“This is the first time since I’ve been in office that this many people have come,” Mayor George Hernandez said as he welcomed all present.
The council had a previous meeting in which proposals were made to up the permit fee per eight-liner from $500 to $5,000 and regulate the game room businesses’ hours, having them close on Sunday.
Hernandez clarified the council’s position in wanting to amend the ordinance, but he called the proposals “unreasonable” and “discriminatory.”
He said the question was raised if the eight-liners were legal.
“The answer is yes from the Legislature,” he said.
However, he added that, according to law, it is illegal to pay cash.
The mayor unabashedly said the city would take the cash for the permitting fee, but if the game rooms “mess up, that’s your fault ... nobody forced you to break the law.”
On the other hand, he said people will not go to court and testify that cash was used in the game rooms.
“Hearsay is one thing. Proving it is another,” he said.
Hernandez said raising the permit fee to $5,000 was unreasonable. And he said setting the businesses hours to close on Sunday and limiting hours during the week was discriminatory.
“Are there any other businesses that operate under these (conditions)?” he asked rhetorically.
“I cannot see putting taxpayers through possible litigation,” he added.
He said others have suggested an undercover operation to reveal what is really transpiring at the game rooms.
But he said such an operation would cost in the neighborhood of $50,000.
And he asked if you could find a district attorney willing to take a case.
He called the situation a law enforcement matter. And he added that it was not his place to dictate morals.
Hernandez said he would not fix his signature to the ordinance amendment if the council proceeded with the proposals.
“This is a means of revenue that the city ... collects. Understand, it’s not all about money. It’s a matter for police,” he said.
To date, Woodsboro has $120,000 in revenue generated from the game rooms.
Overall, the council reconsidered the initial proposals following Hernandez’s opinion and backed off such a large increase per eight-liner fee.
Councilmen Elix Ortiz, Debra Bolcik and Minerva Cisneros, voted to raise the permit fee from $500 to $1,000.
Mayor Pro Tem Larry Jochetz and Councilman Jimmy Blaschke voted to keep the initial proposal to increase the permit fee to $5,000.
The lower increase passed on the 3-2 vote.
And the council backed off having the establishments close on Sunday.
Instead, a proposal to set the game room hours at 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week was approved in a unanimous vote.
The penalty for breaking the ordinance will be a Class C misdemeanor and fine of $500.
Hernandez said the amendments to the ordinance will take three readings for final approval.
The council also approved moving $16,642.75 from the amusement machine revenue to make up the difference for the city’s new mixer at the sewer plant.
Also, the council approved recommendations to bring structures up to standard by Code Inspector Mike Henry.
The properties are the following: 906 Pugh St., 514 Danforth St., 301 Davis St., 711 Celia St. and 400 N. Arno St.
The council also approved a request from a resident for water hookup at 112 Churchill Road in the amount of $1,377.
The council also approved the purchase of sand from GP Transport in the amount of $3,300. The sand will be used to replace sand in the city’s drying beds.
Also, Woodsboro Chief of Police Joe Roberts gave a report, saying an investigation was being conducted on an intoxicated driver who damaged the gazebo at the town square.
Roberts said the driver had come from a local bar and was facing charges as well as the cost of the gazebo repairs from the damages.