Council updates city ordinances; City accused of corruption

The Italy City Council adopted and updated four ordinances at its monthly meeting held Monday evening in council chambers. The ordinances ranged from water deposit rates, to grease traps, police reserves and garage sales

The water ordinance amendment reduced the current water deposit rate of $300 to $175.

At a recent called meeting, Chris Metz, public works director, said he felt the recently approved water deposit increase may not be fair to everybody and suggested the decrease.

The $175, he said, should cover one month’s water bill plus late fees. The motion passed unanimously.

An amendment was approved requiring grease traps in restaurants and oil changing businesses.

Metz said, also in a recent meeting, that this ordinance amendment is a State requirement. The aim is to curb sanitary sewer overflows from grit and grease accumulations in the city’s sewer facility.

This requirement will become effective Jan. 1 but will give businesses six months to meet requirements.

The council approved a third ordinance providing a Police Reserve Force.

Garage sales were the topic for the fourth ordinance adopted by the council. The ordinance limits a resident to three garage sales per year that will last no more than three days. Garage sale signs cannot be stapled to utility polls or in city right-of-way. A garage sale permit will now be required and will cost $5 for a placard to be displayed during the garage sale. Failure to follow this requirement is a Class C misdemeanor with a fine up to $200.

Local citizen Tom Little asked the council how many junk cars are still out there not being enforced. He questioned why another ordinance was needed when officials were not enforcing the ordinances currently in place.

The council tabled action concerning street repair on Poplar Street until the January meeting.

Metz said there is $22,500 remaining from a recent grant. This money, he explained, could be used to repair roads damaged during construction. He presented the council with bids from Ellis County and from JK Excavation. There is also $40,000 in the 2008-2009 budget for road construction. Metz said there should be enough money available to repair both Poplar and Park streets.

Larry Swanson, the resident requesting the Poplar Street repairs, asked if the bids included ditch clean up. Metz said it did not because several culverts would need to be replaced should they start ditch clean up.

The council tabled the item until Metz could get a cost estimate to replace necessary culverts.

The council took no action regarding the Park Board Committee. Mayor Frank Jackson said applications had been picked up but had not been returned.

Approval was also given to make the final payment to PET Construction on the Wastewater Treatment Plant pending receipt of an approval letter from the city engineer. Metz said he has done a “walk through” with PET officials. He said they had cleaned up all areas of concern.

The council approved minutes from the November meetings, bills and employee compensatory time.

Dauben accuses council

Joey Dauben, editor of the Ellis County Press and blogger, claimed alleged corruption within the City of Italy.

Dauben, addressing the council, said the City is corrupt, referring to a recent investigation by the Texas Rangers. He called the mayor corrupt because he supposedly knew about illegal actions.

“You were in those meetings. You helped cover it up.” Addressing the mayor, he continued, “The Ellis County Press is asking for your resignation.”

Dauben, a resident of Palmer, claimed he had to make this statement to be “on the record.” Addressing the council, he continued, “If you know of lying and corruption and don’t speak up, you’re guilty.”

He also claimed to have two unanswered open records requests. If not taken care of, Dauben said he would go to the Attorney General.

Department reports

Police Chief C.V. Johns reported that his department had 150 calls to service during the month of November. Regular and reserve officers worked 962 hours during the month.

Teri Murdock, city secretary/administrator, said she has been reviewing and is still updating ordinances for council approval.

She is working on a new system for payroll that will assist in pulling up and sending required reports to the State.

Murdock said the city is still accepting applications for those interested in serving on the park board.

The mayor, in conclusion, said 2008 has been a good year for the city. He said the city completed a wastewater treatment plant and added two water lines. In addition, he said the city is working toward surface water for residents. He added that this could not have been done without city employees and the council getting the job done.

“We’re right on track,” he concluded.