The Glen Rose City Council debated at length at its Monday meeting whether to fire Darrell Webb as the city's head of code enforcement and fire marshal after questions arose about the new Family Dollar store's compliance with the city's commercial building standard ordinance.
After a heated discussion, the council split 2-2 on whether to terminate Webb's employment or issue him a written reprimand. Councilman Bob Stricklin was not present at the meeting and Mayor Pam Miller's vote, in case of a tie, would not have met the required percentage to terminate Webb, so Councilman Chris Bryant's motion to fire Webb failed for lack of votes.
Bryant and Councilwoman Barbara Miller voted to terminate Webb's employment, while Johnny Miller and Sue Oldenburg voted against. Webb has been a city employee for more than 20 years.
The issue arose after some council members said they had received phone calls from residents unhappy with the appearance of the Family Dollar store under construction on U.S. Highway 67 across from the Glen Rose Independent School District administration building.
After receiving a notice that the council may have the authority to void the previous plan and potential appeals, Family Dollar's attorneys responded to the city. So far the company has not filed a lawsuit against the city.
“There may be a chance they will work us,” City Attorney Andrew Lucas said after the meeting. The city is working to try to avoid a lawsuit, he added.
Bryant said he was called by a citizen to go by and look at the building. A load of concrete blocks had been delivered. Bryant said he then called City Superintendent Ronald Bruce.
He said that the council had worked hard to come up with an ordinance overseeing architectural standards in conjunction with the overall Comprehensive Plan, the master plan for the city's future growth and appearance.
The ordinance, approved on Jan. 11, calls for a “uniform commercial building appearance standard with the city limits.” It specifies that a minimum of 60 percent of each exterior facade facing a roadway be native stone or approved synthetic “faux” stone.”
The ordinance also prohibits metal siding, standard concrete block, vinyl siding, wood siding and faux wood-grain siding on exterior facades except in industrial districts and set out specifications for roofs and windows.
Prohibited materials can be used if a building official grants a waiver based on the Comprehensive Plan, according to the ordinance.
“The use of these otherwise prohibited materials must be part of an overall architectural plan that meets the aesthetic objectives of this section and the city's Comprehensive Plan,” the ordinance states. “An unfavorable decision by the building official may be appealed to the city council for final determination.”
Instead, Bryant said, Webb took it upon himself to “sign off” on the Family Dollar store even though it did not comply with the ordinance. The building is not using native stone but a pressed concrete block product.
However, there is some room for leeway. The American State Bank building under construction, for example, is not using 60 percent native stone. But it is using a mix of materials, such as brick and other stone, and sloped roofs that make it in keeping with the ordinance, city officials said.
“The council has worked a long time to create city ordinances,” Bryant said. “Time and time we run up against the same issues that our ordinances are not being met.”
Bryant said the Dollar General building also did not meet the native rock goal.
Webb responded that the ordinance was not in the place at the time of its construction.
Part of the exchange between them went like this:
Bryant: “Time and time again I asked you if you understood the Comprehensive Plan. Do you understand what the council is looking for? This was after Dollar General and you assured me yes…you had to have known what we've been doing for the past three years.
Webb: “This hasn't been going on for three years, you just passed this ordinance this year.”
Bryant: “This is one of the very first subjects that was brought up when I started my term as council member.”
Webb: “Apparently, I must lack the training.”
Bryant: “No, you lack being at the council meetings…it was suggested that you be here.”
Webb: “I have a superintendent (Ronald Bruce) that's over me. I work for him.”
Bryant: “You don't feel like you needed to be at city meetings that involved your department?”
Webb: “What does that have to do with the subject at hand?”
Bryant: “A lot – it's things you would have known.” Later, he continued: “Code enforcement has been on the biggest issues since I've been here.”
Webb: “You know you're the very one that's talking about ordinances that we've tried to enforce, but you actually pull the citations that we give, so that seems…
Webb. “Never? Because someone at the Red Barn happened to get upset and call you on a citation that we gave and so you pulled it.”
Bryant: “Until proper procedures could be implemented because what was going on was singling people out.”
Webb: “We never said we picked out people.”
Mayor Miller: “Hey! Remember we don't want to argue, we want to stick to the facts.”
Mitchell added that she also received complaints about the Family Dollar building.
“You know what we want, I don't know why you allowed it,” she told Webb.
He responded that he didn't do it “intentionally.”
“Can't I make mistakes in my job?” Webb asked.
Bryant responded. “I'm saying you're incompetent in your job.”
Webb said that since the ordinance was in place, he's only done one commercial building. ?“So forgive me for making a mistake,” he said.
Miller read a letter than Webb's mother-in-law, Jan Daniels, wrote appealing to the council. Webb has been undergoing chemotherapy to combat Hepatitis C. He has had exorbitant medical bills and needs his insurance, she wrote.
Webb had some supporters in the audience. One, Jennifer Jimenez, said that she didn't understand why Webb was on the firing line when he hadn't been written up for any infractions and there was no documentation about complaints against him.
Miller told Webb that he needed to set up a plan for keeping his supervisor informed and that he was not to “sign off” on construction projects until further notice.
“My recommendation is that you write down what you're doing on a daily basis – keep a log,” the mayor said.
In other action, the council named Bruce as the “go-to” person in charge of construction-related activities at Oakdale Park, while Billy Huckaby, director of the Glen Rose Convention & Tourist Bureau, will be in charge of event-related activities.
Council members also voted to drop admission fees to Oakdale Park's pool from $5.95 a person to $4 and no charge for children age 2 and under with a paid adult ticket.
The council also decided to go ahead and refinance its bonds to take advantage of low interest rates and not pursue adding $1 million for future park projects.