By James Draper
With council support, Interim City Manager Charlie Smith is determining who will take the wheel out at Lake Gladewater and get the ship righted in the days, weeks and months ahead.
“We’ve really come to the conclusion that we’re needing somebody out there on a routine basis,” Mayor Scott Owens said during the Gladewater City Council’s June 15 meeting. “It may take some time to hire one.”
After conferring with Smith as well as Police Chief Gordon Freeman, “We do have some officers available that we could call on to use,” Owens said, particularly during the budget season and an application process for the post.
Councilman Teddy Sorrells moved to establish an official position of Lake Warden (under the city manager’s supervision) to oversee safety and emergency management at Lake Gladewater. Councilwoman Brandy Flanagan second the motion.
For Sorrells, the council’s June 1 joint meeting with the Lake Board and Gladewater Economic Development Corporation was a helpful conversation.
“From what I could tell, the overwhelming consensus in the room was that we needed to address safety considerations at the lake,” he said. It’s imperative to improve the atmosphere out there and have an authority on site, “Not only for patrol but also for safety, rules and regulations, vandalism…”
That’s the purpose of the motion, he added, which puts the decision to Interim City Manager Charlie Smith to choose who becomes that authority.
“I have mentioned in the past about the fire chief,” Sorrells added, “but that’s not the issue. It’s whatever the city manager decides is going to best suit that position. This motion makes that possible. That’s why I think it’s important that we go ahead and pass this motion, Mr. Mayor.”
Council member Rocky Hawkins also pondered the most efficient method to move forward.
“Best I can understand, for our fire chief it’s already in his job description to be over emergency management,” Hawkins said. “That’s already his job.”
A Lake Warden will be focused on lake safety and emergency pertaining to the lake, Owens said.
The job description is whatever the city manager decides, council member Brandy Flanagan replied.
Running through various duties – lake and boating safety, monitoring the docks and lake front, addressing any emergencies that arise, monitoring the dam and taking measurements – Owens agreed those tasks do naturally fall under the fire chief’s discretion.
Meanwhile, with a variety of illegal activities being reported at the lake, “We have an excellent police department,” Hawkins said, suggesting increased patrols could curtail current illicit behavior. “There’s a lot of stuff happening down the spillway – swimming and smoking dope and stuff. There’s a lot of really young children swimming and swinging” and getting in dangerous situations.
“I really think some of that could be controlled really well with our police department.”
It’s important to separate the council from direct city governance, Flanagan said.
“All of that kind of stuff is under the management of our city manager,” she added. “We should let Charlie do his job and do what he feels is best out there.”