The Wharton City Council held its first meeting of the new year on Monday, Jan. 11.
City of Wharton Financial Director Joan Andel provided council members with a positive outlook on city finances, saying, “Revenue at this point is not down.”
Total revenues are at 7.8%, with expenditures at 12.88%. Sales tax for the months of October, November and December are up compared to the previous year and property taxes are being collected as normal for the city.
Council also approved a tiered percentage rate increase for city staff.
“The city staff looked at the increase. Well, we looked at it two ways,” Andel told members. “We looked at giving everyone across the board a 2% increase. Then, we looked at putting this into groups.
“The first group would be individuals making $13.14 – $15.50. They would receive a 3% increase and this is 70 employees. The second group would be those making $15.51 – $28. They would receive a 2% increase and this is approximately 72 employees. Those making $28.01 and above would receive an 1% increase. This is only 14 employees; department heads and supervisor/lead positions at the Wharton Police Department.”
After hearing a COVID-19 update from Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Johnson and EMS Director John Kowalik, council members voted to extend the city’s declaration of disaster until March 31, 2021, over one year from the original declaration date.
“As you know, the numbers are going up,” Kowalik said. “We are making about two COVID-related calls per day. In April, we were only making about two per week. So, it’s pretty prevalent.”
Johnson informed council that COVID testing has been approved to continue through April, noting, “In the last two weeks, 387 cases have been reported. I anticipate (city provided testing) being heavily utilized these next few weeks.”
As far as COVID-19 vaccinations, Johnson reported to council that there have been around 475 vaccines administered within the county, nearly 20 residents receiving their second dose, and more vaccinations are expected by the following week.
The emergency coordinator is in the process of inquiring about all locations approved for administrating the vaccine and will keep the public informed via the City of Wharton OEM Facebook page.
Council approved a change order that would extend the completion date of the 2020 Street Improvement Project to May 21, 2021. This was presented by Interim Public Works Director Amy Horelica.
Before going into executive session, City of Wharton City Manager Andres Garza Jr. informed council of vacancies on the following boards and commissions: Building Standards Commission; Planning Commission; Plumbing and Mechanical Board; and House Finance Corporation.
He encouraged members to look for potential citizens that would like to serve.
“These boards and commissions lack some members,” Garza said. “If you know of anyone that would like to serve, please let me know and we will contact them. We are looking for people to serve on these boards.”
Once they returned from executive session, District No. 3 Councilman Terry Freese made a motion to seek an agreement with Garza to continue his salary and housing allowance beyond his projected retirement date of Jan. 15.
This will allow more time for members to search for Garza’s replacement and would ensure the new city manager would receive a training period with Garza.
Other items discussed and approved by council were:
• A resolution of the Wharton City Council approving an Affiliation Agreement pertaining specifically to EMS Education and the City of Wharton EMS assuming the role of Clinical Affiliation for Field Internship between the City of Wharton and the Wharton County Junior College and authorizing the City Manager to execute the agreement.
• A request by Mr. Oscar Alarcon, 500 Davis St., Wharton, Block 22, Lot 1A for 3’ side lot building line setback variance from the required 5’ for new residential construction.
- A resolution authorizing resale of property held in trust by the City of Wharton, Texas, Trustee.
- A resolution of the Wharton City Council amending City of Wharton Resolution No. 2020-39 for the continuation of the City of Wharton Temporary Policy and Procedures: HR 6201 Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Emergency Paid Sick Leave (ESick) Act & Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFMLA) Expansion Act and setting an effective date.
- A resolution of the Wharton City Council approving a Memorandum of Understanding (“Agreement”) between Texas Community Watershed Partners as a program of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the City of Wharton; and authorizing the Mayor of the City of Wharton to execute said agreement.
- A resolution of the Wharton City Council approving a one-year extension for the City of Wharton Disaster Debris Recovery Services and authorizing the Mayor of the City of Wharton to execute all documents relating to said contract.
- A resolution of the Wharton City Council accepting the Donation Deed from the Wharton Economic Development Corporation for certain properties for the City of Wharton FM 1301 Extension Project and authorizing the Mayor of the City of Wharton to execute the agreement.