The Coupland City Council followed up on some old business, continued working on plans for a Spring Cleanup Day, responded to a citizen complaint about trashy & overgrown properties within the city limits, discussed the mowing of city streets, talked about city records and the city’s website, and took action to secure additional tax revenue. Four citizens attended the meeting. Eldridge Tidwell was unable to attend. Here are the highlights:
- The City has 38,355.47 in the bank as of March 31, 2104.
- The final plat for the Prinz Estates Subdivision has not yet been submitted to the city for approval.
- The Council discussed plans for the Spring Cleanup Day, set for Saturday, May 17. The youth group from St. Peter’s Church will assist. Other organizations have been invited. There will be a large dumpster available. Only Coupland residents may bring their refuse to the dumpster. Proof of residency will be required. Hazardous materials and large appliances will not be accepted. The event will begin at 9 AM and end at dark.
- The Council engaged in an extensive discussion in response to a request from a local citizen that the City adopt an ordinance dealing with trashy & overgrown properties. Barbara Piper received the complaint and promised that it would be brought before the Council. She said that she believes that it is the proper role for the city Council to take complaints and address concerns. She reported that the citizen said the appearance of Coupland had gone downhill. During the discussion Council members pointed out that the city was taking positive action, referencing the plans for the cleanup day, which was already in progress before the complaint was received. Karen Marosko said that we should talk to people and try to find help for them if they need it. She said that there were different reasons for people’s property to become unsightly. She said, however, that only if it was a health or sanitation problem, or a danger such as a burn threat should the city take action. She said it should start with a letter to the property owner. Susan Garry said that she thinks that the appearance of various properties has improved lately and gave specific examples. Susan Schmidt said she had seen a family cleaning up a lot that did not belong to them, apparently taking matters into their own hands. Mayor Piper said that at the beginning of the incorporation process there had been discussions about communicating with people to address these types of issues. Ms. Piper said that we should find solutions short of adopting an ordinance that would help to make Copland more attractive. She said there should not be any official government action except for health or safety issues and in those cases the County should be able to assist us. Ms. Gary commented that sometime back, Ms. Piper had been able to get the County to take care of a property near the school which was the source of bee attacks upon children. Ms. Schmidt acknowledged the difficulty of approaching people whose properties are in bad shape. Ms. Piper said that she felt that the cleanup day might help inspire people and that letters are sometimes sufficient. During the discussion, citizens were allowed to freely address the Council with one resident commenting that dealing with unattractive properties treads a fine line and that we don’t want an “HOA situation.” In the end, the official consensus of the Council was that they would continue to discuss the issue but that they were not interested in pursuing the establishment of a specific ordinance at this time.
- Regarding the mowing of city streets, Mayor Piper reported that there were 5 miles of roads within the city limits. However, because many residents maintain their properties up to the streets, a contractor would not have to mow all of those 5 miles, which would really be 10 miles to do both sides of the streets. The Mayor is going to solicit bids for the mowing. He hopes to be able to present those bids to the city Council at the May meeting.
- Under state law, the city is required to have a specific policy for records management and retention and a specific person is to be designated to oversee the implementation of that policy. An ordinance establishing the policy must be filed with the state. The City Secretary (yours truly) summarized the current practices: Paper copies of official documents such as agendas, minutes, and ordinances are on file in the city office in the Coupland Fire Station. Digital copies are stored online in a Dropbox.com account, with multiple backups on the Mayor’s personal computer and the Secretary’s personal computers. The Secretary and the Mayor may have some items in their possession while they are being prepared but once work is complete, they are stored at the city office and in digital formats. The Secretary and the Mayor will draft the formal policy and present it at a future City Council meeting.
- The Mayor presented an ordinance repealing the sales tax exemption that was in existence by default for telecommunications services sold within the City. Section 1, subsection (a) of the ordinance says this: “A tax is hereby authorized pursuant to Section 321.203(g) (Consummation of Sale) of the Texas Tax Code on all telecommunications services sold within the City. For purposes of this section, the sale of telecommunications services is consummated at the location of the telephone or other telecommunications device from which the call or other communication originates. If the point of origin cannot be determined, the sale is consummated at the address to which the call or other communication is billed.” Such services would be subject to the existing 1 ¼% city sales tax. The vote to adopt the ordinance was unanimous and it will be submitted along with the official minutes to the State Comptroller.
- The previous two items (records management and telecommunications tax) came to the attention of the Council as a result of articles in the official magazine of the Texas Municipal League.
- There was a discussion regarding the development of the city’s website. The Secretary showed the Council the new website. It is still under development and contains no official information at this time but it can be found at www.cityofcouplandtx.us. There was a brief discussion about whether or not to establish official email addresses for City officials. Matt Eiben recommended that instead of email addresses, which are easily spammed, the City utilize a contact form on the website. He also said that the City’s website needs “curb appeal” and that he would submit a proposal to help stimulate ideas. He also suggested that the Council look at websites of other cities. Mayor Piper said that he would review options with the Secretary.
- During the citizens and events recognition portion of the meeting only the cleanup day was mentioned.
- During the citizens communication portion of the meeting, Sarah Torluemke spoke on ordinances in general. She said Coupland is going to change and that when ordinances are brought forth, the intent should be clearly stated but that the primary purpose should be to protect Coupland. Ruby Wabbel spoke about the potential ordinance on junky properties. She said that any such ordinance should address only safety and health issues and that the City Council should not adopt the role of a homeowners association. She also thanked the the Council members for volunteering their time, for being concerned about the welfare of Coupland, and for helping keep Coupland at its best.
The next meeting of the Coupland City Council will be on May 8.
Thanks again for another good recap of the Council meeting.