Council approves requesting coronavirus relief funds

CHILDRESS –The Childress City Council tabled a discussion about charging residents living outside the city limits a fee to use the landfill during its July 27 meeting.

The council requested City Department Head Eddie Taylor determine the cost for a square footage of landfill before they revisit the issue.

City Manager Kevin Hodges said in preparing for the next fiscal year, the landfill was one of the areas the staff considered. “We have out of town residents or county residents not paying taxes. If the city residents pay all taxes, then they are subsidizing those living in the county. If county residents want to use the landfill, they should have to pay for it.”

Hodges also said from a budget standpoint, water and trash are vital services the city provides to the community and are staples of the budget, and this one little tweak could amount to a significant amount of money.

“We have been about $20,000 behind two years in a row, and that is the only thing I can go back to. As to why, I think it’s a little bit of abuse since it’s been a kind of free for all,” Hodges said.

Hodges also said the city pays a quarterly landfill fee of about $1,800 to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The council agreed to continue charging for specific items, including batteries, animals, concrete, oil and other items because TCEQ requires special care be taken when dumping those items. The city will post the items that are not free to dump.

In other business, the council approved requesting the more than $340,700 in coronavirus relief funds available to the city from the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Hodges told the council the federal funds are being distributed through TDEM to cities under 500,000 population. The amount the city is to receive is based on a per capita basis.

“If the city wants the money, it’s a simple process. But there are strings attached,” Hodges said.

The main issue with accepting the funds at this time is the requirement by the federal government that 75 percent of the funds must be spent on public health.

“But two weeks ago the City of Waco and 51 mayors from around the state wrote to Governor Abbott explaining it’s not that easy to spend the money like that and asked to be able to spend it on what they needed,” Hodges said, adding the Texas Municipal League also has written the governor about the spending requirement. “So, the spending limits might change.”

Hodges asked Fire Chief Daniel Tyler about needing funds. Tyler said the department needs radios to improve communication.

“The radios we have are 15 years old,” Tyler said. “We can’t buy parts. New radios are $500 to $700 per radio, and it’s not in our budget. This is the perfect way to upgrade our communications.”

Hodges also said the city can use these funds to reimburse the volunteer fire department for expenses it has had to pay for personal protection equipment.

Once the city requests the funds, there is a five- to seven-day turn around, and the money will be deposited directly into the city’s bank account.

Hodges updated the council on website changes that have brought back the ability for residents to pay their bills online.

“I am excited to mention this,” Hodges told the council. “Updates to the website now again allow for web payments for utility costs.”

Hodges explained that changes to the website created an issue with the company the city was using for online bill pay. “Residents paying online were showing a zero balance, and we had confusion.”

Now, however, the city has changed companies, and while the city has to pay a $2,000 annual maintenance fee, this company’s system integrates into the city’s system and the web payment option is working.

This company’s package also allows for payments by phone. Hodges said this is a good option for many older residents who are not online and do not want to get out to make their payment.

“We felt as the administration that this falls under public health concerns due to the coronavirus, so we could get reimbursed for the expense,” Hodges said.

Residents now have four options to pay their city utility bills: online, by phone, by a drop and by mail.

The council also discussed the Hotel Occupancy Tax. The council discussed it does not expect to receive the average amount of $410,000 the tax brings in annually. No action was taken on the issue.

 

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