Bridge City removes non-resident volunteers
The City Council for Bridge City met on Oct. 5 and voted to require that anyone serving on the Boards and Commissions for the City must live within the city limits. They decided this because it was brought to their attention that out of all of the boards and commissions for the city, only two did not have it written in their by laws that only city residents can serve. This also means that anyone who does not reside within city cannot even volunteer with any of the city departments.
Mayor Kirk Roccaforte explained that the Council felt it was in the best interest of the city to pass this new law because those sitting on the boards and commissions make decisions for the city and should be made by those living in the city. Seven seats are now empty due to this decision, three with the Parks and Recreation department and four with the Public Library.
This decision has many in the community in an uproar. Those affected by this decision may not live in the city limits, but they live in the school district and support many local businesses and feel they should have the same rights as those who live in the actual city limits.
Mary Montgomery, director of the Bridge City Library feels that with this new law, it eliminates a lot of experience. She said she wasn’t aware that the council was going to require this new law but “I have to go with what my council decides.” She hasn’t been able to find anyone to fill those seats just yet, but she will be looking for volunteers in the near future.
While the positions effected are volunteer-only positions, those on the all of the Boards and Commissions are chosen and approved by the City Council.
Paige Williams was a volunteer on the Parks and Recreations Committee since 2004. She was one of the three affected by the new law and doesn’t understand why the city would want to exclude those who just want to help just because they live outside the city limits.
“I graduated from Bridge City High School, my four kids go to school in Bridge City and we do our shopping in Bridge City,” Williams said. “I have always felt like Bridge City was my home. I just don’t understand how this change helps anyone.”
Rodney Townsend Sr., a longtime resident of the Bridge City area said that he understands why the city did what they had to but feels that those living outside of the city limits and the things they do for the city weren’t fully considered. He may live outside the city limits, but he owns property within the city limits.
Mayor Roccaforte also explained that there aren’t any immediate plans to expand the city limits because the city can only annex so much land a year. The city is currently trying to expand west towards the Neches Rivers. They want to annex the land and the river before another city can claim it. There are future plans to expand to include some residential areas, but Roccaforte did not know when that might happen. It would require the city to provide utilities, water and sewage to the residents that would be part of that annexation and that’s not something the city of Bridge City is able to do right now.