ENNIS – The Ennis City Commission approved the submission of a Criminal Justice Division Grant to fund the police department’s P25 radio project during its meeting Monday night.

City Manager Steve Howerton said the P25 project was started after the 9/11 disaster where the various emergency departments had communication issues.

“The federal government mandated emergency response departments move to a narrow band for communications,” he said.

The city is applying for $78,840 in non-matching grant funds toward communications equipment. Included in the upgrade are 27 mobile radio units for the vehicles and 40 handheld units.

“If we are not approved, the city would have to budget for this mandated upgrade,” Howerton said, saying this type of grant is becoming scarce.

“Our chances of receiving this grant are about 50-50.”

The city’s fire department will need a similar communications upgrade for its radio equipment, he said, saying, “At some point we will see a similar request.” 

Howerton said the deadline for all departments to convert was 2013 but is now between 2013 and 2015.

“I feel the deadline will move closer to the 2015 date as cities and affected agencies will have problems funding these upgrades,” Howerton said.

In other action, two zoning requests were unanimously approved. With the first, Jesus Barriga asked that his lot at 105 E. Linden be rezoned from commercial to residential.

Barriga is purchasing the single-family dwelling and is adding 400 square feet to the existing structure.

The rezoning request brings the property into compliance with the residential neighborhood, Howerton said, explaining that the negative responses received by the city were the result of some confusion by the opponents, who were under the impression it was for a change to commercial.

The other request filed by Pablo Rengel and Cleotilde Pedraza was for a property at 306 E. Moore, with a zoning change from agricultural to residential R-16 and to change the vacant lot into two single-family residential lots.

During a workshop session, Howerton updated the commissioners on Veterans Memorial Park and efforts of the convention and visitors bureau and tourism commission.

“Phases one and two of the park project are complete,” he said. “The facilities are complete with the only remaining items be a sidewalk completion and planting additional grass. We are almost ready to start phase three, which will be additional sidewalks.”

The CVB and tourism commission have made a good contribution toward promoting the city and their efforts were evident during the Bluebonnet Festival, Howerton said, saying the Polka Festival is the next big event and it is getting major network coverage.

The regular session was visited by Boy Scout Troop 205 sponsored by St. John Catholic Church. Along with their adult leaders, the seven scouts were there as a requirement of their communications merit badge.