Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Divisions continue at Howardwick meeting

The Howardwick City Council met December 12 amid continuing divisions within the community regarding the governance of the city.

Business owner Jack Moreman spoke first on the agenda regarding action taken by the City Council in November 2014 which changed Howardwick from a Type B municipality to a Type A municipality. Moreman said the city had classified his Rolling Plains Compost Ag Compost as a manufacturer when he doesn’t really manufacture anything. He also said if he were actually manufacturing compost it would lead to regulations from the state and federal government.

“I wish you had come to me,” Moreman said. “I’ve tried to be a good neighbor.”

Moreman’s comments led Alderman Doc Holladay to then move to repeal the 2014 resolution, which among other things allowed the city to raise its ad valorem tax rate above 25 cents per $100 valuation. Holladay’s motion also included refunding tax revenues resulting from the Type A status to the citizens.

Alderman Eric Riddle pointed out that such an action was not on that meeting’s agenda, and Alderman Robert Brewster asked for more time to consider the matter and to visit with Moreman as well as former code enforcement officer Will Jordan, prompting outbursts from citizens at the meeting. No action was taken.

Later in the meeting, Mayor Greta Byars read a letter from Alderman Shelly Williamson, resigning her position citing harassment and discrimination by the community against her and her children.

The council took action to accept sealed bids on a Jeep owned by the city, which is no longer needed.

Personalities clashed again over the fire department’s access to City Hall. Mayor Byars said she had been told the fire department did not need access lock codes were changed after she became mayor. Riddle said the fire department uses the meeting room and bathroom of the building. The council voted to let the fire department access the meeting room and restroom.

Resident Susie Langford spoke concerning Ordinance 109, which was approved by a 4-1 vote of the council during a special meeting on November 21 with Alderman Holladay opposed.

The ordinance outlines the roles, responsibilities, and authority of the council, the mayor, and the city secretary. It was proposed by Riddle, who said he drafted it from information in state law and handbooks from the Texas Municpal League. The mayor and others said the ordinance would limit Byars’ authority. An audio file of the November 21 meeting obtained by the Enterprise records the meeting as being punctuated by loud outbursts from citizens and culminating with Mayor Byars refusing to sign the ordinance after its passage calling it “tyrannical or harsh … dictatorial, capricious or volatile, unstable, and unpredictable.”

Speaking on December 14, Langford asked for Ordinance 109 to be “tabled” until citizens can vote on it. She also requested that copies of future ordinances be given to citizens in attendance so they can ask questions and make comments.

Langford called on the council, mayor, and secretary to give up grudges and said that Howardwick has been a great place but things have “turned to crap” with friends against friends.

Byars said she has not had a chance to be much of a mayor and claimed Ordinance 109 was not ‘passed’ because “Eric forgot something, and it is not an ordinance yet.”

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