Dayton city council hires firm to provide interim police chief

Dayton Mayor Pro Tem John Johnson (left) listens to City Manager Theo Melancon explain the process of finding applicants for the city's newly-created TIRZ board at the Sept. 4 special-called meeting.

The first of two tax hearings for the City of Dayton was held Tuesday evening without a single protest or comment from the citizenry of Dayton. The city’s financial director Rudy Zepeda explained to council that the proposed tax rate will increase from $0.6557 to $0.6821 per $100 property valuation.

The tax hearing was the start of a very short agenda in the special-called meeting in which Mayor Pro Tem John Johnson presided as Mayor Jeff Lambright was absent along with Councilman Wendell Null.

The council briefly heard from City Attorney Brandon Davis regarding a few issues related to the creation of a new board to oversee the city’s tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ). Davis suggested the council adopt an ordinance that would provide rules for how the board will operate, including the appointment of a vice-chair and other officer positions.

The TIRZ board will be headed by eight members of the community – one position appointed by Liberty County commissioners and seven by city council. Davis explained that the rules for the board are “wide open.”

“Under state rules, they have to live in the city, or have property in the city, or live in the county or an adjoining county,” he said.

Instead of council members selecting people from the community to serve on the all-volunteer board, they agreed to open it up to an application process.

Johnson said he has discussed the board with a couple of interested parties but would feel more comfortable if board members apply.

“That way they are truly interested in it and willing to commit their time,” Johnson said.

City Manager Theo Melancon said he would advertise the board positions and get the information out to the public. The council expects to vote on the applicants to the board at the Sept. 17 meeting.

“Be ready,” Davis said. “You will need to appoint the chairman of the board that night.”

In other business, the city approved a preliminary development and reimbursement agreement with CMC Railroad, Inc.

“They want to try to get an agreement in place whereby the city has already acknowledged that some of these funds could be reimbursed, so that [they] can take that to investors and get the money necessary to get the engineering studies done to move forward with all the infrastructure needs,” Davis said. “After going back and forth with their attorney, and having multiple phone conferences, I think we have something we can all agree with.”

The agreement says that improvements for streets and infrastructure at CMC Railroad, with a cap of $500,000, will be reimbursed by the TIRZ fund if the TIRZ board approves and the city then authorizes the reimbursement.

“If the TIRZ board rejects a project, there is no way for the city to be on the hook for the project,” Davis said. “This is what they needed to get the capital to move forward with their engineering phases.”

Council approved the agreement before heading into a brief executive session to discuss the hiring of an interim police chief. After roughly 30 minutes, the council rejoined the regular meeting to approve a plan to hire Texas First Group, a Leakey, Texas-based company that provides interim management services.

Texas First Group will provide an interim chief or manager for the police department until the city can find applicants to fill the position at a later date.

By Vanesa Brashier,

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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