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Fireworks light up the Azle sky at a recent "Follow the Flag" event.

Fourth of July in Azle means it’s time to “Follow the Flag.”

Azle City Council on June 7 approved a request by the Azle Area Ministerial Alliance to use Central Park and meet other needs for the “Follow the Flag” Fourth of July celebration event.

Organizers of the event requested a fire truck; a waiver of the fees charged for Fire Department personnel and equipment; a waiver of fees for the rental of the pavilion and amphitheater; and approval of a council variance allowing the issuance of a fireworks permit and a waiver of the fireworks permit fee contingent on all requirements being met for the event. The annual “Follow the Flag” event on July 4 includes a fireworks display. Organizers said 5,000 to 8,000 people attended last year, even as the event was scaled back because of the pandemic.

To ensure safety, the AAMA requested a fire truck be present at the show and the city waive the standard fee usually charged. AAMA has secured insurance for the pyrotechnics that will be used for the July Fourth event and has secured permission from the property owner at 405 W. Main St. to conduct a fireworks display, said Alton Davis, president of the ministerial alliance, during the meeting. The annual event dates back to 1993, with many of those years being in city limits. The event is from 7-10 p.m. and will have live entertainment from Christian bands. 

“It’s just a time to create a good, safe atmosphere for our families at the time that we see it celebrate our faith and our freedom,” Davis said.

The local faith-based community has volunteered to help at the event, Davis said, as it takes tremendous effort and volunteers to help the event succeed.

Also on June 7, council approved amending Community Waste Disposal’s disposal rate for the city’s sludge. The city’s garbage franchise agreement with CWD includes the hauling and disposal of sludge generated by the city’s wastewater treatment plant, according to information from the city council agenda. CWD said it needed to increase its sludge disposal rate from $1488.45 a load, as per the contract, to $1635.79 a load as the result of an increase being imposed by Republic Waste for its Arlington landfill, as well as increases in fuel costs and the Consumer Price Index.

CWD averages 13 hauls per month, the council agenda stated, and the $147.34 per haul increase will result in an $1,915 increase in the monthly cost and a $9,577 increase in the budget for the remainder of the FY2021-22 budget year. On Jan. 18, council approved a market adjustment on garbage rates, effective Feb. 1, but there was no increase in the sludge rate at that time.

In other developments, council approved City Manager Tom Muir to execute an interlocal agreement with the Tarrant County Emergency Services District No. 1 to replace two ambulances with medical equipment and self-contained breathing apparatuses.

For several years, the city has maintained a recurring annual contract with Tarrant County Emergency Service District No. 1 to provide Fire/EMS services to areas outside of the Azle city limits, the city council agenda stated. Because of this agreement, the city has qualified for Tarrant County’s American Rescue Plan Act state and local recovery funds. Tarrant County and Tarrant County ESD No. 1 have worked together this past year to assist EMS and fire agencies to sustain services within unincorporated Tarrant County. The proposed agreement with Tarrant County ESD No. 1 will provide replacements for two ambulances and associated equipment for $1,160,000. In addition, three SCBAs will be replaced with new SCBAs along with 10 additional SCBA air bottles for $30,000. The total amount of the grant is $1,190,000.

“There will be additional amendments to this agreement addressing replacing the third ambulance and associated equipment,” agenda information stated. “The agreement will be a reimbursement grant just like it has been in previous years with the ESD.”

The city will pay for the above referenced items upon receipt and acceptance, and the reimbursement to the city will take 90 to 120 days. Money for the items will be placed in the next budget year cycle.

Council approved a resolution suspending the effective date of Oncor Electric Delivery Company’s requested rate change. Oncor Electric Delivery Company filed an application on May 13 with cities retaining original jurisdiction seeking to increase system-wide transmission and distribution rates by approximately $251 million or approximately 4.5% over present revenues. Oncor requested the city to approve an 11.2% increase in residential rates and a 1.6% increase in street lighting rates. If approved, a residential customer using 1,300 kWh per month would see a bill increase of approximately $6.02 per month.

The city is a member of a 169-city coalition known as the Steering Committee of Cities Served by Oncor (“Steering Committee”). The Steering Committee has existed since the late 1980s but it took a formal structure in the early 1990s when cities served by the former TXU gave up their statutory right to rate case expense reimbursement in exchange for higher franchise fee payments, the council agenda packet stated.

“Empowered by city resolutions and funded by per capita assessments, the Steering Committee has been the primary public interest advocate before the Public Utility Commission, the Courts and the Legislature on electric utility regulation matters for the past 30 years,” the agenda stated.

The Steering Committee recommended council consider and approve a resolution that suspends the effective date - June 17 - of Oncor’s rate increase for the maximum period permitted by law - 90 days - to allow the city and Steering Committee to evaluate the filing, determine whether the filing complies with law, and if lawful, to determine what further strategy, including settlement, to pursue, the agenda stated. Oncor has increased rates many times over the past few years, but this is the first comprehensive base rate case for Oncor since March 2017, officials said. 

Council approved authorizing the purchase of three police pursuit vehicles, which are three Chevrolet Tahoes to be funded by the Crime Control and Prevention District. The CCPD is funded by a ¼-cent sales tax on every product purchased within the city limits, Muir explained in an email.

“Those funds are dedicated to the CCPD which is largely utilized by the PD – the Fire Marshal’s office also receives funding from the CCPD.  CCPDs are authorized under the Texas Local Government Code, Section 363,”  Muir said.

The vehicles are budgeted at $42,000 each and will be in the next year budget. Outfitting each Tahoe will cost an extra $28,000 each except for the one to be used as a command vehicle, the chief’s vehicle, as it will cost an extra $15,000 to outfit.  

Also at the meeting, City Secretary Yael Forgey gave an annual presentation about the city secretary office, giving an overview of the functions and responsibilities of her office, which keeps the records of the city.

Forgey said her office received 445 public information requests in 2021, which is about 15% more than the previous year, and more than 600 hours were spent processing those requests. Among other developments Forgey told the council about was a new agenda management software that is in the design phase. Livestreaming will be a part of the software when it is ready and will be available through the city’s website, with council meeting broadcasts being one accessible component. The city still needs to get camera(s) and cabling, Muir said in the email, and “we need to update their pricing and order the products now that we have selected a platform on which to broadcast.”

Council also approved accepting the resignation of Kenny Caswell from Place 5 of the Planning and Zoning Commission.