Friday, July 20, 2018

San Angelo's Water Supply Prediction

City staff provided projections for San Angelo's surface water supplies in response to a public information request. The high evaporation toll can be seen in how much (little) of Lake Nasworthy is left, a mere eight days. This does not seem realistic as Twin Buttes water will be pumped from its two pools into Lake Nasworthy, keeping its level up.

City Council held a substantive discussion on entering Drought Level 1 on Tuesday.  Most comments and questions were intended to help the public understand the need to cut water use while raising prices even more.

One City Council member derided citizens researching the water volume in area lakes by suggesting a significant amount of water is not accessible due to lakes reaching dead pool status.  The City proved its ability to get nearly all of Twin Buttes water via rented pumps at both the South and North Pools in 2012, 2013 and 2014.  City staff have no dead pool assumptions visible in their analysis.

During the 2012 drought Water Chief Will Wilde did not deduct evaporation in his calculations.  Roughly 23,000 acre feet will be lost to evaporation in the above projections.  That's 1.75 years of water gone into the atmosphere.

The projection shown above was not included in the City Council background packet or the slide presentation to Council on 7-17-18.  That's why I posted it for the public to view.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

City Staff Recommend Applying Drought Level 1 Price Increase

San Angelo's City Council will entertain raising water rates 5%-20% and restricting water usage under Drought 1  restrictions enacted when the city reaches a 24 month supply of water. City Council's background packet does not reveal the method city staff used to calculate the 24 month supply.

Past presentations assumed no runoff rain for the period and apply a loss of five feet per year in evaporation.  Publicly available data shows the city's primary water source O. H. Ivie with over 83,000 acre feet.  The city shares this water supply with Midland and Abilene.

San Angelo's three local lakes contain over 36,000 acre feet as of 7-14-18.  Add our one third share of Ivie and current water supply is 64,000 acre feet.

The city uses 13,441 acre feet per year according to its website.  That is 4.76 years of surface water left, not including any water from the Hickory aquifer.

City Council raised water rates  the last three years.

2016 - Average increase of $5.88 per month
2017 - Average increase of $6.56 per month.
2018 -Average increase of $7.32 per month
A look out the horizon reveals two more rate increases planned for 2019 and 2020.  Combined they total $7.96 per month. 

The city changed its water supply forecasts under Ricky Dickson.  Former Water Chief Will Wilde did not apply the heavy evaporation load when forecasting months of water supply remaining.  As a result citizens pay increased water rates earlier than before.  

Here's how council's background packet predicts the "financial impact:"

Usage Fees will be assessed per City's Code of Ordinances.
Drought level one pricing is (from the city's website):

  • Landscape: 1.1     10% increase
  • Nonresidential: 1.05      5% increase
  • Residential users: 
    • Usage from 0 to 2,000 gallons: none
    • Usage from 3,000 to 15,000 gallons: 1.05      5% increase
    • Usage from 16,000 to 39,000 gallons: 1.1      10% increase
    • Usage over 39,000 gallons: 1.2                       20% increase
  • Fire hydrants and untreated water: none
Citizens need to begin reducing water usage to make the supply last longer but 5% to 20%  price increases are excessive on top of the 38.6% water rate hike imposed by council the last 31 months.

City Council has an obligation to ensure the 24 month remaining supply calculation is fair to all concerned and that citizens don't pay excessive water fees.  

Update 7-15-18:  The Standard Times ran a story on water rates increasing under Drought Level 1.. Also, I asked city staff for the methodology used to project remaining water supply and encouraged Mayor Gunter to have staff present their assumptions to City Council on 7-17.  That the public can be informed for a likely $100,000 community wide price increase for August under drought level one restrictions.

Update 7-16-18:  The May 21st Water Advisory Board heard a presentation from staff on the methodology the city uses to project remaining water supply.  Board member Chuck Brown commented that our three local lakes held 41,000 acre feet.  Add Lake Ivie and Brown said area lakes held 138,000 acre feet.  That is ten times the city's annual usage.

Update 7-17-18:  City Council unanimously passed placing the city under Drought Level 1 status as of August 1, 2018.  The city produced a slick video on Water restrictions but the actual City Council discussion/action was not available on the city's YouTube page around 7:00 pm.  At 9:00 pm I was able to access City Council's discussion of Drought Level 1.  It is worth the watch as the discussion was substantive from both staff and council..  

Friday, July 13, 2018

City Talent Drain Continues

The City of San Angelo lost its longtime Airport Manager today.  David Knapp, the city's construction manager quit in May for work in Austin. 

Oddly, Austin is where former Economic Development Director Roland Pena landed after leaving city employment in February.  Over the last eight months Fire Department and Street/Bridge leadership had big changes as well. 

The City's top leaders remain firmly entrenched, City Manager Daniel Valenzuela, Assistant City Managers Michael Dane and Rick Weise and Executive Director of Public Works Ricky Dickson.  Dickson has not been heard from in years despite being over our streets (in bad repair), water (which has become unaffordable for many), and trash/landfill (which Mayor Gunter wanted to rebid). 

The state of the City address will be held in August.  It could be blistering.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Elizabeth Grindstaff's Bullet Term Ends for Development Corporation

Former San Angelo City Councilwoman and Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff returned to public service via the Development Corporation Board.  Her first meeting was March 28, 2018 and her last occurred May 23, 2018.  Ms. Grindstaff informed the board she accepted a position with Texas Central Partners which plans to offer bullet train services between Dallas and Houston.  Grindstaff said she will be based in the Bryan/College Station area, the only stop.

San Angelo residents may recall Grindstaff's role in renovating the City Hall building, which seemed chronically late and over budget.  The project's final bad taste came from the unauthorized $100,000 purchase and delivery of furniture for the Water Department.  Grindstaff denied any role in the Furniture Fiasco but e-mails indicate she played cheerleader to then Water Chief Will Wilde.

Grindstaff left the city in 2012 for the allure of trains, serving as Vice President for Sales and Marketing for Texas Pacifico Railroad.   In February 2014 city staff proposed City Council grant a $247,500 economic development incentive for Texas Pacifico for moving their corporate office to San Angelo.  Staff and City Council failed to inform the public the company's corporate office moved to San Angelo in October 2011.

Ms. Grindstaff ran for City Council in May 2014, won and served the Santa Rita area for two years.  In addition Gindstaff served on the Airport Advisory and TIRZ Boards.

Citizens may remember City Councilwoman Grindstaff brokered the city's $1.4 million settlement with Hirschfeld Industries over failure to meet employment promises.  The 2016 deal had a promise for Hirschfeld to build a $1 million railroad spur within two years.   The deadline should hit this summer.

Elizabeth Grindstaff moved to the Brazos Valley to help make Texas' bullet train a reality.

Yet her presence lives on in ever surprising San Angelo.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

City Losing Key Public Safety Leaders

The City of San Angelo received resignation letters from its Fire Marshall and Emergency Operations Manager in the last week.  Fire Marshall Ross Coleman resigned unexpectedly last Tuesday.  Emergency Operations Director Steve Mild resigned to work in the oil field.  Mild's last day is June 15th.  Fire Chief Brian Dunn has two key public safety positions to fill.

Last fall the city saw the exodus of Street and Bridge leadership, as well as staff.  That set of resignations impacted the city's ability to rehab roads using the $1.2 million Benedetti machine.  It's not clear if the city has its Street and Bridge division back to full staffing, given interim leadership remains in place after Superintendent Paul Hathaway resigned in November 2018.  Stormwater Superintendent Stephen Conley is serving as Interim Road and Bridge Superintendent. 

It remains to be seen how Coleman's and Mild's leaving will impact public services. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Benedetti Update Concerning

San Angelo City Councilman Tommy Thompson asked staff for an update on the city's $1.2 million Benedetti Machine purchased to resurface city roads.  As the request was made in City Council one might expect a public update.  That did not happen.  Staff sent out a memo update in the March 16th Friday packet.  Operations Director Shane Kelton added a bit more information on the Benedetti Machine during Council's strategic planning session on March 29th.

Council learned the $1.2 million machine had been idle.  It broke within the warranty period and needed repair, according to Kelton's memo:

The hot in place asphalt recycling machine, better known locally as the Benedetti machine, has not been operated since fall of 2017. The initial reason for its lack of use was due to a faulty rear main seal on one of the Caterpillar drive engines. This engine issue was a Caterpillar warranty issue and unfortunately we were not high on Caterpillar’s repair list and the repair took some time to be accomplished.
Surely the manufacturer made warranty commitments for a $1.2 million piece of equipment.

The Street and Bridge division had more problems than a broken seal.

By the time this repair was made, the Street and Bridge Division had suffered a significant loss of personnel. Moving into late fall and early winter the division was down approximately 50% to 55% of its approved staffing level.
With staffing levels so low and the wet cool weather we received in the fall, pothole repair, trench repair and crack sealing in preparation for the annual seal coat contract was all the remaining staff could manage. Although low staffing levels was the primary reason for not returning the machine back to use over the winter months, colder than normal weather also has played a role in its lack of use. Air and pavement temperatures need to be above 45 degrees for the machine to work properly.
As of March 29th staffing remained a concern. Kelton's memo stated:

The Street and Bridge Division is currently working without its Superintendent, Supervisor and five Heavy Equipment Operator positions, one Maintenance worker position and one Shop Technician.
The lack of permanent divisional leadership during this training and reimplementation period is less than ideal. In an effort to ensure the success of the training and reimplementation of this machine and its process, I am assigning Patrick Frerich, Assistant Director of Operations, to oversee the daily operations of the Street and Bridge Division until permanent divisional leadership is established.
In summary, the expensive road refinishing equipment had a seal fall apart.  City Street and Bridge leadership fell apart and staff left in droves.  I can see why Shane Kelton sent a memo in a Friday packet.  A public presentation would have good leaders asking multiple why questions.

1.  Why did a seal fail in a new piece of $1.2 million equipment?
2.  Why did Street and Bridge leadership disappear?
3.  Why did Street and Bridge staff leave?  Was it related to either of the first two questions?
4.  Why does the City have to bring back the Benedetti people to train staff?  Why can't a local knowledge base be built for the expensive equipment that staff sold as the savior for some city roads?  The city knows how to make videos.  
5.  What role did Patrick Frerich play in questions 1-4?  If he helped turnover happen is he the right person to right the ship?  
The city has to patch up its road repair division so it can patch up city roads in disrepair.

The first streets that will be reworked with this machine are collectors and arterials that are candidates for mill and overlay rehabilitation. Such streets include: North Chadbourne from 29th Street to 47th Street and the 29th – Edmund – Glenna street segments.
City management has work to do.  It may need to start with itself.

Update 5-26-18:  The equipment came with a 12 month bumper to bumper warranty.  The city can require the vendor to buy back the equipment at 18 months.  City documents showed a "buyback guarantee:after 18 months, vendor option to repurchase the equipment, less half the current charge-out rate for recycling, multiplied by the total amount of square yards already completed."

Update 7-16-18:  City Councilman Lane Carter believes the Benedetti machine is critical to improving San Angelo's roads.  He told PIO Anthony Wilson that in a recent interview (at 10:50 mark).

Thursday, May 24, 2018

MedHab Has Three Months Left per COSA Agreement

MedHab's $3.5 million economic development agreement with the City of San Angelo expires in August 2018.  MedHab had six years to add promised jobs.  It committed to provide a minimum of 75 jobs and up to 227 jobs by the end of the contract.

A Standard Times report from February 2018 indicates MedHab CEO Johnny Ross will make one final push.

Market analysis shows there is a great need for the MyNotifi device, Ross said, leading him to believe his company may soon need a larger facility. Right now MedHab is in the West Texas Training Center, with 10 employees.

Ross said he expects sales to take off since he came to an agreement with the National Senior Corps Association, which works with several organizations that assist seniors, such as Meals on Wheels.

His hope, he said, is to hire about 50 new employees by the end of the year to help with the San Angelo-based distribution and tech support.
MedHab is not the only performance agreement coming due this summer. Hirschfeld must complete a $1 million rail spur this year.  Both MedHab and Hirschfeld failed to meet lofty employment promises.  2018 will reveal how far short they fell.