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2016-02-04

City terminates interlocal agreement with county

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

The second - not the third - time proved the charm for the City of Bandera and its Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Schauman and Councilman Jim Hannah.
During a city council meeting on Thursday, Jan. 21, Schauman and Hannah's agenda item, "A Resolution rescinding that part of the interlocal agreement with Bandera County regarding the extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ)," was approved by a 3-1-1 vote. Councilman Rebeca Gibson voted against the motion and Councilman Charlotte Browning abstained after expressing concern about the reasoning behind the motion - which, as it turned out, wasn't a bad decision.
According to the terms of the 2002 interlocal agreement, a city official must now give the county formal notice of termination within 45 days of April 18.
However, when queried on Monday, Feb. 1, Mayor John Hegemier said that the interlocal agreement had not been terminated, noting, "The motion only gave me the authority to rescind the interlocal agreement. I'm not convinced that's going to happen."
He was, therefore, nonplussed to learn that the motion, as written, had, in fact, terminated the interlocal agreement - without mention of giving the mayor authority to do so. "I'll guess I'll have to draft a letter," Hegemier said, somewhat reluctantly.
In retrospect, the wording of the Jan. 21 agenda item dealing with the ETJ was identical to the one on Jan. 7 - regardless of protests to the contrary during ensuing discussions. The ETJ extends one-half mile beyond the city limits.
Additionally, Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes had scheduled a meeting with Schauman the morning of Monday, Feb. 1, to jumpstart discussions with the city. Grimes serves as liaison from commissioners court to city council.
In a previous council meeting, former Councilman Glenn Clark had lamented, "We called the county (about setting up a meeting) but no one ever called us back." He didn't specify, however, which city official had attempted to reach which county official. As both Grimes and County Judge Richard Evans noted, "No one from the city called me. I always return phone calls."
Unfortunately, the municipality's faux pas was rather more serious than a missed telephone call. Schauman failed to attend Monday's meeting, leaving Grimes and Evans twiddling their thumbs. Hegemier, meanwhile, was unaware that Schuaman had missed the initial meeting with county officials - which had only been set up Friday, Jan. 29.
Grimes put the misconnection down to a "scheduling misunderstanding" and reset the meeting for Wednesday, Feb. 3.
Additionally, in previous discussions of the interlocal agreement, Hannah referred to extraneous items, including EMS, law enforcement, 9-1-1 telecommunications and the Bandera County Public Library, that had never, in fact, been included in the interlocal agreement.
In fact, the only interlocal agreement extant between the city and county is a two-page document, signed by former Mayor Denise Griffin and Evans that covered development within the half-mile ETJ.
During a Tuesday, Jan. 26, meeting of the Ranchers & Landowners Association of Texas, Evans set the record straight. He said, "The interlocal agreement was not an Omnibus Bill to which Councilman Hannah continually refers. It only covered development in the ETJ. That's the extent of it."
To another query, Evans also explained that the agreement in place automatically renews unless a written intent to terminate is in place 45 days before the April 18 renewal date.
"However, an intent not to renew does not take away away responsibility to have an interlocal agreement in place," he explained. He added, "The city must have a designated floodplain manager and plan as well as a certified OSSF employee."
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), a certified On-Site Sewage Facilities (OSSF) employee is in charge of the city's septic systems or water treatment facilities. State regulations allow regional and local governments - counties, cities, river authorities and special districts - to implement and enforce on-site sewage regulations with TCEQ approval and oversight. State sets minimum standards, but local authorities can adopt more stringent rules if the TCEQ approves them. Additionally, the city does not require water availability studies.
As Evans pointed out, "If the city takes over the ETJ, there must be someone in place to do the job."
According to Hegemier, city ordinances allow Public Works Director Roy Clayton to serve as floodplain manager. To fulfill the OSSF regulation, Clayton also holds a public water distribution license, Hegemier said, adding, "We're trying to get a couple more employees certified as well."
Apparently, the city is attempting to regain control of development within the ETJ because city residents and elected officials feel the municipality could improve the caliber of development within the half-mile strip of land surrounding the city proper.
Since the interlocal agreement was signed, within the city development that has occurred was construction of the Bandera Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, located on FM 1077 across the Medina River and the Buck Creek Village subdivision, which has since been annexed into the city. Buck Creek lies adjacent to the Indian Waters subdivision, which is not in the city.
Recent development has included a General Dollar Store, Bandera Pharmacy and the still-under-construction Bandera Natural History Museum.