Monday, September 09, 2019

Council Never Discussed Stopping Recording City Board Meetings

The last two City Council meetings tackled City boards and commissions.  City Clerk Julia Antilley and City Attorney Theresa presented staff recommendations for Council to consider.

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said it all came down to Council preference.  City Council approved ordinance changes last October for many city boards.

Changes Council approved in September came after considerable discussion:
One thing Council did not address publicly was the cessation of recording city boards/commissions.  I noticed the change and asked staff about it.  When communication stopped I submitted public information requests to understand how and why this decision was made.

The City chose to invoke attorney-client privilege and not reveal the rationale for no longer recording meetings for the public to view.  In January 2019 citizens could keep up with the following boards.

That commitment changed on the city's website in mid-April, four days before the scheduled Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting:

City staff made these changes without informing City Council.

I informed Mayor Gunter in mid-August and she was not aware of the change in practice, then four months old.  After contacting the Mayor I learned the city does not have a policy on recording board/commission meetings.

The City of San Angelo has a website statement on recording and televising board meetings for the public to view.  Many would see that as a policy.  At a minimum it is a written commitment to the public, which changed dramatically with no input from City Council or any applicable board.

Citizens can longer view the following boards going forward on Channel 17 or the City's YouTube channel.  I totaled the number of views for the specific board meeting.

The City has a new face for SATV, per a recent news release.  Let's hope more public service reductions are not on the way.

Many elected officials run on government transparency and openness.  There was none of that in the decision to stop recording three city boards/commissions.  That should be concerning to Council and citizens wanting to remain informed in specific areas of local government.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Municipal Court Revenues Down, Expenses Up

City Council's budget workshop on 8-27-19 had staff projecting a nearly $400,000 decline in Municipal Court revenues.  When asked why revenue had fallen the manager said the number of tickets written declined.  A second why question from Council got a deflection.

The Municipal Court manager was not the person to answer why the number of citations declined.  What manager fails to ask why when numbers differ from projections?  Staff frequently are unable or unwilling to answer the most basic questions from elected officials.

Curious as to the long term trend I pulled financial figures from the City's annual budget documents.  The numbers below are actual for 2012 to 2018, while 2019 takes the first ten months of the year and annualizes those numbers.  2020 is staff's projected budget.

Municipal Court revenues varied over the last seven years while expenses rose.  Assistant City Manager Michael Dane mentioned a reorganization that reduced court staff expenses but city numbers do not show an expense reduction for the year of Judge Gilbert's retirement or the upcoming budget year.

Judge Gilbert, now President and Consulting General Manager for Ener-Tel, retired from City employment after 44 years.  The Judge's reorganization got him full retirement benefits from the city, the top job as a major local employer that does significant business with the city and a $60,000 a year consulting gig with his former employer.  That doesn't count the Judge's spice business or his small court fill-in gigs at nearby towns.   Often employees suffer financially in a "reorg."  Not Judge Gilbert.  City Council approved the Judge's consulting agreement in March under the consent agenda.

I trust the revenue and expense numbers for each year until 2020 projected.  Finance staff like to under-estimate revenue and over-estimate expenses, sometimes called a budget cushion or sandbagging.  Time will reveal the accuracy of staff's predictions. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Council Talked Interest on Fund Balance, Not Current Balances

On August 13, 2019 City Council held a budget workshop on the major funds.  Council tackled water, sewer and solid waste funds at the beginning of the meeting.  They discussed interest income as coming from fund balance but not the amount the city currently held in those funds.  Water, sewer and solid waste fund balances are up $20 million since September 2016.

Finance Director Tina Diershke mentioned the water rate plan intended to fund new projects.  City residents paid dearly since this plan was enacted in 2016.

Water fund rose over $11 million through June 30, 2019, smashing the 75 day cash on hand target.

Sewer revenue rose and its fund balance grew.  The City refers to sewer as water reclamation.

Water reclamation fund balance rose nearly $6 million though the end of June, reaching $13.4 million.

Trash (Solid Waste) revenues and fund balance grew over the period.

Fund balance more than doubled for Solid Waste, increasing nearly $3 million.  With almost $5 million in the fund the city has 2.5 years cash on hand.  That's way more than 75 days.

San Angelo's City Council and citizens deserve a clear presentation on major fund balances as they are substantial.  Council is responsible for the strategic direction of the city and the annual operating and capital budget.  Going through a budget process without addressing these significant funds shortchanges elected officials and the interested public.  City staff have a history of doing just that.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Fires in Irion and Tom Green County

I saw the second wildfire of the day when I headed out for errands this evening.   This picture is from the Foster Road bridge over Loop 306.  The next picture is from Sam's Club parking lot.

Around noon I saw a fire west of Arden Road in Irion County.  I thought about stopping to take a picture but traffic on 67 prevented me from pulling over.

A few minutes ago I noticed ash had fallen on the hood of my truck.  It reminded me of the fires north of San Angelo years ago.  Stay alert and Lord, keep everyone safe.

Update 8-21-19:  San Angelo Live did a piece on the fires.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Council Should Hear Reasons for CAFR Restatement

The City's annual report overstated 2018 revenue in four major funds, water sales, sewer service, stormwater fees and solid waste service.  Both finance staff and auditors missed errors totaling $4.2 million until after the comprehensive annual report had been presented to and approved by City Council.

Finance staff did not state why the errors occurred in their memo to council and City Manager Daniel Valenzuela has the item on the consent agenda for 8-20-19.  Hopefully Mayor Gunter or members of City Council will pull the item for the public to hear.  Coming clean on errors, that would be excellence in financial reporting.  

Update 8-20-19:   City Council Representative Billie Dewitt asked city staff and audit accountant about this agenda item.  The auditor said city staff presented information differently this year that resulted in auditors overstating revenue for September 2018.  That makes sense for water, sewer and stormwater.  It is hard to believe 42.1% of solid waste revenue fell in the last few weeks of the fiscal year.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

City of San Angelo No Longer

The City of San Angelo no longer records the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee for the public to view on Channel 17 or the City's YouTube channel.

As a result I attended the 8-15-19 ASAC meeting at the new Fire Training Station behind the Animal Shelter.  Although the committee met in a new training room the audiovisual computer system was not operational.  In public comment I shared my desire to watch the committee's 4-18-19 discussion on American Pets Alive and was disappointed to learn the meeting had not been recorded.  

In late June I asked the City to:

Please provide all available documents, e-mails and other forms of written communication on the decisions: 1) to hold the 4-18-19 Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting in a different location than the Convention Center 2) to not record the meeting for the public to view
The City chose to not share substantive information regarding these two questions.  They appealed to  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton requesting an Attorney-Client privilege withhold which was granted. 

Mayor Brenda Gunter was unaware of the city's decision to stop recording ASAC meetings, as well as a number of other boards/commissions.  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela has to answer to City Council.  Decisions impacting openness of government fit under Council purview.  Many elected officials included openness in their election platform.  

After the April ASAC meeting the City engaged American Pets Alive  to reduce the number of exterminated animals coming into the shelter.  The Pets Alive model has twelve strategies of which the shelter chose to address four.  Community Cats is one of the four.

This is a welcome change for citizens practicing Trap, Neuter, Return and Maintain for community cats.  At times the Animal Shelter has taken an antagonistic stance toward TNRM under two shelter directors. Citizens received legal protection to practice TNRM in February 2015.  CritterShack gave City Council an update during a February 2017 meeting.

Former Shelter Director James Flores offered false information to the ASAC on Texas cities and their community cat efforts.   Flores distorted survey results toward his preferred end, a regulatory control community cat approach.  

Pets Alive's community cat model is aligned with TNRM and a huge change for the city.  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden informed the ASAC on 8-15 that the city was already returning community cats to the field.  One would expect the Shelter to reach out to CritterShack Rescue, the only rescue doing TNRM under City ordinance and make them aware of changes. 

Pets Alive visited the shelter in late May.  The City has not contacted Critter Shack regarding community cats changes, however shelter contractor PAWS positioned the organization for community cat grants by fishing for cat colonies.  

The City no longer takes owner surrendered pets due to things like owner illness or death.  (ASAC approved 4-19-19)

The City no longer will euthanize a pet for a resident of San Angelo. (ASAC approved 8-15-19)

Pets Alive is a data driven model intended to reduce annual intake to 1,400 pets a year.  Aggressive spay/neuter strategies are the lever to reach this goal over time.  That takes time, energy and money, things the City of San Angelo generally lacks when it comes to animals.

One can solve problems or push them off on others.  I am aware of one citizen who is being dumped on by a "friend" moving to the East Coast.  My guess is the new mandatory owner surrender policy is a factor.  Moving out of town is not one of the approved reasons for animal surrender at City shelter. 

The City reduced Animal Services such that former Mayor Dwain Morrison listed the things the city no longer did for citizens in one Council meeting.  We have three new "no longers" for the former Mayor's list.  My guess is there will many more as the city imposes more bureaucratic means to constrain shelter intake (mandatory owner surrender process, optional stray surrender program). 

Update 8-19-19:  American Pets Alive emphasizes No Kill Shelters have an organizational culture of transparency.  

Update 8-19-19:  A public information request produced the following answer:  "The City of San Angelo does not have a policy relating to recording board meetings." 

Update 8-20-19:  City Council reviewed ordinance changes for boards and commissions.  The proposal changed expectations but was silent on recording meetings for the public to view.

Update 8-31-19:  The Animal Shelter reopened dog intake from the public.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

City Fails to Inform Public: Animal Shelter Intake/Adoptions Stopped due to Illness

Yesterday evening Concho Valley PAWS posted the shelter would be closed for animal intake/adoptions due to sick animals in the City Animal Shelter.  It made the announcement via Facebook.  Earlier that evening PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson went on local television promoting the upcoming Clear the Shelter adoption event on Friday, August 16th from 10:00am to 6:00 pm and shelter changes.

Concho Valley Homepage added an update to their story after the Clear the Shelter event was moved to allow treatment of ill shelter pets:

The City of San Angelo is yet to produce any information for the public on the illness situation at the Animal Shelter.  Just before 5 pm the City Calendar suggested the program was still on for Friday, August 16th.

I returned to the City's website to find a calendar update around 8:00 pm but no information on the shelter being closed to intake and adoptions due to illness.  This is important information for the public to know.

The City did update an August 6th Facebook post with a new graphic.  I don't know how many people would scroll through eight days of posts and notice the change.

PAWS ED Jenie Wilson was to do a live remote interview on KLST's 6:00 pm news program.  I'll watch late news this evening to hear what she said.

Bottom line, it's the city's animal shelter and there is little communication on shelter animal illnesses, stopping intake/adoptions and the now September 7th event, which begins at 10:00 on the updated graphic and 2:00 pm on the City Calendar.

Update 8-15-19:  The City put out a press release on the situation at the shelter.  The release said the decision was made today vs. two days ago per PAWS Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Judge Gilbert's Ener-Tel Consulting Gig

Municipal Court Judge Allen Gilbert retired in March after 44 years of service.  The city held an extended celebration for the esteemed judge before quietly rehiring him as consultant for $60,000 per year.  The judge performed outside work for over a decade while employed full time as a public servant.

The City eventually became an extra gig for the enterprising Judge post retirement. Judge Gilbert next showed up at Ener-tel as Consulting General Manager and President of Ener-Tel Services. 

City of San Angelo policy states:

All fulltime employees must obtain prior written approval from their manager/supervisor before any outside employment is accepted. Employee requests for approval to accept outside employment, including self-employment, must be submitted in writing to the employee’s manager/supervisor by completing the Dual Employment Request form which can be obtained from the Human Resources Department. The request form requires listing any pertinent information about the outside employer, the nature of the job, and the hours of employment.  Employees are not to solicit or conduct any outside business during paid working time. 
The City had no record as to when they officially adopted this policy.  San Angelo's City Clerk indicated the policy had been in effect when they started in 2014.

City records reveal Ener-tel e-mailed the City's Engineering Department in regard to their new shop building and permanent fencing.  The first communication happened in early December 2018 with a followup in January 2019.  Both times Ener-tel included Judge Gilbert among the recipients.  As the issue stood outside Judge Gilbert's court responsibilities one can conclude the Judge was working for Ener-tel.

Ener-tel owner Scott Wisniewski e-mailed Judge Gilbert in April 2018:

First, thank you again for taking the time to meet with us to improve communication and service between our entities. I would also like to offer any help and assistance we can provide to bring all parties(city, county, ASU, SAISD, etc) onto a camera system to create more efficiencies and overall safety to our city. 
It appears Ener-tel employed Judge Gilbert as a consultant between April and December of 2018.  Wisniewski's first e-mail to Gilbert occured in December 2017 and came after the Standard Times did a story on the Judge's spice business.

By 2016, Judges Choice rubs were in more than 150 H-E-B stores and nine barbecue joints, making the circuit of various cooking competitions and about 80 small "mom and pop" stores.  For now he's enjoying wearing multiple hats and living multiple dreams..
The Judge had at least two outside gigs while employed full time with the City of San Angelo.  He did file a Dual Employment Request with his supervisor and City Human Resources for his spice business, doing so in January 2018.

That means the Judge was aware of the form and his obligation to complete it.  He did complete it on 1-3-2018, his 43rd year of city employment.  Gilbert had conducted some of his outside work for at least a decade.  Judge Gilbert's supervisor City Manager Daniel Valenzuela chose not to sign the Dual Employment form.

The Judge had one public admonition for failure to follow city policy prohibiting sexual harassment:

On the morning of November 8, 2006, Judge Gilbert, while reading the local newspaper, noted an advertisement for a local “gentleman’s club” announcing the upcoming performance of an exotic dancer with a name very similar to that of the assistant city prosecutor assigned to his court.

Judge Gilbert shared the advertisement with several people employed by the city and over whom he had supervisory authority. Together, the judge and several city employees created their own flyer out of the advertisement in an effort to make a joke at the city prosecutor’s expense.

The flyer consisted of a letter-sized copy of the original advertisement promoting the exotic dancer, along with the following captions added to the bottom of the page by Judge Gilbert’s court staff involved in the prank: (1) “Let her take your law into her hands!” (2) “Let her handle your case!” and (3) “[She] wants to prosecute you!”

With Judge Gilbert’s tacit approval, several of these flyers were placed in public areas around the courthouse.

That same morning, the city prosecutor saw the flyers as she arrived at the courthouse and began removing them from where they had been posted.

According to the city prosecutor, when she inquired as to who was responsible for posting the flyers, Judge Gilbert told her that he had found the advertisement in the paper that morning and stated he “could not resist.”

Following the meeting with the city prosecutor, Judge Gilbert carried an unknown number of the flyers to the headquarters of the San Angelo Police Department, where he posted at least one of the flyers on a door, and left a second one with a senior officer.

The city prosecutor, having been told that the flyers had been posted at the police department, proceeded to that building where she observed Judge Gilbert as he was leaving.

When the city prosecutor arrived at the police department, she found a dollar bill attached to one of the flyers, placed there by someone at the department, not Judge Gilbert. She removed the offending flyer.

That afternoon, the city prosecutor accompanied Judge Gilbert and another court employee to Mertzon, Texas, where Judge Gilbert was to preside over the court docket for that city.

Upon arriving in Mertzon, Judge Gilbert shared the story of the flyers with court personnel. Additionally, Judge Gilbert’s employee informed those present that an additional comment had been considered for the poster, to wit: “She wants to beat your case,” or words to that effect.

On November 11, 2006, Judge Gilbert was placed on paid leave by the San Angelo City Council, pending an investigation into the incident.

On December 5, 2006, the city council voted to suspend Judge Gilbert without pay for two weeks, finding that he had violated the city’s policy against sexual harassment and citing his “bad judgment” and “irresponsible behavior” in the matter.
The Judge's Mertzon work was not declared until January 2018, even though he was publicly admonished for behavior in the Mertzon Courthouse the afternoon of November 8, 2006.

Gilbert violated City policy by not completing the Dual Employment form for his Ener-tel consulting work prior to leaving City employment.

Judges are to declare conflicts of interest.  How many decisions did Judge Gilbert influence to the advantage of Ener-tel while he was paid by both Ener-tel and the City of San Angelo?  

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Green Reports Again on Water District as Disgraced Chief

San Angelo Live's Yantis Green wrote:

Lake water from the Twin Buttes reservoir is flowing through Lake Nasworthy and down the irrigation canal to thirsty cotton fields near Veribest for the first time in about ten years. 
Green did not cite a source or quote anyone in his article.  Ten years ago Yantis Green was District Manager for the owner of the irrigation canal, the Tom Green County Irrigation and Water Control District #1.  He and City Water Chief Will Wilde collaborated to push Twin Buttes water through the canal in 2009.

Will Wilde happened to own a 300 acre cotton farm near the head of the irrigation canal.  In 2012 Yantis Green admitted embezzling $63,000 in public funds from the Water Control District.  Months later Wilde resigned from a firestorm of controversies, the biggest being the unauthorized purchase of over $100,000 in Water Department furniture. 

Green reported to prison on March 1, 2013.  San Angelo Live started in September 2013 six months after Yantis began serving time.

"There's a whole host of consequences for being a convicted felon."
There aren't any consequences for failing to disclose Yantis served as subject matter expert, author and photographer for his piece.

One can even be promoted to Editor-in-Chief.  I'm not sure how Yantis will coach Yantis on proper disclosure. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

City Media Enforcer to Head Small Town in Maine

Widowed State Representative Dennis Keschel resigned as Belgrade, Maine's Town Manager for personal reasons, as did town Treasurer Melanie Alexander.  The pair resigned in tandem which raises the question:  What happened that both town leaders resigned for personal reasons nearly simultaneously?  Were their decisions related?

Belgrade revealed nothing while searching for replacements.  Riding in from West Texas to rescue Belgrade is new Town Manager Anthony Wilson.  Wilson will not only run the town but decide which citizens get access to available public support.

Wilson left a city of 100,000 people and a Public Information budget of $458,000 for a town of 3,200 with a town budget of over $7 million.   The City of San Angelo started 2018-2019 budget with $21 million in general fund balance (cash reserves), three times Belgrade's budget for the whole town.

Wilson took his job as the San Angelo's media enforcer seriously.  He called one day to inform me a quote I used from him "was inartful on his part."  That came after minutes of Anthony vigorously sharing his displeasure over something I'd written.  I expect his anger stemmed from revealing Anthony recommended "arming every 10-year-old boy in San Angelo with a BB guns and license to kill" to deal with the city's community cat problem (just kidding, of course).

Small town in Maine with frequent turnover in the town manager position and no annual town report the last two years.  Add a Texas sized hyper-competitive personality and things could quickly get cold and dark, like a brutal New England winter.  It sounds like the premise for a Stephen King novel.

Update 7-4-19:  San Angelo Live did a story on Anthony's leaving.   City Manager Daniel Valenzuela praised Wilson for building "a structure and a culture that ensures our citizens can remain plugged into their local government."  I don't see how not recording and televising numerous citizen boards fits into Valenzuela's compliment.  It's hard to stay plugged in when there is nothing to watch.

Update 7-12-19:  Central reported on Wilson's hiring.  He plans to move his family to Belgrade, although one child is a rising high school senior.  Many family's would let that child graduate before moving across the country.  Time will reveal how this "likeable guy" fulfills his promises to Belgrade.

Update 7-21-19:   Wilson was sworn in as Town Manager last week.  The town's first order of business was a tax increase.  Wilson's contract was approved by a 5-1 vote. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

City Reopens Animal Shelter Kennels to Public

A City of San Angelo press release stated:

The Animal Shelter is opening its general population kennels to visitors, effective immediately, as part of its new Pets Alive! initiative.
The kennels were closed after uncontrolled access led to ill dogs. American Pets Alive! recommended reopening them to harness public support and increase adoptions. Morgan Chegwidden, who manages the shelter, said improved cleaning protocols will ensure the animals’ health in a more open environment.
The City closed public access in July 2015.  The move did not prevent a distemper outbreak in Spring 2017:

“Because the shelter accepts strays and unwanted animals, it is not immune to the diseases they may be carrying,” said Bob Salas, director of the City’s Neighborhood and Family Services Department. “We vaccinate animals as soon as we receive them, but dogs in the early stages of distemper don’t always show the signs. The best precaution citizens can take is ensuring their dogs are immunized
The City could have instituted improved cleaning protocols anytime during the last four years to reopen kennels if that was the issue.  The issue was control.

Volunteers turned out in droves in April 2015.  It took but a few months for former Shelter Director James Flores to turn his back on sixty volunteers, locking them out and holding shelter animals away from public view.

Owners of missing pets had to look at small grainy pictures on a kiosk to see if their pet had been turned into the shelter.  It could take days or longer for the picture of new pets to be taken and placed into the software for viewing.

Flores resigned in June 2017 but his replacement kept the public lockout policy in place until June 21, 2019.

Chegwidden said the Pets Alive! initiative is also aiming to increase volunteers and advocates. Opening the kennels should aid in those efforts, she said, adding that “more changes are sure to come.”
PAWS was not part of the initial sixty person volunteer group that rushed to aid the shelter in April 2015.  Area rescues that ran to aid the shelter quickly found themselves shunned.  Animal Services proposed adding staff to its enforcement mission to City Council in September 2015 after giving caring volunteers the coldest of shoulders.

History shows the shelter kennel lockout to have been about control and accountability. San Angelo's shelter was one of the few in the state to not allow the public to view the kennel area.  Shelter leaders and city staff have long ignored area rescues pursuing the same strategies as Pets Alive.

Community cat advocates have practiced trap, neuter, return and maintain (TNRM) for decades, often in an adversarial relationship with City Animal Control.  Shelter Director James Flores lied about a survey he conducted on other community cat efforts/programs in Texas.  That was one of a series of actions that led to his sudden resignation.

Pets Alive's model has the Animal Shelter adopting TNRM for community cats.  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden told City Council they needed to visit other shelters doing TNRM.  Bravo on the city endorsing this strategy!

However, it was interesting to hear none of the city's local community cat partners mentioned when this item went to City Council in late May.  Neither staff or City Council referred to citizens practicing TNRM who've regularly presented updates to council on their impact.  Curious about the effort I looked for the May recording of the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee that discussed Pets Alive.  I learned from city staff that no video existed.

PAWS has not been involved in community cats since 2015. The Animal Shelter has mostly taken an enforcement role on community cats over the last decade.  Several years ago Council made legal room for community cat colony managers to operate.  Critter Shack Rescue is the only animal service agency to step up for TNRM.  The organization has neutered thousands of community cats through its low cost spay/neuter clinics. Critter Shack has the skills and experience to help the city with community cat colony management, PAWS does not.

It will be interesting to see how the City proceeds with shelter volunteers and TNR for community cats.  I believe Pets Alive expects the City to broadly collaborate with citizens and area rescues on its key strategies.  This has not been the City's philosophy or practice.

Citizens and their pets deserve a serious, collaborative Pets Alive effort. Volunteers who helped out the shelter in 2015 know the city's press release to be a historical lie.  Leading with a falsehood raises questions as to means and motive.

Does the City plan to continue its exclusive collaboration with PAWS and use Pets Alive!'s model for outside grant funding?  PAWS website has a survey on community cats.  As of today the page stated:

Community Cat Survey
The following must be completed to receive a voucher. Incomplete submissions will not be processed. This program is feral cats only. The information collected here will be used to create a pilot program to provide free or reduced cost spay and neuter services to community cat caregivers in an effort to provide a targeted spay and neuter approach to reduce the population of cats. Approximately 65% of the animals euthanized at the shelter last year were feral cats and orphaned kittens. We want to change this! You can help.
If you are feeding a colony, we want to help you sterilize the cats in that colony. Once we secure additional funding we will be contacting you to sterilized the female cats in your colony first. We also hope to provide additional services to community caregivers such as access to free or low-cost cat food, free or low-cost microchipping and free or low-cost feeding stations. But it all starts here with gathering data. Thank you for participating in our Community Cat survey.

PAWS fished for colony caretakers with the promise of one spay/neuter voucher  It dangled other support contingent on securing additional funding.

If the City stays insular and does community cats with PAWS alone, a great opportunity will be missed.  Unfortunately, that has been the Animal Shelter's history under the last two shelter managers. The human and animal public deserves the city's best in this arena.

Update 6-25-19:  The City recorded every ASAC meeting from 9-21-17 to 1-17-19, the last nine meetings prior to the unrecorded 4-18-19 meeting.   The city believes its reasoning for not recording the meeting should remain private and confidential. In addition to the Pets Alive model that impacts the community the April ASAC meeting addressed managed intake, which severely restricts the public's right to surrender an animal to the shelter.  Neither illness or death of the pet owner were allowable reasons to surrender a pet to San Angelo's Animal Shelter.

Update 7-23-19:  The City announced the cancellation of the July 18, 2019 Animal Shelter Advisory Committee.  The date of the next meeting is August 15, 2019.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Budget Amendment Requirement for Additional $200,000 in Animal Shelter Improvements

Mayor Brenda Gunter expressed frustration during Finance Director Tina Deirshke's presentation on proposed budget amendments.  City documents set expectations for such amendments, a clear explanation with sufficient detail.

The information in the background packet and slide show seemed sparse.

Tina referenced comments made by Animal Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden from earlier in the meeting.  Morgan is the former Budget Director for the City of San Angelo.  I do not believe Morgan would have advanced the item in the Capital Improvement Planning process with such little information.  Yet, staff did that to City Council on May 21st.  The Mayor is right to be frustrated.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

City Quits Recording Select Boards

A number of City of San Angelo Boards and Commissions have the following language as part of the agenda:

In an effort to provide our viewing public with information on the various City Boards and Commissions, this meeting will be recorded and broadcasted on Local Government Channel 17.
Meetings not recorded in March/April include:

Animal Shelter Advisory Committee met on 4-18-19 at the Fire Training Center on Highway 67.  Recording history showed last recording to be 1-17-19.

Civic Events Board met on 4-25-19 at McNease Convention Center.  Recording history showed last recording to be on 1-31-19.

Airport Advisory Board met on 3-25-19 at McNease Convention Center.  Recording history showed last recording occurred on 5-31-18.

Parks and Recreation Board met on 5-23-19 at McNease Convention Center.  Recording history showed last meeting recorded to have been on 2-28-19.   In that meeting PIO Anthony Wilson spoke on all the ways his office supports the Parks board.

City Council, Planning Commission and the Development Corporation are the most consistently recorded for the public to view.  A January 8, 2019 Development Corporation planning session was not recorded.

The Water Advisory Board evaporated after last fall's big runoff rains.  It last met on 9-24-18.  The City stopped recording the Zoning Board of Adjustments in 2015 and the last Design and Historic Review Commission video was posted in late 2014.

This information came directly from the city's webpages and YouTube site.  If there are videos not yet posted then please get them added for interested citizens to view.  If not, why the policy change or deterioration in the level of practice?

Update 6-16-19:  Is this why the local public is not being served as promised?

Update 7-2-19:  Wilson may have been too busy searching for his new job in Maine to provide consistent public service.  He did tear up today in front of City Council, which offered high level fawning.

Update 8-19-19:  A public information request produced the following answer:  "The City of San Angelo does not have a policy relating to recording board meetings."

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Parks Master Plan to Get Update

City Council unanimously approved hiring a consultant to conduct a master plan for City Parks.  The process took less than two minutes.
Award of RFP PK-01-19 Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Master and Strategic Plan to Dunaway Associates (Midland, TX) for professional services in the amount of $70,000 budgeted for purchase, fiscal year 2019, and authorizing the City Manager to execute any related documents (Carl White)
The last master plan happened in 2012.  Council did not hear how much had been accomplished in the 2012 plan before approving the creation of a new master plan.

The vision of the Parks & Recreation Department is to be the premier provider of parks and recreation to make San Angelo the West Texas standard for opportunity, prosperity and quality of life. Our mission is to acquire, develop, operate and maintain a parks and recreation system that enriches the quality of life for residents and visitors alike, and preserves it for future generations.

Council also did not ask about the city maintained park at Twin Buttes Reservoir, which required a separate plan in 2013.  There was no council discussion of the expected demands on Twin Buttes from a recreation standpoint now that it has water galore.
Parks is responsible for the maintenance of City parks. This includes the repair, upkeep and replacement of playground equipment, restrooms and other amenities, watering and mowing of parklands and playing fields, maintenance of trees and emptying trash.

City Public Information Officer Anthony Wilson put together a ten minute video on this item which highlighted the opportunity for citizen input and how an updated plan's qualifies the city for state grant funding for park improvements.

They mentioned funding for the grant came from two sources, a Texas Healthy Communities grant and operational savings from operating the Parks Department without full staff.  Unfortunately, citizens have seen how operating on the cheap for decades destroyed city streets and turned Twin Buttes into a "no man's land."  That's a quote from Parks Director Carl White..

Park service holes mentioned were the Bluffs, Southland and Lakeview.  They did mention the 2012 plan but did not present how prior citizen desires had been addressed.  They did not talk about the City maintained park at Twin Buttes, which has been a several decade long service hole.

The 2019 plan should be completed in ten months to a year which will make it a 2020 plan.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Neptune Software for Automated Water Meters

City staff asked City Council to change the water meter software arrangement in their April 16, 2019 meeting.

The City of San Angelo contracted in April 2013 for software that would enable the city and citizens to see their water usage history.  The background packet stated.

Neptune N Sight IQ Software
Financial Impact:  No hardware required by City
Presentation:  None
That software cost roughly $15,000 per year.  City Council minutes reflected:


Water Utilities Director Ricky Dickson, and Charlie Trimble and A.B. Grigsby of Neptune Technology Group presented background information. A copy of the report/presentation is part of the Permanent Supplemental Record.General discussion was held on the positive impacts of the software benefits, support of the software capability, customers without the AMR meter, AMR installation projected completion date of 2015 with 68% installation completed, purchasing a URL to redirect customers to the feature, mobile version capability, $11,900.00 annual hosting fee and $2,900.00 annual web portal maintenance fee, prior customer’s history not available due to security and privacy issues, Neptune procedural audit recently conducted, the savings to the City by the vendor providing the service,

Councilmember Morrison spoke in opposition of the software and AMR system. He recalled the additional service was part of the initial AMR project selling point and implementation. 

Recall Ricky Dickson's presentation which stated no hardware would be required by the city as City Council prepares to take up the item:

Consider authorizing a software service agreement with Neptune Technology Group and its vendor Core and Main in the amount of $6,500 for Year 1 for web hosted meter collector data software platform and option for two additional one year periods (Year 2 pricing $0.75 per meter with estimated annual payment of $28,125; Year 3 pricing $1.05 per meter with estimated annual payment of $39,375), replacing in-kind locally hosted servers and software and authorizing the City Manager to execute any related documents.

Core and Main is the sole provider of Neptune Technology Group products. Neptune meters are the City's metering technology for water service connections. Currently, the City has a locally hosted server collecting the meter usage data. Over the years this server has had to be updated and rebuilt on multiple occasions. It has gone through these extensive updates and rebuilds almost annually as software requirements increase and as the number of connections increase. The current server platform is once again in need of a major platform update to continue handling meter data. The
metering company now offers a web hosted platform which would eliminate the need for local servers creating a more stable platform and all future software upgrades would be included in the web hosting. 
Executive Director of Public Utilities Ricky Dickson will not give the presentation.  Assistant Director of Water Utilities Lance Overstreet will answer City Council's questions, if any.  I hope Lance does better than last time when he failed to answer the most basic questions regarding water collections agencies.

Update 4-17-19:  City Council did not pull this item for public presentation and discussion.  They passed this item as part of the consent agenda.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

City Engineer Pehl Poached by Centurion Planning?

City Engineer Russell Pehl will leave public service to work for David Alexander, the former office manager of KSA Engineering and co-founder of Centurion Planning and Design. 

On August 7, 2018 San Angelo's City Council approved hiring Centurion Planning and Design for airport planning services. 

The regular agenda item stated:
Awarding RFQ AP-01-18 Professional Services- Airport Planning Services to Centurion Planning and Design, LLC in the amount of $826,334 for Task Order 1, budgeted for purchase FY2018, and authorizing the City Manager to execute any related documents.
Since then the City hired Centurion for three more projects:

1.   Professional consulting services offered pursuant to RFQ AP-01-18 “City of San Angelo Professional Services-Airport Planning Services”, required for ancillary airport land use development strategy and planning for various undeveloped properties located at the San Angelo Regional Airport—Mathis Field, relating to proposed development of a business and industrial park at the airport for $120,991.

2.   Planning and design services for a hangar and related infrastructure improvements to municipal airport property utilized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (CBPAMO) for $46,435.

2.   Additional professional engineering and surveying services required by TXDOT on permit applications for driveway access to a portion of the Remainder of Block 1 San Angelo Gateway Addition Section 1 of the San Angelo Business and Industrial Park, for a sum not to exceed $7,500.
Centurion is a Civil Engineering firm with offices in San Angelo, Texas and Lee's Summit, Missouri.  It's LinkedIn page showed five employees.  Centurion's website highlights two employees.

While at KSA Engineering David Alexander did work for the City of San Angelo.  Alexander worked on the airport renovation and expansion.  He also designed the reconstruction of Martin Luther King Boulevard.

As recently as November 2017 Centurion's founders worked for the City on an airport project as KSA Engineering staff.  Ten months later Centurion won an $826,334 contact for airport planning services and then received three more engagements from the City of San Angelo.

Pehl made three presentations to City Council as City Engineer on March 19, 2019.  The city's public information webpages do not yet mention Pehl's pending departure. 

The City's Engineering Department had to contract out millions ($) in work due to low staffing.  How much more work will Centurion receive after poaching City Engineer Russel Pehl?

Update 4-30-19:  After weeks of silence the City announced new City Engineer Lance Overstreet.   The press release stated Pehl would work for a private sector engineering firm.  It failed to mention the firm does significant work for the City of San Angelo.  Let's hope Overstreet does a better job of answering City Council questions than he did with the water collection agency change.