City Commissioner's pass panhandling changes, gas rate increase, table item on parking
The Breckenridge City Commission met Tuesday afternoon and passed a variety of new ordinances, as well as a public hearing regarding the classification and definition of townhouses in the city. One ordinance passed also included raising gas rates.
Other ordinances passed included more strict regulation on panhandlers and peddlers within the city’s public spaces Another dealt with parking, which would have created stricter rules on how and where residents were allowed to park their car. But after a resident voiced concerns, the item was eventually tabled.
Gas rate increase
The commissioners approved an ordinance to raise gas rates by $616,000 total, which would raise the residential customer's monthly bill by $1.66 with a monthly customer charge of $14, according to background material. This was a deal worked out between the city and Texas Gas Service. This compares to the intial request by TGS, which was an increase overall of $1,042,179 and would have raised residential bills by an average of $6.03 and included a monthly customer charge of $20 per month.
TGS will also issue a one-time credit to customers of $24.40 in January. In June, TSG made the initial request for the rate increase, but the city suspended the implementation until Nov. 20, according to background material. City Manager Andy McCuistion said Breckenridge typically follows the lead of Mineral Wells and Weatherford regarding rate changes. He said both cities are on there ways of approving changes similar to Breckenridge.
Stricter rules on panhandling
In the ordinance passed regarding panhandling, gives general prohibitions including a number of rules dictating a peddler cannot go on private property if there is a clear sign on the property not allowing peddlers or solicitors.
There are also general guidelines for panhandlers to follow regarding the street. The ordinance prohibits panhandlers from operating in congested areas of traffic, due to a worry it will impede the public. While the ordinance itself does not specify what this means, it states an officer in good faith is expected to make this call if they see this happening.
Panhandlers also cannot operate on U.S. Highway 180 from the eastern to western city limits. The same goes for U.S. Highway 183 from the northern to southern city limits. They also cannot locate at an intersection with a traffic light, or on a median or traffic island in the street.
Other restrictions added include further distances that must be followed in a variety of locations. An example is a panhandler must remain at least 50 feet away from what are considered vulnerable entrances, like an ATM, a bank, a grocery or convenient store, a restaurant or a business that states “no soliciting.” The minimal distance required prior was 25 feet.
This ordinance comes after a lot of complaints and concerns from residents about panhandling within city limits. At the meeting, Mayor Bob Simms said this is the No. 1 issue people ask him about.
Prior to this meeting, there was no definition defining townhouses in the city code. This ordinance will add an official definition of townhouses into the city code. The item, which also was scheduled as a public hearing, saw a number of people show up to ask questions and inquire about it. A lot of these individuals were the same residents who showed at the public hearing at last month’s Planning and Zoning meeting about the townhouses.
It should be noted the ordinance voted on at the commissioner’s meeting was not in relation to a specific area, but more so focused on just defining townhouses in the city code. After this was explained and clarified, almost all residents who had shown for the public hearing left.
This was the first public hearing on this type of item since the P&Z meeting last month, where over a dozen residents showed up to protest a plan by the Breckenridge Economic Development Corporation to try and build townhouses off Elliott Street. Several in attendance voiced their disdain for the plan, which would look to get rid of a playing field in the area and build housing for middle-income families and elderly that are not federally subsidized.
Those opposed to the idea voiced concerns about losing the playing field, as well as a risk of traffic and property taxes increasing. BEDC Executive Director Virgil Moore spoke at the hearing in October, saying the playing field being lost would not substantially impact the playing areas in the city, and emphasized the city’s need for non-subsidized housing due to the increase in industry moving in.
A hearing on the specific location will be held at the next P&Z meeting Nov. 20.
The final major ordinance of the night dealt with new regulation on parking within the city. The item was tabled due to lack of clarification in its bylaws. But had it passed, it would have made it illegal for residents to park their vehicles on unpaved or unimproved roads.
The ordinance specifically states a resident cannot leave their vehicle in the front, side or rear yard if the area is not paved or has no improvements. The exception is leaving the vehicle in the rear yard if it is hidden from sight by a solid fence or vegetation (reaching at least six feet in height).
Resident Robert Alexander showed up at the meeting to ask questions, as well as explain why he did not think this would work. Some of his concerns involved people not having adequate space to park their vehicles, as now a majority of people have more than one. He speculated this would lead to people parking in the street, which would cause another issue.
City Manager Andy McQuinston concurred, saying if people start parking cars in the street it’ll be made almost impossible to get emergency vehicles and equipment through.
Fire Cpt. Calvin Chaney said the city always tries to work with people and do not cite the first time and the ordinance is designed to make the city more appealing.
“We’re going to work with people,” Chaney said. “We’re not going to strong-arm anybody.”
Alexander brought up the fact that even if people begin dropping pavement into their yard to expand their driveways, the cars are still going to be parked in the area.
“What difference does it make?” Alexander asked. “Why push this?”
The commissioner tabled the item for further discussion and will try to have something on the agenda for next month’s meeting.
The other item on the agenda included the consideration of the purchase of a ladder truck for the fire department. The truck being considered for purchase is a 1998 Ferrara Spartan 75-foot ladder truck. The truck being considered has 20,000 miles on it, averaging about 1,000 miles per year. Chaney said the truck, which is coming out of Florida, is the primary truck for the fire department it belongs to at the moment and typically sees 1-2 structural fires per year. The cost would be $75,000.
The fire department is also trying to sell a 2006 E-One Pumper for $65,000 to help offset the cost. Chaney also said purchasing this truck and potentially refurbishing it would still be much cheaper than buying a new truck all together. Chaney said he wanted to take a look at the truck before agreeing to purchase it.
The Breckenridge City Commissioners meet on the first Tuesday of every month. Their next meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 4, at the City Offices.