Bryan City Council decided on Monday to pump the brakes on the effort to potentially eliminate the Bryan Board of Public Affairs.
Following impassioned comments from Bryan taxpayers and Bryan Municipal Utilities customers on both sides of the issue, council unanimously voted to table a resolution that would seek to put the dissolution of the BPA to a public vote.
In moving to table the issue, Councilman John Betts, who has taken the lead in pushing for the legislation, said he now agrees with those who have called for the process to be slowed.
He said the plan now is to have a series of informational public forums so that residents and businesses can learn more about the proposal and provide council with more feedback. Council will then revisit the legislation sometime prior to the July 30, 2020, deadline for potential inclusion on the November 2020 presidential election ballot.
Had the ordinance been passed by council on Monday, Bryan voters would have been asked to consider dissolving the BPA on the March 2020 primary ballot.
“Every time someone calls me on the phone, I hear something different,” said councilwoman Judy Yahraus. “I have questions I’d like to have answered and I think we all do.”
Council members agreed there are strong opinions throughout the city on both sides of the argument, a belief that was illustrated by the speakers at Monday’s council meeting.
Longtime Bryan resident Bill Metz pointed out that, since 1967, city residents have voted multiple times to not eliminate or reduce the BPA but have instead actually voted to expand and strengthen it.
He also challenged the notion that eliminating the BPA and bringing BMU under the city’s control would streamline city government and make it more efficient.
“If the true goal is clearer communication, why can’t that happen now?” he said.
Meanwhile, Tom Lingvai, who runs a business in Bryan, and former council member Dick Reed said they supported the idea of bringing city government under one body, to ensure employees have what Reed deemed “fair and equitable” treatment regardless of department.
Reed also said the voters are due an opportunity to make their wishes known.
“Why not give them a say once in 50 years?” he said.
Current BPA members present on Monday did not comment on council’s action, but BPA member-elect Annette Schreiner thanked council for slowing the process.
In other action, council approved:
• A $20,000 donation from the Bryan Area Foundation for new pickleball courts. City Parks and Recreation Department Director Ben Dominique said the project will get underway in 2020 and involves renovation of the current tennis courts at East End Park.
• A change order increasing the cost of the detention basin enlargement project at the industrial park on the city’s east side by $15,520 and extending the completion date to Nov. 15.
• The hiring of Gary Hussey and Lenix Sands as vehicle operator trainees for the Recycling Department, and moving Natasha Baldwin, an executive secretary in the mayor’s office, to regular employment status.
• Heard a presentation from Emma Kirkpatrick of the Maumee Valley Planning Organization regarding Safe Routes to School grants for potential sidewalk projects to better allow children to walk and bike to school.