OPENS – Saturday, June 3, 2017Hours – Noon to 5 pm = Weather and Staff permittingAdmission Per Day: Children – $2.00Adults – $ 3.00Non-swimming adult – no chargeYearly Pass – Family (up to 6 members) $55 – all family members must reside togetherIndividual – $35.00Pool Party – Thursday, Friday, or Saturday 6pm – 8pm$25.00 deposit$40.00 an hour
From time to time, my office receives request for consideration related to damages to personal property of citizens in the community. The City of Alpine utilizes the Texas Municipal League’s Insurance Risk Pool (TMLIRP) to handle these types of requests.
Many times a citizen may also be referred back to the Texas Tort Claims Act as part of handling the request. The Texas Legislature came out with the act in 1969 that waived some of what used to be ‘entire sovereign immunity’ for local governments.
Texas Municipal League also put out this article in February 2005 to help identify key pieces of the legislation. I’ve copied the article in it’s entirety for your reading pleasure:
What is the Texas Tort Claims Act?
The Texas Tort Claims Act (“The Act”) is a set of statutes that determine when a
governmental entity may be liable for tortious conduct under state law. Prior to the
adoption of the Act, individuals could not recover damages from state or local
governmental units for injuries resulting from the actions of a government employee or
officer in the performance of a governmental function.
Granting governmental units sovereign immunity serves several purposes. It protects
governmental time and resources from diminishment from private litigation and
encourages forthright action by public officials. It also protects the government from
fraudulent or frivolous suits that otherwise may arise because of the perceived “deep
pockets” of government entities.
In 1969, the Texas Legislature enacted the Texas Tort Claims Act. The Act waived
sovereign immunity for a governmental entity that was engaged in a governmental
A governmental unit in the state is liable for:
(1) property damage, personal injury, and death proximately
caused by the wrongful act or omission or the negligence of
an employee acting within his scope of employment if:
(A) the property damage, personal injury, or death arises
from the operation or use of a motor-driven vehicle or
motor-driven equipment; and
(B) the employee would be personally liable to the
claimant according to Texas law; and
(2) personal injury and death so caused by a condition or use of
tangible personal or real property if the governmental unit
would, were it a private person, be liable to the claimant
according to Texas law.
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.021.
What are the liability limits for governmental units under the Act?
Liability of a municipality under the Act is limited to money damages in a
maximum amount of $250,000 for each person and $500,000 for each single
occurrence for bodily injury or death and $100,000 for each single occurrence
for injury to or destruction of property.
What type of actions are not covered by the Act?
The Act does not limit the liability of a city for damages that result from the
city’s performance of proprietary functions. Even prior to the passage of the Act,
a city could be held liable for the negligent performance of proprietary
functions. Proprietary functions are those functions that a municipality may, in
its discretion, perform in the interest of the inhabitants of the municipality.
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.0215 (b).
Section 101.0215 of the Act specifically lists three activities that are considered
proprietary and 36 activities that are considered governmental functions. The
proprietary functions listed in the statute include the operation and maintenance
of a public utility; the operation of amusements that are owned and operated by
the municipality; and any activity that is abnormally dangerous or “ultrahazardous”.
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.0215 (b). It is important to note
that the list of 36 governmental functions is exclusive, while the list of
proprietary functions is not. This means that, for the purposes of the Act, only
these 36 specifically enumerated activities are considered governmental
functions. Conversely, even though the statute lists three activities as
“proprietary functions”, the reality is that, for the purposes of the Act, any
activity that the city engages in that is not listed as a governmental function is
considered proprietary in nature. If a proprietary function is involved and
liability is established, there is no limit to the amount of damages that may be
I’m still not clear on the difference between “governmental” functions and
Governmental functions are those functions that are imposed on a city by law
and are given to the city by the state, as part of the state’s sovereignty, to be
exercised by the city in the interest of the general public. Governmental
functions involve providing for the health, safety, and welfare of the general
public. Examples of governmental functions include police and fire protection,
health and sanitation services, parks and zoos, zoning and animal control. Tex.
Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code, §101.0215(a).
Proprietary functions are those functions that a city may perform in its
discretion, and the functions are performed to serve the interests of the
inhabitants of the city. Examples of proprietary functions include operation and
maintenance of a public utility or amusements owned and operated by a city.
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code, §101.0215(b). Under state law, the distinction
between governmental and proprietary functions is significant because the city’s
liability for governmental functions exists only to the extent that it has been
waived under the Act. However, for proprietary functions, the city is liable to
the same extent as a private entity or individual.
Does the Act provide immunity for individual public officials?
No. The Act does not provide immunity for individual public officials. The Act
addresses immunity only for the governmental entity itself. There are other legal
doctrines that come into play with regard to official immunity. Texas courts
have adopted a doctrine of limited official immunity. In certain cases, it absolves
a public officer or employee from personal liability for acts within the scope of
the officer’s or employee’s governmental authority.
Texas case law provides either absolute immunity or qualified immunity to a
public servant depending on the type of authority retained by that individual. For
example, judges are generally entitled to the defense of absolute or complete
immunity in the exercise of judicial functions. Turner v. Pruitt, 342 S.W.2d 422
The majority of Texas public servants, however, may only assert a defense of
qualified immunity from liability. Qualified immunity provides protection from
liability for discretionary actions taken in good faith within the scope of the
officer’s or employee’s authority. Determination of whether an action was taken
in good faith is a fact issue and a discretionary action involves the exercise of
discretion or judgment.
There is no qualified immunity for ministerial (i.e. mandatory) actions for which
the public servant has no choice. Worsham v. Votgsberger, 129 S.W. 157
(Civ.App. 1919, no writ). For example, the duties of jailers and sheriffs in
receiving and caring for prisoners are usually held to be ministerial, as are those
of animal pound directors. The line between a discretionary duty and a
ministerial one is difficult to draw and competent legal advice should be sought
when liability is at issue.
To what extent are cities liable for the actions of volunteers?
The Texas Tort Claims Act waives sovereign immunity for certain actions of
governmental employees. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.021 (1)
(Vernon 2001). The Act defines an employee as “a person, including an officer
or agent, who is in the paid service of a governmental unit.” Id. § 101.001(1). In
Harris County v. Dillard, the Texas Supreme Court concluded that an unpaid
“volunteer” is not an “employee” for whose acts the governmental unit can be
held liable. 883 S.W.2d 166, 167 (Tex. 1994).
Are cities liable for injuries sustained by volunteers?
To the extent authorized by the Act, cities may be liable to persons, including
volunteers, for property damage, personal injury, and death proximately caused
by the wrongful act, omission or negligence of a city employee, or the condition
or use of personal or real property. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §101.021
(Vernon 2001). Consequently, cities may want to limit their liability for
negligence by obtaining workers’ compensation coverage for their volunteers.
Cities can opt to cover volunteer fire fighters, police officers, emergency
medical personnel, and “other volunteers” who are named under the cities’
workers compensations coverage. Tex. Lab. Code Ann. §504.012 (Vernon
2001). With limited exceptions, the recovery of workers’ compensation benefits
is the exclusive remedy for the death or work-related injuries of covered
individuals. Id. § 408.001.
Also, many liability policies have a standard exclusion provision denying
coverage for claims arising from injuries to volunteers if the city has purchased
workers’ compensation coverage for employees but not for volunteers. Thus,
cities should consider obtaining workers’ compensation coverage for volunteers.
For more details, please contact the TML Intergovernmental Risk Pool.
Thank you for taking the time to read the article and I also included a hot-link to the actual statue at the beginning of the blog. Information is powerful and certainly helps us all with decision making.
If you have further questions, please reach out to me personally or your elected official.
Have a great day in Alpine,
Erik Zimmer, City Manager
I’ve had a few additional comments trickle into my office regarding the water bills, billing cycle, etc… With respect to those items, I thought it would be helpful to lay out how the City of Alpine Water/Wastewater/Sanitation billing transpires on a monthly basis.
We do have a meter reader (Charles M.) who reads the meters throughout our community every month. Each day, his results are shared with our billing clerk (Melissa C.) who verifies and works to ensure accuracy on the inputs. She also handles the re-read requests and any sort of billing questions. Three days prior to the end of the month, our billing clerk runs a series of reports for final verification – and makes any updates that are required. At that point, our billing clerk initiates an e-print of the customers bills.
Our software partner (Asyst) will then take the e-print file and convert that to our postcard format that is hard-printed and handed off to the USPS in Dallas. From there, the USPS transports to their El Paso region center, and then distributed to the recipients.
I hope this explanation gives further detail to our process and procedure. We did convert from the Dearing Billing software to Asyst for our Water/Sewer/Sanitation billing in January of 2016. The reason for the conversion was multi-faceted. First and foremost, the old Dearing software had no maintenance support and put our data at risk of being lost due to a system/hardware malfunction. We also wanted to move forward with implementing the software that our Gas Department utilized (which has been Asyst) in order to help with our overall employee readiness and cross-training.
The majority of last months bills were lost by the USPS in the transition between Dallas and El Paso. We apologize that happened, but it is not uncommon. As I’ve shared with staff, I typically have 3-4 bills from various vendors not make it to my mailbox on an annual basis. It’s also been a nice opportunity for me to remind my recently turned adult son that there will be times he does not get a bill from a creditor or vendor, and he still needs to take the initiative to pay them timely.
Moving forward, we will have the next set of bills going out by the end of the month (as described in the process above). My hope is that the USPS does not happen to find the lost ones from last month and deliver both at the same time. If they do, I’m sure we will all handle it.
We also are working on our e-Bill and e-Payment initiatives to further enhance citizens abilities to view and handle their water, sewer, sanitation and gas bills. As we roll out, we anticipate many of the requestor’s of this type of functionality will be happy.
As always, feel free to call Melissa or Cora with any questions on your Water billing. They are eager and willing to help. My only request is that we keep the conversations professional and data driven. If you have questions they can not answer, Megan, J or myself will be glad to get involved in the dialogue.
Thank you and have a great rest of the week in Alpine,
Erik Zimmer, City Manager
The City of Alpine is aware that a large percentage of residents have not received their water bill this month. We have confirmed through our billing vendor that they did deliver all the bills to the United States Postal Service on March 29, 2017. The USPS is trying to locate the remainder of the bills for delivery. Residents can come into City Hall or call and speak to Melissa or Cora, to get their total bill amount. Please remit your monthly bill payment as soon as possible.
Thank you for your inquiries and patience,
City of Alpine Staff
Texas Municipal League puts out a host of information annually for the benefit of cities and their citizens. Recently, they’ve shared a great article on How Cities Work.
The article is extremely informative and gives insight to many of the piece-parts Texas cities deal with throughout the year. Click HERE for a copy of the article.
Thanks to our new City Secretary, Kalea Cotton, for sharing this article.
Have a great weekend and enjoy Alpine,
Erik Zimmer, City Manager
During this Wednesday’s Special City Council meeting, our independent auditor (Gibson Rudduck Patterson LLC) gave the results pertaining to last years fiscal audit. Staff was pleased with the output (Zero Findings and $1.39M improvement in Net Position, among other points).
I would like to congratulate Megan Antrim, our Department Heads and our Finance team on their hard work on behalf of our citizens and community this past year.
Please click HERE for a downloadable copy of the audit. You can also watch the video from Wednesday night’s meeting by clicking on this link. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and you will have access to all the City Council meetings live.
Thank you and enjoy your weekend in Alpine,
Erik Zimmer, City Manager
Patricia Long with our Small Business Development Center has shared the following REPORT depicting much of the networks strategic planning efforts alongside local SBDC market decisions.
Please have a review and feel free to reach out to Patricia or myself with any questions.
We continue to be very fortunate to house one of the Regional SBDC’s as they provide great assistance to many of our community members.
Thank you and have a great day in Alpine,
Erik Zimmer, City Manager
At last evenings regularly scheduled City Council meeting, we reviewed our Alpine Police Departments 2016 Annual Racial Profiling Report. We committed to post the report in its entirety on our City website.
Please click here for a downloadable copy.
Please feel free to reach out to me or Chief Scown with any questions.
Thank you and have a wonderful day here in Alpine.
Erik Zimmer, City Manager
Here’s an article from a couple years ago that was published in the Texas Monthly magazine. With Spring Break right around the corner, we look forward to many tourists enjoying Alpine and the Big Bend Region.
Number 8 continues to be one of my all-time favorites!
Enjoy your day and week in Alpine.
Erik Zimmer, City Manager
Lobos Cleanup Brush Piles Around Community!
The Sul Ross State University football team lent a hand cleaning up brush in alleyways this past Thursday, February 23, 2017. Keep Alpine Beautiful coordinator, Patsy McWilliams, reached out to the team after receiving citizens’ complaints regarding brush piles in their adjacent alleyways. Brush is not only a visual nuisance, but is also a health and safety hazard.
The City of Alpine strives to make Alpine a more place for all its residents. As per City Ordinance (82-56), it is unlawful to place any sort of litter or trash including, brush, yard trimmings, bulky items, or tires. next to a dumpster, in an alleyway, or on any public property.
Coach John Pearce, SRSU head football coach, was up for the task. He encourages his team to not only do their best on the field and in school, but also in the community. On Thursday afternoon, the 41-man team was split in to two groups and headed to two alleys where brush piles were especially bad. McWilliams and Alpine High School student volunteer, Bobbie Roberts, led one group and Brian Hartman with the City of Alpine Public Works department led the other. Each group gathered two trailer loads of brush, couches, fencing materials, and lumber. All items were taken to the Hal Flanders Recycling Center where the brush will be mulched, the metal fencing will be recycled, and the lumber and couches will be properly disposed.
This was not the first time the Lobos helped Keep Alpine Beautiful. Coach Pearce and the Lobos have helped recycle illegally dumped tires by loading a 40’ Conex container for shipment each year since 2014. The Lobos have hand-loaded every tire amassing 65,000 pounds of tires recycled! Keep Alpine Beautiful is grateful for their help! The team makes light work of these monster tasks.
Once again thanks to our partners at Sul Ross State University! Go Lobos!
Erik Zimmer, City Manager