By MARY RAINWATER
Newly elected mayor Therrell Thomas took his new position on the Palestine City Council on Monday, being sworn in along with council members Steve Presley, Vernon Denmon and James Yelverton.
Thomas, who most recently held the District 5 seat on the council, defeated opponent Timothy Triplett, 471-432 votes, for the city’s top seat on May 11.
A second contested race was held in District 6, where incumbent Steve Presley defeated local businessman Sam Aryanpur with a vote of 152-52.
Those results were formally canvassed by the city council during Monday’s meeting. District 4’s Yelverton and District 2’s Denmon were unopposed in their respective races.
In a related action, the council also appointed Mark Price to fill the District 5 seat vacated by Therrell’s election to mayor. Price will be formally sworn in during the city’s next meeting on June 10.
The council also honored outgoing mayor Bob Herrington for his service to the council with a plaque presented by Therrell. Herrington served as mayor for two terms, being first elected to the position in 2009.
Later during the meeting, the council unanimously approved variances for the construction of a telecommunications tower for Verizon Wireless to be located in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction near Benbrook Drive.
The 250-foot tower will be constructed on property behind Trinity Church and the city’s Firestation 3 — property not located within the city limits, but within the Palestine ETJ.
The council’s approval came with certain conditions resulting from concerns expressed by Palestine Independent School District regarding interference with the district’s wireless network during a public hearing held on the matter.
Representing the district was PISD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Suzanne Eiben, who reported that they had received reports from representatives at other districts with nearby telecommunications towers that it had interfered with that school’s wireless communications network.
“PISD has invested a tremendous amount of money to provide electronic devices for students,” Eiben said. “One-half of our student body (at Palestine High School) is located very close to the area and the tower could be disruptive to the wireless structure.”
Eiben stated that if there were interference, the district would be forced to retrofit a wired internet system so that students could have access.
Speaking in favor of the matter was Ashley Fowler of C.A. Bass, who is contracted to construct the tower for Verizon Wireless. She addressed concerns voiced by the district.
“The FCC licenses and regulates the frequencies that we are allowed to operate on, and I can tell you that PISD is on a very different frequency that the tower utilizes,” she explained. “We are not allowed to interfere with other frequencies.”
After discussion by the council, the variances were approved with the stipulation that a written agreement be presented from Verizon to PISD stating that their frequency will not interfere with the district’s.
If it does, Verizon would be obligated to remedy the situation.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.