At the South Padre Island City Council special meeting last Thursday morning, council members were unhappy with one of their own, Members were concerned about the process by which Council Member Berry Patel went about repairing a section of sidewalk on Padre Boulevard.
Mayor Bob Pinkerton opened discussion regarding the repair and replacement of sidewalks by saying, “I asked that this be put on the agenda because it appears, at least on the surface, that decisions were made without council approval on expenditures and funds.” He added, “I just want to make sure that the process is going to be proper in the future and that decisions aren’t going to be made and direction given to the city manager without approval from the council.”
The council had previously discussed modify modifying the permit process for businesses that want to improve sidewalks. They considered a cost sharing program with businesses and asked that staff work on a plan to make the process easier; however, no such plan was ever brought back.
The city spent more than $500,000 on consultants to work on a long term plan for the replacement of sidewalks along the boulevard with the goal of being functional, consistent, and beautiful. After some discussion, Councilman Alex Avalos said, “The fact that we have not done anything with our plan that we have already, is to me, a fact of not acting. We haven’t done anything. We have a plan and we haven’t acted on it.” He thanked Patel for taking action, but felt that the process of taking action without approval was a topic of concern. Funds were adjusted in the budget, and the project cost more than $50,000.
Patel announced that he had some explaining to do. He noted the poor condition of a small section of sidewalk on Padre Boulevard, saying, “I basically took some pictures and sent it over to City Hall, like every citizen should. Every citizen should take pictures of the terrible condition of our streets and sidewalks and ask City Hall to do something about it. So I chose to do that.”
Council members confronted Patel saying that they were informed of the repairs that were being made, but Patel saying that were being made, but Patel disagreed. He cited the newsletter and emails, saying that it was published for everyone to see.
Patel responded by saying, “You have unsafe sidewalks, and folks, if we had started this 20 years ago and done what we are doing now, we probably wouldn’t have this problem. So not only do I want to step back, I’m going to step forward.” He added, “The most fundamental responsibility, I believe, of the public works of a city like ours is to fix sidewalks.” He went on to say, “This is not a huge expenditure. We spent half a million dollars on consultants to tell us what our streets should look like. Compared to that, this a fraction of the cost of fixing sidewalks. I think we should continue. This is what we should be doing as public servants.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Jo Ann Evans spoke up and said. “I guess my biggest issue is the way we’re supposed to function as a council.” She continued saying, “IT’s a good thing, but we’re doing what we need to need to behave under the guidelines that we have by law and by our charter, that we have to work as a group. No single one of us has the authority to do anything. Only this council acting as a body has the authority. And that’s the thing all of us have to remember.”
Patel agreed with Evans that the group should make decisions collectively but considered this project one of repair and maintenance.
After almost half an hour of discussion, Councilman Sam Listi motioned to have the City Manager finish working on a process to advance the long term plan of sidewalk replacement and to bring this process with a prioritized list of sidewalks that need repair to the next meeting. The motion was seconded by Patel, and it carried unanimously.