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story.lead_photo.caption Texarkana, Texas, City Hall, 220 Texas Blvd., is shown in December 2015. Photo by Gazette Staff

TEXARKANA, Texas — During its meeting Monday, the City Council will vote whether to approve hazard pay bonuses to city employees whose work has put them at increased risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

First responders and some general service employees "who have faced extreme hazards and have had their duties substantially changed" would receive a one-time payment of $2,000 with their next paycheck, according to meeting briefing documents. "All other essential employees who helped maintain city services during the pandemic" would get $1,000.

With input from department heads, City Manager Shirley Jaster would decide which employees get hazard pay.

Pandemic relief funds provided by the federal CARES Act and administered through the Texas Department of Emergency Management would reimburse the city for the bonuses, with the "initial outlay not to exceed $830,000."

A summary of the resolution notes that Miller County, Arkansas, and the Bowie County, Texas, Sheriff's Office recently have made similar payments to employees.

The Council will conduct a public hearing and vote on a resolution to loan an additional $500,000 to the developers of the abandoned former Texarkana National Bank building downtown.

The money would come from available Environmental Protection Agency loan funds to pay for abatement of toxic materials in the building. The city previously loaned the developers, Texarkana Renewal Properties, $400,000 from the EPA fund.

The Council will also vote whether to hire a company to audit city tax revenues.

Chicago-based Azavar Government Solutions Inc. would scrutinize the city's collection of sales taxes, hotel occupancy taxes — including those paid by short-term rentals — and franchise fees from utility companies. With the exception of a flat hotel auditing fee required by state law, the firm would not be paid unless it finds untapped sources of revenue.

A contract with the city's previous hotel tax auditor, Avenu Insights and Analytics, expired Sept. 30, and staff chose Azavar as a replacement because of competitive pricing, city Chief Financial Officer Kristin Peeples said.

The Council will also hear a number of first briefings on zoning and permitting matters:

— rezoning land in the 2500 block of Buchanan Road from Single Family-2 to Industrial-2;

— granting a specific use permit to all a permanent cosmetics business at 5510 Summerhill Road;

— rezoning land in the 5800 block of St. Michael Drive from General Retail to Commercial-Planned Development to allow a 10,000-square-foot speculative building for sale or lease; and

— rezoning 3311 Kidd Lane and granting a specific use permit to allow a double-wide manufactured home.

The Council will elect a mayor pro tem and hold a swearing-in ceremony for Ward 3 Council Member Betty Williams and Ward 5 Council Member Bill Harp, who ran unopposed for re-election this year.

Fire Chief Eric Schlotter will give the Council a presentation on the local situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting will include an open forum during which residents may address the Council on any topic for up to five minutes each.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 220 Texas Blvd. A live video stream will be available through the city's website, ci.texarkana.tx.us.

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