Thursday, September 28, 2023

Development Corporation Recommends Lip Chip LLC Incentive

The City of San Angelo Development Corporation will recommend a $29,700 economic development incentive for Lip Chip LLC.  The company plans to build a plant outside city limits.  The item will go to City Council for approval.

In closed session the Development Corporation board discussed a real estate bid.  In July the city took bids from developers for land adjacent to the new Railport.  This is the third time the city sought bids for this land.  After closed session the board had no report for the public.

The Development Corporation locked in a $2 million incentive for Angelo State University's pilot training program.  No one from the public spoke during the public hearing on this item.  The money will go toward a new facility.  

Assistant City Manager Michael Dane said City Council chose not to set strategic priorities for the coming fiscal year.  He recommended the Development Corporation Board set some strategic priorities as they would help staff focus.

The board endorsed the following three strategic priorities.

Transportation (planes, trains and automobiles)

Business Recruitment/Business Retention and Expansion

Quality of Life

In prior years City Council identified water and economic development as key priorities.  Top staff positions in both areas have been vacant for over a year.  

Maybe a key strategy should be leadership recruitment and retention.  It would help the city achieve its other important aims.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

City Moves Back Animal Shelter Completion


"Emergency repairs" for the San Angelo Animal Shelter are expected to be complete in April 2024.  Staff presented $2 million in short term financing, mostly for Shelter repairs, to City Council in February.  

The City approved engineering design services in May.  Construction Manager Al Torres said the design work would take 45-60 days and then the project could be put out to bid. 

Construction financing normally parallels the project's completion, however the city paid back the note on August 15, 2023.  The city paid over $93,000 in fees and interest and staff stated there were no relevant documents when asked for Shelter renovation invoices paid from the $2 million borrowing.

As of today, the city is yet to bid out Animal Shelter renovations.  City Council meets again next Tuesday.  Their agenda may or may not shed light on the status of this project. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

City Council Funds $2 million for One Nonprofit, Rejects $69,000 for Another, Opens $25,000 Door for Third

San Angelo City Council approved $2 million in  Development Corporation funds for Angelo State University but denied a $69,000 request for TIRZ funding for a north-side nonprofit.  In closed session Council opened the door for the Railway Museum, another local nonprofit, to receive $25,000 in Hotel Occupancy Tax funds.  The Railway Museum's board chair is Suzanna Valenzuela, wife of San Angelo City Manager Daniel Valenzuela.

In the presentation Assistant City Manager Michael Dane referred to Angelo State University as "not a traditional taxpaying entity."  The $2 million in Development Corporation funds would go toward facilities for ASU's Pilot Training Program.  

TIRZ Board Chair Jon Mark Hogg regretted rising to speak on behalf of the Martin Luther King Avenue nonprofit, Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church.   He felt he inadvertently hurt the applicant's chances of approval.  Mayor Gunter raised her concern of the TIRZ board not endorsing Chadbourne Street "street-scaping" North of the freeway.  Council Tom Thompson raised the specter of nonprofits coming out of the woodwork to apply for TIRZ funds should this one be approved.  Thompson voted no for this reason.  Neither the Mayor's or Thompson's concern dealt with the merits of the project as submitted by the applicant.

Over the last year this City Council has gotten cross-ways with the Development Corporation Board and TIRZ board.  Several years ago Council put the Railway Museum Board in its place.  One could view it as progress that two out of three received Council approval today. 

The City Attorney almost directed City Manager Daniel Valenzuela to work out an agreement with the Railway Museum where his wife is Board Chair.  She corrected herself and steered the job to Assistant City Manager Michael Dane.  Dane is taking on multiple roles as Interim Economic Development Director as the search to date has been unsuccessful.

Two nonprofits went at least one step forward, while one received its second rejection from this City Council.  The TIRZ board and development staff want "qualified organizations" to apply for funding.  A minority of City Council members are not helping them.

Update 9-26-23:  The Development Corporation will consider a $29,700 economic development incentive for Lip Chip LLC.  Their facility will be outside San Angelo city limits.

Update 9-28-23:  The Development Corporation approved the $29,700 incentive for Lip Chip LLC and the item will go to City Council for approval.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Council to Consider "Rolling Debt Program"

San Angelo's City Council will consider borrowing millions more to finance short term projects.  The background packet states:

At the General Fund budget workshop on August 29, 2023, the City Council asked staff to bring a discussion item to present options and explain processes and impacts related to a rolling debt program that would provide funds for equipment replacement, public safety equipment, and other small City capital projects or needs. Vince Viaille, Managing Director of Specialized Public Finance, Inc., will be presenting the program and discussing options with the City Council at this meeting. 

Note that the city already borrowed and repaid nearly $2 million, mostly for Animal Shelter renovations that are yet to be bid out.  Issuance fees and interest totaled $93,000.  

Staff left blank the "financial impact" section of the rolling debt program memo in the background packet.

City staff said no invoices existed for shelter renovations paid from that $2 million borrowing.  Council should explore how that initial short-term borrowing was used before committing to future debt issuance.

They have that opportunity tomorrow as a second short term debt instrument of $1.875 million will be presented.

City Council generally avoids cash flow considerations in their annual strategic planning/budget process.  The city's various fund balances are not discussed.  Some are substantial, having grown from higher property assessments, a multi-year increase in water related fees and other fee increases.

Staff have long taken a minimalist approach with City Council and the wider public.  

It took a public information request to get actual costs for the (Series 2023A) notes Council approved.  Issuance fees are $49,000, bond counsel fees $3,500 and interest costs $41,327 (as the city shortened the term of the note to August 15, 2023).  Those total $93,827, a significant amount that could fund may a low cost spay/neuter surgery program.

I believe those same forces are in play with the series of short term debt instruments.  

To date City Council has expressed little curiosity as to the need for the short term notes, the cost of issuance plus interest expense and whether existing fund balances/cash flow can cover the costs of the various projects.  That could change tomorrow.  Then again, it may not.

Update 9-19-23:  City Council endorsed the idea of a rolling debt program as a way of occupying 2 cents of the 11.4 cents tax rate for its interest and sinking fund.  Council did not ask about cash flow projections but seemed excited that the city could buy more things within a budget period with this "short-term financing for short-term projects."

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

City Gives Up on Filling Economic Development Director

San Angelo's city leaders "pressed pause" on their search for a new Economic Development Director.  Over a year ago former Director Guy Andrews resigned.  At the time Assistant City Manager Michael Dane expressed optimism that a replacement could be found quickly.  Two rounds of headhunter led searches produced no viable candidates. 

Economic Development is a top three priority for City Council.  The Development Corporation pays the city huge dollars annually for support services, which includes the Economic Development Director.   

That contract was an issue for Guy Andrews and former board member John Bariou.  Both questioned the fairness of the arrangement and its impact on the independence of the Development Corporation.  City staff staunchly defended what they bring to the table, so it's disappointing for staff not to deliver on hiring a quality candidate.  Dane even said the position might not need a full time person.  How many faces do these guys have?

Money was mentioned as a stumbling block but sometimes it's "you can't pay me enough to do that job."  Any candidate could watch City Council and Development Corporation meetings and see a lack of alignment.

The Development Corporation held two budget workshops that likely addressed the various splits.  Those have not been shared with the public outside written minutes.  At least one workshop meeting had an audio recording.  

Pressing pause in an audio recordings  mean less visibility for the public, which includes possible future Economic Development Director candidates.  Much is said in the space between words.

City Council and their appointed COSADC board need to work through a number of issues.  Until then hiring a new Economic Development Director will be challenging.

Update:  The July 26th Workshop minutes state:

The board would like to align strategic priorities with City Council.

The public should be able to hear this discussion.

The Development Corporation approved a lease extension with Centurion Planning and Design as the firm's new space is not yet ready.  This is interesting as Guy Andrews works for Centurion.

Update 9-26-23:  The meeting minutes state "Per Michael Dane, the hiring of the Economic Development Director position is on pause."

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Shelter Pet Labor Day


Volunteers at San Angelo's Animal Shelter are provided by Concho Valley PAWS and can only assist shelter pets during PAWS operating hours.  PAWS announced their Labor Day closure. 

San Angelo pets face a different kind of labor, that associated with pregnancy.  PAWS stopped issuing low cost spay/neuter vouchers over four of the last nine months, but plans to restart the program in September.

Vouchers were not available for December 2022 and January 2023 and stopped again the last two months, July and August. 

PAWS is the Animal Shelter's veterinary service provider and available shelter statistics do not include the number of shelter pets spayed/neutered under this arrangement. 

SNIP Voucher restarting is yet to make PAWS website but is shown on their Facebook page.

San Angelo and Concho Valley residents interested in "being the change" will have an option to accomplish that goal.  

As the late Bob Barker said, "Have your pets spayed or neutered."

Update 9-4-23:  PAWS volunteers gave feedback to Shelter Chief Morgan regarding dog walking in the afternoon's of our record blistering summer heat.  It's not good for the dogs or the volunteers, many of whom are elderly. 

Update 9-10-23:  A PAWS volunteer gave public comment at Thursday's City Council meeting.  It was not an endorsement of shelter leadership or City Council's burying their heads in the sand regarding the harm from the shelter following Pets Alive policies.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Heartbreaking, Strange Animal Services Budget Session

City Council revisited Animal Services at its 8-29 meeting after loose, aggressive dogs attacked at least one resident's pet (possibly more) on Jackson Street.  Members of City Council were light on details of the past weekend's incident in referencing "an e-mail chain."

Unrestrained dogs killed a beloved ASU cat at the Facilities Department on Jackson Street on August 10th.  An Animal Control Officer came out and wanted to do a "bite report."  That seemed insufficient since the grievous injuries to the cat included "multiple fractured ribs, abdominal tears, herniated organs, torn aorta, collapsed lungs and more." Other than the dog inflicted injuries an autopsy showed the cat was “free of disease or dysfunction.”  For many years that cat did his job of controlling rodents on ASU property.

I wondered if the dogs that killed the ASU cat were the same ones involved in the Jackson Street incident mentioned at City Council.  That is yet to be determined by professionals based on evidence.  ASU Police have video of the loose dogs that marauded through Facilities on August 10th.

Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden referenced her department's "data driven approach" but had remarkably little data to share with Council regarding their concerns.  Issues included loose dogs in our community, unaltered pets and aggressive animals.  Some can be all three, unfixed, dangerous and running free.

Last year the City Animal Shelter was bursting at the seams with cockroaches and puppies.  City Council approved a focused effort by the City Attorney's office to write citations to people who had taken shelter animals (adopted or reclaimed) and not gotten them spayed/neutered as required by city ordinance.

This week several Council members recalled this financial commitment and asked about the data.  I expected the City Attorney to say something in response to Council's inquiry.  Nothing.

Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden talked about staffing and how the City "added" an Administrative Assistant to assist with data collection.  It may have been budget sleight of hand.  Cut two Office Assistants.  Add one Administrative Assistant.


Morgan highlighted "budget constraints" as a former budget manager.  Animal Services spent $750,000 in FY ended  2015.  The budget for the coming fiscal year ended 2024 is over $1.25 million.  That's a $500,000 or 66% increase.  It does not include the nearly $2 million in planned shelter renovations.

Morgan also informed Council the shelter does not use the words "no kill."  Oddly, those words are in the first line of Concho Valley PAWS most recent RFP submission for shelter adoption and veterinary services. 

The City's NFS-02-20 RFP specified scope of services.  The first two items in that document were:

Support San Angelo Pets Alive and become the city’s partner in such initiatives 

Adopt the lifesaving vision as set forth in American Pets Alive

The Animal Shelter still follows the Pets Alive model:

American Pets Alive:  Our mission is to end the urgent crisis facing shelter animals by helping save the millions of dogs, cats, and other potential pets needlessly being killed across the country each year.

Pets Alive turned San Angelo's Animal Shelter into mostly a long-term care facility for large dogs.  Their model does not prioritize spay/neuter services or include spay/neuter compliance in their "data driven" statistics.  Through a series of intake, geographic and shelter capacity restrictions it is extremely difficult to surrender a pet to the city shelter.  It is so complicated the shelter instructs citizens on "the path to shelter intake" for pet owners, as if it's a path to home ownership or the path to a comfortable retirement.

Last summer's horrific hoarding conditions at the shelter came in part from three dogs that had litters.  One of those three had multiple stays in the shelter.  Shelter staff and PAWS vet had two months to identify the dog was pregnant and have her altered.  They did not.

This is the second year in a row Animal Shelter issues roared to the forefront during Council's strategic planning/budget preparation cycle.  Questions asked indicate there is more work to be done.  Answers given raise doubts as to the city's seriousness or capabilities in addressing them.

Update 9-4-23:  PAWS Volunteer Handbook states on page 2:

We are in partnership with the City of San Angelo on a No Kill Initiative.

Concho Valley Homepage ran the following article in April 2021:

"Working Together, Concho Valley PAWS and San Angelo Animal Shelter are achieving the “No Kill” Goal"

The story was written by PAWS and it misrepresents actual euthanasia statistics. 

Update 9-13-23:  The agenda packet for next week's City Council is available on the city's website.  There is no item on the agenda for Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden to close the loop on questions asked during the budget meeting but not answered.  

Minutes state the following:

Neighborhood and Family Services Assistant Director Morgan Chegwidden and Director Bob Salas addressed concerns regarding the Animal Shelter.

The video showed more than that.  Mayor Gunter indicated at least one child's safety was at risk from the Jackson Street incident.  A drive around town reveals third world levels of loose animals. 

Update 9-27-23:  The City's Capital Improvement Plan has a 4-30-24 completion date for Animal Shelter renovations.  The project is yet to be bid on the city's purchasing website.