Sunday, October 15, 2017

MedHab's StepRite: Ready to Heal?

StepRite, MedHab's long awaited signature rehabilitation product, finally has its own website.  Two critical hurdles for StepRite have been FDA approval and Medicare's agreeing to pay for the device.  MedHab founder Johnny Ross said the company achieved FDA approval in a March 2016 interview.

Less than a year remains on MedHab's $3.5 million economic development agreement with the City of San Angelo.  MedHab raised capital three times after inking the deal with the City.  Might the company be ready to ramp up StepRite?  That would be news. 

Monday, October 02, 2017

City Council: Selling Unauthorized Dump to Development Corporation

San Angelo's City Council will tackle the sale of 17.58 acres to the Development Corporation on 10-3-17.  This is the third time this topic has been on public agenda, twice for City Council and once for COSADC.  Not once has any city staffer or representative informed the public that the property formerly housed the city's incinerator and served as an unauthorized dump for household garbage for a decade after the incinerator was shut down.

The Development Corporation will conduct Phase 1 and 2 Environmental Site Assessments on the property.  For $1,500 more the engineering firm will provide a Remediation Cost Estimate.  That cost likely will dwarf the up to $100,000 in sales tax money Council and the Development Corporation approved to date.

This item may not be discussed as it is on the Consent Agenda.  The Consent Agenda has twelve items and the Regular Agenda only four.  That's one way to conduct business.

Update 10-3-17:  The item was pulled from consent by City Councilwoman Billie DeWitt.  Development Chief Roland Pena.  Mayor Brenda Gunther asked if there was reason to believe there might be environmental problems?  Pena said no but the studies are needed to confirm.  The history of the site was once again kept below ground.  The city posted the last environmental assessment of the property on its website.  Symbolically the document opens upside down.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Five Years Ago City Closed STD Clinic

Five years ago the City of San Angelo closed its sexually transmitted disease clinic and severely restricted immunizations.  Mayor Alvin New and City Council carried through on their threat to shutter critical public health services so state and federal money could displace local funding.  It looked like strong arming at the time, which city staff later illuminated for council.

Medicare Section 1115 Grant funding enabled the STD clinic to reopen in August 2013.  During its closure the city experienced a rampant syphilis outbreak.  After reopening with Medicare funding the clinic treated 199 STD clients in two short months.  The full year before the clinic treated 160 STD clients.  Treating more patients in two months is an oddity given the city closed the clinic and had a baseline of no patients for its federal grant.

The reopened clinic saw patients three days a week by appointment only.  The clinic operated only 24 days in the last two months of that fiscal year.

The City budget stated there were 608 clients scheduled through the STD clinic during those two months.  That's over 25 patients per day.  The full year before the clinic scheduled 766 clients through the clinic.

In addition the STD clinic performed 795 STD/HIV prevention encounters.  That's 33 people per day after reopening.  The full year before the clinic conducted 722 STD prevention encounters.  It educated 73 more people in two months time than it did the entire year before.

There are more oddities in the STD clinic story line, both before and after its ten month closure.  That closure began five years ago at 5:00 pm, the last Friday of September.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

City Blows Past Projected Water and Waste Fund Balances

The City of San Angelo is easily beating its projected fund balances for water and trash services.  Water Enterprise fund is $1.5 million higher than projected and trash is up nearly $200,000 relative to staff guidance in an August 8th strategic planning session.  The public knows water and trash funds from our monthly city consolidated services bill.

The city is soundly ahead with one month to go in the fiscal year.  Expect these numbers to rise baring any transfers to other funds.  Our hot, dry September should provide healthy water revenues.  For the last few months trash has been adding $100,000 a month to its growing fund balance.  There is one month left for each of these funds to grow.  How big will they get?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sunken Garden Park vs. Railway Museum

San Angelo's Development Corporation will entertain supporting $700,000 in planned improvements for the Sculpture Garden at the Sunken Garden Park when the board meets on September 27th.

The Sculpture Garden has been a successful cultural addition to the city for 5 years. The park's visitation has very noticeably increased. Staff finds it to be a perfect use for the space based on its content and location.

For the last few years, we've realized the park needs significant improvements to make it more usable, attractive and fitting for the asset that it is.

The City's Capital Improvement Plan for 2013-2018 estimated Sunken Garden Park would need $275,000 in upgrades for.

Landscape refurbishment of Sunken Garden Park with enhancements to improve access and enjoyment of the new Sculpture Garden. Improvements to include a new irrigation system, new turf in targeted locations, improved accessibility with ramps and stairs, walkways to and around the sculptures and improved lighting.
That grew to $550,000 for the 2017-2022 CIP.  The project description is nearly identical in the city's latest CIP despite the cost doubling.

Landscape refurbishment of sunken garden park with enhancements to improve access and enjoyment of the new sculpture garden. Improvements to include a new irrigation system, improved accessibility with ramps and stairs, walkways to and around the sculptures and improved lighting.
The number is now up to $700,000. Oddly, that's roughly the amount of sales tax revenue that should come available from a combination of recent improvements in sales tax collections and strange budgeting.

The Development Corporation could find significant sums available rather quickly.  It could be used at the Sunken Garden Park or the Santa Fe Depot, home of the Railway Museum, which needs a new air conditioner and parking lot repair.  The City sent Railway Museum Board President David Wood packing but may happily fund Howard Taylor's outdoor sculpture project. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

COSADC to Buy City's Unauthorized Dump

The City of San Angelo Development Corporation board will entertain the purchase of 17.58 acres of land in the midst of new hotel alley.  The area currently houses seven hotels.  The Development Corporation will consider buying the land from the city

The city put the land up for bid in May 2017 with proposals due in mid-July.  Bid documents show the city once had an incinerator on the site and used the land as a dump.

A 2002 Environmental report stated the land had been "transferred to Jack and Wanda Tubb in the early 1980 and subsequently transferred back to the city after discovery of wastes disposed at the site."

Cleanup estimates in 2002 ranged from $162,000 to $244,500 for remediation of a 2 foot layer over 1 acre.  It"s not clear how much household waste dumping the city conducted at the site in the decade after the incinerator closed.

The Development Corporation board and the public deserve to be informed of this property's history under city ownership.  The Development Corporation is a city sponsored entity, as its members are appointed by City Council. 

Apparently, there were no bids from the public solicitation for proposals for the old incinerator site.  Any sale from the city to the Development Corporation should be at arm's length with material disclosures. 

Update 10-2-17:  The Development Corporation board heard about potential environmental concerns.  They did not share the history of the property under city ownership during their approval of property purchase.  City Council will undertake the item on 10-3.  City Council's agenda packet makes no mention of the city's using the land as an unauthorized dump.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What City Does Not Audit or Correct

In mid-August Citizens learned from public meetings the City of San Angelo does not audit two areas of concern, safety training to reduce workplace injuries and the protocol for euthanizing sick or injured pets.

On 8-15-17 City Council asked Risk Manager Charles Hagan about strategies to reduce workplace injuries.  The topic arose in a Worker's Compensation presentation of an actuarial audit which was completed nearly a year ago (9-30-2016).  Hagan said department managers are responsible for weekly safety training.  When asked if anyone audits to see if such training occurred.  Hagan said he did not review those records.

The Animal Services Advisory Committee (ASAC) heard how the city conducts euthanasia of sick and injured pets.  A public outcry occurred after shelter staff euthanized Misty, a deaf Rat Terrier/Pit Bull mix.

Staff presented the euthanasia policy in ASAC's August 17th meeting.  When asked about the city's compliance with its stated euthanasia policy Neighborhood and Family Services Director Bob Salas said "Hmmmm, I don't know."  He said he would need to check on this and get back with the board.

Salas knew for months the public wanted answers on Misty.  Competent management would investigate Misty's death and conduct a wider audit on euthanasia compliance.  A seemingly basic management question stumped Bob Salas.

In addition the city does not correct the public record when staff present false and misleading information.  Former Animal Services Director James Flores did just that in May with his Community Cat survey.  Flores twisted the results to support his desired strategy for community cats.

Below is my interaction with City staff on the topic:

Question:  How does the City of San Angelo correct incorrect information, willfully or inadvertently shared and recorded for the public to view?

Official City Response:  This does not meet the requirements of a open public records request. Additionally, I am not aware of any records that would respond to this sort of request.

Followup Question:  So the city has no policy, practice or legal requirement ensuring the public gets correct and accurate information?  If no such things exist, please send me the City Manager and Public Information Officer job descriptions.
The city sent the requested job descriptions, nothing more.

The public information officer must know:
· Legal, ethical and professional rules of conduct for public sector employees.

The city manager:
• Supervises and provides advice and counsel to department directors regarding policy interpretation relevant to City programs and services, and confers with department directors in planning and carrying out special projects. 
Neither party admitted the falsehoods perpetrated by James Flores which reside in the city's public record.  However, the Animal Services Advisory Board learned of Flores' lies during their August 17, 2017 meeting.

The city's call for management excellence rings hollow in a number of arenas.  It makes one wonder how deep the hollowness goes.