Council approves Separation agreement with City Manager Carson

During its regular Apr. 06, 2021 meeting, the Forney City Council met to consider annexing 21 acres, another warehouse project, tennis program, Bellagio Laguna Azure PID, FEDC incentive, Board appointment, returning to in-person meetings, overview of Finance and Fire Dept.s, warning sirens, approved Separation Agreement with City Manager, appointing Mr. Zook as interim. (watch official video)

  • Approved as one consent item:
    • assignment of investment advisory agreement to Meeder Public Funds, Inc.
          Documents state the firm used since 2007, Patterson and Assoc., was sold to Meeder, but the same people will still be involved and agreement is unchanged.
    • the acceptance of public improvements for the Gateway Infrastructure Phase III project.
          Documents state these are sanitary sewer lines and pump plus SCADA additions.
    • authorize staff to apply for grant funding for Ballistic Vests and related PPE from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.
          Ms. Brandie Jones said lucky to have Chief Briggs, and should support the effort to get this grant.
          Documents state "this PPE will be key in the development of a Tactical Emergency Medic Support program for the combination Forney/Terrell SWAT Team", and there will be no cost to the city.
    • a Resolution awarding an Annual Price Agreement for Concrete Maintenance to MB Construction, INC, and Summit Paving, LLC, and all related issues.
          Documents state there were eight bids, this is a one-year term with options to extend for one year four times.  Expected first-year budget is $600k for concrete work.

  • Held Public Hearings -
    • Approved proposed annexation of approximately 21.073 acres of land located in the Absolom Hyer Survey, Abstract 203 on County Road 212, owned by Platform 80-20, LP and discussion and possible action on an Ordinance approving the annexation.
          Mr. Thatcher said this is specific to action council previously took, in Dec., about project on CR212.  Developers have purchased the property, this annexation would bring the full project into city limits.  A later item will be to amend the development agreement, and changing to a PD from LI.
          Justin Day, Tyler Wood, Laura Hoffman, all from Platform 80-20, were available for questions.

  • Approved a Resolution approving an Amendment to the Development Agreement between the City of Forney and Platform 80-20, LP for the development of an approximate 60 acres of land located on CR 212.
        City Attorney Mr. Thatcher said the land previously in city limits was rezoned LI, with the additional 21 acres, will request rezoning.  Mr. Day said appreciate opportunity to have this amendment, people very interested in the project.  Mr. Thatcher said what is being requested in similar to other developments in the area, will be easy for staff to enforce.
  • Approved a Resolution awarding a contract with Franco Tennis Academy for tennis league and instruction services.
        This concerned an RFQ parks department sent out for tennis and pickle-ball lessons and leagues, this company was the only respondent.
        Mr. Rouvaldt said earlier, staff and atty compiled an RFQ, for tennis and pickle-ball leagues, there are no currently programs for adults.  Received only one response to RFQ, parks board considered it and approved contract for one year.  Mr. Andy Franco is available to answer questions.  Mr. Moon asked about drop-in rate: $19, if they don't want to commit to lessons.  Already have software to get started quickly, some companies wanted to control signups themselves.  ,,, Mayor Penn said summer program would be good for FISD, asked Mr. Franco where he's from - in Frisco, operate programs in little elm and the colony.  DC asked how many pickle-ball courts - four ? ,,, bond committee could look at more.
  • Approved a Resolution approving a Public Improvement District Consulting Services Agreement for PID Administration services for the Public Improvement District related to the Bellagio Laguna Azure project; and authorize the City Manager to execute a contract for services.
        Mr. Thatcher said in Jan considered developer agreement, which had creation of a PID, development group has submitted proposed agreement.  City is putting together a team to process the creation and financing of the PID.  Have provided a scope of work and ,,, .  The costs will be reimbursed by the developer.  Mr. Moon said it doesn't cost the city anything to do the study.  Mr. Thatcher said they will stay on after study, and will continue to be paid by the PID, there are some time-out clauses.  They are critical to ,,, Mayor Penn said it's important to have a termination clause, in case things don't work out, as happens some times.
        Ms. Brandie Jones did not sign up to speak.
  • Pulled: a Resolution of Intent to Establish a City of Forney Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program, and all related actions.
  • Approved an expenditure under Section 501.073 Texas Local Government Code and a Performance Agreement between the Forney Economic Development Corporation and Best Massage Ever, LLC for $10k based on 7 FTE.
        This was about an incentive that council returned to FEDC for reconsideration.  There was discussion about the original request only being $5k, due to some misunderstanding of the process.

  • Re: board and commission appointments: Board of Adjustment; Park and Recreation Board; and the TIF Board.
        City Secretary Ms. Brooks said vacancies are: BofA had a member move out of the city.  Mayor Penn asked if vacancies are advertised - weren't for this.  Mayor Penn suggested that do in future. 
        Park board has a resignation of member 3: Mr. Myers nominated Jim Sanders, he was approved.
        TIF board: 2 vacancies by non-reappointment of members 1 and 2.  Will seek additional candidates.
  • Approved 5-2 (Mr. Myers, Ms. Powers nay) opening meetings for the City Council and the individual boards and commissions.
        Mr. Thatcher said would be for council and board meetings.
        Ms. Brandie Jones said would like to see meetings opened back up, other cities and boards are meeting in person, given vaccines have rolled out, she hopes Mr. Myers is now in favor ,,, Ms. Powers said she doesn't care what Mr. Myers does on weekend, he's one of seven.  Mr. Myers said he had feedback from other members about their concerns, and he had a great time over the weekend.  Mr. Johnson said he has no issues w/ opening, will take a while for herd immunity, still need to have masks and distancing, must take into account entire public.  Mr. Myers said he would vote the same way as people still concerned.  Ms. Powers said even with vaccines, have been some increases, wants to stay w/ status quo.  Mr. Traylor in favor of opening w/ masks and distancing; Mr. Moon agreed.  Mr. Johnson said he understands wanting to keep them closed, his wife is very susceptible, younger people are showing an increase, he moved to open with masks required.  Mr. Thatcher asked if could stipulate not apply to already posted meetings - yes.
  • Overview of the Finance/HR/Court/Utilities Departments current and future plans.
        Ms. Woodham said made up of 4 groups; she has an assistant finance director.  Have received 22 consecutive GFOA awards.  Do utility billing, meter reads, customer service, replaced many meters so 95% are drive-by readings.  About 3,500 meters, takes 3 days to read instead of 3 weeks.  Would like to upgrade to smart meters, which would require antennas throughout the city.  Municipal court, which went to virtual during COVID, many persons greatly appreciated that.  Next month will resume in-person trials, and jury trials.  HR division started doing payroll in-house in Jan., will save money.  Have online benefits management for employee insurance now.  Will bring time-keeping in-house as well.  Plan to have paperless records.
        Mayor Penn said in-house payroll is a big deal, even if have to hire an employee.  Ms. Woodham said it was over 4k / mo, haven't had to hire anyone else.  Mr. Moon asked if citizens will still be able to have virtual court - planning to have at least once per month. 
  • Overview of the Fire Department current and future plans.
        Chief Briggs said transitioned from all volunteer 19 years ago; in 2010-12 had 12 FT persons, currently have 33 FT and 7 PT some who were volunteers.  2001 created ESD #6, Station 2 opened in 2017.  Have progressed to limited Advanced Life Support (ALS) with 5 paramedics and 3 EMTs, partner with Careflite.

  • Update on our warning system.
        Mr. Thatcher said as no action on the item, mayor has discretion about public input.
        Mr. Cardwell said there was a letter sent today about efforts to move forward expanding the ground system to cover the entire city.  Have looked at several vendors, have 14 sq miles to cover, suggest a 360 degree pole as opposed to current rotating sirens, 360 is the common new system.  Standard tornado tone travels farther than voice.  Coverage with tone system would be 11 towers with ideal placements.  For voice, would need 29.  In 2017, Dallas system was hacked and activated, has happened other places.  Propose connecting them with fiber, backup of encrypted radios.  With council input, can send out RFP's.
        Mr. Johnson asked if tone was most critical; Mr. Cardwell said vendors say tone is most important, voice could cause confusion.  Mr. Johnson asked if different tones for weather events - Mr. Cardwell said activation is currently for specific events, modern systems have multiple tones, and will integrate with everbridge system.  Mayor Penn was concerned the radio backup might use cell towers.  She asked if FFD persons were working with him - right now, just equipment search, but the RFP will include their input.  Mr. Myers asked if a city-owned fiber network would be less likely to be hacked - very much so.  Mr. Johnson asked about having a budget item, rather than bond.  Ms. Woodham said is early in budget process, once get more info.  Mr. Myers asked if everbridge is faster than sirens; yes, these would integrate with everbridge, and working with the IPAWS system which will notify all mobile devices in the area.  Mr. Cardwell verified council wants the 11 tone sirens.  Ms. Powers asked if they know where the sirens would go; yes, if can acquire the prime locations.
        Ms. Brandie Jones said it's wonderful they want to upgrade the sirens.
  • Public Comment
    • John Hooker said speaking as a business owner, about firing Chief Lunt, which was apparently a spite-motivated move.  Forney losing someone who was highly supported, he wasn't alone in his complaints about the City Manager.  Mr. Lunt wants to maintain his job, he's able to unite the city.  Mr. Lunt was a very accessible person, was always helpful.  He doubts could find anyone better, he implored them to reinstate Mr. Lunt.
    • Misty Lawrenson said she wants council to request City Manager's resignation.  She has never seen a town come together as did during the winter storm.  Clearly see that Mr. Carson is not representative of this attitude, did not show care or concern about citizens, mismanaged CARES funds.  Have lost employees, every department director has changed, lost 13 PD & FD employees.  Had one grievance filed, EDC submitted a letter of concern, Fire Chief said the tone in Chief Lunt's grievance "speaks to a broad-scale challenge we department directors face in dealing with Mr. Carson and a perceived toxic work environment." Lost a phenomenal police chief.  She said council is responsible for overseeing the immense power City Manager wields, responsible for holding him accountable for his actions.  They should allow Mr. Carson to go on his way, and bring Chief Lunt back.
    • Brandie Jones said it was important the roles former Chief Lunt and Chief Briggs played during the winter storm, she hopes to see Mr. Lunt back in his role.  Weigh the cost of terminating Mr. Carson's contract against cost of keeping him.  Consider the potential lawsuits that employees can file He has disgraced his position, how many more complaints must be filed.  As Mr. Grooms has resigned, open that position up for candidates, and ask them about
    • Nate Dettmer said council should reconsider user fees for youth organizations.  In 2019 council asked park board to consider user fees for non-residents; in July 2019 staff and sports committees came in agreement, park board made recommendation.  In Nov. 2019 a completely different direction was taken.  Same thing happened with DEK hockey, parks tabled it to get more information, next month council decided.  He found that Mr. Carson told staff to not inform council about park board lack of recommendation.  Consider in the next meeting reviewing those policies.
    • Jeremy Thomas - speaking as a business owner, he expressed concern about current state with City Manager and Chief Lunt; he has about 80 FT employees in the city, 135 contract, plan to add 40+ FTE soon.  They are looking for 25k ft office space.  He has no political agenda, doesn't know any council members, knew previous EDC director, met Chief Lunt and Chief Briggs.  Has not been recruited or coached on what to say.  Suggests council looks at this objectively.  He has paramedic training, worked hurricane responses in Houston.  Re Chief Lunt: never seen a leader gain trust and respect of so many in such a short time, he's a diamond in the rough.
    • Ronald Logan spoke on behalf of Chief Lunt, consider reinstating him as he earned respect of PD and animal control.  He established himself as a valuable, caring member of the community.  Chief Lunt's leadership as emergency coordinator during the winter storm was recognized by staff.  He was the right person to lead the departments in 2019, and is now.  Complaints and letters have told similar stories of toxic environment due to Mr. Carson.  Chief Lunt should be reinstated.

  • Held a 95-minute executive session re:

    • Approved two Chapter 380 agreements with Kohl's and Forney Marketplace/Retail.
    • Approved (unanimously) a Professional Separation of Employment with City Manager Tony Carson and authorized the execution of a separation agreement to be drafted by the City Attorney's Office and assign Karl Zook as acting City Manager.

  • Adjourned at 22:49
Tuesday, 2021, April 6