In addition to the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) original plan to convert Milam Street to one lane, Wharton City Council members voted Monday evening to authorize the submissions of a letter to the state agency requesting Burleson Street also be converted to one lane.
Prior to the council’s regularly-scheduled meeting, Public Works Committee members convened at 4 p.m. to discuss a request from Wharton Downtown Business Association President Debra Medina that TxDOT re-stripe Burleson Street up to its intersection with Milam Street, where improvements will be made beginning in July.
“They have agreed to make (Milam Street) one lane, starting at Resident Street, where it converts into a one-way and make it one lane all the way to Richmond Road,” city manager Andres Garza explained to the committee. “We have also requested that Burleson Street, which is still Highway 60, also be one lane and the state has indicated that they would be willing to do that.”
The letter to TxDOT will also include a request for improvements to crosswalks, such as a designated crosswalk at the intersection of Highway 60 and Milam Street.
“Improvements to crosswalks meet what we had in our long-term plans,” Garza said.
There was some discussion regarding parking in some areas of the streets.
The city manager indicated that according to the plan, there will be parallel parking, with a space at the end of each corner to have a better radius to turn.
TxDOT will also be adjusting the pause between the red and green lights, according to community development director Gwen Teves.
When trustees met at 7 p.m., they approved the recommendation from the Public Works Committee to approve the request.
Wharton City Council also approved several recommendations and resolutions by the public works, finance, public safety and consultant committees, which met at 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., respectively, including:
• Request from Mr. Richard Lockley for a variance on the placement of an off-premise direction sign on an existing frame at the corner of Armstrong Street and Business 59.
• Auditing services with Harrison Waldrop & Uherek LLP for the City of Wharton for a period of three years and authorizing the mayor to execute all documents related to the agreements on behalf of the city.
• Request to apply to EDA Cares Act Recovery Assistance Program as part of the fiscal year 2020 public works and economic adjustment assistance in support of the expansion of Prime Eco Fluids.
• Authorizing and providing for the incurrence of indebtedness for the purpose of providing for the cost of designing, land acquisition and construction of the FM 1301 and Railroad Overpass Project through the Texas Department of Transportation State Infrastructure Bank Loan program.
• A contract for sanitation and decontamination services for city facilities, properties and vehicles to be used in the event of an emergency.
The contract was awarded to US Ecology Houston, which received the highest score, according to Teves.
• Supporting Wharton County’s application to the Texas Water Development Board for the study of the Waterhole Creek-Caney Creek Basin and committing funds over a two-year period.
• Community Development Block Grant-Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) grant programs:
- Authorizing the request to apply to the CDBG-MIT grant programs administered by the Texas General Land Office (GLO).
- Establishing a Consultant Selection Committee for the selection of an administrative consulting firm for administrative services related to the CDBG-MIT grant programs.
- Establishing a Consultant Selection Committee for the selection of an engineering firm for services related to the CDBG-MIT grant programs.
• Awarding a contract for the 2020 Street Improvement Project.
The bid was awarded to Fuquay, Inc of New Braunfels in the amount of $726,670.02.
• Authorizing the city manager to submit a formal letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requesting the decommissioning of the non-directional beacon (NDB), located at the Wharton Regional Airport.
• Pay request No. 1 and final for the HMGP DR 4269 warning siren system to Wolfenson Electric Inc.
• Wharton Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) fiscal year 2020-21 annual budget.
• Appointments and resignations to the City of Wharton boards, commissions and committees.
City trustees also heard updates on projects, financial status and COVID-19.
Finance director Joan Andel provided the City of Wharton Financial Report for May 2020, highlighting the total sales tax revenue.
“In the month of June, we received April’s sales tax payments from businesses,” Andel said, explaining that the city received $919,000. This is 2.74% lower than the same period last year, year-to-date.
Teves provided updates regarding City of Wharton grant programs and ongoing projects.
City of Wharton Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Director Steve Johnson and EMS director John Kowalik also provided an update on COVID-19 in the community.
‘I want to see the city employees wearing masks again. I want us to preach to our community, ‘Please wear masks.’ I don’t believe we have the ability to regulate it, but we have to keep this positive message of social-distancing and washing your hands.’
“I wish I had a plethora of good news to share,” Kowalik began. “After being in several meetings today, our COVID-19 crisis is actually worsening. We are seeing a large uptick in positive (cases). In the past 10 days, we’ve had three times more positive cases than the 10 days leading up and two times more hospitalizations.”
The EMS director also noted an increasing crisis at Houston-area hospitals.
“Hospitals are filling up in the Houston area. Most are operating at 80%. One is at 108% capacity. I heard reports of some hospitals steadying services, wanting to get (individuals who tested positive) transferred out of there to shift that burden away from major hospitals downtown,” he said. “The biggest thing we can do right now is to continue our push to stay vigilant, stay home when you can and wear your masks. Masks aren’t perfect, but they do offer some protection; combined with a 6-foot distance, we can help slow this down.”
‘It’s important. Wearing a mask is a sign of respect in that you’re helping protect others more than yourself.’
Another contributing factor for the increase in the number of positive cases, Kowalik believes, is a mobile society.
“It’s painfully obvious that the people in Wharton don’t have a whole lot to do,” he said, explaining that many individuals travel to Sugar Land and other areas to shop and eat. “You’re going to see an increase in cases here because of people going over there and doing the things that everyone is really not wanting them to do.”
He also urged city staff to set an example for its citizens.
“I want to see the city employees wearing masks again. I want us to preach to our community, ‘Please wear masks.’ I don’t believe we have the ability to regulate it, but we have to keep this positive message of social-distancing and washing your hands,” Kowalik said. “I hope to come back to the next council meeting with better news on this.”
Johnson noted there is contention surrounding the debate requiring citizens to wear masks in public.
“After discussing that this morning, I don’t believe in making an executive order that attaches some type of penalty to it if we don’t have the ability or desire to enforce it,” the city OEM director said. “A lot of people want to know where these people are, but my take on that is that this is a really mobile society and there are many people who travel across city and county lines, so we need to look at some different ways to do this messaging to get the word out, we need some different ideas to continue to push this message out. It’s important. Wearing a mask is a sign of respect in that you’re helping protect others more than yourself.”
Wharton City Council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. tonight, June 23, for its first budget workshop, held at city hall, 120 East Caney Street. The public is invited to attend.
For more information about ongoing project or for minutes, packets and agendas, visit www.cityofwharton.com.