Council talks overhaul of city charter

Community forum, surveys proposed for change in mayoral election method

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Melissa Olson

The Waxahachie City Council broached the topic of changing the city charter to allow for the direct election of mayors during discussion at Tuesday night’s regular semi-monthly meeting.

Councilmember Melissa Olson, who is an advocate of mayoral elections, said she is proposing a community forum and the conducting of surveys to explore amending the charter to change the way mayors are chosen in the city.

Olson is proposing to have the mayor elected outright by citizens, a change from the current method of selecting the mayor. At present, the city charter specifies that the mayor and mayor pro tem are chosen from among the councilmembers following each municipal election.

The city charter has been amended as recently as November 2019, when the method of election of members was changed to specific places on the council. Before that, members were elected at large, with the top five vote-getters elected.

City Manager Michael Scott said his staff will proceed with coordinating with other city offices to get the ball rolling on engaging citizens on the topic. Scott said the target for a referendum would be the November 2022 election date.

Also discussed was a review of the entire city charter. Councilmember Travis Smith said the process will be exploratory, but needs to be done because, he said, the charter as a whole hasn’t been combed through since the mid-1980s. “It’s past time to get that done,” he said.

Smith also proposed adding a councilmember and expanding the council to seven seats, including the mayor, if that is what the citizens want.

The meeting was rescheduled from Monday night because of the observed Independence Day holiday.

All five councilmembers were present.

Other items

• Approved as part of the consent agenda were previous meeting minutes; event applications for the Waxahachie Homecoming Parade on Oct. 22, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Oct. 30 and the Hachie 50 on April 23, 2022; renewal of sodium chlorite purchase and chlorine dioxide generator rental agreements; and a water treatment chemicals bid renewal.

• A detailed site plan for a retail development at 509 North U.S. Highway 77 was approved. The site is currently occupied by the Texas Quitters Club vape shop. City director of planning Shon Brooks told the council the existing structure will be demolished and replaced by a 3-unit building of 3,655 square feet, and the asphalt parking at the site will be replaced by concrete. Brooks said the site meets all requirements except the rear setback, which he said was only 5 feet.

• Councilmembers approved accessory buildings for five properties at the corner of North Rogers and McMillan Streets. Each accessory building would be located in the rear of the property and would be two stories in height, with 3-car garages on the bottom floor, and would be accessible by a shared alleyway.

• A specific-use permit to allow Central Kubota to build a new main building for its dealership at 507 North Interstate 35E was approved, with councilmembers adding the requirement that masonry be used as an exterior building material. The dealership is proposing to build a 12,000-square-foot structure. Three metal buildings on the site will be demolished, and the existing office building will remain and be utilized for storage.

• WRL General Contractors LLC of Tyler was approved as the construction manager at risk for Fire Station No. 4 for a total amount of $416,085. Fire Chief Ricky Boyd said the company was not only the lowest bidder, but was also highly qualified.

• The council approved the award of a bid to MSB Constructors Inc. in the amount of $2,623,735 for construction of a new pool and bathhouse for Lee Pen Park. Councilmembers also approved a supplemental appropriation of $197,381 from the city’s general fund as well as $400,000 from park dedication fees to cover a shortfall in funding from the 2020 park bond fund.

• A 3-year services agreement with MVA Services, LLC in the amount of $288,740 was approved for repairs, parts and service on city utilities. The agreement includes two one-year renewal options of $96,250 per year.

• Assistant city manager Albert Lawrence thanked staff members and volunteers for their work during the Crape Myrtle Parade and fireworks show on Saturday. Mayor Doug Barnes praised the city for its participation in the celebration.

• Scott said the city has scheduled a tour of the water and wastewater plant for councilmembers next Friday, July 16. The city has posted a notice of potential quorum in advance of the tour.