Monday, September 20, 2021

City Employee Mask Requirement Lifted

With the recent updated mask guidance provided last week by the CDC, the City of Southlake will no longer require face coverings be worn by its employees.

“The City of Southlake has followed federal, state and local health department guidelines throughout this pandemic and will continue to do so as we all move forward navigating the new realities of COVID-19,” Southlake Fire Chief Michael Starr said. “With widely-available vaccines and low local hospitalization and positivity rates, coupled with the new CDC guidelines issued last week, we feel confident that we can now allow our employees to perform their duties safely without continuing to require them to wear masks. Of course, employees who feel they need to continue wearing them may do so.”

This change follows the March 2020 lifting of mask requirements for visitors to City facilities which became effective once state and county mask mandates were rescinded. There are also a couple of other changes happening at the City of Southlake. Beginning May 19, Champions Club will no longer close midday for extensive COVID-19 cleaning. Be sure to check their website for updated hours and program information. Visit ChampionsClubSouthlake.com for more information.

The City will also no longer publish the COVID-19 case data dashboard specific to Southlake. However, residents can still view Southlake data on the Tarrant and Denton County website. Find these links at ProtectSouthlake.com.

The City would like to thank the Southlake community for all you have done in the past year to help protect Southlake and keep families, employees and visitors safe.

Interested in getting the vaccine? Contact your health care provider or find information from the State of Texas, Tarrant County and Denton County on where to get a vaccine at ProtectSouthlake.com.

Southlake Police Department Works Together to Protect Team During COVID-19

There are two aspects of the law enforcement profession that are constant: the call to act in an individual’s time of need and having to rely on others in your own time of need. Both aspects of a law enforcement career carry their own situational rules, all of which are aimed and geared towards providing a level of service to meet any identified need, regardless of the severity or quantity of people effected.

Many times officers are called upon by members of the community in times of duress, which can range from being stranded alongside the roadway in need of a tire change to other more serious instances involving a family crisis or in extreme cases, the need for protection against a family member or strangers. Without initially having all the specific facts for these types of emergencies, officers are expected to arrive prepared in their response while still acting within the confines of the law. However, what about the times when officers themselves need help, who can they call on for support?

In situations such as these, officers may turn towards their own and the assistance comes from within the agency or sometimes by other outreach groups within the community. Realizing that none of us have ever lived through the COVID-19 pandemic before, it has become a fast and accelerating learning curve for all. However, during this time, three individuals within the Southlake Police Department have worked behind the scenes and without recognition to keep all members of the agency, as well as other work groups within the City, protected when called upon to protect and meet the needs of the community.

Officer David Aldridge, Community Initiatives Coordinator Valerie Snyder and Administrative Secretary Diana Green have relentlessly searched for, coordinated and gathered needed supplies to keep officers of the Southlake Police Department in business since the beginning of the pandemic.

From the start of the COVID pandemic, Aldridge stepped up and assisted the Police Department in gathering Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other sanitation equipment. As the pandemic continued, Aldridge helped in creating a PPE and sanitation inventory to keep track of all PPE equipment for the department. During that time, he also became the main contact for Purchasing Manager Tim Slifka on receiving all PPE orders from the City and distributing them accordingly.

Aldridge worked closely with Snyder and Green to make sure items were ordered and distributed accordingly.

“Aldridge went out of his way on numerous occasions to be available for anyone who needed the PPE equipment and sort out all the shipments to make sure it got to the right department,” Patrol Captain Jose Luna said. “On top of it all, Aldridge is in charge of the patrol units for the department. During this pandemic, he also took a shipment of three new patrol vehicles and has worked hard to get them ready to hit the road. Officer Aldridge has always been a team player and makes himself available for anyone who needs assistance.”

Through coordinated efforts, Snyder and Green have reached out to numerous companies, supply chains, independent contractors and even generous citizens, in order to obtain basic needed supplies such as: hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, face shields, Tyvek suits and other sanitary products. Through their assistance, they have obtained enough supplies to build Aldridge’s inventory to allow officers to still function within the confines of the law and to respond to emergencies when called upon in time of need.

“I have directly witnessed Valerie’s assistance and the impact she has on the agency. Her ability to think outside of the box coupled with her intuitive nature, allowed her to navigate unknown systems where numerous individuals or corporations were applying and competing for the same resources,” Professional Standards Division Captain Jason Henninger said. “In many instances, it came down to the relationships she had previously built that allowed our agency to receive what was needed, which is immeasurable. Due to her ability to build these types of professional working relationships the agency recognizes her as a true and exceptional asset.”

The work of these three individuals has not been overlooked or forgotten, and will forever stand as examples of Innovation, Commitment to Excellence and Teamwork!

CSO Innovates Through Teamwork and a Commitment to Excellence

While the uncertainties around COVID-19 has put a damper on in-person interactions, it has pushed many to utilize existing technologies and further e-services.

Southlake’s City Secretary’s Office took the lead with digital projects within their own department and assisting other departments, all while working remotely themselves. The CSO assisted HR with Laserfiche training to create 12 digital forms for internal use.

“The push for government accessibility electronically is something we embrace,” City Secretary Amy Shelley said. “As Southlake employees, we value innovation to help improve the community we serve.”

Because citizen participation in meetings is highly valued, the CSO developed a digital public comment card for citizens to express their views electronically for virtual or in-person meetings during the pandemic.

The CSO also amended a Records Management Program ordinance to support the importance of maintaining the City’s records and business continuity, to be submitted to Council for approval later this fall.

They’ve also dedicated time to professional development and improving processes and procedures for the ever-changing environment COVID-19 has thrown at the community.

“We’ve accomplished great things while working remotely. This was all possible because of the exceptional team, who are dedicated to making Southlake a better place to live and work,” Shelley said.

At the City of Southlake, we believe that innovation, teamwork and a commitment to excellence is critical to shaping the future of the community.

City Updates Recruiting and Forms for an Increasingly Digital World

COVID-19 transitioned life for everyone, with many organizations promoting changes they’ve made in the interest of public safety.

HR Director Stacey Black said the internal changes initiated through COVID-19 are not always visible.

“Our department’s efforts have been two-fold so that we’re protecting the public, but also protecting our greatest asset, our employees,” she said. “We’ve implemented social distancing guidance, provided PPE and enabled employees to work from home so that our team can be at their best in serving the Southlake community.”

For City of Southlake Talent Acquisition Partner Rebecca Hart, work pivoted briefly in March 2020 from recruiting candidates and hiring to COVID-19 expert.

“Taking COVID-19 calls parallels what I do in recruiting beautifully,” she said. “I’m talking with employees, listening, empathizing and documenting. I’ve really enjoyed the transition.”

Now that recruiting has picked back up, Hart finds herself still discussing COVID-19 through the lens of how the City is addressing the pandemic for candidates and employees. Recruiting and hiring has turned virtual with video interviews by optimizing technology the City already utilized. Hiring managers have entrusted her to narrow down candidates through phone and virtual interviews to limit in-person interactions.

Hart compared working for the City of Southlake to being on the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. Employees don’t want to lag behind, they want to step their game up to Michael Jordan’s level.

Ever since her first day on the job, Hart feels a sense of pride working for the City and like she has always been part of the team.

“We’re a team of high-quality employees. Everyone wants to rise to the occasion and be the best they can possibly be,” she said. “It’s inspiring.”

One of the things the City excels at, according to Hart, is playing to each employee’s strengths and putting them in positions for success. That’s where her coworker Dylan Welch has truly shined.

Welch has taken on the project of going digital with HR forms.

“Working with paper forms, we’re printing, signing and scanning into the system with each and every form,” he said. “My goal is to create evergreen forms so that employees can easily access the information they need and turn them in without extra, unnecessary steps.”

During open enrollment each year, Welch estimated it takes the team six hours to stuff envelopes with 13,000 sheets of paper with benefits information, in addition to the countless hours spent preparing and printing the information and the data entry once the forms are submitted. His goal for this year is to eliminate paper open enrollment forms for 2020, along with all of the time associated with paper, saving weeks spent on this project alone.

Form creation entails more than just scanning previous paper forms. Digital forms are created from scratch, analyzing the necessary information for the form and redesigning when needed. Welch also has the tedious task of pre-populating regularly used information like an employee’s name, and then tests the form so any issues can be fixed.

“What’s been great about this project and working at Southlake is that there’s very little direction, and that’s by design,” Welch said. “I have the freedom to create something great for our employees and have been entrusted to do my job to the best of my ability. It’s empowering to take on an enormous project like this and really own it.”

The City of Southlake prides itself on the attitude and behavior of its employees to make The Southlake Way a mindset, culture and service strategy.

Interested in joining an organization dedicated to Integrity, Innovation, Accountability, Excellence and Teamwork? Find our open positions here.

Commissioned Artwork Speaks to COVID-19 Feelings

Every one of us can say that dealing with COVID-19 for the last several months has impacted our lives. Local artist and former Carroll ISD art teacher Gayle Bunch set out to morph those feelings into art when she created her first piece about COVID-19.

When Southlake Mayor Laura Hill saw Bunch’s painting on social media, Hill commissioned her to create one for the City of Southlake.

“I always look to art when I am trying to capture a special moment in time. The pandemic has certainly not been special in the traditional sense of the word,” Hill said. “I knew the minute I saw Gayle’s piece that it was the perfect way to capture the impact of the pandemic on our citizens and most importantly, our City staff who had just been devastated by the COVID death of fellow employee Darlene Rubio.”

Hill asked City Manager Shana Yelverton, Assistant City Manager Alison Ortowski, former Assistant City Manager Ben Thatcher, Fire Chief Mike Starr and Police Chief James Brandon to share their personal thoughts about the pandemic.

“Gayle turned those heartfelt words, thoughts and fears into something beyond memorable,” Hill said.

Bunch said the words used are important because the community was given new words throughout the pandemic.

“Artists record the times and that is what the painting is about. I named it Southlake Together 2020 as a tribute to what was going on and a community coming together,” she said.

Bunch said she is focused and devoted to the painting and what she wants to portray.

“A mentor told me once that the painting talks to you and tells you what it needs. That’s exactly how I approached this one,” she said. “It was truly an honor to be asked to create artwork that speaks to the community and City employees in Southlake.”

The painting incorporates the United States flag with words and phrases like “Flatten the curve,” “#southlakestrong,” “The New Normal,” “Darlene Rubio” and “Better Together.” The artwork is displayed in Town Hall.

City Approves Interlocal Agreement with Tarrant County for CARES Act Funding

The Southlake City Council approved an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement with Tarrant County during the June 2 session, to receive funding as part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

The CARES Act is designed to provide immediate economic assistance for industries and municipalities who have been impacted by COVID-19. Tarrant County received a direct allocation of an estimated $210 million and is in the process of providing grants to cities within the area.

The City of Southlake is estimated to be eligible for $1.6 million, or about $55 per capita. In order to receive the funds, the City has to enter into an interlocal cooperation agreement.

According to the grant guidelines, funds can be allocated for public health and unaccounted expenses that occurred between the time period of March 1, 2020 – December 30, 2020 and were not originally included within the City’s budget.

Terms of the agreement state the funds are only to be used on eligible expenses and cannot duplicate services. This means Tarrant County and the City cannot utilize the funds for the same service. The agreement also requires the City to submit a monthly report on how funds were allocated and for any unused funds be returned.

“We’re in the process of working the budget in detail, and that includes looking at our COVID expenses at this point and get reimbursement for what we spent, as well as project out for the remainder of what we think we will spend as it relates to fighting COVID-19,” City of Southlake CFO Sharen Jackson said during the meeting.

She said the funds will be used for local economic programs and expenses such as payroll, unemployment costs, telecommuting expenses, personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and disinfection supplies, customer service enhancements and legal fees.

Teen Court Still in Session – From a Distance

By using a little ingenuity, Metroport Teen Court is still in session despite changes associated with COVID-19.

Teen Court is a voluntary program funded by the cities of Colleyville, Grapevine, Keller, and Southlake that allows teens in middle school or high school the opportunity to keep Class C Misdemeanors off their permanent record.  Teen defendants go through a trial before a jury of their peers who then assess community service hours and jury terms for them to complete.

Holding trials for defendants ordered to complete Teen Court by judges from four cities often results in gatherings of over a hundred people at the Southlake Municipal Court building on Tuesday evenings. But now, two challenges are facing Teen Court: how to hold Teen Court trials when gatherings are limited in size and moving existing cases through the program when teens aren’t able to complete traditional community service hours.

With approval from the cities’ respective judges, Dana Falk, the Teen Court Clerk, and Colleen Anson, Office Assistant, have developed some smart ways in which teens can enroll, have their trials heard, and even complete community service at a distance.

Teen Court Changes

The first thing to figure out was how to move forward on current Teen Court cases where sentencing is still required. Instead of performing external community service, teens can now complete essays or poster boards (digital or physical) and submit those items electronically. Additionally, teens can complete online driver safety, anger management, or alcohol and drug courses, in place of performing community service hours. After trial, defendants are also asked to serve on e-juries to fulfill their assigned jury terms.

New Cases

For new cases coming into Teen Court, teens can now complete an enrollment over the phone with Teen Court staff. After being enrolled, the teen’s trial will consist of an emailed questionnaire comprised of questions typically asked by the jury. Their teen’s answers are then submitted to a jury panel of pre-selected teens to review the defendant’s responses. The jurors will then sentence the teen defendant to community service hours based on those answers.

“We are looking forward to the day that Metroport Teen Court can again be held in person,” said Kristin McGrail, Southlake’s Municipal Court Manager. “But until then, Teen Court will continue to serve our community and our partner cities in the best ways possible.”

For the most up to date information regarding Teen Court, please visit www.metroport-teencourt.org. Or you can contact us by calling  817-748-8346 or emailing at teen.court@ci.southlake.tx.us.

City Looking to Adjust 2020 and 2021 Fiscal Year Budgets Based on Revenue Projections

City of Southlake CFO Sharen Jackson provided a financial outlook during the May 19 City Council meeting.

Just like other organizations around the world, COVID-19 has impacted the City’s finances and operations. Two key revenue streams for the City of Southlake have been significantly affected, sales tax and hotel occupancy tax, also known as HOT. Sales tax revenue for March 2020 was down 7% from what was anticipated, while HOT revenue was down 62% from City projections. Sales tax revenue for March reflected a partial month of normal activity. It is anticipated that future collections will be significantly less than projected with the adopted FY 2020 budget beginning with the April report.

“Based on our projections, we probably will not collect any HOT taxes for a while going forward,” Jackson said during the meeting.

In March, the U.S. government passed the CARES Act to help with expense reimbursements, however this does not provide for revenue loss relief.

The State of Texas received $11.2 billion in CARES Act funds, with Tarrant County receiving more than $200 million in direct funding. The City expects to receive some of the funds delivered to Tarrant County as part of an interlocal agreement at an estimated rate of $55 per capita.

Jackson reminded the Council during the meeting that the City has the right to request these funds, but that funding is not guaranteed. These funds are required to be used as a reimbursement of costs due to COVID-19, but are not for replacing revenue lost due to decreases in sales, hotel and other taxes.

The City could also receive funds from Denton County for the small percentage of the city limits located in the county.

Jackson said the City will also apply for other government program grants to make up for any funding gaps. She anticipates a slow economic recovery period before sales and hotel tax revenue improves.

City Manager Shana Yelverton is expected to propose an amendment to the fiscal year 2020 budget in June to offset the decrease in revenue. This will be paired with reduced expenses and programming to balance the City’s budget.

To address the potential of decreased revenue, the City froze travel and hiring in March, as well as furloughed 150 employees in April. Large projects were deferred to stabilize the budget. Some community events were also canceled.

Yelverton will propose an FY 2021 budget that takes into consideration decrease revenues of sales and hotel taxes, as well as decreased revenue received from property taxes due to an expected rise in owners protesting property values.

“Early on, we made decisions to address any potential for decreased revenue so we could continue to make sure Southlake is a great place to live and work,” Yelverton said.” “We applied fact-based decision making and management best practices so that we remain good stewards of the funds we’ve been entrusted with. These decisions aren’t always easy, but they’re in the best interest of moving the City forward and responsibly managing our budget.”

Jackson said there are ongoing discussions on the federal level of additional legislation to appropriate revenue replacement funds for local governments.

“We went through our financial audit two months ago and we had fund balances even in excess of the stated goal of 25%,” Mayor Pro Tem Shawn McCaskill said. “Fortunately, we’ve been saving our pennies in the good times to cushion the blow in the bad times.”

During the meeting, Southlake Mayor Laura Hill discussed the perfect timing of previously approved tax breaks for Southlake.

“We also had a tax rate decrease in the current year. That was a tax break for all of our homeowners and also our businesses,” she said. “On top of that, we did the 20% homestead exemption for our residents.”

The City’s principles of planning ahead set the City to be on a good path by saving funds for a rainy day. The consistent planning and constant vigilance of the City’s staff and City Council will ensure that Southlake is prepared for what the future holds in a post-COVID-19 world. Watch the full presentation and Council meeting here.

Select Outdoor Park Facilities to Re-Open with Limited Use

As a result of today’s announcements by Governor Abbott, the following outdoor park facilities and amenities will re-open with limited use on May 1, 2020.

  • Dog Park
  • Tennis and Pickleball Courts at Bicentennial Park (no more than 4 participants per court)
  • Batting Cages at Bicentennial and Bob Jones Parks
  • Restrooms
  • Pavilions
  • Picnic Tables
  • Benches

With the re-opening of these park facilities and amenities, the Community Services department has adopted enhanced sanitizing practices. In addition to daily cleaning, bathrooms will be deeply sanitized once a week and wall-mounted hand sanitizer stations have been added.

We continue to encourage you to make the best possible decisions for yourself and your family by following expert guidance and advice, reducing the risk of being infected or infecting others, and staying up-to-date about the latest information. With that in mind here are some tips from the CDC and the National Parks and Recreation Association about using our facilities during this time.

DO

  • Visit parks that are close to your home
  • Prepare before you visit
  • Maximize physical distance from others and follow CDC guidelines
  • Adhere to all facility-specific guidelines

DON’T

  • Visit parks if you are sick or were recently exposed to COVID-19
  • Visit crowded parks
  • Participate in organized activities or sports that involve contact with other participants
  • Gather in groups of 10 or more people

covid19 urban park tips

The COVID-19 situation is frequently changing. The City of Southlake is committed to working with our residents and businesses as this unprecedented situation unfolds. We are grateful for the support of the community and work every day to continue to earn that trust.

For the latest City updates visit www.ProtectSouthlake.com