Council honors newest U.S. citizen
Before taking up matters of greater length, such as the Art Center for the Islands, improvements at Mustang Beach Airport and where recreational vehicles should camp on the beach (see related stories), the city council on April 17 varied its normal routine.
Someone different led the council in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
Mirko Latkovik emigrated to the United States from Montenegro. He settled in Port Aransas with a wife and children and went to work for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) as an engineer on the cross-ship channel ferries.
On Jan. 31, Latkovik became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
To commemorate that, he was asked to lead the pledge of allegiance at the council meeting, and Mayor Claude Brown read a proclamation naming April 17 as "Mirko Latkovik Day" in Port Aransas.
Another change in routine could be the re-naming of part of State Hwy. 361. A resolution asks that the part of the highway from Avenue G to the city limits be known as "The Island Road" instead of State Hwy. 361. Brown said a Port Aransan asked him why the highway wasn't named that, since most veteran residents call it that anyway. The resolution also asks the Corpus Christi City Council to re-name that part of the highway inside the Corpus Christi city limits.
City Manager Michael Kovacs reported the trickiest part of the re-naming would be TxDOT.
"The biggest thing will be deciding how much we want to pay for signs," he said. "It won't change anyone's mailing address or physical address. … It's like renaming Redfish Bay Causeway - it's a symbolic thing." (Several months ago the council agreed with the Aransas Pass City Council to call the causeway between the two cities "Redfish Bay Causeway.")
"We should convey to the Corpus Christi council that this is a historical nostalgic thing for us," Councilman Keith McMullin suggested. "It probably isn't high on their radar screens."
Councilman Mike Hall shrugged. "We call it the Island Road anyway," he said.
The council also made final a move begun three months ago to re-zone a block of properties on South 11th Street and Sea Breeze Lane from residential-1 to residential-2.
The re-zoning allows property owners to offer homes as short-term vacation leases; a residential-1 zoning permits only long-term rentals.
The council was required to vote as a "super-majority" - at least five of the seven members approving - for the first time, because more than 20 percent of the neighboring property owners objected to the ordinance.
"What percentage (of the objectors) are already residential-2 and already in that area?" Councilman Rick Pratt wanted to know.
"Of the 21 percent (who objected), 75 percent is already residential-2 or tourist 3," Projects and Planning Director David Parsons reported. "The residential complaints on Whispering Sands (Street) are pretty small, but the condos on 11th Street boosted it up."
"So the people who can do short-term rentals are the ones complaining about the traffic?" asked Councilman Keith Donley.
"Yes," Parsons confirmed. The council vote was unanimous.
Also before the council was the question of new graphics for city vehicles, a matter that has appeared on the agenda before. Mayor Claude Brown brought it up the first time, saying that a viewer couldn't tell, when looking at a city truck from a block away, what city department it belonged to.
Since then, city department heads have come up with several graphics suggestions, none of which passed council scrutiny.
It didn't this time, either.
"I was looking for something more up to tune and not back into the '50s," Brown said. "Let's get some action going -- some color, you know?"
In response, the council voted to delegate to Brown the authority to decide which graphics best meet the city's needs.
The only city department, aside from police and Emergency Medical Services, which has gained approval so far is the animal control department.
Brown also wondered about the marina practice of chaining boats whose owners are in arrears on rent payments for marina slips.
"If the city puts a chain, cable, lock or device on that boat, the city takes on the liability of that boat whether it floats, sinks, an oil spill occurs," he said.
But Harbormaster Jeff Logue said notes to violators make no impression. He said most of the problem isn't with permanent slip renters, but with transient vessels.
"Putting a note on it gets no response, but putting a chain on it gets an immediate action, and we have no further problems," he said.
Brown said he wasn't complaining about how the marina is run.
"I applaud your attempt to take care of the city and collect the slip rents," he told Logue.
Between them, they decided it would be effective to put a chain across the slip. That way, the boat can't be moved, yet there's no physical restraint on the boat.
In the end, the council told the city staff to use discretion in chaining slips while the legality of the matter is investigated.