Ferris City Manager Brooks Williams gives 90-day “state of the city” at council meeting
Mayor, Council and Citizens -
Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with an update on the first 90-days of my time as city manager.
I want to provide both the tactical level updates – what we have done to rapidly improve our situation – and the high-level observations I have made.
The cycle of municipal decline looks the same in a lot of places. People and businesses leave, or never come, which causes tax revenues and quality of the city to degrade. That, in turn, leads to tax increases and service cuts, which makes more people and businesses leave – or to feel vindicated in their decision to not come to the city.
This repeats in an endless cycle as a city slowly dies.
What sends a city into this cycle varies. Sometimes it is an external shock, such as economic or regional decline. Other times, it can be simple life cycle effects from civic aging, just plain bad decisions, or in some cases - the inability of a pocket of individuals to let go of the toxic ways of the “good old days” and the past.
But once caught in this cycle, it seems to be very difficult to get out.
Ferris needs to recognize that FERRIS is its own worst enemy – and its own greatest threat to prosperity. The past is NOT the key to our future.
A government that operates in a state of incompetence, a belief that high moral character consists of winning a popularity contest, allowing for toxic people to still have a place in our city, and a manic obsession to ‘beat the other side’ is going to destroy our city.
The harsh reality that everyone in this room, and in this city, needs to recognize – is that allowing yourself to be influenced by or following an incompetent person who has defined themselves as a leader – dooms this city.
Shame on us for doing so.
An “incompetent” leader by definition is someone whose actions destroy camaraderie, instills gossip, encourages dishonesty, and prevents people from speaking freely.
“Incompetent” leaders tend to use their own weapons to get noticed and promoted. From both a technical perspective and from an overall human behavior perspective, we have had – and have – our fair share of incompetence in Ferris.
Toxic leadership is a combination of self-centered attitudes, motivations and behaviors that have adverse effects on staff, the overall organization, the citizens and mission performance.
This person is no leader, and they lack concern for others or for the climate of the city, which leads to short- and long-term negative effects.
These toxic people operate with an inflated sense of self-worth and from acute self-interest.
They consistently use dysfunctional behaviors to deceive, intimidate, coerce or unfairly punish others to get what they want for themselves. The negative leader completes short-term requirements by operating at the bottom of the continuum of commitment, where followers respond to the positional power of their leader to fulfill requests.
This may achieve results in the short-term but ignores the other leader competency categories that leads and develops. The unfortunate part is that these people are able to deceive those around them, until it is too late, and with the city near death.
I encourage everyone in this room to END the tribal warfare that has existed in this city. Defending and standing with someone or some group because of a an “all or nothing” tribal mentality is FOOLISH.
Listen closely to the characteristics of toxic leaders.
I say listen closely, but then almost have to laugh. People who need to hear things, generally don’t – OR – they justify why this can’t be them.
But I will say again, listen closely to the characteristics of toxic leaders – and if the shoe fits...
1. Unwillingness to listen to feedback;
2. Excessive self-promotion and self-interest;
3. Lying and inconsistency;
4. Lack of moral philosophy;
5. Incompetence and refusing accountability;
7. Bullying and harassment;
9. Autocratic -their opinion is the only one that matters;
Most of what is taught and written about leadership focuses on the private sector.
I believe that leading in government is far more difficult. Government has to solve problems that industry cannot solve. No one makes a profit trying to fix the infrastructure crisis or crime rates. Getting things done in government involves managing powerful, often conflicting interests, and consistently being under attack, most of the time for the most ridiculous reasons.
So, where does Ferris go to get some bold leadership?
Many believe that it is some sort of inherent quality that people either do or do not have.
In my view, leadership is mostly learned. We can find the fundamentals within ourselves.
Over time, we can strengthen our ability to lead, just as we can strengthen our muscles. Leadership isn’t mystical. At its core, leadership is enabling a group of people to achieve a goal that none of us could accomplish on our own. That is our calling as the leadership of this city.
Each of you on council, the city staff and myself – we have an obligation to educate ourselves, grow, work together, and be the best leaders possible for the city.
The primary tool real leaders need is communication. I’m not talking simply about making speeches or giving direction, but about listening and speaking in ways that make others feel heard, understood and valued.
It starts with learning. Each of us here can learn to be better people and leaders for our city.
There is one inherent quality that is fundamental to leadership – courage.
We value and even admire people who work hard and play by the rules, but leadership requires something different. Leaders take on the problems of others and are willing to risk ridicule, derision and the loss of position to overcome those problems.
That means – disrupting the system that has existed in our city.
I am here to tell you that I intend to DISRUPT and DESTROY the system that is so desperately attempting to harm our city in the name of “saving the city.”
There will be push back by people who have benefited and will benefit from the existing order and have the power to inflict pain. I am prepared for that push-back and intend to pursue this relentlessly.
You will not use this city to relive your glory days or to create an unneeded purpose for you to be “the savior.”
It is this test of moral courage that separates real leaders from those who merely hold positions of authority.
For those in this room, and those who are not, who believe that they have the ability to inflict enough damage on this city, the staff, or myself to have us fail the test of moral courage, good luck to you – you’re going to need it.
Somebody needs to be in charge of every organization, of course, but power and leadership are not the same things. My shorthand for all this is to talk about caring, hope and the mission. People have to know that you care about them.
They have to have hope that if they stick together and stick with you, their circumstances will get better. And they have to believe in the mission – not only that you are competent, but also that you have a plan and the plan is going to work.
Welcome to this administration for the city of Ferris.
The future is filled with serious challenges, most of which threaten in some way the progress of our city.
These challenges can be overcome only by effective collective action – not by the tribal warfare that has existed in this city.
Let that way of life – die.
I am looking forward to our progress, to seeing all of us grow, and to a city that can allow itself to stop being known as a place “Where everyone hates each other.”
It is time for Ferris to be FUTURE FOCUSED. The last 90-days have been about positioning the city for that mindset, and as long as council will allow me to serve, we will remain focused on that.
In the last 90-days:
On Nov. 20, 2019, our deputy court clerk, who has done an exceptional job, started working with Ferris Municipal Court. She has been very receptive in her training and is very knowledgeable in her job duties.
Together we have caught passed due cases up from July 2019 to present. We are working on the backlog as of date. Because of this, 533 warrants are now awaiting Judge Kurth’s signature.
Collections are increasing, therefore there will be a significant change in revenue for the city:
• Total money collected: $144,776.82
• State costs: $61,030.06
• City revenue: $83,746.76
Citations are steadily increasing in quantity due to the dedication of our officers:
• October citation count: 133
• November citation count: 392
• December citation count: 531
We are also working to report our financial data into STW. In doing so, we had to go to consolidated cash.
The court is also currently working on being able to send a warrant upload file to regional directly utilizing our court software so that our police department does not have to manually enter each warrant – one by one.
We have addressed the permitting issue, and we are issuing permits again. The Texas Legislature did have a small impact on what we were doing after Sept. 15, but that has been remedied. The Texas Constitution requires us to charge permitting fees that do not result in a financial loss to the City. We were charging less than our costs and have corrected that so that we are in compliance with the Texas Constitution.
In the last 90-days, the city has hired:
• Deputy Court Clerk
• Animal Control Officer
• Chief Building Official
• Police Chief
• Fire Chief
• Chief Financial Officer
• EDC Director
We had an almost 45% water loss rate.
That means the city was LOSING approximately $340,000 a year due to our inefficiency in fixing water leaks.
This is highly unacceptable and highly costly to the city. The standard the state recommends is only 8%.
We have reduced that to 20% and continue to see decreases.
There are leaks that have now been detected and repaired:
• 307 7th
• Patrick Pike
• 409 Collage
• 500 N Central
• 1025 E 8th
• 9th and S Baker (possible leak)
• 108 South Henrietta
• Repair leak at Baseball field meter
• Repairing sewer force main on 12th St. (and it now pumps well)
• 7th & Wood
• 5th & Highland
The North Pasture rehabilitation has been scheduled for this week. We have approved digital meters across the city. Water and sewer taps for Western Hills have been completed. City Hall has been cleaned up.
WATER PRIORITY LIST PROJECTS
• Meter replacements
• 12145 bore
• Repair of the North Pasture well
• North Pasture well transmission line to the Downtown station
• LAS & chlorine system at downtown pump station
• Lift Station #1 improvements
• Lift Station #3 improvements
• Lift Station #3 forcemain upgrade
• 15th St. sewer improvements
• FM 983 sewer improvements
• Downtown station pump improvements
• Portion of the sewer improvements on Central St. from TRA meter to 1st St.
• Portion of the sewer improvements on Central St. from 1st St. to 11th St.
• Downtown station ground storage tank
• Paint the existing downtown ground storage tank
The Finance Department has been working to eliminate inefficiency across the city and to ensure that we are not spending money unnecessarily:
• They have explored processes and options to streamline payroll processing for salaried employees via time clock plus
• They have identified missing cylinders that the city was paying for (for years) and are working to get them returned for a possible credit
• Salary raise for officers
• Better/efficient jail procedures
• More efficient DWI procedure
• Patrol vehicles getting outfitted with mobile computers
• New professional looking city identification cards
• Better working relationship with Ferris ISD Police Department
• Better accident software (CRASH)
• Streamlined paperwork process for submitting cases to CID
• We ordered and received 10 Mobile Data Centers (MDC’s) for the patrol vehicles and fire vehicles with the new Crimes software
The Courts Department was audited by the State Comptroller this week. The following information was reported by the Comptroller in a debrief meeting this morning:
• Every ticket written in the Brazos Ticket Writer has appeared in the court system
• There were no excess highway fines based off of the city revenue. They said this does mean that we can/should be writing more citations
• There is not enough separation of duties, due to there being a lack of staffing in the court. This is being mitigated by hiring a deputy court clerk
• Court needs to do a better job of tracking cases and working the citations – the backlog is far too many
• The State Comptroller is not recommending any further audit at this time, and assured me that they found no evidence of any wrongdoing or foul play in our court system. Every dollar was accounted for properly. Their concern was our lack of processing citations and doing so in a timely manner
• Started offering free e-book usage to Ferris ISD students in Intermediate, Jr. High & High School
• Off-site Family Fiesta event at McDonald Elementary
• Two adult craft classes, Fall & Christmas
• Held adult computer classes, one-on-one patrons scheduled times
• We had a meeting with DR Horton, who is interested in placing 200-400 homes in Ferris
• Another developer is placing 87 homes in Ferris
• Another developer is placing 350 homes in Ferris
• Ferris Town Center is breaking ground this month – adding homes and commercial development
In short, the population of Ferris is set to double over the next 18-24 months
• An auto parts store is being built in Ferris
• The city renegotiated a contract with Waste Management and in February, we will begin to realize a $20,000/month payment to the city based on a natural gas conversion that they are completing.
• The Senior Citizen Center building is out for construction bid and is on the website now.
• The issue of CO Bonds, not to exceed $3.2 million
• The approval of PID and the selection of P3 Works to administer the PID
• The Pay Plan
• The Water Study
• CiTo Fiber has now started installing in the homes at Shaw Creek. They have installed 38 homes within the last couple of days with many orders for the weeks to come
• The fire hydrant at 1st and Baker has been straightened and corrected.
• The well pump downtown is fixed
• The benches at City Hall have been stained
• The Library lights have been replaced, the fence at the Library has been fixed, and a French drain has been installed to correct the flooding and the esthetics outside improved
• The Pavilion is reopened
• We have completed the first draft of an amended FY20 budget. We were able to locate revenue sources that were previously underbudgeted and some expenditure line items that were overbudgeted
• Systemic problems in the FY19 Budget (i.e. 44.11% of all expenditure accounts were over budget at the end of the fiscal year) were perpetuated in FY20 budget, which necessitates the reevaluation of the veracity of the FY20 budget
• We have completed the initial evaluation and recalculation based on new organizational chart and increased wages in specific departments and positions. Currently, we are budgeting a $354,000 surplus in the General Fund and $1.27 million surplus in all funds
• We have put together several budget formats for council evaluation and will be determining the best format to move forward with and present to you all in the very near future
We are planning on being approximately $360,000 better on the budget than originally planned. That is a function of savings, efficiency, and hard work.