DEPORT — City Council accepted the resignation of Alderman Danny Turner on Monday, and then immediately approved of his hiring by Mayor Patrick Watson to serve as the city’s utility director.
Turner returns to the role less than two weeks after the council declared the city’s need for a utility director as urgent. During a Nov. 10 special meeting, Watson said one Utility Department employee was let go while the other accepted a job elsewhere, leaving the city with no employees in the department. The council was concerned the role would go unfilled through Monday, when meter readings were scheduled to take place.
During Monday’s meeting, Turner said he had been out to read the meters. He also presented about 20 work orders, saying he had to sort through them because some were completed and some were not. Also as part of his department report to council, he said the city is seeking infrastructure program funding to put toward radio meter reading, which would allow someone like the city secretary to collect meter readings if the Utility Department is unavailable to do so. The city will return to working on ditches and roads when help is available, he said.
Turner, elected to the council May 1, 2021, brought his resignation to Watson on Thursday, the mayor said, and Monday, he was hired into his former role as utility director, pending the council’s approval. The decision was unanimous.
Replacing Turner is Catana Yarnell, a 2020 mayoral candidate who serves as Project Deport’s secretary. Project Deport is a volunteer organization hosting projects and activities to benefit the city and surrounding areas, according to its Facebook page. The organization is working closely with City Council to determine a future for the Hale Glover Community Center, which is in need of extensive work and expensive insurance to continue hosting events.
At the time of her mayoral run against former mayor John Mark Francis, Yarnell said, “I am Deport.”
“I am a proven successful leader who is more than familiar with day-to-day community development responsibilities that include seeking resource opportunities, the submission of multiple grant applications, and connecting with neighboring counties and communities to build strong, progressive relationships,” Yarnell said.
Alderman Rebecca Crawford said she believes having Yarnell on the council “will be a great thing,” noting Yarnell’s experience with seeking grants and her community connections.
Turner’s term runs through May 2022, according to the city’s website.
In other business, resident Joan Langley’s request that City Council stop her neighbors from building a home at the rear of her property came too soon for council to take any action, if it is inclined to do so. Langley said she was concerned a building at the end of her property would deter buyers should she decide to sell her home. Another of Langley’s concerns was how little space there is for vehicles between the properties.
Langley’s neighbor, Diana Young, told the council her daughter has a medical condition, and it’s necessary for the family to build a home on a separate lot, which they own, near their own home for her to live in. Young said she’d build a fence between the home and Langley’s property so she wouldn’t have to see it. Plans have not yet been committed to paper, so Young had nothing to submit to council for a decision.
City Attorney David Hamilton told Langley the council could not make a decision until plans are submitted on paper. He also warned her that her dislike of a structure on another lot near her own lacks legal standing.
The matter was tabled until the council receives Young’s plans.
Also as part of Monday’s agenda, the council approved monthly bills after Crawford questioned whether the city’s previous Utility Department employees should receive comp time and vacation time checks, in addition to their final wages. Hamilton supported Mayor Pro Tem Craig Folse’s argument that earned vacation must be paid to a departing employee per the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacation, sick leave or holidays, leaving the matter to an agreement between an employer and an employee or the employee’s representative, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Texas wage laws state an employer that elects to offer vacation pay must honor the terms of its policy or employment contract, and that policy or contracts governs whether earned, unused vacation is paid on separation.
The council unanimously approved the payment of bills including the payments of the former employees’ earned vacation time.
The council also unanimously approved three votes for Clifton Fendley for the Lamar County Appraisal District’s Board of Directors, with one vote each for the remaining names on the ballot. Deport has eight votes in the election, with votes apportioned among taxing entities within the district based on population.