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City of Mason, Texas Mason, Texas - Gem of the Hill Country Lone Star Cut Topaz - Official Gemstone of Texas!
2012 Mason Roundup Parade Float

CITY COMMISSION MEETING

May 16, 2016 @ 5:30

Richard P. Eckert Civic Center

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The 2015 Hazard Mitigation Draft Plan is available to view by going to http://jswassoc.com/hmplans.html, the link to the left or a printed copy is available in the County Judge's office.  The draft will be discussed and approved at the next City Council Meeting February 8, 2016.

The City of Mason is an Equal Opportunity Employer; 

Supporter of Equal Housing Opportunity; Citizen Participation; the Fair Housing Policy; and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

ALL CITY FACILITIES WILL BE CLOSED FRIDAY MARCH 25th IN OBSERVANCE OF GOOD FRIDAY.  FRIDAY GARBAGE PICK UP WILL BE PICKED UP THURSDAY.

 City Corner

CITY CORNER by Mayor Brent Hinckley

 

     For the past several weeks there have been a number of questions and concerns regarding the City’s consideration of alternatives to the local law enforcement.  While this issue has been under consideration by the City Commission for about a year, after the past two months meetings where numerous citizens of the City and County attended and most comments were negative toward establishing a Police Department, it is important that we provide opportunity for accurate information and concerns to be examined.  I have provided some information about specific issues in my previous weekly columns in this newspaper and all of the major concerns that have been brought to our attention have reasonable and accurate answers.  However, it is also important that the City Commission and everyone involved seriously consider whether it is in the best interest of the City and the community to provide a second law enforcement agency within our rural area.  Many of the questions and “facts” that have been discussed have been only a portion of the actual information or have failed to consider the entire situation, and it is important that true information be used to consider this issue. 

      Much of the confusion and ambiguity has come from comments that address only a small piece of information and then build upon it on social media or in small group conversations that do not have access to the full facts.  For instance, it was mentioned and then repeated that the City finances ran “in the red at more than $100,000” in 2014 meaning that we had lost money for that year, and in fact the actual number was $133,543 of expenses greater than revenues, however there is another factor that significantly impacts that conclusion.  Hidden in the full 73 pages of the audit for 2014 is an “expense” of $121,536 which was a onetime decision to finally write-off uncollectable utility bills that dated back to the 1980’s and had been on the books from before my term as Mayor.  We had developed an itemized list, sent demand letters and worked with a collection agency, but some bills were just ignored and after all efforts, we made an administrative decision to write them off as an expense, which significantly affected our bottom line for that year.  For the previous two years we operated for a total of $159,267 of extra revenue putting us in the black, and our unaudited balance for 2015 was a positive $254,476 which will most likely be reduced once the audit is complete, but will certainly be in the black for the year.  A full picture of the City finances shows that we have been in a very healthy and secure position for many years and taking a single number and basing conclusions upon it will result in significant inaccuracy and poor decision making.  If you have any questions about the City finances we will be glad to provide up to date information and complete transparency, and we might all avoid exaggerated concerns.

     Another comment was made in our public City Commission meeting that only 5% of any single traffic ticket fine is retained by the local court as “revenue” to offset law enforcement and court expenses.  I am not sure where that specific information came from, and in a public meeting format I am unprepared to provide accurate data, but I can share exact numbers today.  The City Municipal Court has just filed the first quarter report with the State and based on a total of $4,392 collected, we have paid $1,149 to the state which represents a significantly greater percentage that is kept by the City on the small quantity of tickets that we deal with.  Again, when all of the information is available the conclusions are much less sensational but also much more reasonable and acceptable, and in the process of gathering public comments it is not always possible to provide accurate answers immediately to counterbalance the exaggerated.  There were a few other such comments and “facts” that have been shared in the past couple of months, but many of them upon closer examination have been somewhat inaccurate and directed to influence opinion in a specific manner.

     Another inaccuracy that has been mentioned for many years is that the local law enforcement responds to far more calls within the City that in the County.  Up until recently it was difficult to examine that comment and analyze the proportions reasonably, but in July of last year the Sheriff’s office began categorizing  the call report according to the City or County location.  I have looked at that information and compared it to population data; in the 2014 census projections the City of Mason had a population of 2,158 and the total County had a population of 4071 so therefore the City represented 53% of the total.  According to the Sheriff’s Call Report, from July to December of 2015 there were 519 calls in the City and 427 calls in the County for a total of 946 calls that they responded to, so the City proportion was 54.8%.  Therefore, for that period of time the calls were reasonably proportionate between City and County and the City residents did not receive any significantly greater service from law enforcement.

     In a separate situation, but one that has been brought up in relation to City decision making, the City elected officials and administration have been accused of favoritism of the “old boy” type and looking the other way regarding questionable practices at the landfill.  We have attempted to explain the decisions that were made, and I have no belief that extra benefits were provided in a special nature or situation, and the consideration of the specifics are very much in line with all environmental regulations and similar situations that have been dealt with for many years.  For the eleven years I have been Mayor I have insisted that every resident of Mason be treated in the same manner with no regard to their background, social status or economic situation.  Two weeks ago when we had an investigator drop by from the regulatory agency that oversees landfills and other environmental issues, she examined the records, the area in which dumping occurred, the location that was cleaned up and all parts of the allegations and then she commented to us that there was NO violation and that we had handled the matter in a way that was completely acceptable to the rules and regulations.  As Mayor I am completely satisfied that the City has done the proper thing in this situation, that we continue to provide equal and excellent service to every member of this community, and that if there are any further investigations of this incident that we will cooperatively and satisfactorily meet every expectation.

      During the past two City Commission meetings there have been comments made that the City already had its mind made up and that citizen concerns were not being listened to.  It has been suggested that “all of the residents” are opposed to any consideration of a separate municipal police force, but I am not sure that the numbers support that.  At the March City Commission meeting there were about 125 citizens present and certainly the greatest majority that spoke were questioning the wisdom and need for an additional law enforcement agency.  The Commission heard that concern and I made the decision to “table” consideration of that agenda item.  However, that does not mean that it is decided, only that the issue will be brought up again for a decision at a time when further information is available and when emotions are more controlled than at that particular time.  At the April meeting of the City Commission it was again on the agenda for discussion only, which by the regulations of the State Open Meetings Act means that no decision could be made but further discussion and opinions could be shared.  At that meeting 18 citizens came to the front of the assembly and addressed the Commission, and of those 2 came forward to discuss a totally separate issue and 2 spoke to either offer specific information that contradicted other comments or to offer alternative solutions to the issues under consideration.  I am pretty sure that we have not heard from “all of the residents” of Mason, but we as elected officials are very eager to hear from anyone who would wish to share your thoughts and opinions. 

     As Mayor, I am personally unsure that there is a single correct answer and believe that the wide variety of issues and opinions require serious consideration before a decision can be reached that will represent the best for our community.  However, I also firmly believe that a decision of this nature requires solid information and background rather than some of the illogical, emotional and wildly exaggerated viewpoints that have been expressed both publicly and in smaller conversations around town.  As I have tried to share in this column, there is a great deal of detail and background that leads to effective resolution of complex issues and leads to clear decisions.  Also, we at the City have tried to provide as clear and transparent of a decision making process as possible, however we cannot provide good information unless we have an idea of what your questions are and what specific details you have questions on.  There is no conspiracy to push through specific decisions or to hide any part of the information we have received, and if you continue to have questions or would like to share your concerns or thoughts, please contact me through my email at and I will consider your comments and reply.  We at the City are here to serve the entire community, and we are most interested in knowing your needs and concerns and those will be given great weight as we make decisions for our community. 

       
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