Edit: Through a public information request, I was able to obtain the audio for the city council meeting. I will continue to do the same for each meeting in order to provide as much transparency to the actions of the city council as possible.
Immediately following their meeting with the City Charter Review Commission, the Jersey Village City Council convened for their regularly scheduled January meeting last night. For a full list of items considered by our city council during the meeting, you can review the agenda.
Without going into excruciating detail, I think it’s important to note a very fiscally responsible practice of our city government and praise them for this practice: the use of Capital Replacement Fund Budget. This budget is designed to require city departments to begin saving money each year for the purpose of purchasing replacement equipment when it will be needed. For example, on the agenda last night was the purchase of a new fire truck. Jersey Village Fire Chief Mark Bitz explained that the fire truck it was replacing would be sold and the money needed for the new purchase was already saved for through the Capital Replacement Fund Budget.
In other words, the city did not have to take on new debt, nor did the city have to incur a large expense this fiscal year because the fire department has been saving for a number of years with the knowledge that this particular fire truck would need to be replaced.
Moreover, our city council exercised additional fiscal responsibility when they declined to vote on a measure proposed by the public works department to increase their budget by $29,000 to facilitate the purchase of a street sweeper. While the city council did previously authorize the purchase of the street sweeper and allocated funds for this purpose, for reasons not entirely made clear to me, the public works department determined the original amount was not enough. The city council decided to postpone any such vote until an undetermined later date in order to investigate the purchase more closely and in order to gain a better understanding of the benefits of the street sweeper, particularly for keeping debris out of storm drains. This was one of the main benefits touted when the purchase was first authorized: it would assist in keeping our storm drains free and contribute to reducing street flooding risks.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the city council considered ways to increase transparency in their operations. This was the agenda item on which I spoke during the citizen’s comment period (you can hear my comments in the audio recording above beginning at the 16 minute mark), advocating for the posting of proposed contracts and ordinances before meetings so that citizens know exactly what city council is voting on.
During this meeting there was a discussion concerning disclosure of contracts and other important documents referenced in city council agendas. The city attorney did express some concern about posting documents that are considered to be in “draft” form and could change before approval by the city council. I believe, however, that some common sense steps (such as marking such documents with the word “draft” across it) could help citizens to realize that the document may change before final approval. The city council voted unanimously to direct the city secretary and the IT director to develop recommendations for the city council to consider in the coming months. Because there is a newly hired city managing coming onboard in the next few months, it was decided that enough time should be provided for the new city manager to weigh in on it. Therefore, don’t expect the city council to receive any recommendations until April at the earliest.