Councilmembers clash over student liaison

By Miranda Rogers

POST-REGISTER

A narrow vote of the Lockhart City Council will soon allow high school students a front-row seat to observe municipal government in Lockhart.

For some time, Councilmember Paul Gomez has been working with Interim Lockhart High School Principal Monica Guillory to initiate a program allowing a high school student to attend and participate in Lockhart City Council meetings.

The “student liaison” program would allow students an insight as to what city government is about and possibly, Gomez hoped, encourage them to want to run for office after graduation.

While some councilmembers embraced the notion, others poked holes in the idea, saying they were uncomfortable allowing the students to sit among the elected officials.

Most notably, District 4 Councilmember Richard Banks, who said he revered his elected position, said having a student at the dais “does nothing to enhance stature [of the council].”

He likened the idea to being allowed to bring a pet and allow it to sit on his lap during meetings.

Gomez and others reminded Banks that students are not animals, and suggested the experience, which is not a voting position and is purely observatory in nature, would teach the students about city structure.

Ultimately, the concerns appeared to focus upon where visiting students, who would be approved by an application process and attend six meetings over a three-month period, would sit.

Banks and others suggested it was more appropriate for the students to sit in the gallery with other communitymembers.

Mayor Pro Tem Angie Gonzales-Sanchez said as a parent and council member, she felt she does not give her children enough information, and that being part of City Council is a very strong educational tool. Mayor Lew White agreed, saying that it is an honor for the student selected, and he or she should be recognized with a place at the table.

When the final vote 3-4 scraped by, it was agreed that the student would be allowed to sit to the left of the secretary.

In other business, the Council opted to allocate the Hotel Occupancy Tax to a variety of non-profit organizations in the same percentage amounts as last year.

The unanimous vote once again denied hotel-motel funding to the Friends of the Brock Cabin Committee, suggesting the organization’s pending restoration of the historic cabin in Lions Park has not yet generated the tourism necessary to qualify it for the funds.

The Lockhart Chamber of Commerce, Caldwell County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Gaslight-Baker Theatre, the Caldwell County Museum and the Southwest Museum of Clocks and Watches will all benefit from the occupancy tax.

In brief news:

Food trailers and mobile kitchens have become increasingly popular throughout Austin and San Marcos, and now Lockhart is deciding to give these transportable concessions a chance to roam about. Lockhart has had restaurants in the past that have ended up failing for one reason or another, most of them due to the high rent that is difficult to deal with while becoming established.

Those who have unsuccessfully tried opening up restaurants in the past may be interested in investing in the trailers, especially if they are having trouble finding a building that is suitable equipped.

A very expensive and complicated project has arisen from the Planning and Zoning Commission, who recommended that all above-ground utilities should be moved underground as part of the necessary utility relocations along the portion of Highway 183 that will soon be widened to five lanes.

Though it is something that will have to be dealt with as soon as possible, City Manager Vance Rodgers noted that a lot of data needed to be gathered, and decided to bring it back to the council with detail in March. He said that because it is a very costly project, he will address three different scenarios in order to play around with the costs to find the best solution for the city.

During their annual review of the City of Lockhart Investment Policy, the council addressed certain amendments to create procedures for liquidation, and investments will be monitored on a monthly basis.

Old Kelley Road residents Beverly Hill and Rick Schmidt approached the council during open forum to discuss a problem that has been plaguing them off and on for several years. Both have recently received letters informing them that their addresses will be changed “as a matter of public safety,” something which both say has happened several times over the years. Schmidt asked the council to consider de-annexing his property, as only half of his driveway is within the city limits, and his sewer, water and electricity are independent of the city.

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