The City Council meeting of August 14 covered a wide variety of topics. All of the Aldermen and the Mayor were in attendance but no other citizens attended this meeting. Here are the highlights:
- Mayor Piper reported that the city has $37,731 in the bank.
- Susan Garry addressed the Council in the citizen communication portion of the meeting because she was recusing herself from discussion and voting about issues related to the Texas Department of Transportation project on FM 1660. She said this was because she and her husband own property that is affected by the project. She said that she appreciated the mayor’s efforts with regard to dealing with the situation but since the City of Coupland was not included in the planning of the project, that if there was not going to be a benefit to the community them we should not spend funds on it.
- Mayor Piper reported that the long pending Prinz Estates final plat was okayed by the city engineer.
- A resolution ordering an election in November was passed unanimously. The mayor noted that if only three people run for the three positions they will cancel the order for election. At the time of the meeting, only one application for a place on the ballot had been received.
- Moving on to the TxDOT situation and the FM 1660 project, the Mayor said that state law gave us no choice in the matter and that we had to pay our share of the project which was related to right-of-way acquisition. He described the different options available to the city to pay, recommending that the amount be paid over three different fiscal years including a payment now, a payment sometime during the next fiscal year, and a final payment in the fiscal year after that. Barbara Piper said that she felt this was the best way to get off on the right foot with TxDOT. With Susan Gary recusing herself, the remainder of the Aldermen voted unanimously to approve the resolution to make the payments to TxDOT. The total of all payments would be $13,930.
- The mayor directed the Aldermen to the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2015. He said that he had notified the City Secretary (Yours Truly) with regard to how the budget affects the ad valorem tax rate. He said that this notice and the proposed budget are on the City’s website. The Mayor highlighted some of the budget line items, noting some minor changes from the current budget but also a few other things such as adding funds to provide for training for city officials and increased street maintenance. The Mayor said he had asked Naivar Construction to look at city roads with him, make recommendations, and provide an estimate for maintenance costs. It was noted that County Road 458 (which is no longer a County Road) probably will need more work before winter. There was consensus among the Aldermen that heavy grain trucks and driving school trucks from Austin Community College were exacerbating the situation. The Mayor said that he would contact ACC to ask them to change their route. Karen Marosko noted that the south side of town had never had any maintenance done on the roads. Getting back to the proposed budget, Mayor Piper noted that engineering costs were increased slightly in hopes that this will support a future Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application that could help with major infrastructure projects in the city. The line item for attorney’s fees were reduced. A new item was the addition of a capital improvement fund for the long-term needs of the community. Right-of-way acquisition for the FM 1660 project was also included. All total, the budget is about $20,000 over last year’s total. The anticipated income from all revenue sources is estimated to increase from $39,000-$60,000. Barbara Piper noted that an increase in ad valorem taxes was based on an increase in assessed value and that we would have to decrease the tax rate to keep the amount the same as this year. She recommended that we keep the rate at $0.25 per hundred dollars of valuation because of increases in expenses. The Mayor noted the the total appraised value of all property in Coupland was $14,680,841. Karen Marosko recommended that we leave the rate as it is and that we could lower it later after the City has a good fund built up. The Mayor noted that he had done a “truth in taxation” form for the County regarding ad valorem tax rates that a notice will be posted in the Taylor paper. There will also be a notice regarding a required public hearing on the budget before the next City Council meeting and that this will be posted in the Taylor paper on August 22.
- There was a discussion about mowing within city limits. The mayor noted that streets looked much better after the recent mowing was completed. There was a discussion about the stretch of land between Commerce Street in the railroad. The Mayor said that letters had been sent to some property owners and that the City had gotten positive responses from two owners. He said he would continue efforts to encourage residents to work to improve properties that are overgrown. Barbara Piper said that she had contacted Lee Ortiz regarding the repair and replacement of street signs within the city limits. Eldridge Tidwell wondered if the State would be doing city limit signs. The Mayor said the State has been contacted regarding problems on the loop and on the 277 spur, where another sinkhole has appeared. There was a discussion about attempts to contact the owner of a specific property that is in need of attention. Barbara Piper said that environmental officers in the County have been contacted.
- There was a discussion about aggressive dogs and what options the city has for dealing with such animals. The mayor noted that the City does not have the authority to enforce animal control regulations — that only the County has that authority. Barbara Piper said that it is important to make a report to Animal Control and to try to get pictures showing violations. She said that with adequate proof, the owner of the animal would be cited by Williamson County Animal Control. The City Secretary noted that a letter to dog owners from the City citing the state law might be helpful.
- The mayor provided an update to the possibility of acquiring a CDBG grant in the future. Apparently there was some confusion about HUD requirements in the CDBG office at the County. At first HUD wanted proof that Coupland was an incorporated city and now they want proof that the Mayor had authority to commit the City to an agreement that was executed with Williamson County. Although it’s clear from the previous meeting that it was the intent of the Council to authorize the submission of a letter stating our intent to be a part of the CBDG process, it did not specifically address the issue of an agreement, which the Council was not aware of at the time. Now that the Alderman have seen the agreement and discussed the matter and expressed their full support, it remains to be seen if this will be acceptable to HUD.
- With regard to events in the City, Barbara Piper mentioned the upcoming Choo Choo Fest and Susan Schmidt said that National Night Out was a success with lots of young children present. Mayor Piper talked about the closure of the old bridge on County Road 456. He summarized the repairs that have been made on the bridge in the last decade. Apparently there is some Federal government money that will become available in November and the County is requesting that the State lower the condition rating of the bridge so that it will qualify for assistance. Susan Garry noted that this bridge is one of only a few historic bridges of that specific type. Karen Marosko noted that the Wilco Historical Society helped save the bridge in the past. Mayor Piper said that the County reported that an average of 17 vehicles a day use the bridge. Susan Schmidt said that they have followed people in the past to stop them from dumping trash near the bridge. Karen Marosko suggested that a petition to save the bridge might help and said that she would contact the Historical Society. On another matter, Ms. Marosko said that the Post Office is bringing in more money apparently because local citizens are using it more. She said that the Taylor Postmaster told her that as long as Manville Water Supply stays in Coupland and uses the Coupland Post Office, that they would be likely to maintain that location. Ms. Marosko said that according to staff at the Post Office, previous efforts to encourage people to use it seem to have helped because more people are buying boxes and stamps there.
The next meeting of the Coupland City Council will be on September 11 at the Fire Station and will be preceded by a public hearing at 6:45 PM on the proposed budget.