Council names new city attorney

The Madisonville City Council named Art Rodriguez as city attorney Monday, a role he has filled since early this year on an interim basis.

Rodriguez replaces John Bankhead, who retired from that role earlier this year. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s School of Law and has been in active practice for 26 years.

The announcement came after a closed session to discuss that position and one other that got tabled for a month – the potential retirement of City Manager Camilla Viator.

Viator’s possible retirement was on Monday’s agenda, but she said after the meeting that she doesn’t have a target date for leaving. Council members delayed any open discussion on the matter until their next regular meeting Oct. 12.

Viator became city manager on Jan. 1, 2016 after having served in a number of positions in both the public and private sectors.

She served previously as an instructor at the Fire and Rescue training grounds in Beaumont; executive director of the Southeast Texas Food Bank in Beaumont; both the head varsity boys soccer coach and director of admissions for Allen Academy in Bryan; a majors and national marketing consultant for the Bryan Eagle; executive director of the Madison Health Resource Center, and coordinator of the Madison County Economic Development Corp.

Additionally, she is a former president of both the Madisonville Noon Lions Club and Texas Mushroom Festival; a founding board member of Central East Texas Alliance; and event coordinator for the Madison County Fair Association.

In other matters Monday, council members agreed on a new licensing plan for potential “game rooms” entering the county, featuring “eight liners” machines that resemble slot machines. The machines became legal in Texas due to a 1993 change in a statute that loosened regulations from prohibiting any game of chance that “for consideration affords the player anything of value” to one that allows non-cash rewards up to “10 times the amount charged to play the game or device once or $5, whichever is less.”

The city began charging operators of the machine a $15 annual permit fee back in June, but fears that type of gaming will increase from a few machines in a convenience story to full-fledged game rooms prompted Madisonville Code Enforcement Officer Don Grooms and Madisonville Police Chief Herbert Gilbert to draft a new licensing plan for the city.

“There’s definitely been some interest (in establishing a game room in the city),” Gilbert told council members.

Under the new licensing rules, operators of more than five, but less than 50 machines in one location would be required to pay a $3,000 annual fee. Those with 50-200 machines would pay $6,000 a year and anyone operating more than 200 would pay an annual fee of $7,500.

Grooms said the measure would help enforcement efforts by allowing officials on the premises for inspections.

“You know, we have a place right now where (the machine) is behind a closed door, so nobody can see what’s going on,” Grooms said.

In a short update, council members were informed that cantankerous Water Well #3, which has plagued the public works department for more than a year, now works correctly, thanks to adjustments from power provider Entergy.

“Whatever Entergy did, it worked,” Viator said.

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