Dublin council supports mayor in wake of absence

JESSIE HORTON jessie.horton@empiretribune.com

Just before adjourning from their regular meeting Tuesday night, members of the Dublin City Council prepared to go into executive session only to be stopped by Mac McKinnon, publisher of the Dublin Citizen, who said since the mayor was an elected official and not a city employee it was against the Open Meetings Act to go into closed session. This set off a small debate about the Open Meetings Act which ended when Dublin Mayor Becky Norris said what she had to say was no secret and could be said in the regular meeting.

"I just wanted to talk to the council about my absences as of late," Norris said. "I know that I haven't been here during a very important time for this council and I want to first apologize to each of you and mostly to thank the mayor pro-tem Tommy (Sperry) and Lannie (Lee)."

Norris went on to say she never planned on missing so much time with medical and family issues when she was elected mayor. She added that her most recent leave of absence was due to family medical issues, but that her first priority was to be a mother.

"My first concern is my family and being a good mother, and I would expect each and every one of you to do the same thing," Norris said. "I put this city next and I'm here to tell you I plan on giving my best for this town. I love this city and its residents but I'm willing to step aside if you all feel it is what is needed to make this work. I want what is best for this city."

After Norris spoke, the members collectively agreed they did not wish for her to step down and adjourned the meeting.

In other business, the council heard reports from Jeff Weaver with the Erath County Appraisal District and Karen Wright with the Dublin Economic Development Corporation. Wright told council members that after the close of Dublin Dr Pepper, the EDC was worried the city would see a downslide of sales tax, but that never happened.

"We were pleasantly surprised when after the first month we didn't see that downward slide," Wright said. "After the next month we still didn't see that downward slide. It may not be a lot, but we have actually seen an increase in sales tax for the city of Dublin and that's such a blessing."

Wright presented the budget for the upcoming fiscal year and the council accepted the proposed 2012-13 budget for the EDC.

Council members then heard from Ken Lunsford who represented the Street/Sewer/Water/Garbage Committee and advised that the committee has reviewed Director of Public Works Cory James' proposal regarding the new wastewater treatment facility. He said the board unanimously approved the proposal and asked the council to take a vote of confidence to allow James to continue with his plan. The council agreed and James was given the go-ahead to contact engineer Joel Hayes, with Jacobs Engineering, and continue with plans for the facility.

Lee, police chief and interim city manager, spoke to the council about the possibility of closing Moore Street (located behind the scoreboard at the Dublin High School football field) during home games. According to Lee, the street has become dangerous during games because of how many people park in residents' yards and along both sides of the street and then walk to the stadium.

"In addition to the safety aspect of it due to traffic, the EMS guys also said it is extremely difficult for them to get in and out of there along that road," Lee said. "We should block that street or build gates there to keep people off that street. It's a public safety thing."

Lee said he has already spoken to James about the barricades and the possibility of gates being installed. James said he has looked into the possibility and the city already has enough materials to build and install one of the gates but not both. However, he added it would cost the city less than $75 for the materials for a second gate on the other side of Moore.

"The only problem now is there will be no way to have the gates built and installed before the Homecoming game on Friday," James said.

Lee said that for one game the police department could use the barricades to block the street but that he would not like to have that be a permanent solution to the problem.

"When we used barricades to block streets for football games in the past, the barricades would disappear at the end of the games never to be seen or heard from again, and that can get expensive," Lee said.

The next regular meeting of the Dublin City Council is 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15, in Dublin City Hall. The council will hold a special called meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 17, to consider and possibly approve the proposed tax rate and 2012-13 budget for the city.