Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal
The Premont City Council met recently and addressed a number of agenda items, including several items introduced by council member Crissy Tamez Cabrera.
Cabrera presented an item to the council to address the use of cell phones by city employees. Cabrera informed the council she had asked the item be placed on the agenda because she had observed a specific police officer speaking on a cell phone for extended periods of time while on duty.
Chief Fidencio Hinojosa told the council cell phones were an essential part of the department's operation, as officers communicated by cell phone when radio communication was not available and when officers needed to communicate without being heard over the radio.
Mayor Norma Tullos told the council she would address the issue with the chief following the meeting in her capacity as "mayor and administrator" for the city.
Cabrera also presented an item to the council requesting the city restrict officers from patrolling outside city limits.
Cabrera told the council she observed officers driving on county roads, and she complained about a specific pursuit involving illegal immigrants that ended on her property.
Chief Hinojosa told the council officers do assist the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department with calls outside but near the city, although he had instructed officers to not patrol outside the city.
Cabrera and council member Raul Garcia voted in favor of a motion to allow officers to only respond to emergency calls outside the city. The motion was defeated when council members Soila Bautista, Dalia Gee and Richard Belasquez voted against it.
Cabrera also presented an item to the council Tuesday bringing attention to overtime pay for city employees. She told the council she had been approached by individuals who were concerned that employees with the streets, parks and alleys department were being sent home to prevent paying overtime.
The council voted to allow all employees to receive overtime pay after they have worked 40 hours, a policy already established in the city's policy manual.
Mayor Tullos presented an item to place several dumpsters in the city for the purpose of allowing city workers to begin a program to clear trash and other debris from the city's alleys.
The new dumpsters, which will only be available for city use, will be placed on Donald Street near the city's animal shelter.
The council authorized the director of the Streets, Parks and Alleys Department to contact three individuals who had been hired for a past project to work on the clean-up effort, and then voted unanimously to take no action on the issue.
The council also approved the closure of the street entrance to Hidalgo Park on June 30 from 4:30 to 8 p.m. to allow for hay rides during the annual Fiesta de los Ninos.
The council also voted to approve a request from Maria Tafolla to allow her to place a mobile home on a lot on East Sixth Street.
The council voted to allow representatives from First Baptist Church to seek assistance from the county and the water authority to repair a section of the street in front of the church that fills with standing water following rain.
Possible solutions presented to the council included digging a drainage ditch in the road that would also serve to slow traffic or a plan to clear dirt from the roadway to allow for better drainage.
In executive session, the council met to discuss extending benefits to part-time employee Tomasita Pena but voted to table the issue in open session.
During a break in the meeting, Sheriff Oscar Lopez presented information to the mayor and council concerning an interlocal agreement between the county and the city.
Lopez told the council the agreement has brought $154,000 to the city in forfeiture funds, and he encouraged the council to place an item on the its next agenda to renew the agreement.