Belton's first online City Council meeting

Belton Mayor Marion Grayson, left, and City Manager Sam Listi on Tuesday look at a screen with six Council members and other staff during the city’s first all-online City Council meeting.

BELTON — As Bell County’s number of coronavirus infections continue to steadily climb upward, the city of Belton Tuesday evening issued a disaster declaration and postponed its municipal election to November.

Both were unanimously approved during Belton’s first all-online Council meeting — which city spokesman Paul Romer described as unprecedented. Belton’s six Councilmen participated from their homes while Mayor Marion Grayson and limited staff were at City Hall, 333 Water St.

Belton’s disaster declaration mirrors the one issued by Bell County Judge David Blackburn last week and approved by the Commissioners Court Monday.

“Based on this unprecedented situation I am recommending a companion disaster declaration for Belton,” City Manager Sam Listi said. “A local declaration also puts the city in the best possible situation for recovering funds spent by the city during this emergency from the county, from the state and from the federal government should such relief emerge.”

Generally, Belton’s declaration bans gatherings of 10 or more people; limits restaurants to drive-through and take-out orders only; and urges people to wash their hands frequently and stay six feet away from others. It also includes a shelter-in-place order similar to the county’s declaration, Listi said.

Belton’s declaration will remain in effect until Grayson rescinds it.

As for its election, Belton will hold it on Nov. 3. Two at-large Council seats and the mayor’s spot are up for grabs this year and were slated for the May 2 ballot. All Council members serve two-year terms.

“Possible postponement of the election was discussed with the mayor and Mayor pro tem (Wayne Carpenter),” Listi said. “We think it is in the best interest of the public.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation last week allowing local governments to delay their May 2 elections to November, which is when national, state and county offices are on the ballot.

Grayson, who planned to leave the Council in May after 16 years, and Carpenter and Councilman Guy O’Banion will continue to serve in their positions until the election is canvassed in November.

Four people have already filed and were on the May 2 ballot. Carpenter is the sole mayoral candidate. There are three candidates seeking the two at-large Council seats — O’Banion, a three-term incumbent; Daniel Bucher, a parks board member and Grand Avenue Theaters general manager; and retiree Cindy Black, who sought a Council seat last year.

“There will be no change in terms for the City Council as they are currently prescribed,” Listi said, explaining that whomever is elected to the Council later this year will serve until May 2022.

No additional candidates will be allowed to file for a spot on the Nov. 3 ballot.

There is at least one potential upside to moving the election — it could save Belton some money. The city will partner with Bell County, which administers the November election, to conduct the municipal election.

“So a silver lining,” Grayson said, with a laugh.