Watts calls for review of severance agreements
Denton Mayor Chris Watts has called for a council review of severance agreements for city employees.
His move comes after interim city manager Howard Martin negotiated the departure of Aimee Bissett, Denton’s former director of development services. Bissett received a $91,000 payout in exchange for her resignation last month, a figure that includes about six months’ pay.
Bissett’s severance agreement stands out, not only in its existence, but also in the size of its terms. No city employee, except for the executives who work for the city council, is hired under contract.
As a result, no city employee is guaranteed any kind of extra payment should they be forced out. Bissett’s severance agreement is only one of two agreements the city manager’s office has negotiated this year. The other employee resigned in May and received an extension in health insurance coverage through July.
Watts told the city staff Tuesday night he wanted an overview of the topic during a future council work session.
He acknowledged the city charter prevents the council from getting involved directly in personnel matters, but he said the council ought to have some say over any city policy for such agreements.
To protect taxpayers, state law does not allow severance agreements for state employees. But that prohibition isn’t extended to “home rule” cities with their own charter, such as Denton.
— Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
County confirms 2 more West Nile human cases
The Denton County Public Health department confirmed Wednesday two residents have been diagnosed with West Nile neuroinvasive disease.
The latest residents become the 10th and 11th Denton County residents infected with West Nile virus this year, and the fourth and fifth county residents to contract West Nile neuroinvasive disease this year.
One resident is from an unincorporated area near Ponder, and the other is from an unincorporated area near Justin.
The virus generally is contracted by a mosquito bite. Local health officials say about 1 percent of West Nile patients are diagnosed with the neuroinvasive form of the virus, which affects a person’s nervous system and includes symptoms such as high fever, headache and neck stiffness for multiple weeks or even months.
Denton County Public Health officials are urging that residents prevent mosquito bites by draining standing water around their homes, using DEET and other Environmental Protection Agency-approved insect repellents and wearing pants and long-sleeved clothing.
For more West Nile virus information, visit dentoncounty.com/wnv .
— Britney Tabor
Watershed protection plan accepted by EPA
A watershed protection plan for Hickory Creek, leading into Lewisville Lake, officially was accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 31.
The city of Denton took the lead in developing the plan. Neither Hickory Creek nor any of its tributaries are considered impaired, so the plan is expected protect the creek’s water quality as Denton County develops. Nine key elements of the plan should reduce pollutants from entering Lewisville Lake, a primary source of drinking water for the region.
For more information on the city’s watershed protection program, call 940-349-7123.
— Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
Area VFD receives grant for new tanker
The Greenwood Slidell Volunteer Fire Department was recently awarded a 200,000 grant for a new tanker.
The truck has the capability to carry 3,000-gallons of water, a 3,000-gallon folding tank and has a 500-gallons-per-minute pump and a 30-gallon foam tank. The department’s new 2016 Freightliner M2-106 tandem axle chassis wet-side tanker with high-side compartments is being funded by Texas A&M Forest Service’s Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program.
“Folding tanks are designed for rural areas where water is difficult to supply,” said Keith Vaughan, a Texas A&M Forest Service resource specialist, in a media release. “The collapsible tanks improve the firefighting capability at the fire scene because of having more water access. Two people can unload the tank off of the fire truck and have it ready for use in just a short time.”
The Greenwood Slidell Volunteer Fire Department services the Greenwood, Slidell, Allison and Sycamore communities in northeast Wise County. The fire district is bordered by Denton, Cooke and Montague counties.
The grant program, funded by the Legislature and administered through Texas A&M Forest Service, provides rural volunteer fire departments with money to purchase vehicles, fire and rescue equipment, protective clothing, dry-hydrants, computer systems and training for firemen, according to a Texas A&M media release. For more details about the program, visit texasfd.com.
— Staff report
Topic of Denton, Musquiz to be discussed
Journalist Jim Dale will talk about the deep connections between Denton and Musquiz, Mexico, in a free talk Friday at the University of North Texas.
The lecture is the second in a series of six talks hosted by the Department of Geography and the Environment. Dale investigated the migration between the two cities, and his stories were published in February in the Denton Record-Chronicle.
The talk begins at 3 p.m. in Room 125 of the Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building. Refreshments will be served.
— Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe