Council approves formation of emergency committee, amends and extends public health emergency declaration

Plans for a temporary emergency management committee moved forward and the City’s public health emergency declaration was extended and amended to remove its mask mandate during the Council meeting held on May 18.
Emergency management committee
District 3 Councilman David Espinosa suggested a five-person committee consisting of one representative from each council district to liaise with Emergency Management Coordinator Rob Flores in hopes of improving the response the next time disaster strikes the town.
The idea was first raised on March 30, when Council held a Public Hearing to gather feedback from residents about February’s winter storm. At that time, First Baptist Church Pastor Dan Newberg said he felt like the City and the FBC had failed the community, and that the church wanted to work with the City to provide a better response in the future (see “Devine residents provide praise and criticism at Public Hearing” in the April 7 edition of The Devine News).
District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall said she envisioned the committee working with Flores and possibly Police Chief Kandy Benavides for six months to a year.
“They may draw some knowledge from them, and draw knowledge from, say, the Food Pantry, or the Salvation Army,” Randall said. “But they’re going to need time to do all of that research and get suggestions from them too, and working with Rob, with his schedule, so I’m just looking at least a year.”
Randall added that the committee could bring a preliminary plan back to Council in six months, and Espinosa said he was open to suggestions.

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“We’re all going to have to come up with good ideas, and the general public is going to help us too,” Espinosa said. “But I really want to see this ball get rolling at some point.”
District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler said all the town’s resources needed to be tapped.
“The school mentioned they’d be willing to help,” Lawler said. “The churches, the Chamber. I think the more you utilize our resources, the more ideas we’ll have.”
District 2 Councilwoman Angela Pichardo asked if anyone had contacted Espinosa about the committee, and he said he’d wanted to discuss the idea with Council first before moving forward.
“Should we say that by next Regular meeting, we each find one person, to go along with the church that said they wanted to be involved?” Randall asked.
Mayor Cory Thompson said that multiple organizations wanted to be involved, including the Food Pantry, the Salvation Army, and multiple churches in town.
“They understand that they’re not going to be on the board, per se, but they want to be in that room with that discussion, as the discussion’s happening,” Thompson said.
Flores said that for the sake of simplicity, starting the committee with five people would be great.
An Espinosa-Randall motion to form a temporary five-person emergency management committee to work with community groups and nonprofits to plan for future disasters passed 5-0 with support from Lawler, Pichardo, and District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega.
Public health Mask Mandate
Masks are no longer mandated on City property or in City buildings following an Executive Order issued by Governor Greg Abbott on May 18.
Executive Order No. GA-36 banned governmental entities, including cities, from requiring face masks. The Order went into immediate effect upon being issued.
Masks may still be worn.
Council voted unanimously to remove only the portions of the City’s public health emergency declaration requiring masks, and extended the declaration until June 15, the date of the next Regular meeting.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer