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Lubbock City Council Discusses Godeke Library, Possible Cell Phone Ban While Driving

Cole Shooter, KFYO.com

It was a busy council meeting Thursday evening at Lubbock City Hall.

The Lubbock City Council decided to increase the salaries of two City of Lubbock employees.

Deputy City Secretary Thomas Harris received a raise at the request of City Secretary Becky Garza to just over $81,000 annually. The item passed 5-2, Mayor Glen Robertson and District 5 Councilwoman dissenting.

Also, Lubbock’s municipal judge received a pay increase as well. Municipal Judge Robert Doty received a pay increase to $155,000 per year. The Council voted 4-3 for the resolution, which authorized the salary adjustment.

The original resolution, offered by District 3 Councilman Todd Klein, was for $132,000 annually, but the Council accepted an amendment from District 1 Councilman Victor Hernandez to raise the salary to $155,000.

Mayor Robertson said he could not support the increase at the meeting, since Doty is an elected official, and they would be giving the raise in the middle of a term. The increased salary for Doty passed 4-3, with Robertson, Gibson, and District 4 Councilman Jim Gerlt voting against the measure.

The Council also decided against eliminating the position of the mayor’s executive assistant. The measure was offered by Mayor Robertson, in response to the Council’s move to hire an executive assistant to the City Council, and two senior auditors to Internal Audit out of extra projected sales tax revenue of $180,000.

Robertson requested that his executive assistant be assigned to act as the City Council executive assistant, and to eliminate the position of the mayor’s executive assistant.

The measure failed 3-4, with District 2 Councilman Floyd Price, District 3 Councilman Todd Klein, District 6 Councilwoman Latrelle Joy, and Hernandez voting against the measure.

Robertson responded, saying “Thank you for an assistant that I do not need.”

The Council also unanimously supported the first reading of a budget ordinance amendment, which would give $150,000 out of the City’s general fund – fund balance to the Public Safety Memorial, which is currently under construction at Leroy Elmore Park at 66th Street and Quaker Avenue.

The general fund – fund balance is what is left over from last year’s general fund at the end of the fiscal year, and at the end of the last budget, around $3.1 million was left over above and beyond the City’s reserve funds.

Lubbock Fire Chief Mike Kemp discussed the memorial, noting that it has been in the works for 12 years, and that using the foundation of the former Godeke Library location has been a tremendous cost-saving measure. Lee Lewis Construction, who is contracting the memorial, has donated $100,000 to the cause as well. Kemp said that the funds would go to pay what is left in architectural design fees and bronze statues for the memorial.

In their work session, the Council discussed the possibility of future locations for the Godeke Branch Library, currently located in a shopping center located at 6707 Slide Road.

Robertson suggested that the City might consider purchasing a building at 3838 50th Street to relocate the library to, as opposed to continuing with the current location’s lease, which costs $25,000 per month. The building on 50th Street would cost $850,000, lower than the Lubbock Central Appraisal District’s valuation of $970,000.

A number of citizens turned out at citizen comments and addressed the issue, saying that the proposed building on 50th Street was not big enough, was difficult to access, and that they preferred a location in southwest Lubbock.

Robertson says that the owner of the building where Godeke Library is currently located has the option of ending the lease if another business is available to move in.

“That strip shopping center location is prime real estate in Lubbock, Texas, and if somebody goes in there tomorrow and offers 50 cents more per square foot than we’re paying, we’re going to be out in 90 days, and we’re two and a half to three years without a library,” said Robertson. He continued, noting that the price will go up in around two years.

The Council overall agreed that the lease is too expensive, and Gibson said that there were no ready locations to move the library to in southwest Lubbock as of right now.

Robertson continued, saying “This building will pay for itself in four years in savings. My hope was very simple; get this building purchased because it is a bargain. Get a library operating in it, get out of an astronomical lease that is costing our taxpayers $300,000 a year and is going to go up, and we may lose, and then immediately start looking and planning for library number five in southwest Lubbock.”

The Council also discussed the use of cell phones while driving within the Lubbock city limits.

They discussed the possibility of enacting a ban on texting while driving, or a complete ban over the use of cell phones while driving.

Gerlt, who brought up the issue to the Council, said that it seems more likely that a complete ban on cell phone use while driving was more enforceable, after discussions with Lubbock Police Chief Roger Ellis.

Gerlt, Hernandez, Price, and Robertson voiced support for a measure which would ban texting while driving or cell phone use while driving, saying that it was a public safety measure.

“It bothers me when big government comes in and says ‘I’m going to protect you from you’…this one, I don’t see that. I’m trying to protect me from you,” said Gerlt.

Not all members were as supportive of considering a potential ban.

Klein said that law enforcement already has the ability to cite motorists for reckless driving, and that he believes a public awareness campaign might be a good alternative as well.

“An officer won’t be able to see a cell phone below the shoulder level, but they will be able to notice swerving, et cetera,” said Klein.

The Council may put items on the agenda on their November 29th meeting that were discussed in the work session.

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