It was 17 degrees with snow and ice around, but the Hope City Board bundled up and still met Tuesday night before an handful of people to conduct business, which mainly involved appointments to city boards and commissions, most notably the HWL Commission.

It was 17 degrees with snow and ice around, but the Hope City Board bundled up and still met Tuesday night before an handful of people to conduct business, which mainly involved appointments to city boards and commissions, most notably the HWL Commission.
While their last meeting was only 20 minutes in total, Tuesday night saw a 20-minute executive session in which the Hope City Board went behind closed doors to discuss the appointments, even through the city commissions are non-elected public bodies — two of which oversee public funds and budgets - that are not city personnel or city employees.
And, after emerging from the executive session, the Board went on to reappoint all the incumbents, except a vacancy created by the departure of Sharon Wright on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Wright has since relocated to Texarkana, and she was replaced by Kathy Akin.
The most controversial reappointment was on the Hope Water & Commission, where Dr. Lester Sitzes was up for another five-year term, but Kathy Akin had also applied for the position.  Sitzes, despite a dismal track record of rate hikes on HWL customers the past three years, was unanimously approved, with the only comments coming from Mayor Steve Montgomery merely saying, “Sitzes has expressed a desire to return.”
No other comments were made from the board as to what justified their unanimous vote to put Sitzes back on the board, nor did was there any concern about Sitzes voting record or actions during his last term.
Sitzes has been part of a commission that has approved a series of rate hikes at HWL over the past two years, that continue into 2018, and at the last HWL Commissioners meeting in December, Sitzes voted in favor of HWL’s budget, which kept in tact a five-percent water increase this year as well as $500 HWL employee Christmas bonuses.
During Sitzes’ term, HWL Water rates increased in 2017 by 5-percent, after a 7.5 percent increase in 2016, with the the end result being a cumulative 17.5 percent increase to city residents for water over the time period.
At the same time, HWL electrical rates went up 5-percent in 2016, after consecutive increases of 5-percent in 2015 and 3.2-percent in 2014 with residents taking a 13.2 cumulative increase over the past three years.
This documented track record, however, appeared not to trouble one member of the Hope City Board, who all voted for Sitzes reappointment, even as several complaints about HWL’s high rates and practices had occurred and were known throughout 2017.
The Hope Tourism Commission, which also controls a sizable budget after an increase of the so-called “Hamburger Tax” in 2015, had its two incumbents, Milko Smith and Dr. Trevor Coffee, unanimously reappointed. Coffee is the designated Hope City Board’s representative, although both Montgomery as Mayor and Don Still also serve on the Commission.
At the last meeting, board member Kiffenea Talley, who requested the executive session on Tuesday night, had asked Mayor Steve Montgomery about criteria to serve on city boards and commissioners, and Montgomery replied that the main one was to be a resident of the City of Hope.
“We do welcome citizens to serve. These are non-paying positions that sometimes take hours of time in meetings and service. Our problem has been finding people, and in the past, we’ve had people interested, but they live outside city limits,” he said at that time.
But, Tuesday night, every incumbent was returned and reappointed, and there was no public statements by the board on any of the persons.
The only non-unanimous vote was during the one on the Planning and Zoning Commission spots.  While Robert Whitlock was returned unanimously, Mitch Bobo was reappointed with two board members voting against his reappointment.
And, Akin was then named replace Wright.
In other city board news from Tuesday, the directors unanimously approved a redistricting option, known as Option 2, to change the lines of some city board wards with Ward 2 held by incumbent Talley, receiving the most attention.
Talley asked City Manager Catherine Cook about any impact of annexations on populations within the wards, and Cook replied that the currently proposed annexations involve large plots of property, but little in the way of population.
Cook said that any future annexation that might involve the Patmos Road area might increase population, but she added that the city would likely be redistricting again in 2021 after the 2020 census.
Cook said that it was generally the responsibility of the county to distribute new voter ID cards with the new wards and voting locations, but the city did plan to post the new Ward boundaries on social media and the city’s own website.
In terms of Tuesday’s snow and ice, Cook said “We had a pretty good day in the city,” and she said there were no reported incidents within the town.
Cook said that trash pickup scheduled for Tuesday was cancelled, and it would be made up on Wednesday.