Home Commodities Levelland City Council approves new ordinance to regulate storage of agricultural commodities

Levelland City Council approves new ordinance to regulate storage of agricultural commodities

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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) – City leaders in Levelland say they now have more power to regulate the storage of agricultural commodities in city limits. Councilmembers approved an ordinance they believe will give the city new tools if any ag product becomes infested, again, in the future.

Councilmembers unanimously voted to pass the new ordinance Monday night, something it’s been working on since the fall. The City released the first version several months ago, but got pushback from the agriculture industry.

The City made some changes to the ordinance in those agriculture companies’ favor, like removing regulations that would require them to store commodities on an improved surface. It also made some changes to be tougher on those companies, like requiring them to comply in 60 days, instead of 180, if they violate the ordinance.

“This will give us the ability to go in, and with the integrated pest management plans, have some tools to help us manage this better,” City Manager James Fisher said at the meeting.

Next, Fisher says the City is reaching out to more agencies to find support, and calling on the ones it already has to provide more help.

“This is beyond Levelland, this is a regional issue and we need the state’s help, we need the state’s support,” he said.

Last week, KCBD discovered the City of Levelland paid Penny Newman $15,000 to encourage it to remove the infested almond hulls from its property. It also dropped all fines against the company.

Fisher says negotiations weren’t getting anywhere, and the City wanted to remove a possible source as quickly as possible, so it offered what he called an olive branch.

Mary Engledow, a previous city councilmember, says the City was transparent about other decisions involved in its response, so she doesn’t understand why the payment was decided in executive session.

“It was all done publicly and openly. So, why this payment, this mysterious payment for over $15,000 was given to Penny Newman behind closed doors? The decision was made without any public input,” Engledow said.

Residents had also hoped the City would provide some reimbursement for their costs to exterminate their homes.

“Just, oh well. Sorry, we can’t give you public funds cause you’re a resident here. But, you can give it to a billion-dollar business. Penny Newman is a billion-dollar business. They have their own port in California, they have no money problems,” Engledow said.

Fisher says the City hasn’t had an official discussion about paying homeowners for those costs, but that it’s a dangerous slope to go down. He says the City is looking for other ways to help.

“The mayor asked me last week to look at some sources for some grant funding. And we’re looking at that to see if we can find some funds that we can possibly help our residents with to incur this challenge,” Fisher said.

The ordinance must go through a second vote at city council to be enacted. That’s set for the city council meeting on March 4, in two weeks.

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