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2014-07-24

City - deputies, park admissions, new law firm & that 'vision' thing

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pictured: Photo by Judith Pannebaker
Due to continued problems with the Medina River, Bandera City Council decided to "kick the can down the road" on imposing a $5 park admission fee on Fridays. The matter will be addressed in upcoming budget workshops.




During the Thursday, July 17, meeting of Bandera City Council, discussions continued about how to deal with the dearth of deputies in the department of City Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks.
This month's departure of Chief Deputy Scott MacNaughton left open a 32-hour position that includes benefits. Anxious to fill that position, Hicks noted, "I have had a lot of good interest from experienced officers."
However, intent on saving money, council was more interested in filling two 20-hour positions that do not include benefits. "The problem will be finding quality officers to fill those slots," Hicks said. If these positions were filled, the city would gain eight hours in patrol per week.
Deputy Amanda Wedgworth had tendered her resignation after allegedly being sexually harassed by another city employee. Additionally, the department is down to just two reserve deputies. Because of their other jobs, reserve deputies usually serve on weekends.
Schauman told Hicks, "When you took this job, you agreed to be a patrol officer. The citizens want to see you out more."
"It's important for the community to see me patrolling because that indicates the department is running 'a tight ship'," Hicks replied. He added, however, "I'm out there all the time, but that will stop if you don't fill the 32-hour position. I'll have to do more paperwork and investigations." Before his resignation, MacNaughton completed most of the investigations and helped with administrative duties.
Answering a query by council, Hicks said Deputies Will Dietrich and Earl Heidelberg were not trained investigators. "It will take more training and more money to turn Will and Earl into investigators," Hicks said.
After discussions ended, Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier suggested advertising for all three positions, one 32-hour position with benefits and two 20-hour positions without benefits "just to see what comes up."
However, Greg Parker, chief operating officer of the Bandera County Boys & Girls Clubs, cautioned council against taking this approach. "If you post all the positions, you'll end up making the decision based on personnel rather than a vision for the city," he said.
Vision or no, council opted to post the three positions for two weeks and discuss the applications in an executive session.
In other business, council decided to put on hold a suggestion to extend to Fridays a $5 park admission fee per vehicle imposed on Saturdays and Sundays. City Administrator Lamar Schulz would not go on record guaranteeing the park would garner the 27 people needed to break even with increased personnel.
Other deterrents to the additional fee are high bacterial levels in the water making swimming in the river dangerous and school beginning the middle of August.
To a suggestion by Hearn that the Friday fee be put in effect for the Celebrate Bandera weekend, Patricia Moore, executive director for the Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau asked council "not to nickel and dime the public."
Recommending that additional park admission fees be discussed in a budget workshop, Councilman Suzanne Schauman said, "This is not a good time to do this."
Council also decided to offer the San Antonio law firm of Denton, Navarro, Rocha, Bernal, Hyde & Zech, PC an opportunity to work with the city on an hourly basis for 60 days. According to council, this firm "seemed reasonable in billing for services, had a high rating in the hill Country communities and does not get involved politically, but just gives straight legal counsel."