Council hires officer, takes no action on McLeod

By SHELLY WILKISON

The Liberty Hill City Council reconvened from an 80-minute closed session Monday and hired a police officer, approved a 3 percent pay raise for a City Hall employee and took no action on the “conduct” of a Council member.

The Council voted 4-1 to hire James Savage, a former Caldwell County deputy constable and former Austin Police officer. Councilman Wendell McLeod cast the dissenting vote.

Savage, who started to work Tuesday, is the second full-time police officer to join the Liberty Hill Police Department this month. Officer Robert Fox, who was hired in September, started to work Monday.

Both positions were funded in the fiscal 2012 budget, and each officer will earn entry level pay of $29,400.

The Council voted unanimously to approve a 3 percent pay increase for Water System Assistant Mary Ann McLeod. Councilman Wendell McLeod, husband of Mrs. McLeod, was not part of the executive session where his wife’s evaluation was discussed. He abstained from voting on the pay increase.

Councilman McLeod’s “conduct” was another topic on the executive session agenda, but no action was taken when the panel reconvened in open meeting. No public explanation was provided about the matter.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Jim Dillon said McLeod is “representing his constituents when he speaks out on issues of concern to voters.” He said a behind-closed-doors analysis of McLeod’s conduct was “unnecessary.”

Also on the closed meeting agenda were items relating to the evaluation and assignment of duties of Utility Department Superintendent Brian Kirk and assignment of duties for a maintenance worker in the Public Works Department.

With no public discussion or explanation on either topic, Councilman Sammy Pruett made a motion to approve a “modified job description in accordance with the discussion held in executive session.”

When asked for some explanation on the actions taken by the Council, Mayor Jamie Williamson told The Independent, simply, “We are working on job descriptions.”

A proposal by McLeod to create a position for an interim or part-time city manager was tabled Monday.

McLeod proposed the job be created after the Council had adopted the budget last month. However, the panel voted at its last meeting Sept. 25 to authorize McLeod and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Crane to work together to create a job description. McLeod and Crane completed the assignment, but submitted two separate documents for consideration. When the City’s Attorney said he had not had time to review the documents, the Council agreed to take no action.

McLeod said he thought the position should be advertised, but Mayor Williamson said a job description is needed first and then an ordinance must be adopted to create the job.

Crane said the budget would have to be amended if the Council approves a new position.

After the May election, one of the first actions taken by the Council was to eliminate the position of City Administrator/Manager after the resignation in April of former Manager Manuel De La Rosa.

In other business Monday, the Council voted 4-1 to accept bids  submitted by Royal Vista to replace a  tin horn and improve drainage along Carl Shipp Drive. The amount of the awarded bids were not included in the motion and City officials did not respond to the newspaper’s request for the information by press time Wednesday.

Councilman McLeod solicited the bid from Royal Vista while Kirk solicited a bid from Austin Underground, Inc. After some discussion, it became apparent that the specs used to bid the project were not uniform as the project bid by Austin Underground was larger in scope.

Council member Vicki Brewer voted against the motion by McLeod to accept Royal Vista’s bid, which was less than the bid submitted by Austin Underground.

On the matter of installing an overflow pipe at Well #1, the Council tabled action after Mayor Williamson announced  that Kirk had obtained solicited bids from vendors different from the one brought to the table by McLeod.

It was not clear whether Kirk and McLeod submitted to bidders the same specs for the project.

The Council set Saturday, Nov. 3, as the City’s Fall Cean-Up Day. From 8 a.m. until noon, city residents may dispose of unwanted items (other than household trash) in dumpsters provided by Clawson Disposal. Dumpsters will be located downtown and residents must bring a City of Liberty Hill water bill to show proof of residency.

Also Monday, the Council voted unanimously to submit Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to four local banks in an attempt to get better rates on banking.

For many years, the City has done business with Union State Bank.

In making the motion, Mrs. Brewer said the move was an attempt to “get competitive rates.”

Banks bidding on the City’s business will submit sealed bids that will be opened by the Council in a future executive session. If the City makes any change, it will become effective Jan. 1, 2013.

Mayor Williamson recommended tabling an item regarding the City’s possible financial support for the annual Liberty Hill Christmas Festival, scheduled Sunday, Dec. 2.

She said she had recently received additional information about the event and wanted to table the discussion until she had time for clarification.

In addition to his comments about McLeod’s conduct, Dillon told the Council that their decision to raise the tax rate during hard economic times was “greedy and selfish. That’s stealing when they (taxpayers) can’t do anything about it.” Clarifying that the money was not intended as a bribe, Dillon pulled $1 bills from his wallet and offered them to the Council if the City was in such dire straits.

Williamson County Cowboy Church Pastor Corey Ross, a member of the Liberty Hill Ministerial Alliance, gave the invocation before Monday’s Council meeting.