Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 19
That Was Quite a Party in the Park • Swimmers Affected by Chemicals • Clarifications on Crescent City • Board Meeting Gets Downright Testy
That Was Quite a Party in the Park
My younger son and I were two of the thousands of people who enjoyed yesterday’s Celebrate Coppell activities: the Parade Down Parkway in the morning and the Party in the Park in the evening. If you weren’t at Andrew Brown Park East last night — and given the size of the crowd, I find it hard to believe you weren’t — here’s what you missed:
● A variety of outdoor games and activities, including cornhole, horseshoes, foosball, table tennis, bowling, supersized versions of chess and Connect Four, and the largest coloring book pages I’ve ever seen.
● Hit songs from the ’80s and ’90s performed by Rubik’s Groove, a band whose members were dressed as Super Mario, Rainbow Brite, Teen Wolf, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Robocop, and Johnny Lawrence, the villain from The Karate Kid. Their costumes somehow made their renditions of classic tunes sound better.
● A nearly 30-minute fireworks show set to many of the songs you’d expect to hear at an Independence Day celebration: “America the Beautiful” by Ray Charles, “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A” by John Mellencamp, “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus, etc.
● Assorted food trucks offering everything from grilled cheese sandwiches and shaved ice to nachos and lobster rolls.
(We ate before we arrived, because I figured out a long time ago that my take on food trucks boils down to “I just don’t get it.” But if you want to kill at least half an hour standing in line behind dozens of people to buy a $12 sandwich and a can of soda, more power to you.)
Setting aside your correspondent’s “get off my lawn” attitude about food trucks, it was great to see so many Coppell residents enjoying a night out on the city’s lawn. Kudos to the Coppell Parks and Recreation Department, which is a finalist for a national award. But I wonder what the final tab will be for throwing such an awesome party.
And that, dear reader, was my attempt to smoothly transition into information about the budgeting process for the city’s next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Budget workshops are scheduled for 6 p.m. on the following dates to cover these topics:
July 8: Funding for local service organizations
July 20: Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund and Special Revenue Funds
July 22: Debt Service Fund and General Fund
July 29: Final budget review
The proposed budget and tax rate will be made available to the public on Aug. 5. The City Council will vote on the budget and tax rate on Aug. 10. Click here for more details on the budget process.
Swimmers Affected by Chemicals
As great as Saturday was for the Coppell Parks and Recreation Department, other parts of last week were rough. People who swam in the outdoor pool at The CORE on Tuesday were subsequently complaining about irritated eyes, skin rashes, and swimsuits that changed colors. They were blaming these problems on elevated chemical levels in the pool.
The issue was on my radar because of a post on the private “Coppell, Texas” group on Facebook, and that post was deleted by the time I went back to take a second look at it. I emailed the city about it on Thursday, and I received the following on Friday from Tiffany Anderson, Community Engagement Manager for the Parks and Recreation Department:
“On Tuesday, 6/29 the chemical levels in The CORE’s outdoor pool were found to be higher than usual, and staff took immediate action to rectify the situation. Guest safety is our top most priority, and when determining the appropriate range to safely operate, we follow the protocols provided to us by the health department. While levels were found to be slightly elevated, they were well within a safe range throughout the day. Our City Environmental Health representative has also assured us that the pool was operating within a safe range at all times.”
While awaiting that response, I reached out to a woman named Ashley Brundage, because I recalled seeing her name on the deleted Facebook post. My memory served me well, because Brundage was the source of that post. She forwarded me emails between her and Lauren Rodriguez, the city’s Aquatic Center Manager. In one of those emails, Rodriguez told Brundage that the chemical levels fluctuated between 8.0 and 10.0 parts per million (ppm) on Tuesday, but the “ideal range” is 2.0 to 4.0 ppm. Brundage pointed me to a state document that says 8.0 ppm should be the maximum, while 2.0 to 3.0 ppm is ideal.
This isn’t a case of just one person having a bad experience. Brundage sent me — and city officials — screenshots of a discussion in a different Facebook group for Coppell moms. More than a dozen people in that thread complained of “chemical burns,” lingering odors, bleached swimsuits, and/or “waxy hair” after swimming in the outdoor pool at The CORE on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a woman who used the indoor pool that day said she quit after a few laps because “my throat couldn't handle the chlorine.”
The problems weren’t limited to Tuesday. One woman in the aforementioned Facebook thread said she experienced “all the same issues” on Wednesday. Another said her daughter’s swimsuit had changed color a couple of weeks earlier after a visit to The CORE.
I’ve yet to see a city official explain why the chemical levels were higher than normal on Tuesday. Some people reported on Facebook that the aquatics staff was “shocking” the pool after a potty incident, to put it delicately. Another Facebook commenter said a city staffer pointed to a malfunction in the automated pump that maintains the levels.
Whatever the case, Brundage’s main complaint at this point is about the lack of communication. “When you have the chemicals out of the normal range,” she said in an email to Rodriguez and other city officials, “you [should] put up signage to warn families and allow us to make an informed decision on letting our children swim in the pool.”
Speaking of informed decisions, just a few days before I was informed of all of this, I decided to book one of the cabanas at The CORE for a birthday party in late July.
“Just trust your nose,” Brundage told me. “If it smells like bleach, stay out.”
Clarifications on Crescent City
In last week’s Coppell Chronicle, I reported that some of Coppell’s public hearings are publicized solely via notices in the Irving Rambler. The example I used was a June 8 hearing regarding a variance requested by the owner of the yet-to-open Crescent City restaurant, so that he can sell mixed drinks within 300 feet of a daycare.
Mayor Pro Tem Mark Hill has since emailed me to point out that surrounding property owners within 800 feet are typically notified of public hearings via the mail. That may be true, but I watched the June 8 hearing again this morning. Council Member John Jun specifically asked City Secretary Ashley Owens if individual mailings had been sent out in regards to the Crescent City case, and she said no.
I failed to inform you in last week’s edition that the City Council approved the variance request, largely because Siena Pasta and Pizza, the previous occupant of the Crescent City location, was granted the same variance from 2007 until 2019. Jun and Council Member Kevin Nevels both asked Owens if she was aware of any issues related to Siena selling mixed drinks within 300 feet of the daycare, and she said no. She also told the council that the owners of the daycare, Discover and Share Preschool, were not opposed to the latest variance request.
Before the council voted, Jun asked the owner of Crescent City, Kalpana Patel, what his hours of operation will be. The answer was 11 in the morning until 10 in the evening. I’ve emailed and texted Patel to ask when he plans to start serving and whether his Crescent City is related in any way to restaurants that have used the same name in Arlington, Plano, and Deep Ellum. He hasn’t answered me, but I did notice that he has erected a sign on the property at MacArthur Boulevard and Belt Line Road.
The lack of a space between the words “Crescent” and “City” makes my eye twitch a little, but if Patel can whip up a good bowl of gumbo, I’m willing to look past that.
Board Meeting Gets Downright Testy
When school boards evaluate their superintendents, they typically do so in private. Per state law, personnel matters can be discussed behind closed doors.
The Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Board of Trustees had a special meeting on June 21 to evaluate Superintendent John Chapman, who has led the district — which includes portions of Coppell and Valley Ranch — for three years. Board President Les Black began the meeting by reading the agenda and was about to immediately convene a closed session, but Trustee Randy Schackmann had some stuff to get off his chest first.
“Before we would break,” Schackmann said, “there are a series of procedural issues that I’d like to discuss that may mean that we shouldn’t even be allowed to go into this meeting. And so let me point a couple of those things out if you will, please. And thank you for letting me have the floor.”
(For the record, I don’t think Black ever formally let Schackmann have the floor.)
Schackmann, who has been on the school board since 2013, began by highlighting a few unusual aspects of the meeting’s timing. First of all, he said, CFBISD trustees typically don’t meet in late June or July. He also questioned why the meeting was scheduled at 6 p.m. (versus the typical 7 p.m.) on a Monday (versus the typical Thursday).
“It’s giving the appearance of being secretive or manipulative,” he said. “I don’t know that it necessarily is, but that’s the certainly the way it appears.”
Schackmann was expecting to be provided copies of “some email letters or complaints” before the meeting. “They have not been disseminated to me or to others, and that’s wrong,” he said. “We are supposed to be given documents before we come to meetings.”
Schackmann was bothered by the fact that attorneys were mentioned in the meeting’s agenda, which called for “deliberation and discussion regarding the duties, responsibilities, and evaluation of the Superintendent, and consultation with District legal counsel regarding the same.”
“Who called lawyers?” he asked. “We have never — never in the history of this board — had lawyers involved in evaluating the superintendent. How much money are we spending on lawyers for this purpose? It is completely ridiculous.”
He then called out the board’s other two officers, Vice President Sally Derrick and Secretary Guillermo William Ramos.
“Who asked for this meeting? Apparently, it was Sally and Guillermo. Apparently, they have a personal agenda, because I don’t know what else. Why else would we not have the information that has been provided?”
He argued that all of these issues were justification for cancelling the meeting right then and there.
“At present, this meeting seems and feels — as sorry as I am to say this — like a proverbial witch hunt,” he said. “And I, for one, am not going to sit here and put up with it.”
Schackmann told his colleagues they had a simple choice: They could choose to go forward with the meeting, or they could do the right thing.
“As the scriptures say, when you sow the whirlwind, you reap the whirlwind,” he said. “And there is a whirlwind coming, and we are not gonna like it.”
Black thanked Schackmann for all of that, then proceeded to keep reading the official language regarding the closed session. Schackmann interrupted him after just a couple of seconds:
“Can you please answer the questions? Who called the lawyers, and where are our documents?”
Black tried to explain that answers would be provided in closed session, but Schackmann cut him off again and began questioning Black’s suitability to be president of the school board.
“That is not acceptable, Dr. Black, but you’re too new. Do you know that three-fourths of the districts in Texas don’t even allow a man to be president — or a woman — to be president in their first year of service? Why do you think they do that? You don’t have the institutional knowledge or history — ”
Black, who was elected in 2020, tried to interject, but Schackmann wasn’t through.
“Where are our documents? We were supposed to have been given them before we go into this session. I don’t see them!”
Black said he was advised by attorneys to provide the documents after the board went into closed session. Schackmann twice said that was unacceptable, but he accepted it long enough for Black to gavel the board into closed session.
About three hours later, the superintendent and the trustees — except for Black — returned to the dais. They sat there in silence for more than three minutes before Black showed up and announced that no action would be taken in open session. He then adjourned the meeting.
I don’t know when the CFBISD board will meet again, but whenever they do, I know I’ll be watching.
Coppell ISD Open Enrollment: If you live in Coppell but outside the boundaries of Coppell ISD, your children may be able to attend CISD schools. The application deadline is July 9.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: The Coppell Arts Center will host a drive-in screening of the award-winning movie on July 10. After seeing the friendly neighborhood webslinger at both the Parade Down Parkway and the Party in the Park yesterday, I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t show up there too.
AMON! The Ultimate Texan: Theatre Coppell will produce this play by Dallas Morning News columnist Dave Lieber at the Coppell Arts Center on July 16, 17, and 18.
Great article as always. I look forward to reading everyone of them. My favorite one this time was the one on the board trustees meeting. Look forward to your post when they meet again next.
Wow, dynamite issue, Dan. Loved the articles about the pool and the board meeting, Keep it up.