The comments on street work came after the council voted 5-1 July 9 to approve a $126,000 work order with an engineering firm for upgrading certain streets. Councilman William Hornsby cast the lone opposing vote because plans call for improving only 150 feet of Newsome Street, and he said residents there believed the entire street would be improved at once.
He said the plan to work on only part of the street “really, really makes me look bad” and that residents there would contend “they were lied to.” Hornsby, whose council district includes Newsome in south Gilmer, termed himself “very upset.”
City Manager Greg Hutson said the whole street would eventually be upgraded, but the 150 feet was what could be improved now with the funds the city has. Hornsby accepted his offer to join the councilman in visiting with residents of the street.
After Hornsby thanked his constituents for attending the July 23 council meeting “to support this effort” for street improvements, Newsome Street resident Eric King thanked the city for repairing roadways, Hutson for clarifying matters, and said he understood that Newsome would be revamped from the intersection with Abney Street to the one with Miller Street.
“It’s more than repairing road,” King said of the planned project, saying it was a chance to “right some wrongs” since no matter what side of town residents live on, they should have good streets.
Another citizen, Humphrey Richard, asked the council if someone could get a tax break by using a private contractor to “fix the streets according to your specifications” or adding a street with the landowners’ consent.
He also asked if the city would maintain streets built by a private contractor if he paid the contractor. Richard said he posed the idea because he heard city “funds were lacking.”
The council could not legally discuss the street issue in detail since King and Richard spoke under the “citizens’ comments” part of the agenda.
Still, Mayor Tim Marshall told Richard he was free to talk to Hutson, and City Attorney Mike Martin said what Richard proposed was “complicated.”
After the meeting, Martin said Richard’s proposal would not be legal because law requires a bidding process on city street work. The city attorney also said any tax savings from Richard’s proposed method would be miniscule.
Three persons appeared concerning the proposal to join the city of Waskom in banning abortion clinics. They also spoke under the part of the “citizens’ comments” agenda.
Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Life of East Texas in Longview, condemned the “current modern-day holocaust of killing unborn children” by abortion. He said State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) helped him obtain the city of Waskom’s ban, and that they had reached out to an attorney who has been quoted by U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
Saying Gilmer residents had approached him about the matter, he urged the council consider making the town a “sanctuary city for the unborn” by banning abortion in the city limits. Dickson also said abortion is not mentioned in the United States Constitution.
Two women who said they had undergone abortions, Morgan Deshazer and Cassie Hutton, backed Dickson’s plea. Deshazer said God had “let me feel this burden” that abortion “saddens Him,” and she added that outlawing it in her hometown “might have changed my mind” about undergoing one at age 19.
Hutton, saying she suffered nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder after her abortion, said she had written a book on overcoming the emotional impact. She also said she might have had a “change of heart” before having the procedure if she had been informed of the details, and predicted Gilmer will “see a blessing of flourishing coming” if it outlaws abortion.
After the meeting, Marshall said he had legal concerns about banning abortion “whether we do it or not” and that he feared the possibility of a “lawsuit that costs everybody in the city.” The mayor also said the council “should try to do what the majority” of citizens would ask, but said the proposed ban “needs more discussion” and that “I try to look out for the good of all the citizens of Gilmer.”
In other business last week, the council approved the Gilmer Economic Development Corporation’s budget of almost $406,000 in expenses which the corporation recently approved. Marshall noted all those funds must go toward paying off the cost of Lake Gilmer.
The council also accepted the city investment report, and approved letting the police department buy two tasers with $2,388 it received in proceeds from auctioning firearms. Police Chief Mark Case said his department is trying to update its tasers since the ones they have are more than 5 years old.
The council also aproved allowing certain streets to be used for this October’s East Texas Yamboree festival, a request for water/sewer service outside city limits, and a site plan for a new fire exit egress platform and stairs at 100 Jefferson Street if it does not require compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Hutson said the proposed structure would take up part of the sidewalk downtown.