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CITY COUNCIL REJECTS ORDINANCE CONCERNING GEDCO

Gladewater City Councilman Scott Owens’ attempt Thursday night to redirect some of the tax money collected by the Gladewater Economic Development Corporation (GEDCO) met up against stiff opposition as the council voted 5-2 to reject his bid to place the measure before the voters on the May 10 ballot.
Mayor Harold Wells and council members Leon Watson, Lana Niemann, Sonny Anderson and J.D. Shipp voted to reject the ordinance, while Owens and Delbert Burlison voted no.
A lengthy discussion preceded the vote with Wells telling Owens he was “very unhappy with the way this came about” and he thought it was “totally handled wrong,” referring to Owens having an ordinance drawn up by the city attorney (Gary Shaver) and asking for the ordinance calling for a special election to be on the agenda before discussing it with council members.
Wells indicated he thought Owens had gone behind the council’s back on this issue.
He also said he was “confused” as to Owens’ actions of having the city attorney do city-related work for him personally. He asked – “Me and Leon (Watson) or me and anybody in here can walk into Shaver’s office and say ‘I want this ordinance changed?’”
“To educate you on this, any city council member can bring anything before the council,” Owens explained, adding that the city attorney (Gary Shaver) was not on “city time” when he drew up the ordinance and the city attorney did it for Owens free as a favor since they were old friends.
Todd Clifton, GEDCO board president, questioned what motivated Shaver to provide the free legal work for Owens and (Delbert) Burlison.
Owens said he wanted the voters to decide on whether or not the city could use some of the money which GEDCO - a Type A corporation - gets from a 1/2-cent sales tax for public infrastructure improvements. Those improvements could have included public safety facilities, streets, traffic control, parks and park facilities - which all qualify as a project for a Type B corporation.
Owens said the city has many needs current property taxes can’t address - such as street repair and if the GISD $35 million bond measure passes May 10 and the new Gladewater Middle School is built on the current site of public ball fields – the city may need to build a new sports complex to accommodate the needs of the youth. The school district owns the land where the fields are located, but the city maintains them.
Councilman J.D. Shipp wasn’t totally opposed to Owens’ idea, but he was worried about the “very narrow window” the ordinance before them Thursday night would create as for as educating the council about the pros and cons of such a move. “It’s a bit rushed,” Shipp said, adding he felt there needed to be more communication among council members on such matters.
Clifton said he felt the issue was “very rushed.” Clifton said there had been hints that GEDCO “hasn’t done a good job,” but he thought it had and he added that GEDCO was willing to partner with the city on projects.
Burlison said he didn’t think GEDCO had gotten a good return on its investment – citing that GEDCO had given about $1 million to companies as economic development and only gotten back about $130,000 in tax dollars from those companies.
Clifton told Burlison he thought he was being “that’s very short sided” and Burlison was “not seeing the whole picture.”
Councilwoman Niemann, who also serves on the GEDCO board, said it would be “irresponsible” of the council to put the ordinance on the ballot without being educated and fully informed. She said the council’s main focus should always be to do what is best for the people of Gladewater.
She added that if the city were to look at building a multi-million dollar park/sports complex, it would require much more research and discussion before ever taking such an expensive project to the voters.
GEDCO is currently helping various organizations such as the Gladewater Main Street program, The Gladewater Chamber of Commerce, the Former Student’s Association, Operation Give Gratitude, and the Gladewater Antique District Association with advertising and promotions. GEDCO has also partnered with city organizations on projects that benefit the city of Gladewater, such as helping pay for sidewalk projects and other infrastructure.

PETS NEEDING ADOPTION

AMMONIUM NITRATE CONCERNS ADDRESSED

BY PHILLIP WILIAMS

GILMER--State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy told an audience of area firefighters, emergency personnel, and business representatives how to try to prevent the type of ammonium nitrate explosion and fire that killed 15 people in the city of West last year.

Connealy also discussed what to do if such an event occurs, and firefighter safety in general, as one of three participants in a 2-hour, 6-minute presentation. The other speakers among the approximately 25 persons present included Asst. State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner and Alan Dillon of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.

Representatives of the Gilmer, Pritchett and West Mountain fire departments, and of the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, attended. Connealy said his office is making presentations in all Texas counties where ammonium nitrate is known to be stored because he wanted to "make sure that we learn from" the explosion of the West Fertilizer Plant.

The State Fire Marshal said ammonium nitrate is stored at one location in Gladewater and one in Longview and at one business in Upshur County. 

On storing the material, he said, "It's hard to get in trouble following the best practices. . .We need to make sure people have that basic knowledge."

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a source for such information, and it recommends a "one-hour fire barrier" from where ammonium nitrate is stored, and having fire extinguishers, said Connealy. "We've got to keep fire from ammonium nitrate," which is a component for explosives and an oxidizer, he pointed out.

Other safety recommendations include storing the material in a non-combustible structure which has sprinklers, he said. Had the facility in West had sprinklers, the fire never would have reached the ammonium nitrate, he said.

Earlier, Connealy and Kistner discussed the April 17, 2013 fertilizer plant explosion that rocked the small town of West, killing 10 firefighters, two first responders from an Emergency Medical Technician class, and three civilians, as well as causing more than $100 million in damages.

Connelay said investigation into the blaze is ongoing and "we may never know what completely caused the fire." Earlier, Kistner said a media report that a rail car loaded with ammonium nitrate caused it was false.

Kistner also said that out of respect to the victims' families, the men would not discuss operations and tactics used there because the report on the incident has not yet been released. But noting that state and federal agencies dealt with the tragedy, he said, "Your town could double (in population) overnight with just the number of responders."

"We counted 100 pieces of apparatus sitting in an open field," Kistner said. He also said some 30 law enforcement agencies were involved in dealing with the disaster, and that officers stood post 24 hours a day, seven days weekly, because the site was considered a crime scene.

Kistner also warned that emergency personnel must deal with citizens who cannot safely go back to their homes for a time after such an incident. He additionally said regular press briefings must be held, and that two a day were held in West.

Connealy noted citizens can type in their zip code on the internet to see if ammonium nitrate is stored in their area.

In discussing safety for firefighters, Dillon cautioned against making decisons based on emotion and said, "Keep your eyes open and your ears up." 

He said sometimes, the proper course is to evacuate citizens and let something burn.

Connealy became animated in recounting incidents in which Texas firefighters have died, and in counseling against certain actions. He said firefighters need to calculate "risk versus gain" of possible action at a fire scene, and decide if there is anyone "viable to save. What's the glory in rescuing a dead body? They're already dead."

The State Fire Marshal also said fire departments need to develop physical fitness standards since the number one cause of death of firefighters while fighting blazes is natural causes--heart attacks and strokes.

 

$35M BOND ELECTION CALLED FOR MAY 10

Pick up this week's Gladewater Mirror and find out about the $35 million bond election GISD trustees voted to call on Monday night. Also see what Gladewater City Councilman Scott Owens has to say about thousands of dollars in tax money taken in by GEDCO and how he thinks it could be used to fix potholes and other infrastructure. The Gladewater Police Department's external assessment was released Monday and its findings aren't flattering on the former administration.

Mr. & Miss GHS Named

Michaela Ellis & Peyton Passmore were named Mr. & Miss GHS Saturday night during GHS Spotlight celebration. (Pick up next week's Gladewater Mirror to see the rest if the Spotlight honorees)

Commissioners table " IT" issue

BY PHILLIP WILLIAMS

GILMER--Upshur County Commissioners Court on Friday tabled considering proposals for information technology (computer) hardware and/or maintenance, and accepted bids on numerous items for the Road and Bridge Department.

The court opened proposals from five firms on IT support, maintenance and infrastructure, but voted to delay considering them until its next scheduled meeting Feb. 28. "What we're going to do is look through all these," said County Judge Dean Fowler.

With a few exceptions, the court also accepted bids recommended by county Road Administrator Andy Jordan on numerous items for his department, ranging from gasoline and diesel fuel to culverts and various types of pipe.

The court didn't yet act on bids for hot oil dirt and hot oil sand as Jordan had recommended against taking the lowest bid on those items.

He said the firm with the low bid, APAC Texas/Armor Materials, "has a hard time getting us material before 9:30 in the morning," and that if his workers are there at 7:30 a.m., "that's two hours wasted." This has happened, Jordan said, and he also said that firm requires ordering earlier than he can do.

He said he had complained to APAC "numerous times" (and he recommended bids from Wood County Asphalt). But Fowler then told Jordan he must allow the judge to write APAC a letter giving the firm a chance to appear before the court.

In other action Friday, the court approved District Clerk Carolyn Parrott's request to buy three scanners and licenses with funds from her office's Record Archives Fund.

Parrott said the items will be purchased from Tyler Technologies for $17,544. She said she had planned the purchase since 2009 to "help us get all our records scanned," and "we've finally got enough" money collected from filing fees to do it. 

The court also heard Sheriff Anthony Betterton explain his upgrading and replacing of duty weapons and ammunition for his office, which he said would involve "no expense to the taxpayers or the county."

Betterton said the 49 weapons in his office were purchased in 1997 and 1998 when his predecessor, R.D. (Buck) Cross, was sheriff, and that he is upgrading to Glock 9 weapons. Betterton stressed he was trying to leave "a paper trail" of this so there is "never a question" about it as "we can'f find the paper trail" on the weapons bought in the late 1990s.

He said a certain group was willing to buy the county's current ammunition, then give credit for that when his office buys updated ammunition through that group. 

Also Friday, the court accepted for recording numerous documents, including a check and explanation of funds from John M. Clark, Inc., related to the county's "school land" in West Texas. 

Fowler said the check was for a "service agreement" with Clark, and that it and the other recorded documents would be available for public inspection at the County Clerk's Office.

In other business Friday, commissioners:

--Approved paying Sydaptic, Inc. $672 from the Courthouse Security fund for a battery backup which was ordered from the jail control board.

--Approved the Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce's request to hold its April 19 annual Easter Egg hunt on the courthouse lawn at 11 a.m.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Frank Berka noted during the meeting that with 67 percent of the current 2013-14 fiscal year remaining, the court has 72 percent of its budget unspent, so "we're on track" for a surplus, barring some "catastrophic" event such as expenses for more capital murder trials.

 

ELITE Pathfinders Honored

The 5th Annual  banquet, sponsored by the Red Rock Historical Association, was held Saturday night at the Gladewater Former Students Association Building, with six people recognized for their committment and service to community. Those honored included: Todd Clifton - "Example," Calvin Frierson - "Inspiration," Harold Wells - "Leader," Martell Williams - "Erudite", Arielle Wiliams - " Pathfinder," and Margaret Bell - "Triumph." (See more photos in the Gladewater Mirror.)