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- Paris Flash
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Cleonne Drake, a 56-year-old junior high teacher and former City of Paris police officer, has filed her candidacy for the District 6 place on the Paris City Council.
Mrs. Drake, who lives at 2501 Simpson, is running for the seat now held by Edwin Pickle.
Barbara Shelby is her campaign manager.
She graduated from Paris High School in 1973, graduated from Paris Junior College with a degree in law enforcement, then graduated from East Texas State University with a degree in criminology.
She is a former police officer for the City of Paris and a former probation and parole officer for Lamar County. and has worked statewide with victims of violent crime. She is the daughter of the late Cleo Holmes, who was an officer for the Paris Police Department for 37 years, and is the sister of retired Paris police Sgt. Red Holmes.
She married her high school sweetheart, Del “Dub” Drake, who himself retired after a career in law enforcement (Alcohol and Beverage Commission).
There’s more. Her father-in-law, Del Drake Jr., was an FBI agent in Paris for many years.
“After having worked in the criminal justice field for 25 years, I made a career change,” she said, deciding “Education was where I needed to be.”
She is in her 13th year of teaching, and in her fourth year at Paris after being away from the city for 16 years. She and her husband made the move back home after he retired from the ABC headquarters office in Austin.
“I decided when I came back to Paris I was going to run for city council. My husband thought I was kidding, but I wasn’t. I’ve been a public servant for a lot of my life, but this will be a first for me,” she said.
“I wanted to become more involved with the city, and I’d just like to see great things done. Not that it hasn’t been in the past, but I think I have a lot I could offer from my experiece in other fields.”
In Austin and no longer in law enforcement, she became involved in the state Crime Victims program. As director of the Texas Crime Victim Clearinghouse, she testified before state legislative committees.
From 1998-2008, she taught in the Round Rock schools. After moving back to Paris, she taught one year at P.A.S.S. (alternative school), one year at Crockett Middle School, and the past two years at Paris Junior High School, where she teaches language arts.
She and her husband have a son, Paul, who is a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
John Wright, who is completing his first 2-year term on the Paris City Council, filed for re-election on Friday to District 2, which has a new look since redistricting – encompassing most of the south half of the city..
But he isn’t alone.
Marvin Wroten, 56, of 236 Parc Place, also filed for the District 2 seat on Friday.
Wroten is retired from Brookshire’s and is a volunteer coordinator for Meals on Wheels.
Wright, 80, of 3605 W. Houston St., served 12 years as president of the board of trustees of the Paris Independent School District.
Friday’s two filings increase the number of declared candidates in the May 12 city council race to three. District 6 incumbent Edwin Pickle has announced for re-election for a third 2-year term.
No one has filed for the council seats in District 1, where Joe McCarthy is completing his second 2-year term, or in District 2, where Robert Avila, is completing the term vacated by the resignation last summer of Jason Rogers.
The filing deadline is 5 p.m. on Monday, March 5.
There is no filing fee, and there is no compensation for the job.
The three holdover council members are Dr. Richard Grossnickle in District 4, Matt Frierson in District 5, and Dr. AJ Hashmi in District 7.
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
City attorney Kent McIlyar has been asked to bring to the Paris City Council at its next meeting on Monday a proposed ordinance that would allow the council to award a contract to a local company if it is only slightly higher than the low bidder.
At the council’s Jan. 23 meeting, B. Bray Construction was the low bidder by about $10,000 on a water and wastewater capital improvement project, but was $5,700 higher than an out-of-town company when the city decided to cut out some options and go with a less expensive alternative.
“One of the arguments made in ‘Hire Houston First’ was if the money is going to be kept local, it makes sense. If it’s not, it doesn’t. All of the money would stay local and create a substantial tax base for the City of Paris,” Bray told the council.
Councilman John Wright spoke out in favor of giving preferential treatment to local bidders.
“I would like to give it to a local concern because of the closeness of the bids and because of their (Brays) participation with the city in other endeavors, like the money they (Sanitation Solutions) gave us money for demolitions. They gave us $5,000 for an undesignated purpose,” Wright said.
On a motion by councilman Edwin Pickle and a second by Wright, the council voted unanimously to award the water and sewer project to B. Bray Construction, which was 1.75 percent higher than the bid of $345,155.10 by Four Thirteen, Inc., of Texarkana.
But even as the vote was taking place, McIlyer was whispering in the ear of mayor AJ Hashmi that it was illegal. He said the Paris City Council could not take such action without an ordinance similar to the one the City of Houston had enacted.
So, the council went into executive session to hear the city attorney’s legal advice, and the council decided during the closed session to rescind the action.
Eight minutes after going into executive session, the council met back in open session and Hashmi said, “I will ask for a motion to reconsider Item 16 on the agenda.”
After a motion and second and quick approval to reconsider, Pickle said: “I would like to make a motion and a second “to table that item until our next council meeting and such time as the city attorney has an opportunity to review the law and see if it is doable.”
Councilman Joe McCarthy offered a second, and the motion carried unanimously.
At the council’s next meeting on Feb. 13, the council was presented the same opportunity it had two weeks earlier: to award a contract to Four Thirteen Inc., in the amount of $345,155.10.
The council approved the contract by a 6-1 vote, with Wright dissenting.
But Pickle said he was under the impression the city attorney was to have for the council’s consideration a proposed ordinance to allow preferential treatment to a local company.
“My recommendation was that you bring it back for a future meeting for consideration. There are a lot of ways you can go about something like this,” McIlyer replied.
“I want it on the next meeting – the next meeting,” Pickle said.
The Texas Legislature last summer revised the Local Government Code to allow cities to award a contract to a local bidder within 5 percent of a non-local bidder for construction services of less than $100,000 or for other purchases in an amount less than $500,000, or if within 3 percent on purchases of $500,000 or more.
On Aug. 31, the City of Houston added a “Hire Houston First” ordinance to its Code of Ordinances allowing the award of a contract to a local business within 5 percent of the low bidder for contracts under $100,000 or within 3 percent of the low bidder for contracts of $100,000 or more.
Several other Texas cities have made the same kind of change.
To be a “local” bidder, a company would have to have a local base where 20 percent or more of the company’s work force is regularly based.
According to the ordinance, a location utilized solely as a post office box, mail drop or telephone message center or any combination thereof, with no other substantial work function, “shall not be construed as a principal place of business.”
The Houston ordinance states:
“WHEREAS, City Council wishes to use the City spending powers in a manner that promotes fiscal responsibility and maximizes the effectiveness of local tax dollars by ensuring a portion of citizens’ tax dollars remain in the local economy for economic benefit of the citizens; and
WHEREAS, City Council finds that by encouraging the local business capacity, the City will maintain an able and competitive pool of businesses from which to choose to procure goods and services; and
WHEREAS, City Council finds that awarding contracts to local vendors provides additional economic benfit for a city’s citizens by keeping their tax dollars local; and
WHEREAS, City Council finds that awarding contracts to (local) businesses … benefits the City and its residents by improving employment opportunities, increasing property values, and increasing sales tax revenues; and
WHEREAS, City Council finds that the Local Government Code Sections 271.905 and 271.9051 allow the City to consider a vendor’s principal place of business in awarding certain contracts; and
WHEREAS, City Council determines that in any procurement addressed by this Ordinance, the local bidder offers the City the best combination of contract price and additional economic development opportunities, including the employment of residents of the City and increased tax revenue to the City; and
WHEREAS, City Council finds that the conclusiosn and determinations contained herein meet the written determination required by the Local Government Code in Sections 271.905(b)(2) and 271.9051(b)(2) or as they may be amended or renumbered;
Now therefore be it ordained by the City of Houston, Texas, that the findings contained in the preamble of this ordinance are determined to be true and correct and are hereby adopted.”
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
Mayor AJ Hashmi wants to meet again Friday with builders, contractors and building and property owners to update them on the issues they raised in a meeting with him earlier this month.
All who came then – and anyone else with questions or concerns about the city’s building permit process – is welcome at Friday’s 10 a.m. meeting at Hashmi’s district office, 2890 Lewis Lane (east entrance).
At the end of a 75-minute meeting on Feb. 3, the mayor didn’t have answers to all the questions raised, but promised: “Once I have gotten the information, I will call everybody and we will discuss it.”
Since then, Hashmi has studied intently the 28 typewritten pages of a transcription of the meeting and gone over the complaints individually with .
The mayor wants to discuss what has been done since then to make things better, including Anderson’s research into software that will allow the city to approve building permits online, without a person’s need to go to City Hall.
The mayor has not revealed what is being done to correct the No. 1 complaint aired on Feb. 3 — “a real attitude problem” by the city’s building permitting staff.
A contractor said: “They (city staff) have no motivation to work with anybody, to try to make things right. What needs to be told to some of these people downtown, with their attitude, is if you don’t get this straight, you’re not staying here.”
All around the room, other people agreed.
“We’re going to fix the attitude,” the mayor promised.
Because of an expressed fear of retribution, Hashmi kept the meeting private, with only himself and District 6 city councilman Edwin Pickle present, other than the complainants and two reporters, who agreed not to tie any complaint to a particular person.
“I give you my assurance there will be no consequences for attending this meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to get the problems resolved once and for all,” the mayor said at the beginning of the Feb. 3 meeting.
Some complained about the complexities of a building code that they said puts local contractors under the same standards as Dallas or New York City.
“I can’t afford to spend $100,000 on a parking lot in Paris,” said one man who has a business on Main Street. “You go to Dallas, you’re serving two million people and I could afford a $100,000 parking lot because I’m serving a lot more people. So it works for the Metroplex, possibly, but it doesn’t work for Paris, Texas.”
After the meeting the mayor said: “We need to have a code, but there needs to be some training so we adapt ourselves to knowing the fact that we are a smaller city, we are not Dallas.”
Within a week of the Feb. 3 meeting, the mayor had resolved a complaint among those with rent property – they comprised about a third of the 30 people at the meeting.
“Anytime the gas is off in a house for 30 days, the city requires a plumber to come out to pressurize it, get a permit to do so, record the information, get the city to give an OK, and then you go back to Atmos to get the gas turned back on,” a real estate agent complained.
“I’m not sure what’s magic about 30 days, but it’s not uncommon in some cases in the apartment industry to have apartments go vacant for over 30 days, and then you’re looking at 10 or 12 more days once you find a tenant before you get everything approved and the gas back on. So it’s costing us money that way in both rent and availability of being able to provide housing for people,” he added.
Throughout the room, a half dozen other people with rent property agreed it was a major issue with them as well.
When the mayor asked if he had a recommendation, the real estate agent said: “Take the 30 days off or take it back to a much longer period of time because there is an opportunity to get those houses rented.”
Others noted that Atmos Energy checks the pressure of a line itself and won’t turn the gas back on if there is a leak, so the city is requiring something that isn’t needed.
At the end of the meeting, Hashmi passed along the concern to interim city manager Gene Anderson and asked him to see if property owners could be given a longer window before being able to get the gas turned back on without involving a plumber in the process.
On Feb. 10, the mayor announced that tentatively, until the city council could draw up a new ordinance, the window has been pushed back to 90 days.
At the end of the Feb. 3 meeting, Hashmi said:
“I want to thank you all for coming. What we will do is, I will address all the concerns you have, and I will get back to you. We’ll have another meeting, and I’ll tell you what all has been accomplished, how far we have gotten with it, and what the possibilities are.”
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From left, city councilmen Edwin Pickle (District 6), Matt Frierson (District 5), John Wright (District 3) and Dr. Richard Grossnickle (District 4) reflect upon Monday night’s interviews. In the background is city clerk Janice Ellis. (eParisExtra.com photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Members of the Paris City Council were “extremely pleased” with Monday evening’s interviews of the first two of three finalists for the vacant city manager position.
The council spent about 75 minutes with each candidate.
Originally, it was planned to interview the third finalist on Tuesday evening, but he had a conflict. The council, though highly pleased with the first two applicants, said it would go ahead with the third interview if it can be scheduled within two weeks.
“Hopefully, we will be able to have a decision soon,” mayor AJ Hashmi said about 9 p.m., after the interviews were concluded.
Hashmi said the council was impressed with both candidates and how they fielded the council’s questions.
All three finalists are currently city managers — one in Texas and the others from other states. All are managers with cities smaller than Paris, but growing.
Also present for the interviews was Chet Nolan of Strategic Government Resources, who supervised the company’s candidate search for Paris.
The two who interviewed on Monday night are the two from other states, but both have lived and worked in Northeast Texas previously. Each said their desire to return to the area was one reason the Paris position appealed to them.
Several weeks ago, SGR brought the resumes of 34 applicants, which the council reduced to 10 semifinalists — all seven “Tier 1″ candidates, as ranked by SGR, plus three “Tier 2″ candidates. SGR then did a more complete work-up on those, and the council quickly reduced the field to the three finalists.
“I would like to say the council is very satisfied with SGR and the work they did,” mayor pro-tem Dr. Richard Grossnickle said when the council came back into open session.
“The evening went extraordinarily well. We were extremely pleased with both people that we interviewed tonight,” Hashmi added.
The city manager search is near the end of a process that began a full year ago, following Kevin Carruth’s resignation on Jan. 1, 2011 after accepting a $140,000 buyout of his contract, which was to expire in August 2011.
Initially, the idea was to delay the hiring process — to accept applications so that when new city council members were elected in May 2011, the new council would be able to interview the top candidates and hire a new manager.
The council decided to handle the job search itself, mindful of an unhappy experience with a search firm in 2007. But when the council looked through the 70-plus people who applied directly to the city, they discovered that almost all were unemployed former city managers.
In November, the council decided to hire a search firm.
SGR was told to bring in candidates now employed, preferably city managers from smaller cities, or assistant city managers from larger cities.
Hashmi had indicated he would expect each candidate to demonstrate that his current city had progressed under his or her guidance.
Reporters spoke for about 15 minutes with each candidate following their interviews with the council, but agreed not to identify either of them in order to avoid sensitive issues with each candidate’s current employer.
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