Breckenridge Texan

City commissioners table vote on whether to open city pool this season

City commissioners table vote on whether to open city pool this season
April 10
11:30 2020

While wearing protective masks at their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 7, Breckenridge City Commissioners grappled with several items on the agenda affected by the COVID-19 threat facing the nation. They also pushed forward with hiring a new city manager to replace current City Manager Andy McCuistion, who is set to retire at the end of April.

Swimming Pool Opening Delay

One of the items the commissioners had to decide on was whether to cancel opening the swimming pool at the park this season. After a lengthy discussion, commissioners voted to table the decision until next month’s commission meeting to see how the COVID-19 situation plays out.

McCuistion told commissioners that, at this point, they are shutting down all operations that get a group of people together. He said this is the time of year that they normally are trying to hire lifeguards and train them. He said usually they get people from outside the city to participate in that training, but they can’t do that this year because of the coronavirus-related restrictions.

“The decision is going to have to be made now whether we’re to have to close it down at the beginning of the summer  because we won’t have staff…we can’t put the staff together on short notice,” he said. “So, the city staff is recommending we close the pool down this year. We don’t know how long this thing is going to last. We just think that’s the best thing to do.”

However commissioner’s Rob Durham and David Wimberley said they would like to find a way to open the pool, even if it means the pool opens a month late this year once the situation becomes safer.

“I would rather open it a month late than not open it at all, if that’s possible,” Wimberley said. “At least where the kids have something to do.”

Durham echoed Wimberley’s sentiments and said he would at least like to give it a shot and try to open the pool.

McCuistion said he had recently implemented a purchasing and hiring freeze for the city in order to preserve cash because they expected a drop off in sales tax revenue from the COVID-19 threat, but they could exempt the pool. The pool employees are part-time employees who do not get any health benefits and the pool chemicals don’t require a lot of cash expense, he said.

Following the discussion, Wimberley made a motion to table a decision on closing of aquatic center until next month’s meeting when they expect to know more about the effects of the virus threat; his motion passed unanimously.

“We’re going to go with it, maybe just at a later date. And by the next meeting, next month, we’ll know a lot more than what we do tonight,” Mayor Bob Sims said. “Again, I just hate to say, ‘OK that’s it.’”

In addition to delaying a decision on opening the pool, the commissioners also decided to have the city staff begin taking applications for lifeguards and staff at the Aquatic Center with the stipulation that their employment depends on being able to open the pool this season. They also asked Public Services Director Stacy Harrison to move forward with the annual maintenance and preparation for opening the pool.

Harrison pointed out that even if the big pool is opened, the small wading pool will still remain closed because of issues that arose last year.

City Manager Search

The commissioners also moved one step closer to hiring a new city manager by voting to authorize McCuistion to make a job offer to the finalist chosen by the hiring committee that had been appointed by the commission.

Commissioners met in executive session with the hiring committee and voted to authorize McCuistion to make a job offer to the committee’s recommended candidate. They also voted to pay one-third of sick leave payout to McCuistion for City Manager settlement with all his sick leave and approved allowing him to transfer and keep the cell phone that’s in his possession.

McCuistion said he is still scheduled to retire at the end of April if they can come to an agreement on the employment contract he offers to the recommended candidate.

The hiring committee appointed by the commissioners includes McCuistion, former mayor Jimmy McKay, current mayor Bob Sims, former city commissioner Sherry Strickland and current commissioner Tom Cyprian.

City Election Canceled

Additionally, commissioners approved an ordinance to officially cancel the May 2 City election. The election will now be held on Nov. 3. The cancellation was required by order of the Texas Secretary of State office.

In the November election, voters will cast ballots for the City Commissioner Place 2 race between incumbent Rob Durham and challenger Gary Mercer. They also will vote to reauthorize a ¼ of 1 percent (0.0025) sales tax used for the City’s street maintenance fund. The sales tax used for the street maintenance fund is already in place but is required to be renewed every four years.

City Secretary Heather Robertson-Caraway said because of the postponed election, Durham will remain in office as commissioner until the election.  She also said the Texas State Comptroller’s office will allow the city to continue to collect the street maintenance fund sales tax until December.

Award presentation

Also during the meeting, Sims presented City employee Michael Stanley with a Fire Safety Certificate from the City of Breckenridge in recognition for his quick response when he discovered a fire at a house near where he was working.

Breckenridge Fire Chief Calvin Chaney said Stanley was chipping brush out in front of a house when he noticed smoke coming from the porch. He called 911 and assisted an elderly woman who lived in the house, helping her to get out safely.

“The way the wind was blowing out of the south that day, this could have been such a different outcome,” Chaney said. “She was in the house and didn’t know anything was going on…we could have had injuries, or even death… destruction of her house…Being alert and getting everybody going in action, it was a big deal.”

Other Business

In other business, commissioners reappointed Will Thompson and Scott Harris as a members to the Board of Directors of the West Central Texas Municipal Water District (WCTMWD).

The terms for Harris and Thompson, who had been appointed to fill the remaining term of office for Paul Prater, were set to expire May 31, 2020. Both were reappointed for a term of two years that will expire on May 31, 2022.

Commissioners also approved a resolution authorizing the city manager to apply for a Criminal Justice Divisions grant through the governor’s office to upgrade the police department’s technology infrastructure to support the submission of data to the Uniform Crime Reporting National Incident-Based Reporting System.

Additionally, commissioners approved a resolution that allows the city to exclude emergency first responders from the definition as eligible employees under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). McCuistion told commissioners the FFCRA allows employees to take off for emergency or medical leave easier under the COVID-19 event. However, he said the FFCRA also allows for exemptions from the act for emergency personnel and first responders, and that cities are using the exemptions in order to keep their emergency services staffed during the COVID-19 event.

Commissioners also approved a contract between the City of Breckenridge and the Stephens Regional Special Utility District (SRSUD) to sell water to the district if they need it. McCuistion said the City of Breckenridge used to sell water to the district in the past until SRSUD built its own water processing plant. He said the four metered access points where SRSUD used to take water are still in and can be used if the SRSUD needs to buy water from the city.

“We have the ability and we have the excess water to be able to provide them additional water, and it would be beneficial both to the city and to SRSUD to enter this contract,” McCuistion said.

The old contract expired in 2015, and the new contract is for 50 years.

City manager’s Report

During his city manager’s report, McCuistion said he wanted to make sure the public was aware that Republic Services would continue with the bulk pick-up service during the coronavirus situation.

He also asked Fire Chief Calvin Chaney to give an update on the progress of the brush clean up, which is a combined effort between the city and county. Chaney said they had already completed some of the brush pick up. He said county workers made brush pick ups on south side of the city and at the lake. He said county workers had hauled off 53 loads of bulk brush, which means they are not chipping the brush but hauling it directly to the convenience station, where it will be burned later when conditions are right.

He said the city picked up the north side of the city and county and they are about 60 percent completed. He said they had made six loads of chipped wood, which is a lot of wood because it was chipped and they were able to get more wood on each load.

The chipped wood is available at the Convenience Station for Breckenridge residents to get and use for mulch or other yard and garden needs.

City of Breckenridge Clean up

There will be a community clean up week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, May 18, through Saturday, May 23, at the City of Breckenridge Convenience Station. Cheney said city water customers will be able to bring a truck or bumper-pull trailer loaded with trash.

Items that will be accepted are stoves, refrigerators (CFS’s must be removed and tagged), water tanks, washing machines, furniture, any other waste materials.

Items not accepted are construction debris, dead animals, hazardous waste, stable matter, chemicals, paints, thinners, tires, batteries, oil or oil filters, antifreeze, drums, asbestos, untreated medical waste, contaminated soils, sludge, liquids, and automobile/truck engine parts.

Also, on Saturday, May 23, Stephens County residents can bring six tires per household. No equipment tires and no tires with rims will be accepted.


Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: The Breckenridge City Commission and everyone attending the April 7 meeting wore protective masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel (new) corornavirus. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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