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2016-01-14

Interlocal agreement dust-up

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

To force Bandera County officials to relinquish development authority within a half-mile radius around the City of Bandera, Bandera City Council placed the following item on the Thursday, Jan. 7, agenda: "Resolution rescinding that part of the interlocal agreement with Bandera County regarding the extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ)." The ETJ extends one-half mile beyond the city limits.
What agenda item?
However, no one on council - including Mayor John Hegemier - seemed aware of what portions of the 2002 interlocal agreement required rescinding. Apparently Mayor Pro Tem Suzanne Schauman requested the agenda item and then failed to attend the meeting due to illness, according to Hegemier.
Rather than postpone the item, Hegemier and Councilman Jim Hannah attempted to offer explanations as to what exactly the city was requesting. However, while walking point for the item, Hannah eventually found himself outflanked and facing a classic "Bravo Foxtrot" maneuver.
However, a municipal attorney had already drafted a resolution that apparently terminated the original interlocal agreement with the county, which had been signed by County Judge Richard Evans and former Mayor Linda Stein.
Giving his overview of the situation, Hannah spoke about a committee, comprised of city and county stakeholders and officials, which had met "10 to 12 times" five years ago. The committee, he said, had addressed septic and water systems, roads and electrical hook-ups, among other items. According to Hannah, although the city regulated development, it was decided to "go with county guidelines" that covered road construction and septic inspections.
'Jumpstart dialogue'
After noting, "several things were not approved," Hannah indicated a new resolution would jumpstart dialogue between the entities. He advocated, "Pulling up the last drafts of where we were two or three years ago where it was left."
In fact, institutional memory recalls the meetings were last held in 2010. City representatives included Councilman Maggie Schumacher, City Administrator Gene Foerster, Municipal Judge Lynn Holt and the late Mayor Horst Pallaske - none of whom are still serving. Bandera County was represented by former County Attorney John Payne; former Commissioner Doug King, who served as liaison to city council; and current county employee Linda James.
Items discussed included not only the interlocal agreement covering subdivisions, but also EMS, law enforcement, 9-1-1 telecommunications and the Bandera County Public Library. In an interview Hegemier indicated 98 percent of the agreement had been agreed upon.
After noting, "It was so long ago it's been forgotten what wasn't nailed down," Hannah launched into an involved discourse about Texas Local Government Code 232, which covers "County Regulation of Subdivisions." For policy wonks, the complete code is available at http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/LG/htm/LG.232.htm.
'Big nutshell'
Hannah's discussion that referenced "higher density in cities" seemed more applicable to Austin or Flower Mound than to Bandera with its population of 850.
"The resolution," he said, "would give the city the ability to prompt a meeting and re-do the interlocal agreement. That's it in a nutshell."
"That's a big nutshell," said Bandera County Precinct 2 Commissioner Bob Grimes, dismissing the rehash of what happened - or didn't happen - during previous committee meetings as so much "stale bread."
As appointed by commissioners court, Grimes currently serves as county liaison to the city council. However, during the past year, council had unsuccessfully attempted to usurp him in favor of Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson.
As Grimes noted, the agenda item concerning the interlocal agreement could have been presented in a "more cordial" way. He also took umbrage that the county had not been informed the matter would be on the agenda. "This could have been accomplished," he said, "by simply picking up a telephone."
Grimes continued, "This interlocal agreement has been in effect since 2002. That's 13 years. If you think we need to talk about it, let's sit down and talk about a new agreement. If you want to talk, we'll get a meeting going."
"That's precisely what [this resolution] will prompt," Hannah rejoined.
City 'bullies' county?
Jumping in, Hegemier said, "This resolution only 'authorizes' the mayor to terminate the interlocal agreement not to actually terminate it." After declaring there had been no intended insult to the county, Hegemier admitted, "I'm not very up-to-date on the interlocal agreement." However, he seemed sufficiently informed to add, "The city wants authority on development within the ETJ."
Characterizing the agenda item as "bullying," Councilman Rebeca Gibson added, "Let's create another committee and work together."
"This [resolution] will prompt it," Hannah reiterated.
To Gibson's query, "Is it really necessary?" Hannah replied, "Yes," unwilling to relinquish his bone.
Discussions then veered off as to whether a motion on the resolution was necessary - with the general consensus, minus Hannah, being, "We shouldn't need a motion to work together."
Disregarding extraneous talk about "codes and guidelines," Grimes said, "They have no bearing on how the county responds to the city." He advised, "Get rid of talk about 'they don't work together' stuff." Grimes also praised Gibson's election to the council as "a blessing to the city."
In response, Gibson said, "The county has a liaison to the city. Does the city have a liaison to the county who attends commissioners court?"
The answer, of course, was, "No."
Does district
court loom?
Attempting to salvage something of his and Schauman's failed agenda item, Hannah concluded, "We've been monitoring this for five or six years. The county didn't have time to come to the meetings. We must make it serious enough to get things done."
After Hegemier agreed to move forward with further meetings, Councilman Charlotte Browning-Black said, "If we need to make a motion to communicate, I'll do it."
In an interview, Hegemier said he believed that the county is ready to move forward and discuss the ETJ.
He also noted the matter could also end up in district court. In that case, Hegemier opined, "The city would win because municipalities have more authority to regulate development than counties."
For their part, county officials stated that if the city can supply new developments within the ETJ with public utilities then lot sizes could be reduced. If not, the county's five-acre minimum would go into effect.
And, according to Hegemier, the city's water treatment facility, located in a flood plain off Highway 16 South, is currently working at 70 percent capacity - which apparently has officials from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality breathing down the city's neck.