DEPORT — As many local governmental bodies around the Red River Valley are preparing for May elections, Deport City Council members finalized the candidates for the upcoming election at a Monday meeting, drawing the order in which candidates will appear on the ballot.
Craig Folse, Rebecca Crawford, Gene Landreth, Danny Turner Jr. and John Roach are on the ballot for City Council, and Patrick Watson is running unopposed for mayor. The ballot will also include a vote to increase the sales tax rate to bring in more revenue.
A key topic was also handling the city’s credit cards, which were canceled after former mayor John Mark Francis left office. Councilor Marilyn Glover said she no longer wanted to use the credit system and wants to set up direct debit withdrawals from the city’s accounts. Mayor Pro Tem Craig Folse said he wanted to take a closer look at credit card charges after Councilor Rebecca Crawford brought up questions about some of the charges that seemed out of place. Folse told the council he will get an itemized statement of all charges for review.
Following Francis’s resignation, Folse and council members brought in Tyler Creamer, a project manager with Hayter Engineering, to brief the council and community on projects Francis had been working on prior to stepping down. Among other endeavors, the former mayor had been in talks with Hayter and the Texas Water Development Board in an effort to secure grants for major water infrastructure projects.
Creamer reviewed Francis’s ideas for water system improvements, including a new chemical blending system for water quality, pipe installations for the water tower and an automatic system to read meters. Francis’s idea behind the automatic meter reading system is that it would “likely be more accurate than the old meters; thus reducing unaccounted water loss,” and could possibly increase water revenue for the city, according to a project outline handed out by Creamer.
The projects, however, would require a grant of several hundred thousand dollars — Creamer said they had been considering up to an $800,000 grant — and some of the council members balked at the idea of applying for a grant of that size.
During his report, Folse told attendees and the council that his main goal in stepping into Francis’s position is to work for the betterment of the city, adding he hopes the city can get behind them during the recovery from last week’s winter storm.
“We want to do what’s best for Deport, and we appreciate your patience right now,” Folse said.
Former mayoral candidate Catana Yarnell, who works with the nonprofit Project Deport, approached the council with ideas to improve and share the Hale Glover Community Center, a building downtown that was previously shared by the city and the organization. Project Deport had previously paid the utility bills for the building, but during Francis’s terms the finances had been transferred over to the city. Yarnell encouraged the council to turn over the financial responsibility to Project Deport, adding she wanted to come to an agreement between the two parties as to how to share the space. Glover, however, shared concerns about the integrity of the structure. The city has had persistent issues with the roof and leaks, and Glover said the only insurance coverage on the building is the city’s liability insurance.
“This place is an accident waiting to happen,” Glover said.
The council voted to establish a committee with members from Project Deport and the council to work toward a solution as to how to share the space and also elected to change the locks on the building for added security.
Along with City Attorney David Hamilton, the council revisited a persistent issue: a camper home set up by resident Roy Castleberry that has been connected to city water via a garden hose. The connection is in violation of a city ordinance, but Hamilton said council members find themselves in a tough position because of the size of their city. As a small town, Deport doesn’t have a code enforcement officer or municipal court so one of the only ways they could work to get Castleberry into compliance, aside from shutting off his water, would be to file a lawsuit against him.
“That’s an expensive route to take,” Hamilton said.
Folse said for the time being, the city is caught in a difficult position because of a statewide order that prohibits water from being turned off because of the impacts of the storm, meaning enforcement would have to come from a lawsuit. While the council didn’t make a formal decision to pursue that course of action, they voted to begin “collecting evidence” in the form of visiting Castleberry’s property and taking photos.