Farm upbraid: MISD parents push back at city

Council proposal is tabled to house animals in an emergency at agricultural barn amid objecions

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Midlothian City Hall.

The Oct. 26 Midlothian City Council meeting took a surprisingly-long detour into farm country on a matter that was originally planned for its non-controversial consent agenda.

In a meeting short on items but long on discussion, city fathers were confronted with a hot topic in their Oct. 26 regular semi-monthly meeting: the sheltering of animals in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.

The council tabled a memorandum of understanding among the city of Midlothian, Ellis County and Midlothian Independent School District to utilize MISD’s Future Farmers of America Agricultural Barn on Mockingbird Lane for pet and animal sheltering during emergencies and disasters within city limits. The council agreed to wait until the school district reaches a decision.

The item, beforehand, drew out a number of opponents to the plan, mostly from MISD FFA parents and students who feared that an emergency might jeopardize the value of students’ show animals, as their values rebound from shutdown of shows because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Concerns about vaccinations and space were also brought up. Speakers noted that the MISD ag barn is often filled to capacity with show animals. Speakers also brought up last February’s winter storm, which impacted the barn and is still being addressed.

Five speakers addressed the council and a total of 12 letters were submitted in opposition, although Mayor Richard Reno noted that not all of the letters were from city residents.

Ellis County emergency services coordinator Samantha Pickett told councilmembers that the intent of the agreement was to keep animals at the Ellis County Expo Center in Waxahachie as a priority, with the MISD ag barn as a secondary backup. Pickett said the MISD location was designated as a resource to provide convenient assistance to northwest Ellis County residents.

City emergency management coordinator Tonya Hunter said state and federal law requires that pets be evacuated along with persons in emergencies, and that Ellis County has been working with the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Response Team over the summer to formulate a plan for keeping pets as well as livestock until utilities are restored and recovery begins.

The MISD ag barn is an ideal site, Hunter told the council, because it is situated on a 30-acre site that is fenced-in, has water and sanitation, and is configured to serve animals. She added that the city regularly partners with MISD for events such as active-shooter and tornado exercises.

Hunter said Ellis County has had a plan for the care of animals in place since 2015, but that the May 3 EF-2 tornado that affected Forreston and rural portions of south Waxahachie exposed some shortfalls with that plan, namely, that there were no designated sheltering sites.

Hunter said the county is working with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the local SPCA, and local animal control officials in multiple jurisdictions to develop shelter plans. She added that areas have been identified where dogs, cats and livestock would be kept separately in the event of an emergency.

Midlothian Police Commander Tim Hicks, who oversees the MISD school resource officer corps, told the council the intent is to put a plan in place and not to remove school animals from the ag barn in the event of an emergency.

All councilmembers were present.

Other items

• Approved consent agenda items included previous meeting minutes; a $70,000 contact with Teague, Nall and Perkins Inc. for a flood study in Creek Bend Estates; the purchase of a new Caterpillar wheel loader in the amount of $161,259 ad the purchase of a 2023 International dump truck for $110,504; and the purchase of two ExaGrid data storage units to upgrade backup storage for both City Hall and the Police Department at a total cost of $72,636.

• Richard Moscicki and Kevin Coyne were appointed as Midlothian Zoning Board of Adjustment members was approved by a 6-0 vote, with councilmember Hud Hartson abstaining. Hartson said he had not been made familiar with the nominations in advance, for which Mayor Reno apologized to him.

• An amendment for a purchase and sale agreement with Provident Realty Advisors, Inc. was approved at the urging of Midlothian Economic Development president and CEO Kyle Kinateder.

• An agreement was unanimously struck with Vidaurri Management Group for project management support services for Phase I of the City Hall/Library and Public Safety Building projects.  The agreement limits the amount of cost of these preliminary services at $697.424, assistant city manager Clyde Melick told councilmembers.

• Following an executive session, the council took no public action.