Several officers of the Gainesville Police Department were recognized for what was considered one of the most successful anti-drug operations in the city’s history.

Filling in for Mayor Glenn Loch, who was on vacation this week, Mayor Pro-tem Elaine McHorse presided at the City Council meeting Tuesday night.

In recognitions, McHorse presented certificates to several officers of the Gainesville Police Department. The awards were for their participation in the anti-drug Operation 700 Ranch Round-up, billed as “a long-term, multi-jurisdictional investigation aimed at combating the illegal trafficking of methamphetamine, the success of which has had a significant impact on drug trafficking and related crimes in the City of Gainesville.”

“Your contributions to Operation 700 Ranch Round-up are valued by the citizens of the city of Gainesville and are among the highest traditions of law enforcement and the Gainesville Police Department,” McHorse read.

Two groups of officers were given certificates and recognized in front of the full council chambers. In the first group were Capt. Mark Brazelton, Capt. Steven Fleming, Cpl. David Sharp, officers Ronald Alford, James Birdsell, Samuel Walterscheid, Dewayne Schelsteder, Joseph Shires, Record Clerk Connie Welch, Record Clerk Kelli Harrison, Communications Supervisor Susan Case and Animal Control Officer Jeffrey Scott.

In the second group were investigators Jack Jones, Timothy Green, Jerry Norris, Ronnie Williams, Daniel Orr, Mike Morris, Capt. Kevin Phillips, Capt. Jim Bleything, Cpl. Christopher Burr, Cpl. Matthew Ottwell, Officer Tom Reynolds and Officer Justin Galvan.

According to the recognition, the efforts of the “round-up” contributed to 103 meth-related arrests, the seizure of more than 15 pounds of meth worth more than $600,000, 500 grams of cocaine, 2,000 grams of marijuana and at least 50 firearms and $140,000 in cash.

The operation covered areas in North Texas and southern Oklahoma, and was in cooperation with 10 other state and local law enforcement agencies.

It was “the largest and most successful joint narcotics investigation and raid in the city’s history,” McHorse noted.

In ordinances, the city passed on third reading ordinances 6-0 to change the names of Rockwall and Muller streets in northwest Gainesville.

Muller street is to be re-named Martin Luther King Avenue and Rockwall Street is to be re-named Barbara Jordan Avenue.

There is a provision for new street signs in the ordinance.

According to conversation at previous council meetings, the origin of the names Muller or Rockwall were unknown.

Several were present at the council meeting to support the change, but none spoke.

“I’m very pleased, I think it’s an honor for the city and it’s an honor for me to have our school sitting in a Martin Luther King street,” Doris Holloway-Walker, director of the Gainesville Head Start Academy on Muller Street, said this morning.

Bo Searcy, minister of the Muller Street Church of Christ said he does not mind the name change.

“The church name never changes — it’s the church of Christ. It just happens to be on Muller Street,” he said.

Searcy said he is acquainted with the church’s mail man, which he said will help avoid confusion in the address alteration.

In other ordinances, the city passed 5-1 a change in zoning from agricultural to commercial for a 35-acre tract of property located near Interstate 35 and the recently acquired land for the new Gainesville High School.

Jim Myrick, one of the owners of the property, said the intent is to place one or two billboards along the frontage property.

He said he has obtained two permits for the giant signs, but was told later the property had to be re-zoned.

Beverly Snuggs, council member, questioned the plan and asked why the entire 35 acres had to be re-zoned. She voted against the ordinance.

Myrick said most of the property is a low-lying flood plain.

Marvin Knight, one of the investors in the property, defended the plan to place billboards there.

“You go down 35 — it’s going to all be commercial. It’s coming this way,” Knight said of urban expansion northward from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and surrounding communities toward “Gainesburg, America.”

“If you start restricting ... we’re going to be run over,” Knight said.

In other business, the Council voted 6-0 to authorize itself to act for and on behalf of said city, to enter into all necessary agreements with the Employees Retirement System of Texas to extend federal old-age, survivors, disability and health insurance benefits (Social Security coverage) to the officers and employees of the city.

Land said this was a complicated but necessary step, allowed under provisions of 42 United States Code 418, Title 6, Chapter 606, Texas Government Code and other applicable state and federal laws.

He said during the budget hearings it was found a provision was not in place to allow employees to opt out of Social Security, which the city has been paying into since the 1950s.

“This is a necessary process we need to go through,” Land said.

In other business, the Council passed 6-0 a resolution to purchase two new police cars from Southwest Ford. The sixth bid was previously opened. The amount of the cost of the vehicles was not read at the meeting.

In other business, the Council voted 6-0 to approve:

• Permission for the Kelly Miller Circus to use the Gainesville rodeo grounds March 26.

• Authorization of the mayor to execute of the Gas Standing Steering Committee Participation Agreement with Atmos Gas, Inc.

• Authorization of an agreement with Cooke County to provide electronic voting machines for the 2006 General Election scheduled Nov. 7.

• Authorization of the mayor to enter an agreement for “strategic planning services” for meetings with various Cooke County taxing entities, approving of the services of Arthur A. Roberts.

• Naming election judges for the May 13 election.

In citizen comments, Robert Kelley noted his complaints of grafitti, dogs running loose and juvenile deliquency have not been acted upon by Gainesville police. He asked if there were any other actions he could take. McHorse said she cannot answer questions during the comments portion of the meeting.

Bob Smith reported ona class, hosted by the University of Texas at Arlington, teaching urban planning.

“This is one of the most positive things I’ve seen to help gather information for moving Gainesville forward,” he said, inviting the community to participate.

The meeting adjourned at 7:12 p.m.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net

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