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Galena Park commission places Alcohol on Ballot

GALENA PARK’S COUNCIL MEETING THIS WEEK was marked by yelling and verbal epithets between the audience and council members and the Mayor, and also between councilmen themselves. Commissioner Eric Broussard in a heated exchange, called out to the Mayor “You’re a Big Liar” as they were arguing over needed repairs and remediation to the Evelyn Churchill Community Center Building in Galena Manor. Police Chief Ed Mata, seen above right, stares down a heckler from the audience, warning her that she could be removed from the room if she speaks out again.

Rancor returns to commission meetings

GALENA PARK – Several controversial issues were on the agenda for this week’s City Commission meeting Tuesday night, and disagreements and accusations set the tone for the meeting.

In addition to some heated words between commissioners and the Mayor, the audience also expressed displeasure in the way the city was being managed.

Discussions and words became so loud and heated that the Galena Park police entered the room, and moved toward the perpetrators, in an attempt to quiet them down.

After approval of minutes, the Commission passed a resolution regarding the public’s right to see government records. City Attorney Robert Collins made a point that the wording of the resolution followed state guidelines for Open Record Requests.

Some in the audience felt it was an effort to restrict public access to information.

The Commission then voted 4-0 to designate the Houston Chronicle as the official newspaper of the city. In effect, this took that designation away from the North Channel Star. After the meeting, the Mayor told the publisher of the paper that they wanted more Galena Park news in the Star, and more price competition on the cost of legal ads, even though the Chronicle is known to be quite expensive compared with the Star. No mention was made of the paper’s reporting of misconduct, but Moya said there were “other issues.”

In the most important agenda item, and not without controversy, the Commission discussed and voted on putting on November’s ballot an item that would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages within the city. Commissioners Silva and Broussard said they felt the resolution was not clearly written, needed more time for discussion, and should be tabled. City attorney Collins said they had to vote on it, because there were sufficient petitions received to require a vote by state law. When the vote was 2-2 to table, Mayor Moya declared “the Ayes have it” by voting too.

At this point, someone in the audience spoke out in disagreement, and Police Chief Mata went to her and warned her that she could not speak, or she would be removed. Attorney Collins indicated that the exact language of the ballot item, and where alcohol could be sold and with what restrictions, would be worked out later prior to the election.

The Commission passed an agreement with Texas Solid Waste Services, Inc. for the waste collection service at $13.00 per month, for approximately 3,400 accounts.

On the next item, hiring of a new full time city employee, Commissioners Silva and Broussard asked to table the item until more candidates could be interviewed. Mayor Moya said “I override the Table” and in a 2-2 vote, Moya said the motion carried.

City Attorney Collins reported that a survey of the Churchill Community Building in Galena Manor was complete, and warned of toxicity in the building. Specifically it cited asbestos in the floor tile, and mold in the walls and wood. He advised that remediation was required.

The building has been closed for about 7 months, due to deterioration. Mayor Moya indicated that the Commission had authorized work on remediation by the city, but Commissioner Broussard said this was not true, and shouted out “You’re a Big Liar” toward the Mayor and Commissioner Ponder. He felt that he was being unfairly blamed for the continued closing of the building.

Fire Chief Paul Gregory said the building was not condemned, but remained a fire hazard with exit doors blocked or not working properly.

Mayor Moya reassured the audience that she wants to “keep the building by doing it ourselves.”

Public comments followed this part of the meeting. A Galena Park businessman stated that alcohol sales was important to his business, and could generate needed income for the city and its businesses. He suggested that proper controls could limit any negative results from allowing the sale of spirits.

Former Commissioner Robert Clowers questioned violations to the city charter that allowed for payment of invoices from the city attorney. He claimed that $81,000 had been paid without proper authorization, including the first invoice for $20,000 after Collin’s first 5 days of work. He pointed out that Collins was billing at $375 per hour, though he was only paid $150 in his previous job.

Collins took issue with the comments, shaking his head “NO” after each of Clowers points. However, he did not speak on the matter.