By CHERIL VERNON
The Palestine City Council approved a resolution Monday to allow the City of Palestine to hire patrol officers over the age of 35 for temporary employment due to a shortage of seven positions.
“Under state law, we cannot hire anyone over the age of 35 for patrol officer in an entry level position, but doing this gave us the ability to temporarily do that for hiring purposes because the statutory limits on the police department hiring created an emergency,” Palestine City Manager Mike Ohrt said Wednesday. “They are down seven people.”
The City of Palestine’s Civil Service Commission will set up the rules and regulations for how these temporary patrol officers will be hired and how they will be released once permanent civil service employees are brought onto the force, Ohrt said.
The council also approved its part of a joint contract with the Palestine Economic Development Corp. and the Anderson County Commissioners’ Court to allow Traylor and Associates to apply for a $1.5 million grant through the Texas Capital Fund to assist with expenditures for infrastructure construction required to support the development of the Sanderson Farms project. The City of Palestine will be responsible for up to half of the fee, up to $45,000 maximum, if the grant is received. The commissioners’ court approved its part on Monday as well.
Sanderson Farms notified the City of Palestine and Anderson County on Feb. 14 of its intent to build a poultry complex in the region. Sanderson Farms plans to build three facilities in the area, two of which will be located in Anderson County and one in Freestone County. The company will invest approximately $92 million on the construction of a hatchery and processing plant that will be located in Anderson County, and an additional $32 million on the feed mill in Freestone County. Once the hatchery and processing plant are open, the company expects to employ up to 1,000 people.
In other action, the council:
• APPROVED zoning change request from RE, residential estate district to R-3, single family detached, high density district located on Lots 6 through 19, Unit 6 of the Homestead at Fort Houston, all of which are addressed to Elmwood Court.
• APPROVED zoning change request from RPO, restricted professional office to C-3, general retail commercial district located on Lot 8-E, McFarlane Estates, Revised Unit 3. This lot is generally located at the southwest corner of the intersection of S. Loop 256 and Old Elkhart Road.
• HEARD City Manager Mike Ohrt’s report. Items included Palestine Municipal Airport 80th anniversary celebration; Citizens Police Academy Report; Hotel Occupancy Tax Report; Modification of debt to finance the Palestine Mall purchase 2010; city attorney fees; and departmental reports for fire, utilities, municipal court, customer service and police CID.
• REAPPOINTED Tim Kozik, Odell McGee and John McDonald to the Palestine Economic Development Corp.
• AUTHORIZED Ohrt to negotiate a contract for services with the Palestine Youth Athletic Association of up to $7,500
• APPROVED expenditure for the proposed purchase of pipe for new water line construction
• APPROVED an ordinance approving a budget amendment for Fiscal Year 2012-13 to fund utility costs for the police department’s training facility
• RECOGNIZED February as Black History Month
• RECOGNIZED Police Chief Robert Herbert for earning a Master of Business Administration degree
• RECOGNIZED Main Street Manager Laura Westgate and the Main Street Advisory Board for achieving National Main Street City designation
• RECOGNIZED individuals for valuable contributions for goals and projects for Palestine Main Street
• APPROVED consent agenda which included several items: Approved bid for SSES Phase II-B Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation; approved proposed site for a land lease for new hangar construction at the Palestine Municipal Airport; approved ordinance abandoning street right-of-way and alley for the following: a 50-foot wide portion of undeveloped street right-of-way known as Conrad Street, which extends between West Green Street and West Palestine Avenue and is located between Blocks 19 and 20 of Greens Addition, and a 12-foot wide alley, located in the middle of Block 20 of Greens Addition extending between an undeveloped portion of Conrad Street and North Jackson Street; approved ordinance approving budget amendment for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 to transfer donations for Green Park and Legacy Park from Fiscal Year 2011-2013 budget; approved ordinance approving a budget amendment for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 to transfer donations to purchase banners for the Main Street District from Fiscal Year 2011-2012 budget; approved resolutions approving join election agreements with Palestine and Westwood independent school districts; approved minutes of the special meeting on Feb. 5; approved minutes of the work session and regular meeting on Feb. 11.
Following closed session, the council authorized Ohrt to enter into an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation for surplus property.