Mayor Swears in Tenaha City Council Members

May 20, 2015 - Mayor Orinthia Johnson swore in newly elected council members Natalie Harris, Michael Baker and Claudine Howard at the recent Tenaha City Council meeting held on Monday, May 18, 2015.

Ron Barker, election judge, read the voting results for the council and following the council approving the canvass of votes Mayor Johnson administered the oath of office to the council members.

As council members reviewed the financial statements, councilwoman Harris asked if the council could meet at a time previous to a meeting to go over the budget to gain a better understanding of the finances.

Mayor Johnson stated, "That's gotta have a called meeting or something like that, no can't do it."

Stephen Shires, legal council for the city, suggested the council could have a financial workshop to meet her request.

Shires spoke with the council about a truck ordinance and dog ordinance which the council requested at their previous meeting and which he has written. During the meeting the council members reviewed the truck ordinance and Shires stated he would be sending City Secretary Clark the animal control ordinance.

Although Shires says once a dog is captured there is no place to take them, which is a countywide problem, adopting the ordinance is a step in preparation for such a solution in the future. The ordinance incorporates the "Dangerous Dog Act" allowing law enforcement to take proper and necessary action if a situation occurs.

The council approved a motion to review the truck ordinance and table the item until the next meeting. Another motion was then approved to table the animal control ordinance until the next meeting.

Public comment was heard during the beginning of the meeting from four of Tenaha's citizens. Curt Lawrence spoke regarding mowing in and around the city. He stated he has been a resident of Tenaha for five years and has his own business. Lawrence said he has helped the city to clean up and cut grass when George Bowers was mayor and he would like to help in any way he can.

Linda Perry spoke about the tall grass and the need for maintenance on Loop 157 and at McNeil Park, "The grass is getting so high you can't see the traffic coming. It's not the city's problem, but what can we do to get the state highway department to come see about it and take care of it? Because it's dangerous, if we have some bad accidents where people can't see the traffic coming out there it's going to be a problem.."

Perry wanted to clarify McNeil Park does not belong to the Tenaha Beautification and Events Committee, but does belong to the city, "We're just helping to get it fenced and donations to get tables and benches and it's not being mowed very well and especially the outside and the weeds and the concrete. When we had our garage sale all of that was grown up and needed to weed-eat it and if you poisoned it, you wouldn't have to weed-eat it all the time."

Dewayne Reese stated he is shocked that in 10 years as a resident of Tenaha not a whole lot has changed, "What really got me to the point where I really need to get active is that schools about to be out and our kids have nothing to do. I didn't know Tenaha had a park until my wife told me and when I went around there I was literally blown away and I was like 'we can't spend no money on our future, we can't spend no money on our children? We can't buy them a basketball goal and concrete where our children can get themselves busy?'"

Reese suggested change would come when citizens hold public officials accountable and they could be voted out, "We elect y'all in, we can get you out."

Claudine Howard, Councilwoman, invited Reese to participate with the Tenaha Beautification and Events Committee in working to improve Tenaha.

The Fiscal Year 2014 audit was a point of discussion for Marie Crawford during the public comment, "The state statute, financial statute says the audit was supposed to be completed 180 days after the end of the fiscal year. We are now into day 230."

Mayor Johnson stated he has spoken with Norman Wright, city's auditor, on the week previous to the meeting and he stated he would be in Tenaha on the first or second week of June. Sheryl Clark said Wright's intent is to have the audit completed by the end of June.

Some of the water customers have asked how many gallons they actually receive for a minimum. Stacy Cranford, water department manager, recommended the minimum be from 0 - 1,000 bringing the average bill to for $26.50. Tommy Rinkle, councilman, recommended 0 - 2,000 gallons and Cranford agreed.

Cranford gave an update on the current status of negotiations with BNSF regarding the Railroad Street area, "I wanna kind of let the citizens know at this meeting so if you have a concern with it we're going to try to schedule our Tenaha Economic Development meeting for next Tuesday (May 26, at 4:30pm)."

The City of Tenaha asked for a contribution to the city from BNSF and according to Cranford a reimbursement for the loss of the street, utility loss, property tax loss, utility relocation, reconstruction of West Railroad due to traffic diversion was requested and totaled over $400,000. BNSF countered by offering $11,520 for utility relocation, $25,000 for a crossing closure, and $7,623 for the cost of the street, totaling $44,143.

"The only thing that they can claim imminent domain on and take from us, is where that actual crossing is going to be," said Cranford.

Cranford continued by suggesting telling BNSF to just put a crossing in and let the city keep their street.

"We can force them to build a crossing and save our street and that would probably be the thing to do is just say, 'look we just want to keep our street,'" said Rinkle.

Toward the end of the meeting Mayor Johnson thanked Larry Terry for his service on the council and congratulated Natalie Harris, Michael Baker and Claudine Howard.

Approved items on the agenda:

    Minutes of the previous meeting.
    Financial statements.
    City of Tenaha Employee Handbook.
    Authorization of Mayor to accept contract with NetPLEA Services Government Collections and Consulting to collect warrant fines, contingent on change of indemnity language.
    Purchase a 52 HP Kubota tractor and finish mower package with a $31,800 financed through Kubota at 0% interest and $565.30 a month for 60 months for parks and streets. Baker abstained from voting.

Items discussed and tabled:

    Truck ordinance.
    Animal control ordinance.