the bylaws with the VFD,” he said. “Because they’re an independent entity … they’re not us.

“The city supports the fire department. Period,” he continued. “That’s the equipment. In terms of helping out the VFD, most of its funding is provided by the city.”

Leonard also threw out the idea of creating an emergency services district, like Boyd, but advised the option is “complex and potentially expensive.” He also said the city could fund its own department.

“But that would double the city’s budget and with that, guess what? Taxes go up,” he said.

He said the city could also look into contracting with an entity like the ESD in Boyd.

“But again, that will cost you money, and you will have no control,” Leonard said.

Mayor Louis Godfrey attempted to sum it all up.

“What I’m hearing is that the only option we really have is to modify the bylaws, which would give us more control in case we need to appoint a fire chief, or do this or do that,” he said. “We would have more power.”

At a called meeting of the fire department Aug. 28, Godfrey advised that City Hall would process all applications for the department.

He mentioned that idea again at the Sept. 11 meeting, adding that approval from City Hall would be the final step in the application process.

“If we’re going to process people through City Hall, and they come back clean, that should be it. They should be allowed on,” Godfrey said.

“But don’t you think they should talk to the fire chief?” Miller asked. “If we’re our own organization, shouldn’t we vote our members in?”

Godfrey interrupted to explain.

“I think they should be able to talk to you, but I also think that that’s the final step,” he said. “They talk to you, you have a conversation with them to let them know what’s expected of them and so forth, and if they still wished to move forward then fine.

“But I think that once they’ve passed everything through City Hall – the application, the background check – and they’re clean, there shouldn’t be any further step than to talk to you and let you know, ‘Here I am. Let me know what’s expected of me,’ and move on with it. Why have it double dipped?

“We need people. Let’s get them to you.”

Godfrey said clearing City Hall should be the final hurdle.

“It’s not circumventing you as the chief,” he noted. “It’s taking a step out that gets them closer to getting onto the fire department.”

Miller requested the city compensate volunteers by paying for their introductory fire training, which costs $250.

“I think that’s a good idea,” Mayor Pro Tem Charles Pennington said.

At Leonard’s request, the council and fire department will meet in a workshop to further discuss the issues.

“To figure out a set of rules we all agree and operate under, because what’s there now is not,” Leonard said.

Posted in News0 Comments

Rhome City Council squabbles over park plaque

For at least the third time, the Rhome City Council discussed the wording for a contributor’s plaque at Veterans Park.

At a meeting last Thursday, Mayor Louis Godfrey presented a rendition he designed which listed the name of the park, its dedication date and six Bronze Star Donors – Robert Troxell, Dr. Andrew Hoover, Greta Barradas, Hawkins Funeral Homes, Heil Trailer International Inc. and Dan Kelly Construction.

In addition, the draft listed members of the park board, city secretary Ramah Burns and designers Louis Godfrey and Dan Kelly Jr.

“You designed it?,” councilman Ronnie Moore asked the mayor.

Godfrey said he did.

“I don’t think so,” Moore retorted. “I believe me and Dan Kelly designed that park, and I believe Charles Pennington helped.”

Godfrey disagreed.

“We put it down on paper long before it was even built,” he said.

Moore shook his head.

“I like to give my credit where credit’s due,” he said. “Take my name off of this. Because you didn’t design it.”

Councilwoman Jo Ann Wilson and Rhome resident Tim Robinson suggested listing only the original $1,000 donors.

“Out of all due respect for those individuals, I think only they should get the recognition,” Robinson said. “Because those people stepped up to the plate and made the larger donation.”

Officials clarified that Dan Kelly Construction and Greta Barradas did not donate money, but rather labor and the land, respectively.

Wilson suggested adding a generic statement thanking all others for their assistance. She also added she would like to see the dedication inscribed on granite.

As she made her suggestions, Moore interrupted.

“I want my name taken off this plaque,” he said. “The reason why is because he did not design this park.”

Without acknowledging his outburst, Wilson said, “That’s my recommendation. This way we do what we said we were going to do.”

When she asked everyone else for their opinion, Moore was the only to express his opinion verbally.

“Sounds good to me,” he said. “Just make sure my name is nowhere close to that plaque. Because I worked a year in that park by myself.”

IN OTHER NEWS

The council also:

  • reiterated that carports would be approved on a case-by-case basis to make sure they match the house they’re attached to. “If you had a house that is brick or has siding, it should be kind of like that,” Leonard said. “Or if you had a house that’s further out and semi-rural, something less elaborate would be appropriate.” The matter led to a heated discussion in April.
  • scheduled clean-up days for its residents 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Dumpsters will be located at the Rhome Fire Department, 261 School Road. A utility bill must be shown to verify residency.
  • agreed to allow Tele-Span Wireless Internet to set up on the water tower for a trial run. “I think we should let them set up and see what kind of complaints we get before we cut a deal,” Councilwoman Jo Ann Wilson said.
  • approved a payoff of $42,276 to Northwest ISD for ground storage and water lines. “[Because of the current agreement] they only pay 25 percent of their bill,” Burns said. “Last year, we would’ve received $50,000 in cash money. When they’re watering their football fields, their bill may be $9,000. They only pay 25 percent of it.” Jo Ann Wilson added: “It shouldn’t take too long to recoup this money that we’d pay.”
  • authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement on an as-needed basis with “the best building inspector he can come up,” Jo Ann Wilson said. The person would replace Darren Williams, whose last day with the city was Thursday.
  • approved an $8,500 bid to fence property around well No. 5.
  • approved implementing a purchase order system, which requires department head approval for any expense over $250.

Posted in News0 Comments

Rhome City Council Preview

Carports are again on the agenda for the Rhome City Council, which meets Thursday. Officials will also discuss restructuring the fire department, paying off Northwest ISD for ground storage and water lines, cleaning up the city and other business. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 105 First St.

Posted in News0 Comments

Rhome council, fire dept. work to get on same page

The Rhome fire chief will stay and the department – along with other city officials – has formulated a plan to address “problems” that have plagued it.

Days after submitting his resignation, Jason Miller called an emergency meeting Thursday to formalize his decision to remain as chief of the volunteer department.

That evening, members of the fire department and city council gathered at the fire hall to discuss ways to increase membership and open lines of communication.

Miller, who was named interim fire chief in April, said that as long as he’s served with the department, membership has held between six and nine. The number on the roster has remained at six “for a long time.”

At the meeting Thursday, Councilman Charles Pennington stepped up to serve.

Mayor Louis Godfrey said he and Councilwoman Jo Ann Wilson are working on flyers and “out doing things” to recruit members, while Councilman David Wilson is “thinking about signing up” and Councilman Ronnie Moore “might.”

Moore was the only member of the city council not present at Thursday’s meeting.

In January, the council met to discuss the right of a city council member to also volunteer as a member of fire department after Moore had argued that serving on both constitutes a conflict of interest.

Councilwoman Michelle Pittman, who was on the council then, was and continues to be a volunteer firefighter.

“The support is there, and it has been extended many times by Charles and others,” Godfrey said. “If you need help, let us know. We can’t help if you don’t ask for it.

“I think it’s important that we all understand that we all want to work together,” he added. “The council is behind you. I’m behind you. We just need to be better informed. If you have a problem, address it as quickly as possible.”

Godfrey said he felt recruiting and retaining volunteers for the department would be the responsibility of both the fire department and the council.

To expedite the process, Godfrey at City Hall said he will handle all applications for the fire department.

“I think it’s best that every application, they come to City Hall, they fill it out, we’ll run the background checks really fast and get this thing done … If things come back OK, I’ll get the word to you as quick as possible, there you go,” he told Miller.

“I’ll keep copies. If you guys absolutely have to have copies, then I’ll make you copies. I’ll keep the originals in my office.

“That’s the fastest way to do it,” he continued. “I think we’ve had some problems with applications being filled out then you don’t get the time to bring them to City Hall or the council getting to look at them. We can alleviate a lot of that.

“The whole idea is to fast-track, get rid of the red tape, get them on here, get them useful.”

But the bigger idea is to work together to “ensure citizens have the level of service they deserve.”

“I think the key to making this work is communication,” Pennington said. “Lets just keep an open line of communication. I think we’ll have a great relationship and move our fire department forward and grow it to make it the biggest, best we’ve ever had.”

MEMBERSHIP DRIVE

Rhome Fire Department is conducting a membership drive during the Labor Day weekend. Rhome firefighters will be at Shale Creek 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday. Applications will be available on site.

Those who attend can meet the volunteer firefighters and see the fire truck.

Applications are also available at the Rhome Fire Station, 261 N. School Road, over Labor Day weekend or at Rhome City Hall, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Posted in News0 Comments

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.

Posted in News0 Comments

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.

Posted in News0 Comments

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.

Posted in News0 Comments

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.

Posted in News0 Comments

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.

Posted in News1 Comment

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.

Posted in News0 Comments

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.”

Posted in News1 Comment

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.

Posted in News0 Comments

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.

Posted in News0 Comments

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.”

Posted in News0 Comments

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.

Posted in News0 Comments

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.

Posted in News0 Comments

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.

Posted in News0 Comments

Login

Username:

Password:


Recover password | Create an Account