Drama played out at the July 10th Gordon City Council meeting when an agenda item addressed a social media post by one of the council member’s spouse.
Michael Jones, alderwoman Penny Jone’s husband, posted that he was starting a petition to remove Jack Coleman from his position of mayor of Gordon. He accused Coleman of bankrupting the City and threatening council members and employee’s jobs when he doesn’t get his way
Alderwoman, Sherrye Mills had put the item on the agenda and defended the action by stating that it would have been “irresponsible of me to ignore the fact that the mayor may have done something incorrectly.” She followed with, “secondly, they [city council] have to meet publicly.” Mills questioned Jone’s position on the situation to which Jone’s replied “I cannot talk”. Jones later said that she had nothing to do with the post and stated that her husband was a private citizen.
Mayor Jack Coleman proceeded to give a public account of what spawned the post saying that in a conversation with Jones, after a previous meeting, he had confronted her about a complaint he had received of Jones harassing two city employees. Coleman said his accusation was made in front of the two employees and he said Jones more than once denied the accusation. Coleman said he told her that if she kept harassing the employees, he would “file an injunction against her.” He said he also told her that her actions could possibly get her son, Chase, fired. Chase Lerma is a City employee and works under one of the employees Coleman said had been harassed. Coleman defended his remark stating “It’s not me, it’s whatever the council might decide to do.” Coleman said Jones left and a few minutes later her husband came in threatening him. Lerma then interrupted Coleman stating that he was standing between the two of them and had not heard Mr. Jones threaten Coleman.
Sherrye Mills once again turned to Penny Jones and directly asked her if she was accusing the Mayor of threatening her, to which Jone’s replied, “Yes.”
Just before the regular city council meeting, a public hearing had been held at the Gordon Community Center for the 2017-2018 proposed budget2. A local citizen, David Johnson, objected to the fact that the proposed budget presented did not offer any information on the previous year’s actual revenues and expenses. Johnson also questioned the use of city equipment and workers to mow private property which he had observed. The reply was that the City was reimbursed for the mowing and it had been going on for several years. Johnson said that, as far as he knows, it is illegal for a city to use city equipment and employees to work on private property.
The council was also questioned about the status of the water contract with Barton Water Supply. The 40-year contract between the City of Gordon and Barton Water Supply Corp. expired two years ago. The City has been in the process of getting grants and loans to upgrade the water plant which they say is being required by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Mayor Jack Coleman said they had delayed putting a rate on a new contract waiting to find what the upgrades were going to cost and how much they would need to pass along to water customers. A contract was sent to Barton Water Supply increasing the rate by $1.27 per 1,000 gallons to make up for a deficit in water revenues plus .56 per 1,000 due to the water improvement costs. This is added to the current rate of $4.38. Water rates had also been raised for residential service as well as for wholesale service for the City of Mingus. Barton Water, however, has continued to pay the old rate and refused to pay the increases, asking for justification for the increases.
Immediately following the public hearing, the regular meeting of the City Council began.
The budget was tabled due to the requests for information during the public hearing. Another public hearing on the proposed budget is set for July 31st at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall.
During the June city council meeting, Steve Larison had proposed a $100 discount on his water bill each month as long as he owns his property to make up for the loss he felt he may incur because of a sewer leak that had occurred on his land back in December of 2016. Larison stated at that meeting that he was planning to put the property up for sale in a couple of years. At that time the item was tabled for further investigation. Larison was unable to attend this meeting so the item was again tabled. It was explained that the City has already taken action on the leak by sending a letter to TCEQ to seek their advisement on remediation. The City has also filed an “Unauthorized Discharge and Sanitary Sewer Overflow Report” about the incident.
A discussion began about whether or not to extend water lines and sewer taps outside the city limits. A request by the developer of Twin Mountains to run lines out to property south of town on Hwy 919 was approved in a previous meeting. The lines would be extended at the expense of the property owner and maintained by the City. Councilwoman, Penny Jones handed out a copy of a letter from a local citizen to each board member. The letter stated:
If City of Gordon sewer is extended to unincorporated areas outside of Gordon I plan to file petition to unincorporate the city and convert the water and sewer system into a municipal utility district. My rationale.. a handful of people in the city proper are paying city property taxes which continue to escalate. There is no chance to extend the city limits because of regulations unless petitioned by those outside the city limits. This will never occur as long as we provide them with city service. The streets are not maintained. If the city were unincorporated the county would be required to maintain streets. – Pat Sublett
It was mentioned that those outside the city limits would be charged at a higher rate than those within the city limits. After quite a bit of discussion, the item was tabled for a future meeting.
Mayor Coleman said that he had been presented with information about a company that sells reconditioned emergency warning sirens for $7,500 each. Currently, there is no warning system inside the city limits. It was mentioned that when looking at sirens in the past, new ones cost $70,000. The item was tabled until more information about the reconditioned sirens could be obtained.
The council voted to approved adopting a resolution to send a request to the State to move the 45 mph speed limit sign on Hwy 193 west of town out to the edge of the city limits and make it the lowest speed limit possible.
Answering a question on whether the City should mow the area between the rock wall in front of the New Gordon Cemetery and the road, the council voted against mowing it. Board members stated that because it was outside the city limits and was not city property, they couldn’t mow the area. A request would be made to county commissioner, Mike Pierce, to see if the county could repair the area in front the cemetery that had been torn up when the city laid a pipeline.
After an executive session for evaluation of employees, a raise was approved for city secretary, Teresa Johnson.