Shenandoah council approves sex offender restrictions
The Shenandoah City Council on Monday approved an ordinance restricting sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of child safety zones such as parks, playgrounds, pools and schools.
As a general law city — meaning the charter is drafted by the state for cities with a population of less than 5,000 people — Shenandoah was previously unable to enact its own city policy on the subject of sex offender restrictions. Texas House Bill 1111, introduced by State Rep. Senfronia Thompson in the 85th Texas Legislature, made it possible for smaller cities to control the living situation of sex offenders inside their city limits. Up until two years ago, Shenandoah didn’t have a sex offender registrar.
“I think it’s important that we send a message from our city that says, ‘If you’re a registered sex offender, there’s not a welcome mat for you in the city of Shenandoah,’” said Council Member Ted Fletcher, who introduced the ordinance. “You can find another place to live.”
The ordinance was signed into law Wednesday and restricts any future movement into the city by sex offenders, but includes an exception for those already living within 1,000 feet of a designated child safety zone.
Four sex offenders currently live within Shenandoah city limits, Fletcher said — all four are residing within 1,000 feet of a child safety zone.
The identies of the sex offenders was not released during the meeting, but according to data on the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Sex Offender Registry, three of the four people listed were categorized as “low risk.” Two of the people described were convicted of sex offenses with children, while one person was convicted of possessing child pornography and the fourth person was convicted of statutory rape in Missouri.
Before the ordinance was passed, Shenandoah police officers could not legally do anything about a known sex offender who was not on parole or probation and residing within a designated child safety zone.
Shenandoah Police Officer John Ferrand, who serves as the city’s sex offender registrar, said that as the population of young children grows — the 2010 census counted 20 percent of the city’s 791 homes with minors under the age of 18 — the department must work to make them safe.
“That’s why I’m asking for this ordinance to move forward,” Ferrand said.
The ordinance was amended to change the definition of a minor from a 16- to a 17-year-old and passed on a 4-0 vote, with Council Member Charlie Bradt abstaining.
The City Council unanimously approved the final iteration of its thoroughfare plan and city staff updated the council on various mobility projects throughout the area.
The latest update of the thoroughfare plan includes a series of roads leading to the MetroPark Square development on the east side of Interstate 45, the reclassification of David J. Vetter Drive and Grogan’s Mill Road from minor arterials to collector roads and the reclassification of Six Pines and Pinecroft Drives from collectors to minor arterial roads.
“This is just one step that this council is trying to take to protect the residents,” Mayor Ritch Wheeler said.
Wheeler voiced his opposition to an overpass at Vision Park Drive and I-45, which has been eliminated from the thoroughfare plan, but would have led to the expansion of Grogan’s Mill Road within city limits to four lanes, the proposition of which was corrected to two lanes in the update.
“You can imagine what that would do to our businesses on Research Forest and you can imagine what that would do to our residents that live along Grogan’s Mill,” Wheeler said.
Staff also updated the council on several road projects in the city. A northbound u-turn at Research Forest Drive/ Tamina Road and I-45 and an extended southbound right turn lane at Research Forest Drive and I-45 and are slated to be finished within 12 months.
The city is submitting an application for funding to the Houston-Galveston Area Council this month for the proposed extension of David Memorial Drive to State Highway 242.
City council approved the purchase of two Dodge pickup trucks as detective vehicles for the police department, modifying the original budget request for two Chevrolet Impalas.
Public Works Director Joseph Peart and Finance Director Lisa Wasner were appointed as representatives of the city for the Montgomery County Hazard Mitigation Plan.
The council also approved the November and December council meetings to be held on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12.