PAYNE SPRINGS — The first thing they didn’t do at Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled city council meeting was approve the minutes of last month’s meeting.

Right there you knew it was going to be a rough night.

The second thing the council didn’t do was approve the hiring of a new police officer, one who had reportedly been working 40-hour weeks for free as a reserve officer.

Shane Renberg, a Payne Springs officer for several years and now the third police chief in five months, speaking in street clothes from the audience at city hall, said he was working his “butt off” and needed some help.

He didn’t get it.

This, despite the fact that a room full of supporters from the subdivisions of Payne Springs said noisily and repeatedly that they wanted the council to give the chief a raise and to hire James East as a patrol officer.

The mayor agreed, but he can’t vote.

Councilman Odell Terrell was absent, and the mayor expressed political suspicions on why Terrell wasn’t there to vote. Several times, in fact.

Tom Hinkle did vote to hire East, but the other two council members present, Carl Powell and Lynn Sorrell, both quietly said no.

So East — who was present and received a strong recommendation from Chief Renberg and most of the audience — went home without a job. Unless he’s willing to work for free for another month or so, until the next council meeting,

If he doesn’t, Renberg will continue to cover the 168-hour weeks alone.

If it goes anything like last month, he’ll write about 68 citations and 143 warnings, make 211 traffic stops, investigate three accidents, answer 39 calls for service, assist with 27 calls from the county, and arrest 37 people on 33 misdemeanors and four felonies.

He’ll pass out 41 speeding tickets, 17 more for “no insurance,” make seven drug arrests and arrest 16 persons for driving while intoxicated.

The council did vote unanimously to call for a non-binding referendum vote from Payne Springs citizens on whether or not they feel the council should dissolve the police department, and the city government as well.

That non-binding vote won’t take place for roughly half a year. It will be on the ballot during the regular May council election.

Even then, if a majority of the council doesn’t like the way the citizens vote, it is free to ignore it.

As often occurs at Payne Springs council meetings, dialogue disintegrated into a town hall meeting with a large portion of the audience contributing its opinions.

Citizens comments lasted throughout the evening.

Several of those in the audience wanted to know what they could do to get rid of Powell and Sorrell, who many said had “lied to them” while campaigning for a seat on the council.

“I didn’t lie to nobody,” said Sorrell, who sat quietly for the rest of the evening while absorbing considerable verbal abuse from the audience, along with Powell.

Some expressed concern that Renberg would be killed because of a lack of backup, and others expressed fear that dope dealers and thieves would be free to roam their neighborhoods without a police department.

In other action, the council did vote, after much discussion on what constituted a “vicious and dangerous dog,” to pass a new ordinance that conforms with state law, but not county law.

The council also voted unanimously to approve the budget through Dec. 18, even though it had a $3,582 deficit for the month. For the year, the city is in the black.

After much discussion on whether to give Renberg a $1 per hour raise — and Powell saying he would be in favor of a straight salary of $26,000 — the chief didn’t get anything.

They’ll talk about the straight salary possibilities at next month’s meeting.

At the close of the meeting Mayor Michael McDonald wished everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday.

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