Woodville Council approves ‘Expanded Enforcement Program’ focusing on traffic law enforcement

by Janette Blackwell

In a proposal designed to save Woodville's taxpayers a significant amount, City Administrator Mandy Risinger cited the City's recent improved bond rating as an opportunity to refinance a current 40-year bond at a lower interest rate, enabling the City to shorten the term of the bond by eight years (due in 2030 instead of 2038). According to Jonathan Frels of Bracewell & Guiliani attorneys, the City's bond counsel, refinancing will allow the City to save $500,000 for taxpayers. The Council unanimously approved the request.

Council considered for approval Chief of Police Scott Yosko's proposed Expanded Enforcement Program (EEP) for the Woodville Police Department. The program would allow local off-duty officers to voluntarily participate, at their standard overtime rates, to focus primarily on traffic law enforcement, although the program would not be limited to that. Anticipated figures allow for a minimum of one citation per hour per officer during the EEP patrol, and the additional revenue from these expected citations will offset or surpass the expense of the program. Yosko also specified both incentives and guidelines for participation among officers, including maintaining job performance requirements. Risinger added the cost-benefit analysis was encouraging: The department projects an average of $23,000 in fines levied per month, and approximately $13,000 to $14,000 in collected fines per month, with expected return after expenses at about $10,000. Projected figures reveal that the increased costs of such a program are still less than hiring one fulltime employee with benefits, Social Security, uniforms and taxes. Yosko sees the EEP as a win-win program, providing officers with extra income while addressing serious community concerns. Yosko requested a three-month trial period, followed by statistical revaluation to determine program outcomes. The motion carried unanimously to approve the project on a three-month trial basis.

Students from Warren High School Student Council's Lane Brandin asked Council to require the city's businesses to decrease the number of single-use plastic shopping bags going to landfill and to reduce the number along highways to keep Tyler County beautiful. Student Council's Savannah Bonner urged Council to place on next month's agenda consideration of giving Woodville businesses one year to transition from plastic shopping bags to multi-use cloth bags or brown paper bags. Mayor Bythewood stated that they will place the item on the June meeting agenda for consideration.

Council considered and approved a variance to noise ordinance for First Baptist Church along with closure of Holly Street (Charlton to Village) on June 29 for a July 4 picnic, due to amplified music. The event will end at 7 p.m.

City Administrator Mandy Risinger reported the City's meter automation project is moving forward. The water meter aspect of the project is complete, and damaged gas meters were tested and replaced or repaired as needed. "The last piece of this project is retrofitting the remaining gas meters," Risinger said. The project should be complete within the next few weeks.

Risinger has obtained three of the remaining four written owner easement consents, which will allow engineers to submit application for environmental clearance and approval to drill an additional water well on Pine Street.

The state has approved the fair housing documentation we submitted to update the FHAST (Fair Housing Activity Statement), which will enable the City to receive disaster recovery funds for the Ike 2.2 grant program.

Judge Judith Haney's report of the Court's past monthly activities included a total of 87 arrests: with charges for 177 traffic citations, 87 Class C violations and 20 Class A and felony violations. Year to date revenues come to $295,000, nearly $57,000 above last year's collected fines. Eighty percent of the top 20 violations were directly related to speeding.

Police Chief Yosko's report of the Department's past monthly activities:
Police Chief Scott Yosko reported that 15 years ago his department arrested about one person daily, averaging 30 arrests per month; last month, however, 87 arrests were recorded. Increases in arrests result in increased time for officers to prepare required paperwork and subsequent increased payroll costs. Yosko stated the "Can You Buy Drugs" program has worked very well, and that the department is still receiving related calls.

Fire Chief Tommy Shane's report of the fire department's monthly activities included total 18 fires, 11 of them outside the city. The department assisted Corrigan with the Georgia-Pacific fire, almost immediately followed by the explosion and fire at the German Pellet plant. Mayor Ben Bythewood praised the department's quick and effective "incredible response."

The consent docket, including previous meeting minutes and monthly financial statement, was unanimously approved.

City offices will be closed Monday, May 26, for the Memorial Day holiday.