Police officers recognized for their dedication, service and valor

Image: Shelbee Richardson was named Officer of the Year for 2013 by Diron Hill, chief of police.

Shelbee Richardson was named Officer of the Year for 2013 by Diron Hill, chief of police. (Alysa Kirton)

Italy Police Officer Shelbee Richardson was named Officer of the Year at a ceremony held Tuesday night prior to the Italy City Council meeting.

Diron Hill, police chief, made the presentation to Richardson. He said, “This officer has done many things beyond the traditional aspects of police work. This officer has helped with every community event including Shop with a Hero and National Night Out. This officer is dedicated to this community and always has pride in her work.”

The chief said Richardson is also responsible for animal control and code enforcement. He said the officer has done a fantastic job with controlling loose animals that can be a health hazard and danger to the public. This officer also organized a low cost vaccination clinic the past two years for citizens. He said she has been responsible for the removal of many dilapidated buildings that were an eyesore.

Hill also recognized other officers and several residents.

Hill presented five officers with Meritorious Conduct Awards – Shawn Martin, Daniel Pitts, Mike Richardson, Shelbee Richardson and Mike Stevens.

He said these officers showed an immense amount of dedication and professionalism during the Milford gas explosion incident in November.

Hill said, “Because of each of your efforts, the citizens of Milford were made to feel welcome and safe during that difficult time.”

Stevens was awarded the Medal of Valor Award for “exceptional bravery during an extremely dangerous situation.” Hill said Stevens was on duty during the early morning hours of Sunday, November 17, when a triple homicide had occurred in Bardwell. Continuing, he said Stevens heard the information over the radio and assisted with the arrest when the suspect stopped at a gas station in Italy. Hill said the suspect had the murder weapon in the seat with him during the contact.

Community Service Awards went to Stevens, Eric Tolliver, Mike Richardson, Sue Lauhoff, Jenifer Merimon, Shawn Martin, Daniel Pitts, Shelbee Richardson, Manuela Martin and Teri Murdock.

This award, according to the chief, is for exceptional service to community relations by participating in the 2013 National Night Out in Italy on October 1.

Officers Martin and Pitts received a Meritorious Conduct Award. Community Service Awards went to Rodney Guthrie, mayor pro-tem; Shelbee Richardson, Mike Richardson, Stevens, Tolliver, Lauhoff and Manuela Martin. These awards were for their participation with the Shop with a Hero program and the second annual Guns and Hoses Softball Game and Fireworks Show.

Clint McCasland received a Community Service Award for his dedication to serving the city and assisting the police department with various community events throughout 2013. McCasland was commended for his service and helpful attitude by helping make all the events successful.

Mike Richardson and Stevens were recognized for obtaining Field Training Officer certification.

Hill also recognized Elmerine Bell and Meg Lyons for their community participation as well.

During the city council’s regular session, James Johnson addressed the council concerning the proposed Kortnei Johnson Youth Center.

Johnson said he has obtained a sponsor for the project – Harrison, Walker and Harper, builders and engineers.

Nathan Umanos, vice president of the organization, was on hand to answer questions. He said the firm, based in Paris, is the oldest builder in Texas. He had pictures from numerous schools, civic centers and other structures they had sponsored.

Umanos explained the first stage of the project will be the development stage. The next step will be to decide the best use of the land and schematics. Preliminary drawings will follow. He said the full board design for contractors would be the fourth step.

Johnson said he is continuing to accept donations which are tax-deductible.

Karen Mathiowetz addressed the council regarding the Citizen of the Month award chosen by the mayor.

Mathiowetz said the mayor has a disadvantage since he has not lived in Italy very long. She said he is unaware of things citizens do that go unnoticed. She suggested a committee be formed or the council and mayor choose the Citizen of the Month.

She said the winners should not be complainers about the city and school but should be positive. She said those who volunteer for the betterment of the city should receive the monthly awards. She suggested some type of policy and procedures be passed for Citizen of the Month.

Mathiowetz said another option could be naming a Business of the Month instead.

Council members unanimously approved a request from Scott Hoelzle, project manager with KSA Engineering, regarding a Task Order (ITL.005) and agreement approval between the city and KSA Engineers for professional services for a $275,000 TxCDBG grant. This money is for replacing water lines along Hardeman, Harris, Washington and Williams streets.

Council members also unanimously approved a resolution (#14-0121-01) authorizing an application to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for the Home Program.

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME Program) is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The purpose of the program is to expand the supply of decent, safe, affordable housing and strengthen public-private housing partnerships between local governments, public housing authorities, nonprofits, and for profit entities.

The TDHCA HOME Division is responsible for administering the HOME Program on behalf of the state. Entities approved to administer the HOME Program from TDHCA may use funds for eligible activities such as homeowner rehabilitation, homebuyer assistance, contract for deed conversion, tenant-based rental assistance, single family development and multifamily development.

A required part of the HOME Program included the passage of several ordinances and resolutions. All passed unanimously.

The first ordinance (#14-0121-01) the council passed was a Fair Housing Ordinance Declaration of Policy.

The second was a resolution (#14-0121-02) regarding excessive force. This resolution establishes rules and regulations regarding the use of excessive force during nonviolent civil rights demonstrations. The resolution was passed with two additions suggested by Hill.

The third item was a resolution (#14-021-03) adopting a Section 3 Policy for the Community Development Block Grant Program.

The final item was resolution (#14-021-04) which provided an internal grievance procedure for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action prohibited by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations.

Murdock, city secretary/administrator, said she had three applications from residents for this grant. She said they will be turned in along with the resolutions and ordinance.

She said the applications could be for new construction or home renovation, depending on established criteria. She also noted that the state decides who receives these grants, not the city.

In other business, Ed Voss, city attorney, responded to a request from a citizen about term limits for council members. He told those in attendance that council members may not impose term limits because Italy is a general law community. He said general law communities go by state law whereas home rule cities abide by a charter. State law does not allow council member terms being limited.

During department reports, Hill presented a 2013 end of year report and strategic plan update.

Dean Carrell, public works director, said that the water project is wrapping up and he is focusing on streets. To make needed repairs properly, he said they need equipment and is putting together a proposal to present to council members regarding equipment.

He said the department received 509 work orders in December, an average of 200 more per week than the City of Hillsboro. He said the department worked 68 hours overtime this past weekend.

Murdock praised business, staff and citizens that made the Christmas parade and festival a success during her report.

She also announced that a warning siren, financed from higher education funds, has been ordered. She said the siren will be placed on the water tower and will be loud enough to reach the interstate.

Murdock also said the first day to file for the city council is January 29 and the last day to file is February 28 at 5 p.m.

The council went into executive session regarding a grievance filed by Carrell.

Upon their return, Dennis Perkins Jr. said the council is forwarding the complaint to Bill Parker, a private investigator.

Collectively, the mayor and council members thanked the following: the citizens for attending the meeting, department heads and city staff for their hard work. Mayor James Hobbs said there have been a lot of ups and downs since the election but said that 2014 is going to be a good year.