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.

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."

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. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

One Rabies Case Per Month in 2018


The City of San Angelo had one rabies case per month in 2018 according to city documents.
 In three of the four cases a pet dog was exposed to the diseased animal.

Despite multiple cases of rabies the city failed to produce compliance data on rabies vaccinations for shelter pets, saying the contractor had that information.  No paid city leaders or elected officials compelled Concho Valley PAWS to produce compliance data, even as local rabies cases were confirmed.

The Animal Services Advisory Committee did not meet in February or April of 2018.  The February meeting was cancelled due to lack of agenda items.

The cancellations seemed odd as the City undertook two strategic arrangements with Concho Valley PAWS, the contracting of veterinarian services and leasing land next to the Animal Shelter.  City Council missed the advice and consent of this potentially important committee on these issues.

A lot was going on for a group that was given nothing to do.

Update 5-17-18:  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden informed the ASAC the April meeting was also cancelled due to lack of agenda items.  City Council undertook the PAWS land lease on May 1st.  An April ASAC meeting would have been the time for this committee to advise City Council.  That did not happen.

ASAC Board member Jenie Wilson gave an operational update from the board level.  Ideally she would have taken off her board hat and given testimony from the staff podium.   City Attorney Theresa James viewed Jenie's talk on May adoptions as fitting within the April statistics agenda item and allowed it to occur from the board level.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

City of San Angelo: Love is in the Air


The April Development Corporation meeting indicated big changes could be underway for the City's contract with the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce.  Chamber Board and COSADC board member Elizabeth Grindstaff set the stage for changes in an exchange with Assistant City Manager Michael Dane, currently filling in as Economic Development Director.  At the 1:22 mark Dane waffled as to the motivation for any changes and avoided details of what those might be.

Love, specifically SANANGELOVE is a theme of the San Angelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is a Division of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce.  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and Chamber executive Suzanna Aguirre found that very thing, according to sources.

Suzanna Aguirre played a role in Daniel's first blemish, the Furniture Fiasco.   City e-mails show Aguirre facilitated the ordering and installation of Water Department Furniture as the City Manager's Executive Office Coordinator.   Daniel's investigation into the unauthorized purchase of over $100,000 in furniture failed to answer the most basic questions.  Six years later the two parties are in SanAngelove.

Valenzuela had nothing to do with the Furniture Fiasco, other than a hapless investigation.  The unauthorized purchase occurred under Interim City Manager Michael Dane.  Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff served as project manager for the City Hall renovation and encouraged the Water Department to order furniture.  Valenzuela's investigation never interviewed Dane or the city's purchasing manager.

The same players, Valenzuela, Dane, and Grindstaff hold key roles relative to the the Chamber contract renegotiation.  Aguirre's professional role is less direct but she has a significant relationship with City Manager Daniel Valenzuela.  This may just be interesting history but it is background for critical players in the upcoming City-Chamber contract drama.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

What Killed Former Avenue P Project?


San Angelo Live characterized prior efforts to address Avenue P flooding with:

Another idea floated was to construct drainage piping below the streets there. But expected opposition from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and environmental agencies who control the drainage into the Concho River would have killed that idea if the exorbitant cost didn’t before.
It wasn't just another idea floated.  San Angelo City Council Minutes from July 16, 2013 show

ADOPTION OF A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY OF SAN ANGELO CITY COUNCIL AWARDING RFB NO. ES-01-13 “ENGINEERING SERVICES AVENUE P STREET & DRAINAGE IMPROVEMENT PROJECT” TO REECE ALBERT, INC., AND AUTHORIZING THE CITY MANAGER TO NEGOTIATE AND EXECUTE AN AGREEMENT FOR CONSTRUCTION OF AVENUE P STREET & DRAINAGE REMEDIATION PROJECT BETWEEN THE CITY OF SAN ANGELO AND REECE ALBERT, INC. IN ACCORDANCE WITH SAID BID AWARD, IN SUBSTANTIALLY THE ATTACHED FORM, SAID AGREEMENT BEING SUBJECT TO RESCISSION ON DECEMBER 31, 2013 SHOULD THE NECESSARY RIGHT-OF-WAY AND NECESSARY EASEMENTS NOT BE ACQUIRED BY CITY BEFORE DECEMBER 31, 2013, AS PROVIDED FOR UNDER SUCH AGREEMENT (Page 659, #2013- 07-103)

Interim City Engineer Tim Wolff presented background information. A copy of the presentation is part of the Permanent Supplemental Record. Motion, to adopt the Resolution awarding RFB No. ES-01-13 “Engineering Services Avenue P Street & Drainage Improvement Project” to Reece Albert, Inc,, as presented, was made by Councilmember Silvas and seconded by Councilmember Fleming. General discussion was held on the project funding, including Stormwater and General Fund funding. A vote was taken on the motion on the floor. Motion carried unanimously.

A slide presentation indicated the City had a $1.7 million budget for the project.  With Council's approval and dollars set aside only easements were needed.  Drainage under the street was very close to becoming a reality, however the city's stormwater engineer failed to obtain the easements and the project returned to the possible solutions bin.  

San Angelo Live pulled a valid project out for trashing.  Why the journalistic miss?

Addition 5-2-18:  That engineer who failed?  That was Tim Wolff.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

PAWS Expansion Bypasses Animal Shelter Advisory Committee


In early 2018 San Angelo's City Council approved a new five year adoptions contract and a new veterinary services contact for Concho Valley PAWS.  Council will consider leasing 3.6 acres of land to PAWS for an adoption/veterinary services center in its May 1st meeting.  City staff state "none" for the financial impact of the project 

Consider a resolution authorizing the City Manager or his designee to negotiate and execute a lease agreement and all related documents with the Humane Society of Tom Green County, d/b/a Concho Valley Paws on vacant land adjacent to the City of San Angelo Animal Shelter facility, for use as an animal resource center for the performance of related animal rescue, shelter, veterinarian and adoption services (Preas)
Two of the three strategic items bypassed the Animal Services Advisory Committee, which had its monthly meeting cancelled twice thus far in 2018.  After the February ASAC meeting was cancelled the city approved extending PAWS contract for five years despite serious compliance concerns with the local spay/neuter ordinance and state law requiring rabies vaccinations.  City staff assured City Council they had reconciliations and statistics showing no problems, yet staff could not produce the very information they represented to council.  After cancelling the April meeting Council will entertain the lease proposal.

Two major decisions bypassed the advice and consent of the body charged with sharing their expertise with City Council on animal related matters. As a result of these decisions two PAWS representatives sit on the ASAC and are charged with providing oversight for the very services they provide the city.  Something stinks in San Angelo's City Hall.

Update 5-2-18:  City Council approved the PAWS lease in the consent agenda with no presentation or discussion.  Council did not explore PAWS plans or vision.  The public missed yet another opportunity to learn how PAWS wants to help the city in return for what fees.  A responsible council would explore what a successful project would look like and have provisions in place if plans don't materialize.

Update 5-16-18:  The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee learned of four rabies cases thus far in 2018.  That is one topic of the ASAC meeting tomorrow.

Update 6-11-18:  The June meeting has been cancelled once again.  The last two meetings were cancelled due to lack of agenda items according to Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden.  During this time agenda items leapfrogged ASAC and went straight to City Council.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Development Corporation Compliance Audit Goes Internal


Assistant City Manager Michael Dane informed the City of San Angelo Development Corporation Board that the compliance audit shifted from an external audit contracted to the city's professional auditor to an internal audit.  He stated:

Roland had been working to have compliance audit done by CPA firms and because of the large number of contracts he was having difficulty finding a firm that was independent.  Rather than continue to chase that rabbit down the trail I asked the city's internal auditor to help get us caught up.  So that's why he is here before you today.
Actually, the Development Corporation approved the switch from an external to internal auditor on October 25, 2017.  The change is embedded in the city services agreement, approved six months ago.

Audit COSADC agreements, administrative files and financial records for compliance with relevant requirements and regulations.
Previous agreements had the city's external auditor conducting the contract compliance audit.   

CITY ’s audit Agreementor will audit COSADC Agreement, administrative files and financial records for compliance with relevant requirements and regulations
The Development Corporation will pay the city $578,000 for services for the current fiscal year, up over $100,000 over the last two years.

Former City Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff serves on numerous city boards.  She remarked later in the Development Corporation meeting on a different Dane response:

"I never got away with answers like that."
They do now, with great regularity.  Watch peer Assistant City Manager Rick Weise's presentation near the beginning of the meeting.  He phoned it in.

I found it amazing how competent business people defer their management expectations when dealing with city staff.  Mayor Alvin New and Councilman Kendall Hirschfeld looked like they might burst when city staff stonewalled or failed to show basic competence.  Yet, they never did.   

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Three Members of Animal Services Board Are City Employees/Contractors


Nearly half of San Angelo's Animal Shelter Advisory Committee are city employees or contractors with Concho Valley PAWS.  Committee members Jenie Wilson and Victor Schulze, DVM perform contract work for the Animal Shelter through PAWS.  Wilson is PAWS Executive Director and over two programs, adoptions and veterinary services.  Dr. Schulze is a PAWS veterinarian, a service City Council recently awarded with no bidding.

Flashback to February 2015 when:

The City of San Angelo teamed with Concho Valley PAWS to launch an initiative aimed at reducing the number of unwanted animals who enter the shelter and are eventually put down. This effort was purposely rolled out to coincide with National Spay/Neuter Month.

Dubbed the Spay Neuter Initiative Program – or, appropriately, SNIP – this partnership will seek to persuade the public of the need to alter pets and will educate citizens of the many benefits to their pets of doing so.

Further, SNIP will raise awareness of the options for obtaining low-cost spaying and neutering through Concho Valley PAWS’ voucher program, which is detailed at ConchoValleyPAWS.org.

The current state of PAWS voucher program is "on hold until September 15th."  That's five months from the day I captured the screenshot.  That's a long time for a rescue organization with a new veterinarian on staff.


On 4-17-18 City Council reappointed PAWS Executive Director for another term on the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee.  The City had no contracts with PAWS when Wilson joined the Animal board the end of 2015.  PAWS now has two city contracts worth a combined $125,000.  This relationship was not detailed in Wilson's ASAC application shared with City Council.

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee has both an oversight and advisory role to City Council.  It makes no sense for the rescue slot or the veterinarian position to be occupied by shelter contractors.  Wilson and Shulze are in a position to not ask questions regarding their performance and public accountability.   Non conflicted rescue and veterinary members of the public would provide City Council more impartial advice and counsel as ASAC members.

City Councilman Tommy Thompson nominated Jenie Wilson for another ASAC term.  Mr. Thompson may see conflicts of interest like his veterinary friend sees animal genitalia.  You miss a few now and then.

How did two members of a public board get large chunks of city animal shelter work and get to remain on that same board in an oversight role?  At least one member of the public wants to know.

Update 4-26-18:  The City plans to lease nearly 4 acres of land to PAWS for "no financial impact," which translates to free.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

PAWS Director with Expanded City Business Up for Another ASAC Term


City Council Tommy Thompson nominated Jenie Wilson for another term on the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee.  City Council will undertake this nomination in its April 17th meeting.

Wilson resigned twice from the board, which advises City Council on animal related issues.  She served from February 2009 to August 2010.  Once the Tom Green County Humane Society hired Jenie as Executive Director she resigned her spot on the Animal Services Board, citing a conflict of interest.  At that time HSTGC was an animal rescue with a working board and volunteer membership.

Names changed.  The Animal Services Board became the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee and HSTGC turned in Concho Valley PAWS.  Jenie went back on the ASAC and rose to Chair in January 2016.  PAWS became the adoption contractor for the City shelter in February 2017 for an annual fee of $60,000.

Jenie resigned again in June 2017.
 
"I have my hands full with Concho Valley PAWS," Wilson said about her resignation. "There are only so many hours in the day and I decided to focus on all the positive things going on with PAWS and the shelter."
Her resignation came during a time of significant concern regarding the city's handling of animal issues.  Jenie's resignation had not been acted on by City Council.  Her sitting in the audience prevented a quorum where many concerned citizens showed up to participate in local government.  ASAC Chair Jenie Wilson's action kept their voices from being heard.

City Councilman Tommy Thompson reversed Wilson's resignation from on the Animal Services Advisory Committee.   He did so despite receiving letters of concern regarding Jenie's conflict of interest in overseeing her agency's work on behalf of the city animal shelter.

In the latter part of 2017 area veterinarians identified a significant no show rate for spay/neuter surgery and rabies vaccinations for dogs adopted from the animal shelter.  City ordinance requires pets be altered and state law mandates rabies vaccinations.  Research showed 75% of 913 dogs left the shelter unaltered from April to November.  They had a vet appointment for surgery and vaccinations but vets reported roughly 100 missed appointments.

When asked for compliance date on shelter adoptions meeting these legal mandates the city said it did not have this information.  Yet, when staff testified before City Council they presented assurances and referenced "numbers."

Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden represented to City Council that their were no rabies or spay/neuter compliance concerns on 1-23-18 when she spoke of a "trusted reconciliation process" and again on 2-20-18 when she cited "dozens of pet deaths prior to spay/neuter surgery."

“So the veterinarians report a missed appointment but we would not report a compliance issue.” -- Morgan Chegwidden to City Council on 2-20-18
Despite Morgan's testimony to City Council staff said information on the trusted reconciliation was not available and it did not have information on pet deaths prior to vaccinations/surgery.  How can staff represent information exists to Council and not be able to provide it?  City Council members provided no response when this was shared.  .

As Council considers Wilson's nomination for reappointment questions linger.  Why hasn't the City compelled contractor PAWS to provided compliance data.  Why has PAWS not done so voluntarily?  It's the most basic accountability:  How has the city animal shelter's adoption contractor complied with local and state law and the initial RFP specifications?

With answers murky at best City Council awarded PAWS a new multi-year adoption contract and a new contract for veterinary services.  The veterinary work was not put out to bid, nor did the Animal Services Advisory Committee get the opportunity to recommend this proposal to City Council. 

The ASAC has had four months to get the spay/neuter and rabies vaccination compliance issue on their agenda.  It hasn't.  The City issued notices of cancellation for the February and April ASAC meeting.  

PAWS is the city's contractor for two services, adoptions and veterinary care, for a combined $125,000.   Wilson's presence on the oversight board resulted in the committee not addressing legitimate concerns in June 2016 and early 2018. 

Jenie can educate the Animal Services Advisory Committee from the staff/contractor side of board table. It's also the preferred location for the city to conduct contractor oversight.

As for Mrs. Wilson's application for board service, an update would show she lives in Wall, not in SMD5.  An update would also reveal the potential conflicts of interest as a city contractor for two services.  These were not in effect when the original application was submitted.

City Councilman Tommy Thompson should withdraw his nomination.  The public deserves non-conflicted representation. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Cal's Convenience Operating San Angelo Stripes Stores


CSP Daily News reported:

A new company, Cal’s Convenience Inc., has acquired the 207 Stripes convenience stores in West Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Convenience Store News stated:

Sunoco LP stayed local when selecting the commission agent for 207 retail locations in west Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

CAL's Convenience Inc. acquired the stores from Sunoco in a deal that closed in early April. The two sides reached the agreement in December.
The new company characterization is correct as Cal's Convenience registered as a Texas corporation on 11-22-2017.


It's founding President lists January 2018 as the beginning of his term.  The deal was an inside job as Sunoco offered to commission deal to one of its own.


I'm not sure Cal's Convenience Frisco location qualifies as local.  Dallas-Fort Worth is not West Texas.  Many San Angelo locals recall Stripes predecessor was based here before a series of buyouts.

Overnight Cal's Convenience grew to over 4,000 employees but it only has one job posting through Breezy.


There is a Cal's Convenience store in Nebraska, but that's a different Cal's from the Texas startup.

I pondered if Alvin New might end in the Stripes commission agent arrangement.  There is no evidence of New's involvement in Cal's Convenience Inc.  Sunoco LP found someone like Alvin on the inside to do the deal.

Update 4-19-18:  San Angelo Live reported on this story today.  They failed to report Cal's is the new commission agent..

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Stripes Under New Secret Commission Agent


San Angelo's Stripes Stores have a new operator as of last week.  

Sunoco LP announced the completion of the conversion of its 207 retail sites located in certain West Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico markets to a single commission agent on April 2nd. With this conversion complete, Sunoco’s transition out of the majority of its convenience store operations in the continental U.S. is effectively complete. 

Under the commission agent model, Sunoco owns, prices and sells fuel at the sites, paying the agent a fixed cents-per-gallon commission. In addition, Sunoco continues to own approximately two-thirds of this portfolio in fee and will receive rental income from the commission agent, who will conduct all operations related to the convenience store and any related restaurant locations. 
Sunoco LP is yet to reveal the name of the commission agent in any SEC filing.  Who should dissatisfied customers contact regarding the operation of a West Texas Stripes convenience store?

Update 4-14-18:  It's Cal's Convenience Stores out of Frisco, TX.  

Update 4-19-18:  San Angelo Live reported on this story today.  It did not reveal the commission agent.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

April ASAC Meeting Cancelled


One City board cancelled 50% of its 2018 meetings, the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee.  The City offered two different stories on the February meeting cancellation.  The City Clerk's office said lack of quorum while Animal Shelter Manager Morgan Chegwidden cited a lack of agenda items. 

City Council undertook two significant Animal items during this period, renewal of its adoption contract and contracting for veterinary services.  The City selected Concho Valley PAWS for both contracts.  PAWS Executive Director sits on the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee and was its former Chair.  

This situation makes it difficult for the ASAC to hold PAWS accountable.  At no time did the Advisory Committee ask about pets being released from the shelter without spay/neuter surgery or rabies vaccinations.  Both are legally mandated, spay/neuter by the city and rabies by the State of Texas. 

The ASAC's role is to advise City Council.  It played no role in the veterinary contract expansion.  This was not the first time City staff bypassed the ASAC on a significant items over the last several years.  I expect it won't be the last.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Odd Way to Celebrate Public Health Week


The April 3rd City Council Meeting recognized public health week with a proclamation that encouraged citizens to help leaders better understand the value of public health.  It missed a possible whereas embedded in City Council's background packet.

Whereas:


City staff cited an over $560,000 gain from federal public health grant funding.  Surely City Council entertained this surplus in its recent Strategic Planning meeting and had this item for full presentation on April 3rd.  Nope.  Local public health leadership and city management did neither.


Excess federal grant funds received zero mention in the March 29th strategic planning event.  For April 3rd staff had the issue in the consent section, meaning no presentation.  Once the meeting started City Council went one further and dropped the item from its agenda.

City Council did keep the health department price increase where the city charges its full costs for lab testing services to patients.  In its original case to raise fees staff omitted the Health Department is/has been the recipient of state and federal grant funds intended to help members of the public get access to affordable healthcare services.

After endorsing the importance of public health City Council voted to approve the consent agenda, which included health department fee increases for at risk citizens needing access to healthcare.  Council did so knowing the City intends to go for another round of 1115 Waiver funding, even as it holds 57% of the federal money received.  In the past Health Director Sandra Villareal advised city leaders that 1115 Waiver funds must "be used for the intent of the program."  That's much narrower than the "city's budget". 

The City's significant public health surplus, courtesy of state/federal grant funding, deserves illumination so the public and local leaders can work together to fulfill the program's original aim, public health expansion.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Detmar Fails to Execute Economic Development Agreement


The City of San Angelo Development Corporation withdrew its $300,000 economic development offer to Detmar Industries for 120 new jobs.  The Development Corporation board approved the incentive funds in September 2017.  Economic Development staff crafted a contract which Detmar did not sign.

COSADC board member Todd Kolls recused himself from the discussion in both the September 2017 and March 2018 Development Corporation meeting.


Detmar is the second local company to not take or return COSADC funding.  TimeClockPlus returned $326,000 in development funds and cancelled their contract in January 2018.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Development Corporation Returns Unauthorized Dump to City of San Angelo

Assistant City Manager Michael Dane advised the Development Corporation Board to give back the land housing the City of San Angelo's former unauthorized dump.  The Development Corporation Board entertained purchasing the land in September 2017.  San Angelo City Council approved the deal during an October 2017 meeting.

The words "unauthorized dump" were never mentioned by staff or board members.  The Development Corporation did not share the history of the property under city ownership during their approval of property purchase.  City Council's October 2017 agenda packet made no mention of the city's using the land as an unauthorized dump for a decade.

The Development Corporation board heard of environmental concerns and undertook the following studies:

Phase 1 and 2 Environmental Site Assessments and the Remediation Cost Estimate for the Real Property regarding 17.58 acre parcel of real property fronting on Houston Harte Expressway, within an area bounded by Southwest Boulevard, Sherwood Way and Sunset Drive. 
Mr. Dane recommended the Development Corporation hand the land back after a potential development opportunity failed to materialize.   Dane did provide results of environmental studies or the potential cost of remediation.  He did not say if environmental problems at the site impacted economic development prospects..

It's interesting how few words have been spoken by public officials regarding the city's former unauthorized dump, the Real Property regarding 17.58 acre parcel of real property fronting on Houston Harte Expressway, within an area bounded by Southwest Boulevard, Sherwood Way and Sunset Drive. . 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

ASAC Didn't Meet in February Despite Expanded PAWS Deal and Serious Compliance Concerns


San Angelo's Animal Shelter Advisory Board did not meet in February due to lack of agenda items according to Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden.  I inquired about the cancellation in February and the City Manager's office said it was due to lack of a quorum.  These are two very different reasons.

A number of citizens wanted to make public comment in February on two items, the proposed expansion of PAWS contract with the city to include veterinary services and PAWS releasing animals from the shelter without rabies vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery.  Approximately 100 shelter animals missed their veterinary appointments for both services in 2017.  Several area rescues received former shelter pets that had not gotten a rabies vaccination or been altered.

For several citizens this was not the first cancellation of the Animal Services Advisory Committee during a time of public consternation.  It happened after packs of wild dogs killed numerous pets along Christoval Road and Animal Control exterminated Misty before rescues or her owner could intervene on her behalf.  I showed up to speak on gross/fraudulent misrepresentations made by Director James Flores in his community cat survey of other Texas cities but did not get that opportunity.

Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden represented to City Council that their were no rabies or spay/neuter compliance concerns on 1-23-18 when she spoke of a "trusted reconciliation process" and 2-20-18 when she cited "dozens of pet deaths prior to spay/neuter surgery."

“So the veterinarians report a missed appointment but we would not report a compliance issue.” -- Morgan Chegwidden to City Council on 2-20-18
When asked for information on the reconciliation and pet deaths prior to vaccinations/surgery the city said it did not have that information.  The digital reconciliation does not create a document and Morgan does not know how many pets died under PAWS adoption contract with the City.  How does Morgan represent to City Council that such data exists but none can be produced via a public information request?

The strategy appears to be avoid accountability by delay and obfuscation.  If staff throw enough stuff against the wall maybe something will stick.  Lack of quorum, splat.  Lack of agenda items, splurt.  Both led to lack of public input, one of the major aims of city boards and commissions.  Accountability isn't easy but it is important in local government. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

City Stumbles Over Increasing Nursing Fees

Staff stated the clear need for the city to recover the full cost of lab testing in proposing increased fees to City Council.  Finance Director Tina Diershke implied federal grant funds could not be used to subsidize lab testing for patients needing affordable access to healthcare with her statement.

“1115 Waiver grant is for costs associated with operating and maintaining the clinic”
City Council heard in its application for Section 1115 Waiver grant funding in December 2012:


Council must have been confused after learning the City did not need to charge every patient a price to cover city costs.  Health Department Director Sandra Villareal said the city needed to offer free testing to meet goals under the Section 1115 Waiver grant.


Tina and Sandra gave two very different descriptions of how the new testing fee would work.  It took Council time to discern who was correct.  Staff's explanation of testing charges went as poorly as the city's need to charge/not charge presentation.

There was no crisis for City Council to approve new nursing fees which likely will result in a miniscule incremental revenue for the city.  City Council could have sent staff back to rework the item.  Instead they voted unanimously to approve new testing fees for an area accounting documents show had nearly $700,000 in excess revenue over expenses for the last five years.

There appears to be a low bar for staff to hurdle for Council approval for price increases in an area where the state and federal government provide grants for citizens to obtain affordable access to care.

Monday, March 19, 2018

City Wants to Increase Nursing Fees


City Council will consider establishing fees for certain nursing services in their 3-20-18 meeting.  City staff omitted the Health Department is/has been the recipient of state and federal grant funds intended to help members of the public get access to affordable healthcare services.  In some cases the city has to match state and federal funding with local dollars.  The resolution for Nursing Services omits this major funding subsidy. 

Proposed language in the resolution would have City Council ignore this major consideration.

WHEREAS, the City Council has reviewed staff’s accounting of Health Services
Department, Nursing Division, patient related services costs and revenues
, and desires to establish fees for patient services that reasonably reflect the cost to the City of providing the services

The Health Services department is in a substantial five year surplus as of the end of FY 2016-17.  The City's Bluebook shows a five year surplus for Nursing of $195,924 and $492,531 for the Section 1115 Waiver grant which funded the re-opening of the city's Sexually Transmitted Disease clinic. Combined the two areas had excess revenues over expenses of $688,455 over the five year period ending 9-30-17. 

Staff failed to reference the major funding for Nursing Division is public grant money, thus they left out an important consideration City Council needs to make appropriate fee decisions. 

Also, the city is up over $800,000 year to date on Sales Tax Revenue.  For these reasons it seems prudent for Council to deliberate with excess grant funding as a major part of the public discussion.

Update 3-20-18:  City Staff did not bring up the five years in a row of excess revenue for both Nursing and the Section 1115 Waiver grant and City Council remained mum on this fact despite my writing every member in the limited window after agenda/background packet publication.  Council approved the proposed fee structure despite a disjointed and contradictory presentation by staff. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Update on Rejuvenating City Roads via Benedetti Equipment


In December 2016 San Angelo's City Council approved a $1.2 million Benedetti Phoenix machine to resurface city roads in ill repair.   That same month the city released a video on the new equipment.

This equipment allows for the City to rehabilitate entire roadways that are in disrepair or in poor condition. The equipment is part of a comprehensive restructuring of the street repair process as a result of Council's street priority.
In June 2017 the city solicited bids for 50,000 gallons of oil for street repairs.  That bid document stated:

The Street & Bridge Division of the City of San Angelo is requesting bids for the procurement of oil for street repairs. This oil will be used as the rejuvenating oil for the City’s Benedetti Phoenix and for the Bagela rejuvenating system, for rejuvenating the hot asphalt for the pot holes and water cuts.
Rejuvenating entire roadways is different than filling pot holes and doing road repair after water cuts.  One manufacturer cited the history of asphalt rejuvenation:

Early tests showed that crews that had been completing 1-2 patches per day with traditional repair methods were instantly doing 8-9 patches per day with what would later prove to be even greater durability. It wasn't long before full roads of up to a half-mile or more were being completed per day.
Prior to buying the Benedetti machine San Angelo had asphalt milling equipment.  It loaned its asphalt zipper to the City of Fredericksburg via a May 2016 Inter-local Agreement.  This loan saved Fredericksburg $100,000 on a $300,000 project based on 60 hours use.  San Angelo's asphalt zipper had a mere 8 hours on it when Fredericksburg  borrowed the equipment.

Fredericksburg went on to lease an asphalt zipper.  A Public Works official estimates significant savings, citing the unit has already paid for itself.  The official said Fredericksburg prides itself in having zero potholes.

San Angelo citizens suffer from widespread deteriorated roads.  One City Councilman asked for an update on the Benedetti machine and the use of road crews to optimize the city's $1.2 million investment.  Operations Director Shane Kelton is on deck to report, unless Public Works Executive Director Ricky Dickson reappears to speak before council.


It's been sometime since Dickson updated City Council on any Public Works projects.  The Benedetti machine and road crew staffing/training would be a good topic for San Angelo's top Public Works official. Council has five possible people to hear from on this issue.  Maybe all will show up to illuminate San Angelo's City Council.

Update 3-18-18:  City Council minutes from 3-6-18 state "Council Member Tom Thompson asked for a presentation and update on the Benedetti Asphalt Recycling machine."  It's not on the agenda for 3-20-18

Saturday, March 03, 2018

City Council to Hear about Intergraph/Hexagon?


City Council will entertain spending $150,405 on a maintenance contract for its police and fire emergency dispatch system.  The city council background for 3-6-18 states:

The City of San Angelo is in the process of migrating our CAD/RMS system back to our previous provider. The maintenance cost cover support and installation for the preparation of these servers prior to and after they go live.

On March 21, 2017 City Council approved spending nearly $2.4 million to replace the Spillman dispatch system by upgrading its ancient Intergraph system.  Hexagon bought Intergraph in 2010.  

The quickest, most reasonable path to a working system is to begin working with our previous vendor, Hexagon/Intergraph, to re-establish the functionality of our previous system.
Might City Council get a staff update on the Intergraph upgrade?  Not likely. 

The item is on the Consent Agenda.  A City Council member would have to pull the item for discussion.

Staff should want the public to hear how they addressed a system that placed people in jeopardy, the clear message a year ago.  Is the fix in and working? If not, when will the city get value for spending over $2 million on a system it ignored for decades?

Update 3-6-18:  No member of City Council pulled this item for public explanation.  It passed quietly in the consent agenda.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Money Used to Hire PAWS Needed to Hire PAWS Again


Former Shelter Director James Flores sold contracting shelter adoptions to Concho Valley PAWS for $60,000 per year.  A year ago Flores justified the expenditure:

“Majority is coming from chemical medical …We no longer have a veterinarian. We no longer perform surgeries. Majority of money is coming from that line, chemical-medical.” 
Council members Lane Carter, Lucy Gonzales and Harry Thomas heard the above rationale given by staff January 17, 2017.
 

Unfortunately more changed than Flores represented.  Changes resulted in numerous shelter pets going without rabies vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery when adopters missed veterinary appointments.

City Council will hear a proposal for the city to pay PAWS $50 per pet for veterinary services.  The memo from Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden indicated veterinary services would be for adopted pets.


It does not say if the fee applies to all adoptions or just unaltered pets.  If the $50 fee is only for unaltered pets the projected amount paid to PAWS is nearly $66,000.  If it applies to all adoptions PAWS would get roughly $88,000.  The difference amounts to $22,000.  Why would the city pay PAWS $50 if the pet only needs a rabies shot?  (Projections are based on 2017 Animal Shelter statistics)

Morgan's memo is silent on which organization pays for anesthesia, medical instruments, medical supplies, sterilization of equipment and post surgery pain medicine/antibiotics and IV fluids.  If these are the city's responsibility then chemical-medical costs return..

It is ironic the cost savings used to hire PAWS will return as expenditures under a different PAWS arrangement.

City staff needs to be clear regarding details of the proposed arrangement.  The memo is not a contract and the background packet does not contain contract language for City Council to review and approve.  The memo to Council lacks important details regarding the arrangement.

It is missing historical and projected expenditures for restoring in-shelter spay/neuter services, as well as historical and projected volumes.  This is odd given Morgan's background as Budget Manager for the City of San Angelo.


On 12-19-17 the city stated in response to a public information request:

100% of dogs adopted have had their rabies vaccination.
This statement came under question after area veterinarians cited a high rate of missed appointments for shelter pets.  Those appointments included vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery.

In December friends found two unaltered dogs whose microchips cited the City Animal Shelter.  One dog was no longer with their adopter.  He'd given the dog away, making followup problematic if not impossible for city staff.  No spay/neuter meant no rabies vaccination for these two dogs.  Area rescues received other unaltered, unvaccinated shelter pets in the last few months.

City ordinance states (per the 2-20-18 background packet):

All animals adopted from the animal shelter shall be spayed or neutered and microchipped prior to release.  No animal shall be eligible for adoption unless spayed or neutered and microchipped.
As I sought to confirm the city's assertion of 100% rabies vaccinations I learned staff had not held PAWS accountable.  The city does not have in its possession information on rabies vaccination compliance (Texas law) or spay/neuter compliance (local ordinance).  Nor has the city compelled contractor PAWS to produce such documents.

Animal Services has provided an update that this (rabies certificate) is not a document of the city – an external vendor provides these services.
The City has been unable to produce documentation supporting Morgan's statement to City Council on 1-23-18 regarding a "trusted reconciliation process that ensures all shelter pets are spayed/neutered."  The city said the reconciliation is "done digitally" and therefore "no documents exist."

Morgan's memo for the upcoming Council meeting shows the changes became standard practice for the city:

We currently contract with PAWS to provide adoption services which includes coordinating off-site rabies vaccinations, spaying and neutering of adoptable animals.
This is not what the city required in its initial RFP for Adoption Services.  It specified rabies vaccinations be given before the pet leaves the shelter.   Had the rabies shot been given in the shelter the certificate should be in the city's hands, not the contractor's.

The bottom line:  Morgan's memo confirms changes which result in no rabies vaccination when a spay/neuter appointment is missed.  The unresolved question remains how many shelter adoptions remain unaltered and unvaccinated?

I find it interesting the PAWS veterinary contract came before council so quickly after the issue of unvaccinated and unaltered pets came to the fore.  Damage control involves denying problems while working a rapid fix.  It feels like a rush to patch/repair in the midst of an obfuscation campaign intended to diminish legitimate compliance concerns.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

City Wants Television Studio in City Hall


The City of San Angelo issued an RFP for a new television studio.

Provider agrees to provide Services for the development of a television studio in the City Hall Annex, 301 W. Beauregard Ave., San Angelo, Texas. That includes a comprehensive and integrated system of audio-visual technology that enhances video productions broadcast on the City’s government access television channel and posted on the Internet; and to provide maintenance services for the A/V system for a period of five years.
A former City Council approved a new audio visual system from Rushworks in May 2015 at a cost not to exceed $325,000.  The Rushworks' system was installed in November 2015.

A portable system that includes four cameras, switching equipment and a wireless audio system will allow the recording of meetings in other locales, such as last year’s strategic planning session at Fort Concho. 
That rational did not apply to the Development Corporation's recent strategic planning meeting. No one in City Hall would accept responsibility for not recording this meeting in another locale.

Not long ago City Council added to this system by approving a new camera and audio equipment for SAPAC and the City Auditorium.  Media Rushworks got the nod to add to the current system.  The 1-9-18 memo from PIO Anthony Wilson stated:

The total cost of the video recording and streaming system in the Murphey Performance Hall in City Auditorium is $63,633. 
The new RFP due 2-6-18 requires:

1. The vendor will design a comprehensive and integrated audio/visual studio set-up in Suite 202A in the City Hall Annex. The City will use some of its existing inventory of cameras.
2. The system must include the following: remote camera controllers, switching equipment, easily manipulated on-screen graphics (such as titles), studio lighting that enhances broadcast quality, high-quality audio (including a mixing board), touch-screen technology, high-def screens and monitors, a connection to the computer server for the City’s Public Education and Governmental Channel (PEG) channel, and a sound booth for recording voiceovers.
3. The system must produce video files that will be compatible with the Public Information Office’s television channel server. Specifications for the server will be obtained at the mandatory site visit.
4. The system must provide for real-time live streaming from the studio on the City’s website and social media, and on its TV channel.
5. The vendor shall provide a five-year warranty and a maintenance agreement.
6. The proposal must be turnkey in nature, from the design to the equipping to the installation to the training and maintenance.
7. The installation must not interfere with the work of the Public Information staff in two adjoining offices. 

The project is expected to cost from $200,000-$300,000 and take 90 days to complete.

City Council will have spent $550,000 to $650,000 in three years on video recording equipment.  Style does have a price.

Update 3-3-18:  City Council will hear a proposal to spend $294,000 on its new TV studio.

Update 3-6-18:  City Council passed the item unanimously.