The Van Alstyne City Council held a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 22, where in executive session, they interviewed three of the candidates who have applied for interim city manager. The agenda reversed a bit this time in that the Council went into executive session first, at 4:30 p.m., and then — several hours, interviews and discussions later — they opened in regular session to a limited agenda.


Council spokesman and council member Lee Thomas said the council will continue with interviews this upcoming Monday, with no offers having been made. The council is scheduling about an hour for each interview.


In open meeting, one of the first items to change was to fine-tune a decision the council made in executive session at the previous council meeting, as read aloud by council member Teddie Ann Salmon. Salmon read a prepared statement that said Thomas would be the spokesman for the City of Van Alstyne, which includes not just the council, but also the department heads, employees and city attorney. Now, through a motion and vote, Thomas is the spokesman only for the Van Alstyne City Council and mayor — with department heads and other city employees now allowed to speak to the media.


Discussed in executive session, according to the agenda, was also the purchase of the property on East Cooper, which for years housed a lumber yard. There is also a house on the property which still sports a “For Sale by Owner” sign.


Thomas said the item was again on the Open Meeting agenda to authorize Mayor Larry Cooper to “execute revised real estate sales contract for purchase of property for municipal facilities adjacent to downtown public works facility” simply because the vote needed to be recorded in the minutes, as was the vote regarding a previously-sent newsletter included in the water bills and written by Cooper. The Council decided to send that newsletter to the Grayson County District Attorney at the last meeting, but that was announced with by prepared statement in open session without a motion, second or vote taken.


Previously, the Van Alstyne Leader submitted a Freedom of Information Act to obtain information regarding the purchase and use of the property, including property appraisal, environmental study; cost of removal of hazardous waste and concrete parking of the 4-lot property. Thomas said all of that is being discussed in executive session and cannot yet be disclosed.


According to the Grayson County Appraisal District, the property carries an assessed value of $69,403. At a previous meeting, the council voted to pay up to $200,000 for the property, which is 288 percent more than the assessed value.


The GCAD’s documentation also shows that the property is owned by Sharif Alshawish (Al of Romano’s Pizza) and the John Houx estate.


Thomas said there was no action taken authorizing the city’s purchase of an extra cell phone to be used to video record Van Alstyne City Council, Planning & Zoning and Parks Board meetings. The council also took no action to authorize a Facebook page dedicated to the City of Van Alstyne. Instead, Thomas said, they instructed the city clerk to go through the Texas Municipal League and find other cities that have already successfully set up similar pages.


“We need to set it up within the practicality of the law,” Thomas said. “We don’t want to rush into it.”