By Emily Banks Wooten
The Livingston City Council reviewed the preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 during its Aug. 15 meeting and called a public hearing on the budget which is slated for 5 p.m. Sept. 12.
A public hearing regarding the city’s Texas Municipal Retirement System retirement eligibility and vesting was held because one of the agenda items was to discuss and consider possible action on a proposed ordinance regarding these items.
“Any time you do anything regarding the retirement of municipal employees, you have to have a public hearing,” City Manager Bill S. Wiggins said. “We’ve been actively trying to recruit seasoned employees, specifically in the police department, and we’ve lost several applicants because of retirement. Out of 909 municipalities in the Texas Municipal Retirement System, there are only 43 with a 25-year any age retirement with 10-year vesting and we are one of those. The remaining are participating in a 20-year any age retirement with five-year vesting.
“I’m proposing we consider moving away from the 25 and 10 and go with the 20 and five. We’re one in 43 who haven’t, and I think it would be a good opportunity for us. We want good, seasoned employees and we don’t want to hamper the ability to attract them,” Wiggins said. Retirement for City of Livingston employees is a 7% deposit rate with a two-to-one matching rate by the city and the proposed change would be in plan only. Council approved the proposed ordinance reflecting the change.
In other ordinance-related activity, Council approved a proposed ordinance amending Article II of Chapter 34 of the Code of Ordinances which deals with solid waste.
Following a 20-year relationship with Santek and then Republic, the city changed solid waste providers to Piney Woods Sanitation effective Aug. 1, going from twice-weekly garbage pickup to once-a-week pickup. The previous ordinance called for twice so the proposed ordinance on the agenda – which Council approved – was amended to read weekly.
This provided an opportunity for Wiggins to update Council on solid waste operations since the change. “We knew going in there’d be some problems. People don’t like change. We sent a request for proposals. We received three. All three were going to once a week. Of the three, Piney Woods Sanitation was the only one who would have someone other the driver to pick up the trash,” Wiggins said.
“Some of the confusion has been about the routes and the pickup days. You can go to the city’s website (www.cityoflivingston-tx.com) and click on a map to see where you live and what your pickup day is. We are having daily meetings with Piney Woods Sanitation and we will continue to. Things are getting better. It’s a work in progress. If you have any complaints, please call us. We can’t fix it if we don’t know about it. Let us know. I apologize sincerely and we will continue to work on it,” Wiggins said.
A proposed resolution supporting the adoption and approval of the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council and Settlement Allocation Term Sheet and designation of the city manager as the authorized signatory was on the agenda.
“The city’s eligible to participate in the attorney general’s opioid settlement. By approving the proposed resolution, we’re agreeing that we will not litigate against any of these companies, and therefore, we’re eligible for participation in the settlement. We’ve already received about $22,000,” Wiggins said. Council approved the proposed resolution and designated Wiggins as the authorized signatory.
While presenting his monthly report regarding projects and events, Wiggins apprised Council that the annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony is slated for 9 a.m. Sept. 11 at Livingston City Hall. He also reported that the Friends of the Library will host a book sale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the Livingston Municipal Library.
Reviewing some of the current development projects, Wiggins said he had the opportunity to visit with Jimmy Banks recently who was in town for a friend’s funeral. Banks is the developer of The Retreat Living LLC where six new residences are in progress. Wiggins said that Banks asked if the city staff was pleased with the work so far and Wiggins said that Banks was very complimentary of the city staff.
Wiggins also apprised Council that the $3.5 million major remodel of Walmart is underway and that Jonathan, the manager, has already invited the city to the store’s grand re-opening on Nov 3.
Wiggins reported that he sat in on the Sam Rayburn Municipal Power Agency board meeting that morning and that the board made the recommendation to lower rates for its three member cities – Livingston, Jasper and Liberty. As a result, Wiggins said the city will be looking into the possibility of lowering rates for its citizens.
In other activity, Wiggins reported that he has been in contact with Bill Holder with the Trinity River Authority of Texas. He said the city currently has sufficient water storage and water supply and that at present, there is no need to implement the city’s drought contingency plan. However, he said he will continue to monitor it closely.
Other business included approval of the accounts over $500 and minutes of the July 11 regular meeting.