By GRACE GADDY
PALESTINE — The 2013 Hot Pepper Festival was the best one the city has ever had, according to a presentation heard by Palestine City Council members on Monday.
Community Services Director Roy Crouch showed a PowerPoint presentation and slideshow to the council that perused festival highlights, events, attendance, expenditures and other details.
In addition to bringing in tourists and visitors from neighboring cities, Crouch said the best part about the Hot Pepper Festival is that the event is essentially “our hometown festival — people just having some good hometown fun.”
“One of the things that you can't get at a lot of the places I go to is that hometown feel. It really makes our event really, really special,” Crouch said.
The event attracted plenty of news and social media coverage and garnered “the most Google hits ever for Palestine, Texas,” reaching over 70,000 people, he added.
The parade was also bigger and better, with more than 100 entries of participants. The festival featured 137 vendors, which included a longhorn attraction, a petting zoo, an ironworks exhibit and food vendors. The Barbeque Chili Cook-off, located in Palestine Old Town, featured 22 teams and brought in an estimated attendance of 1,000 people.
Overall, he said the city actively recruited 56 sponsors over five categories and raised more than $47,000. However, festival expenses totaled a little more than bargained for, and the city suffered a loss of $4,841.63.
During the City Manager's Report, Wendy Ellis updated the council on a recent plan to annex her property into the city limits, which would comply with a requirement that the city manager live within the city limits.
Ellis reported that her property would be the only area affected by the annexation measure, but Councilman Vernon Denmon Jr. expressed concern about it costing the taxpayers.
“I think it's wrong for the taxpayers to foot the bill. It already states what the compliance for the city manager is,” Denmon said. “I think that should be an out-of-pocket expense for the city manager and not for the tax payers.”
Ronald Stutes, the city attorney, explained to the council that the measure required no additional cost to the tax payers.
In a related but separate matter, the council discussed procedures of filling vacancies pursuant to Section 4.8 of the Palestine City Charter. During the discussion, council members voted to excuse Councilman James Yelverton from the council, who is currently ill.
“I think that the charter speaks for itself, and as those needs arise, those items should be addressed by the council,” Denmon said. “Again, I solicit the prayers of the righteous in his speedy recovery. He’s basically battling for his life.”
Also on Monday, the council:
• APPROVED a resolution allowing the city manager to enter into a contract with TxDOT for improvements at Palestine Municipal Airport.
• APPROVED an expenditure for airport runway rehabilitation at Palestine Municipal Airport.
• APPROVED a resolution adopting Section 504 Grievance Procedures for the city's 2013 Texas Capital Fund Community Development Block Grant Program.
• APPROVED a resolution adopting an Excessive Force Policy for the city's 2013 Texas Capital Fund Community Development Block Grant Program.
• APPROVED a resolution adopting April as Fair Housing Month.
• APPROVED a resolution authorizing designated signatories for contractual documents and request for payments for the city's Texas Capital Fund Community Development Block Grant Program.
• APPROVED an ordinance approving a budget amendment for fiscal year 2013-2014.
• APPROVED a lease agreement with Trinity Valley Community College at Palestine Mall.
• APPROVED an ordinance regarding solicitation from within the right of way.