Saturday, February 28, 2015

COSA Priorities: Development Beatsdown Health


San Angelo's City Council met Thursday morning in a strategic planning session at Fort Concho.  The Standard Times reported:

Making San Angelo a regional leader in development while preserving quality of life is no easy task.

That’s why city officials spent half of Thursday ensconced in one of Fort Concho’s chilly barracks hammering out goals and strategies to move San Angelo forward.

The meeting, while open to the public, drew no attendees.
The article said nothing about health, which fits under quality of life.  Simply preserving health sounds like underachieving, but that's the City's sorrowful public health history.  The city eliminated many public health services since 2000 while investing heavily in economic development awards and various development studies.

Downtown Master Developer Catalyst Urban Development presented its report for Phase 2 to City Council at their last meeting.  Paris Rutherford identified sample workplace, restaurant and residential projects for downtown.  The total economic gap requiring incentive for those three areas equaled $5.89 million.




In the next two phases of downtown development Catalyst would earn a fee on any projects it took from conception to completion on behalf of the city and any private partners.

City Council's 2012 strategic planning session slashed funding for the sexually transmitted disease and immunization clinics, basically the only two remaining health services for the public.  Mayor Alvin New, Interim City Manager Michael Dane, Assistant City Manager Rick Weise and Health Department Director Sandra Villareal looked for the state and federal government for funds to restart these services. The problem with the budget cut narrative came when City Council gave a half cent tax cut, a new employee holiday and hired Catalyst Urban, the aforementioned downtown master developer.

1)  Cut the tax rate by .01 per $1,000 valuation (roughly the same amount as the $138,000 health clinic cut)
2)  Approved a downtown master developer, estimated at $225,000 plus expenses (not in the city budget)
3)  Approved a new employee holiday costing roughly the same amount at the clinic cut.

When Mayor Alvin New reflected on his term in office I wrote:

Under New's Mayorship the City applied for a federal grant that would reinstate the STD clinic, including the purchase and renovation of a building.  The Medicaid Section 1115 Waiver grant criteria clearly state the service requested must be new and that funds not go toward an ongoing service.  The City asked for federal funding beginning October 1, 2012, having closed the clinic September 30th, the day before.  In addition, city staff are on record, in newsprint and at council ,as saying the city was still treating some citizens for STDs, i.e. the city was providing an ongoing service, albeit severely limited.   
I believe the city fraudulently applied for federal money to reopen the STD clinic.  I assume the feds felt likewise as the City's 2013-14 budget showed zero funding for the 1115 Waiver.


There's a final irony.  In 2012 The City found unbudgeted funds for downtown development to meet its contractual obligations to the San Angelo Health Foundation regarding the Edgewater Inn property.  I'll bet Health Foundation board members did not expect the City to drop its few remaining health services, whether to fund the downtown developer, a property tax cut or a new employee holiday.

The City's public health story was absent from the newspaper story.  Was it absent from the strategic planning event itself?  A recording would tell me that, but there hasn't been one the last two years.  That itself is telling.  There's less and less sunshine in our city operations.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

City Funds MedHab's Temporary Home


San Angelo Development Corporation's February board packet provided news regarding last month's fire at MedHab's offices at 2009 West Beauregard.

On January 31, 2015 the building caught fire and significant damage was caused to the roof trusses along with smoke and soot damage. The cause of the fire is still under investigation and insurance companies from both parties are involved with determining amount of loss, damage, and engineering cost estimates for repair. MedHab needs to continue to operate and has patiently attempted to conduct operations from a very small warehouse. 

San Angelo police responded to a tripped burglar alarm at MedHab's offices, only to find a fire.  There have been no reports as to what tripped the alarm or started the fire.  

The City will pay $250 a month for MedHab to operate out of an office in the West Texas Training Center.

The West Texas Training Center (WTTC) has been gracious to offer available space to assist COSADC and MedHab during this time of need for a temporary relocation. The offer includes approximately 2000 square feet, an additional office with all maintenance services, security monitoring, internet, phone and general repairs.

The fire did not make the news section of RPM2's website.  I took the liberty of suggesting an updated web page for MedHab in the picture above.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Council & COSADC Go Master Planning


City Council just heard a presentation concluding Phase 2 of the Downtown Development Master Plan.  Catalyst Urban Development's Paris Rutherford indicated the city would need to offer significant subsidies to private investors to further development downtown office space, restaurants and housing.  The City paid $60,000 plus for this consultation. 

On the heels of those discussions Council and the Development Corporation Board will meet to explore adding a rail spur to the City's Industrial Park.  City Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff is Vice President of Marketing for Texas Pacifico Railroad.  Her job is to help businesses locate sites along the rail line.

Details of the meeting are on the city's website:

Discussion of Master Plan Development 
Two 45 minute sessions at the Business Resource Center to discuss the Master Development Plan and Industrial Park layout including possible rail spur options

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 
Session 1 2:00 P.M. - 2:45 P.M. 
Session 2 2:45 P.M. – 3:30 P.M. 
Business Resource Center 
69 North Chadbourne St 
San Angelo, Texas, TX 76903 

Invitees: 
City of San Angelo City Council 
City of San Angelo Development Corporation
 
The posting did not state why this meeting is not open to the public.  We'll see if it will be recorded for the public to view on the City's YouTube channel.

This week is a busy planing week for City Council as Thursday morning at 8:00 am Council will attend a strategic planning retreat at Fort Concho.  This meeting appears to be open to the public as the agenda states "public comment will not be accepted during the work session agenda."  This meeting was recorded two years ago but no recording was made last year.  What will happen this year in Surprising San Angelo?

Update 2-24-15:  The Standard Times reported:  "Because the meeting will be held at Fort Concho, where filming capabilities are limited, the meeting will not be broadcast live on the city’s website or aired on Suddenlink channel-17 SATV.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

City's Stance on COSADC Audit


City Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer requested Council consider making public the Development Corporation audit of economic development agreements.  Traditionally, this task has been accomplished by internal staff and published in an Annual Report to the community.  The City of San Angelo Development Corporation last released its 2012 annual report in late 2013.  The public has seen no information to know how company's have fulfilled their employment promises in return for public subsidies. 

COSADC board members and City Council officials publicly mentioned the audit numerous times as it meandered through the recommendation, negotiation, contract award, completion and presentation stages.  However, the findings were never shared, not event an executive summary. 

Now several members of the public believe it should be shared.  One even asked the city for a copy of the document via a public information request.  Council meets Tuesday and this item is not on the agenda. 

Six years ago this information was not a secret.  Development Corporation minutes from January 28, 2009 stated:

PRESENTATION OF THE ANNUAL COMPLIANCE AUDIT
Ms. COSADC Executive Director Kathy Keane reviewed the audit report and noted the correction on Conner Steel which should read approved on February 9, 2006. A copy of the handout is part of the permanent supplemental record.

Responding to a question from Dr. Rallo, Mr. Hiebert stated any used balance resulting from the recipient not meeting the objectives of the contact or nearing termination of their contract will be presented to board for further direction including a reallocation to fund balance.


Ms. Keane stated the report will be forwarded to City Council and the City’s external auditor.

Mr. Tommy Hiebert served as President of the Development Corporation at the time.  Hiebert was reappointed to the board in July 2013 representing SMD2.  Councilwoman Farmer may wish to ask Mr. Hiebert what changed?  Why would information formerly available to the public be restricted?

Shortly after Hiebert's reappointment city staff conducted a new member orientation


The program addressed public information.


City leaders stated all records.  There's not a qualifying word on the page.  We'll see if "all" really means all.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Development Corporation's Late Annual Report


The City of San Angelo Development Corporation is yet to issue an Annual Report for 2013.  It's been fifteen months since COSADC produced its 2012 Annual Report for the general public.  Interim Executive Director Bob Schneeman had his hands full so it's understandable the report came out later in the year than prior annual reports.


Economic Development Director Roland Pena is yet to issue a report to the community.  He started on January 21, 2014.

“If San Angelo is to grow and thrive, it’s vital that we actively work to bring more jobs from diverse industries that pay attractive wages,” City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said. “That rising economic tide lifts the fortunes of all in our community. At its essence, economic development is a quality of life issue.”

How high did the tide rise for companies receiving local taxpayer assistance?  City Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer raised the question at the end of Council's February 3rd meeting.  We'll see if and when she gets an answer.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Bad Optics for Pfluger's Frac Sand Facility


San Angelo Live reported:

A truck tractor towing a semi-trailer for frac sand slammed into a gray GMC Sierra Pickup truck at 4:40 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

This occurred on Bryant Boulevard just blocks away from Lee Pfluger's proposed frac sand transfer facility.  It occurred days before a public hearing by the Zoning Board of Adjustments, where opponents will state their case that the city erred in allowing the frac sand facility in town, next to neighborhoods and a high traffic road. 

Update 2-3-15:  Lee Plfuger changed his deed restriction to eliminate frac sand transloading, which caused four of the five appellants to drop their case.  A final appellant press the case.  The Zoning Board of Adjustments voted 5-0 to overturn the original decision which allowed the frac sand site  .  A similar project in Minnesota has a company ponying up funds for an environmental study to frac.  Frick wants to frac.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

MedHab Fire at RPM2 Site


San Angelo Live reported:

The fire department responded to a structure fire at the former Concho Valley Center for Entrepreneurial Development (CVCED) headquarters, 2009 W. Beauregard Ave. at S. Garrett Street at 10:15 p.m. Saturday night.

Our reporter at the scene said that the exact location appears to be the startup company Medhab, Inc. where medical sensors for post-knee surgery patients are made.

The last sentence is factually incorrect as the FDA has not yet approved MedHab's device for post knee surgery patients.  The facility makes:

RPM2 (RPM squared) , shorthand for “Remote Performance Measurement/Monitoring”;  a remote monitoring, pressure sensing foot-bed device that provides super-accurate data about a person’s mechanics to improve performance and help prevent injuries.

MedHab would rather have smoking hot sales of RPM2 vs. a tripped burglar alarm and what appears to be an arson fire.

Update 2-1-15:  The Standard Times story on the CVCED fire did not mention MedHab. It does mention the CVCED website which clearly lists its address as 69 N. Chadbourne, where no fire occurred.