Breckenridge Texan

Breckenridge co-interim city managers seek input for saving animal shelter, senior center

Breckenridge co-interim city managers seek input for saving animal shelter, senior center
May 06
13:12 2020

Houston Satterwhite and Heather Robertson-Caraway were officially appointed as co-interim city managers at the Breckenridge City Commission meeting Tuesday night, May 5, and immediately began working to try and save the three city departments that were marked for shut-down by Andy McCuistion, who retired from the city manager position last week.

A special public meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, to gather input from the community about the potential closure of the city’s senior citizens center, animal shelter and cemetery office, as well as about the current city budget and the 2020-2021 budget. The location for the meeting will be determined later, based on the expected number of attendees.

The two new co-interim city managers will work together, each covering different areas of city business, until a new permanent city manager is hired. Satterwhite is the assistant city manager of operations and will serve at the Interim City Manager over Operations. Robertson-Caraway is the City Secretary and will serve as the Interim City Manager over Administration.

The appointment was made after the Commission met in executive session with the city attorney for more than an hour. “That way, those positions are separated, and we’re not putting everything in the world on one person,” City Commissioner David Wimberley said in making the motion to approve the resolution appointing both of them.

The Breckenridge Senior Citizens Center is one of three departments that the City of Breckenridge may have to close due to budget issues. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Additionally, after the closed session, the commissioners voted to approve an amended resolution regarding outside consultation for the interim city managers. The original resolution was written as an agreement with McCuistion and would have set him up as a consultant to the city until a new city manager was hired. However, when presented for approval, the commissioners stated that the Robertson-Caraway would be allowed to consult with “parties upon her need,” rather than to consult specifically with McCuistion.

After the meeting, Roberston-Caraway said that the commissioners wanted her to amend the resolution.

“They did not approve (the resolution) with Andy (McCuistion),” Robertson-Caraway said. “They basically want me to change that resolution to where I will decide who I need to consult with. They have given me permission to consult with whomever I need to consult with. And, I have options out there through my City Secretary memberships. There are other avenues that I have that I can contact, as well.”

Last week, on the day before he retired, McCuistion met with the employees in the departments of Aging Services, Animal Welfare and the Cemetery and told them that they would be laid off. The plans included shutting down the Breckenridge Senior Citizens Center, the Stephens County Animal Shelter and the Breckenridge Cemetery Office. The proposed cuts include six full-time city employees and three part-time employees.

Robertson-Caraway and Satterwhite said that they found out about the proposed shut-downs last week when employees from those departments came into the City offices with questions about the situation.

“We are in as much shock as the public,” Robertson-Caraway said. “And, we’re trying to figure out how and what, and we’re going to be looking at alternatives. The last thing we want to do is close those departments. But, we also understand that there are budget issues.”

The budget problems stem from multiple factors. “Property taxes are down. Sales tax revenue is down. But we’ve also had quite a few unexpected, emergency expenditures that had to be dealt with that were not included in the budget,” she said. “That includes the aged infrastructure, sewer plant lift station…it’s multiple things.”

The current budget, which covers the fiscal year through the end of September 2020, needs to have almost $500,000 cut from it, Robertson-Caraway said.

“But, we’re brain-storming,” she said. “We want to hear other people’s ideas. We’re all trying to figure out where and how to approach it.”

Robertson-Caraway and Satterwhite encourage local citizens to attend the meeting on May 19 to offer ideas for how the city can continue to offer the services of the senior citizens center, animal shelter and cemetery office. More details about the upcoming meeting will be provided closer to the 19th. Additionally, suggestions can be sent by email to hrobertson@breckenridgetx.gov or through the City’s new Facebook page (@breckenridgecityoffices).

“We’ve been inundated the last two to three days with phone calls,” Robertson-Caraway said. “We found out about it at the same time (the public) did. What we’re trying to do is, first of all, absorb what happened, and, second of all, gather ideas and information so we know exactly what we’re looking at and where we’re headed. And, what possible other options there might be. We will be looking at any ideas and options available to us. The last thing we want to do is have to close any department, but we also have to mainly focus on the budget and where we can make the necessary cuts.”

As soon as they found out about the potential closures, Robertson-Caraway and Satterwhite began looking for alternatives. They have talked to the Stephens County Humane Society about taking over the animal shelter and to the Breckenridge Ministerial Alliance and local Meals on Wheels chapter about helping continue the senior center’s services. The center provides meals – at the center, as take out and by delivery – to local senior citizens on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Meals on Wheels delivers meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“We’re looking forward,” Satterwhite said. “We don’t like seeing this, and we really don’t want to see the home delivery end. So, we’re reaching out and trying to get the community involved to fill in the gaps.”

They are seeking practical input from the public and will likely need volunteers to help with meal delivery and other tasks, he said.

“We need solutions, not complaints,” Robertson-Caraway said. “And, I don’t mean that in a rude way at all. We are just as upset (as the community is). And, the position we’ve been put in, it’s not a good one. And, so we’re trying to find any ideas and solutions, so that it doesn’t happen. We don’t want to close the departments if we don’t have to. I haven’t been sleeping because I’m worried about how the older people are going to get their meals. We’re just as upset as the public is right now.”

 

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: The Stephens County Animal Shelter could be shut down as the City of Breckenridge suffers from budget shortfalls. The newly appointed co-interim city managers, Heather Robertson-Caraway and Houston Satterwhite, are seeking public input for ideas on how to save the animal shelter, as well as the senior citizens center and the cemetery office. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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