With the city of Red Oak without a mayor, city manager, city attorney and police chief, City Council members discussed priorities at a special meeting held Monday evening.

“We need to get a new city attorney on board. The plan is to have a recommendation by the July meeting,” said interim City Manager Todd Fuller, noting that hiring a city attorney is the most important item on the list of priorities.

Human resources director Clifton Beck said city staff plans to present a list of three firms to the council at the Monday, July 9, regular meeting.

“We have begun the process of hiring a law firm,” Beck said.

Fuller noted the hire of a new police chief as an item at the top of the priority list.

The search for a new police chief began in April, with then City Manager Ken Pfeifer opting to use a search firm for the process. Beck said the firm has completed 90 percent of the search process, which will produce a short list of candidates for the council’s approval.

Other issues on the list of priorities include right-of-way and easement acquisitions in order to complete the Red Oak Road project, monitoring revenue shortfalls and developing the fiscal year 2008 budget.

“We have potential revenue shortfalls. We have potential shortfalls in property tax. Some of our ’06 property taxes are not coming in,” Fuller said. “We’re going to have to look into that.”

Fuller said that water revenues are down, in part due to the extra rain the area has received this year. According to a report from the State Comptroller’s Office, sales tax has been down the last two months.

“The bottom line is that we know revenues are down, so department heads will spend accordingly,” Fuller said.

Fuller said department heads will bring their 2008 budget “wish lists” to the July meeting.

During his time as interim city manager, Fuller volunteered to provide weekly memos to the council with information items from each department.

“Primarily, we have to get some personnel in here in management positions,” Fuller said.

Mayor Pro Tem Ben Goodwyn asked each council member if he had any items to add to the priority list. Councilman Andy Bell mentioned that the Deer Creek Division has had trash issues regarding time of trash pick-up. Goodwyn asked Bell to investigate the issue, as well as trash pick-up costs, and bring information to the July 9 meeting.

Councilman Casey Hargrove mentioned his priority was getting streets such as Bluebonnet repaved. Councilman Scott Lindsey named hiring a law firm as his No. 1 priority.

The priority list in order of importance as approved by the city council is as follows:

Identify and retain the services of a new city attorney Identify and hire a new police chief and provide for continued stability during the interim Approve bids and fund transfers for the Dallas waterline and continue with construction Complete right-of-way and easement acquisitions for street and sewer bond projects and proceed with construction of same Begin the city manager search process As funding allows, begin additional targeted street maintenance/repaving projects Proceed with refunding bonds for savings in debt maintenance Approve EDC contract with Anthony Properties and city contract with TxDOT for the re-location of the southbound Ovilla Road exit ramp. This is somewhat of a pass through financing situation. TxDOT will only contract with the city, but Anthony Properties will contract with EDC to offset the cost. EDC may consider partial funding of the project to assist Anthony Properties in the cost. Continue with trail projects through the Parks and Recreation Department Monitor city revenues and adjust expenditures accordingly. Some revenues currently seem to be lagging behind, even with the previous budget amendment. Water sales revenues in particular, are somewhat short, but may pick up to some degree during the dry months. Property tax revenues, sales tax and other revenues seem to be somewhat behind currently. Staff will discuss these items with council at the July 9 meeting Establish fiscal year 2008 budget Continue with construction of substation for fire/police.

Goodwyn discussed the possibility of creating a council of city governments for cities in North Ellis County, as well as getting with surrounding municipalities to discuss boundaries.

“I think it’s time we made peace with our neighbors,” Goodwyn said, adding that the city of Red Oak’s dream to expand from I-35 to I-45 is probably not a legal possibility. “It’s time we all sat down together.”

Goodwyn asked for permission to develop a council of governments in North Ellis County and for permission to meet with neighboring cities and discuss boundary agreements.

“Basically, it’s a good idea, but I think it’s too soon until we know where we are legally,” councilman Eric Smith said. “If the lawsuit is dropped, then it would be fine.”

“I would like legal advice first,” Lindsey said. “I agree - it needs to be done.”

“I don’t want to jeopardize our lawsuit,” Hargrove said, saying in the future, cooperation with surrounding cities is “the right thing to do.”

Bell also agreed that the idea is a positive step, but that the council should wait until pending lawsuits are settled.

“I agree with all of you,” Goodwyn said, adding that in the future, if the cities in North Ellis County can cooperate, they will become a powerful voice in the county and in the Metroplex.

“We’re setting priorities. We’re getting people in place. We’re not sitting still,” Goodwyn said. “We’re going to accomplish a great deal. Let’s get busy and move.”

In other business, the council:

Approved a bid from S.J. Lewis Construction for $6,539,783 for the construction of the Dallas Water Supply Transmission Main, Phase 2. The bid will construct a 36-inch water line rather than the previously budgeted 30-inch water line. With a 30-inch line, the city would receive up to 15 million gallons per day, with a 36-inch line giving the city 24 million gallons per day. Approved the transfer of $676,226.50 of bond money budgeted from the Deer Creek sewer project to the Dallas Water Line Project Capital Fund.

“It is my understanding that the Deer Creek Project is pretty much dead,” said Gina Garcia, city engineer.

Fuller said that the transfer of the money would be a legal transfer.

“This is the best additional money we could spend in the future. That’s going to pay off for a long time,” Hargrove said.

E-mail Mandy at mandy.bourgeois@elliscountychronicle.com.