Levelland City Council met Monday night for a regular meeting.
During the public forum portion of the meeting Shanna Saunders spoke to the council concerning the Levelland Downtown Revitalization Project. She said that March 9th contractors showed up without any warning. She noted that her store was damaged and the city’s contractors attempted three times to re-frame the store opening, and then L & L Construction was hired to re-frame and make repairs. She said L & L still has not been paid due to the pending litigation. She questions weather the city values her business. She questioned several times when this will be corrected, the city attorney noted that during public comment the council cannot answer any questions. Saunders said “the city should take more pride in the downtown than this.” They noted that their is a one inch “lip” that is a danger to customers entering their store. It was noted that the downtown revitalization project is tied up in litigation currently and the city is not able to move forward at this time. Saunders asked when someone would be able to respond to her. City Manager, Erik Rejino said he would contact her Tuesday morning.
The Young Professionals organization come before the council to receive permission to establish a Blessing Box project which would contain non-perishable items and personal hygiene items. The box would stand approximately three foot tall and would generally have a clear front so that you can see if it is stocked. It was noted that approximately 20% of Levelland’s population is below poverty level. It was also noted that many families in Levelland ISD still qualify for free or reduced meals. Several agencies currently help to provide food for those in need, however, despite those efforts their are still many families in need. The group would like to establish four blessing boxes located in areas of need. The group would also like to partner with various organizations to help establish the boxes. The group is planning to have a big kickoff after the first of January. they are looking at putting a box near Cactus and Sherman, Lobo Lake area, near the fire station and near R G Griffin Park area. They are working with the Ministerial Alliance for exact locations. A company in Lubbock has agreed to design and build the boxes for Levelland totally as donation. They will be full welded aluminum. The group is currently working on developing a Memorandum of Understanding with City of Levelland. They are not asking for any financial resources from the city, however, they will be asking for assistance of city right of way access.
The council took action to approve a resolution with the Texas Department of Transportation to close two blocks of a state highway for the Levelland Festival of Lights and Christmas on the Square Event. Several new activities will be added to the event this year from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm at the square following the parade.
Police Chief Albert Garcia visited with the council about a lease purchase plan for body worn cameras and motor vehicle recording cameras for the police department. Originally the department was going to push the project to 2019-2020 fiscal year, however, due to recent issues the department is needing to move the project forward to immediate need. Currently the Coban System MVR is currently what the department is using and was purchased by the department in 2011-2013. The system is currently is mounted behind the right front passenger seat and has to be physically removed to download to the main system in the Law Enforcement Center. Recently there have been hard drive issues and are shutting off without any warning and they lose any and all video. Some of the units are not allowing them to shut them down without a hard re-boot which causes loss of video. They have also had issues where they can’t download the video. The download process is very time consuming and at times they have to respond to an emergency call without any video. Customer support is lacking, especially since the sale of the company in 2017. The customer support team recently inadvertently wiped the entire server causing the PD to lose all video including video related to cases pending in court. The department also has Conan Body Camera system which the department purchased in 2016. The system was to integrate with the in car system, however, it did not. It was also pointed out that the sales representative for Coban should not have even sold the system to the system, however, Coban would not do anything to correct the situation. It was noted that the cameras the PD has should not have been delivered to the city. The cameras only hold a two to three hour battery charge and the batteries are actually getting so hot they are swelling and a neighboring agency has even had a camera explode due to overheating battery. It was also noted that the device is not turning on properly and many times will record video with no audio. The department is looking to totally migrate to another system such as the Watch Guard Video System. This system would include 18 motor vehicle recording units for all active patrol units, 24 body camera systems for all full time officers, a new server to with approximately 36TB of space. It also includes an Interview Room Camera system including 2 cameras, download to same system plus cloud sharing capability for District Attorney and County Attorney access. The body camera on this system would have a 12 hour battery. The estimated cost for replacement is $253,000. It was noted that the department has already paid nearly $10,000 for the Coban system. Chief Garcia noted that he and Captain Rust has met in person with the CEO and another chief official to let them know the city’s disapproval with the company. Councilman Myatt asked if the city tried to take any recourse against the company. The city attorney noted he has not seen any contract and could not comment on the matter. It was noted the company offered to replace the body cameras at a cost of $25,000 to the city which would not help with any of the issues. Councilwoman Breann Buxkemper asked what the average life span is on this type of equipment, the chief noted that the in car systems are approximately 6 years and the body cameras are approximately 10 years. In the future the department plans to allocate funds for new video camera systems for each patrol unit when they replace it. It was noted that the Coban system has a $7,000 licensing fee each year, however, the new system does not have that fee. It was noted that “this is becoming a safety issue and it is important to not wait any longer,” said City Manager Erik Rejino. Rejino noted that they have explored the possibility of using grant funds however, their does not seem to be any available. He said their are two options to fund this project, pay for it out of General Fund or enter into a lease purchase agreement for five years. It was noted that the first payment could be delayed until the new budget year. Rejino said phasing it in is not feasible as it is imperative that the department have necessary video evidence for court trials. The city is looking at a five year lease plan with an estimated annual cost of $55,000 and would furnish the entire department. It was also noted that the new system will auto download once an officer pulls up to the Law Enforcement Center. It was noted that the new system is currently in use with the Department of Public Safety across the entire state. The new system also includes a five year warranty.
The council also discussed some changes to the Fire Service Agreement with Hockley County. Recently a city council appointed committee have met with the county. One of the changes being added to the agreement is to define when and how County and City equipment is dispatched to an emergency. One of those includes, the county automatically dispatching a motor grader to a grass fire when the call comes in. They also are working to determine and define when other fire departments in the County will serve as the primary responder. The goal is to reduce the number of runs being made by the Levelland Fire Department. The committee has also requested an additional $50,000 from the County which would increase the current agreement from a maximum of $140,000 to $190,000. The county has requested three months to review the county and city shared services agreements. The city administration is asking to extend the current contract for three months. The city manager notes that the city went in with all of the city expenses in shared services, however, the county is requesting time to evaluate the relationships. Councilman Myatt said, either we didn’t start early enough or something as the county is not ready to proceed. It was noted that the County Commissioners have not met with city administration as a whole. Discussions have been with a commissioner and the county judge. Mayor Barbra Pinner said the committee felt three months is as much as they could extend, and it was a fair amount of time for the county to evaluate.
The council also received an update on the City’s strategic plan. It was noted that everything the city does as an organization is centered around the Strategic Plan.
The council also approved a zone change from SF-1 to a General Business District on a split vote with Councilman Jim Myatt casting the only dissenting vote.