Saturday, December 17, 2016

Fifty Degree Drop

I'd just finished mowing the back yard and had a light sweat going as I put the lawnmower back in the garage.  A huge northerly gust blew leaves and dust over the house and I could feel the coolness.  I closed the garage door to keep the heat in and drove my toasty warm car to the gas pump.  I watched the temperature indicator drop from 81 degrees to 47 in less than an hour.  It read 27 degrees a few minutes ago.  That's a 54 degree drop according to my car's thermometer.  The weather may be as crazy as our times. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

New Year's Water Bills to Rise $6.56 Per Month

City Council chose to raise water rates another $6.56 per month.  The water rate increase is $3.84 and the water reclamation portion will go up $2.72.  I don't know many people who got a 12% raise this past year. 

The City's internal accounting documents differ from the numbers shown in the presentation to Council.  I'd hoped staff would speak to what caused the discrepancy but neither Bill Riley or Morgan Chedwiggen addressed the Bluebook's extra $4 million in Water Reclamation fund balance.

Council would be advised to consider citizen's response to the last water bill increase.  Usage plummeted even during dry years..  

I expect City leaders to drive down water usage further with their five year 55% water rate increase.  Year 2 of the plan starts January 1, 2017.  

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Council to Consider Water Bill Rebate

City Staff plan to recommend citizens not get a water rebate this Christmas.  A memo prepared for City Council concludes:

"Since unaudited Water Operations fund balance is less than the goal, it would not be fiscally prudent to issue a rebate at this time; therefore, staff does not recommend issuing a rebate."  
The Water Advisory Board agreed with staff during their last meeting.

The City's September 2016 Blue Book accounting document lists eleven water funds, a mix of operating, debt service, capital and trust funds.  Citizen's monthly municipal bills fund these eleven accounts.

Oddly, terms used in the water rebate discussion do not exist in the city's accounting system.  One can conclude that Water Operations coincides with the accounting system's Water Enterprise Fund.  Their $1.5 million fund balance matches to the dollar.

However, Wastewater Operations does not have a clear accounting counterpart, although it appears to be a subset of Water Reclamation, which has a considerably larger fund balance of nearly $7.5 million.  That's over twice the size of Wastewater Operations fund balance of nearly $3.4 million.

The City did not include the Stormwater fund balance of $2.9 million in its rebate considerations.  The monthly bill from the city includes fees for stormwater, sewer and water.  Total fund balance across these eleven funds as of 9-30-16 was $44.9 million. 

Council should be concerned about the lack of alignment between terms used by staff and the city's accounting system.  I question the $4.1 million difference in fund balance for Wastewater/Reclamation, as that clearly effects any possible citizen rebate.  Hopefully, staff will be prepared to educate Council members and the public.

As then City Councilman Morrison noted years ago, there's millions running through these water funds and there's never any money leftover to give back to citizens.  That's still the case.

Update 12-6-16:  City Council did not approve a rebate and worse they added $3.85 per month to the water bill, costing citizens roughly another $50 per year.  That Standard Times article did not address the discrepancy between Wastewater Operations and Reclamation fund balance that exists in the city's Bluebook accounting document for September 2016.

Monday, November 07, 2016

City Wants to Wheeler-Deal Ford Ranch

The Standard Times reported:

The city of San Angelo is seeking to purchase the land overlying its Hickory Aquifer water leases.

City Council met Monday morning and authorized its staff to negotiate the purchase, with authority to pay up to $1,350 per acre for the Ford Ranch, the 32,000-acre McCulloch County property where the well field is located. The transaction could involve up to $43 million.

The city says the purchase price can be funded out of the water revenue fund. City water customers saw a rate increase last year intended to finance water infrastructure projects up to $136 million, and the ranch purchase would fall within that scope.

The ranch could be resold at some point in the future, with the city in control of the water lease terms.  "We could fully determine how much water any future owner could use. In doing so, San Angelo could protect what is rightfully ours … with the added benefit of reselling the ranch once we had and recouping much of the purchase price."
Right now the city is both the lessee and lessor.  Stay tuned for how this works out.  In the meantime your water bill is paying for the city's future development of this property

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sales Tax Decline Consistent for FY 2016

The City of San Angelo Development Corporation board met last week and heard staff's hope that the sales tax situation might be improving.

"We did end the year just slightly under budget for sales tax revenue.  However our most recent month over month comparing with last year we were up just slightly at 0.39%.  So we're hopeful going forward that will continue to see that upward trend."
"Slightly under budget for sales tax revenue" was a shortfall of $510,399.  That's nearly one month of sales tax revenue.  September 2016's sales tax revenue came in 12.6% or $88,647 below 2015's.  I'm not sure how that's upward for the month.  Also, one month of data does not make a trend.

The shortfall when comparing the last two years of actual data came in at nearly $1.2 million or 12.5%.  Hope is a good thing, so are knowledge and faith.  I pray our economy stabilizes and expands in a way that helps people living here. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

City Aided Nasworthy Development Progresses

San Angelo's City Council will address a possible zoning change from Ranch and Estate to General Commercial for 30 acres at the old WTU energy plant.  The land is owned by Glen Meadows Baptist Church, having purchased it from Joe and Mark Walraven in January of this year.  

Oddly, City Council rezoned another plot of Lake Nasworthy land in October 2013 for Fleet Equipment Leasing for development of single family residences.

Z 13 -32: Fleet Equipment Leasing, LLP. AN ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 12, EXHIBIT “A” OF THE CODE OF ORDINANCES, CITY OF SAN ANGELO, TEXAS, WHICH SAID EXHIBIT “A” OF CHAPTER 12 ADOPTS ZONING REGULATIONS, USE DISTRICTS AND A ZONING MAP, IN ACCORDANCE WITH A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN, BY CHANGING THE ZONING AND CLASSIFICATION OF THE FOLLOWING PROPERTY, TO W IT: An unaddressed tract occupying a 25.822 acres tract located south of Red Bluff Road and Hillside Drive; more specifically being 25.822 acres out of 96.314 acres of the Christoph Voight Survey 181, Abstract 3931 and Carl Dammann Survey 180, Abstract 141 in far southwest San Angelo. This property is described on a Preliminary Plat titled “The Canals at Lake Nasworthy” and occupies all of Blocks 6 and 7, changing the zoning classification from a Ranch & Estate (R&E) to a Single -Family Residential (RS -1) D istrict; PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY AND PROVIDING A PENALTY 
Fleet Equipment Leasing is owned by the same Walravens who sold the old power plant site to Glen Meadows.

The land rezoned in 2013 is on the back part of Gun Club Road, a popular walking/running site for area citizens. That same October 2013 meeting had City Councilman Rodney Fleming saying:

Councilmember Fleming suggested decreasing the number of pedestrian traffic on this road. He proposed installing pipe fencing in the illegal parking area and removing the park benches and trash receptacles from the area. Mr. Fleming suggested utilizing Lake Nasworthy trust funds to pay for the project.

Public comments were made by Citizens Tad Logan , Rob Ehlers, Marilyn Ross, and Kirby Vanover in support of the project.

Councilmember Fleming suggested moving forward with the prohibition of parking within the area. Responding to a question by Councilmember Farmer, Chief Tim Vasquez stated citations are issued, pedestrians are police d, the area is regular ly patrolled , and he suggested privatizing the road or designate as a one -way road. In conclusion, City Council suggested staff present options at a future meeting possibly utilizing the Lake Nasworthy Trust funds to fund the project .
Executive Director Public Works Ricky Dickson presented a plan to sell city land to facilitate the development of the Canals at Lake Nasworthy in December 2014.

Oddly, this deal was not with Fleet Equipment Leasing, who'd pursued the zoning change, but with Psalms 100 Development LLC, a developer the city selected in July 2014 after an RFP process.

Consideration of authorizing the City Manager to enter into a Real Estate Sales Contract and a Development Agreement with Psalm 100 Development, LLC in substantially the attached forms for the sale and development of two tracts of land totaling 5.297 acres (1.682 acres and 3.615 acres) out of Christoph Vought Survey 181, Abstract 3931, and as part of the consideration accept from Psalm 100 Development 5.623 acres of land out of Christoph Vought Survey 181, Abstract 3931; and authorizing the Mayor or City Manager to execute an easement and right-of-way to Psalm 100 Development, LLC for public access improvements, and to execute such other documents as may be necessary or convenient to the stated purposes.
City Council looked to Councilman Rodney Fleming for guidance.

Councilman Fleming, a professional realtor, did not recuse himself as someone who might personally benefit in the future from said development.  Psalm 100 developed The Palms, which received a final plat from the City in March 2015.

Lots sell from $38,000 to $132,000.  Rodney Fleming's City Council service ended in May of 2016.

Russell Gully's Psalms 100 Development LLC has until 2019 to get the Canals at Lake Nasworthy read for market under its development agreement with the city.  Glen Meadows might want to work faster on their parcel. City Council's background packet for 11-1-16 includes Planning Commission testimony.

Mr. Russell Gully, SKG Engineering, representing Glen Meadows Baptist Church, approached the podium, identified himself, and proceeded to address the Commission. Mr. Gully posited that the Commission should approve the Zone Change as requested opining that churches are more of a “Special Opportunity” than an “Interpretive Center,” as called for in the Lake Nasworthy Master Plan. Mr. Gully continued to opine that a church-affiliated school could only operate within the General Commercial zone. Mr. Gully provided the Commission with some color renderings of proposed buildings.

Mr. Wesley Mikeska, an officer of Glen Meadows Baptist Church, approached the podium, identified himself, and proceeded to address the Commission. He indicated that about 20-25 acres would be sufficient for their development, but the church intended to sell off any surplus land to a suitable buyer at its discretion.
The Planning Commission's WTU zoning change is not what City staff recommended.  It will be interesting to hear what history is shared and Council's discussion and public comment on the item.. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

San Angelo Citizens Conserved Water as City Council Requested

The City of San Angelo's 2015 annual financial report includes a table on the second to last page showing average daily water use history.  It's pictured above:

The impact of the 47.5% water rate increase in September 2011 can clearly be seen as citizens reduced usage.  Citizens went from using 14 million gallons per day in 2011 to 8.8 million gallons per day in 2015.  That's a 37% drop in average daily water usage, exactly what City Council said it wanted.

Citing a desire to encourage conservation, council decided to generate 75 percent of the revenue needed to make payments by increasing water usage rates by $1.31 per 1,000 gallons and 25 percent of the revenue needed to make payments by increasing the base usage rate by 29 percent. 
Citizens doing what Council wanted "blew a hole" in the water budget.  So City Council hired Raftelis at a cost of $107,000 to make the case for fixing the budget hole.  That resulted in a five year plan where rates will rise another 55%.

Council increased rates again in January 2016 by an initial 11.5% of the planned 55%.  The impact of that increase is yet to be seen.

Update 4-4-2017:  Water use for 2016 increased to 10.04 million gallons a day.  The increase occurred after the first 11.5% increase in water rates.  An additional 11.5% increase hit on 1-1-2017.  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

San Angelo Water: Two of Eight Samples Had Hexavalent Chromium

The City of San Angelo's water system had 2 out of 8 water samples test positive for hexavalent chromium, the chemical in drinking water that harmed people in Hinkly, California.  The movie Erin Brokovich turned hexavalent chromium into a frightening household word.

San Angelo's two positive samples came in at .035 and .038 parts per billion (ppb).  Although they sound like minuscule amounts the California public health target level is .02 ppb.  The two samples with hexavalent chromium came in at 75 to 90% higher than this goal.    

One other county in our area had five out of eight water samples test positive for hexavalent chromium, Menard County.  The city of Menard's average of .0238 ppb exceeded the .02 public health goal.

The city draws water from Lake Ivie, the Concho River and the Hickory Aquifer.  When the City of San Angelo developed the Hickory Wellfield radioactive radium was the primary concern.  It's not clear the source of hexavalent chromium in the two San Angelo water samples, but that would be interesting to know. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

City Council to Discuss Hickory Water Well Driller Alsay Again

Alsay Corporation first appeared on the City Council agenda on August 6, 2013 when the company was approved to drill six additional wells in the Hickory Aquifer for $7.57 million.  It reappeared this summer and Alsay's been a regular on Council's executive session agenda ever since.  Council has not shared their deliberations from any closed agenda discussions.

San Angelo Live reported operational problems drilling the last Hickory well (in their March 2016 piece).

The last well received delays due to the well driller having operational problems. Now awaiting the well to be completed, the project is estimated to be finished in June or July of this year.  
The City's website states "Six new wells were completed in June 2016." Hints of performance issues reside in the following description from the city's Hickory Aquifer webpage:

  • Wellfield expansion: The total pumping capacity of the wellfield was increased from 6.5 MGD to 10.8 MGD by the drilling and installation of six additional wells and supporting infrastructure. This project was substantially completed in June 2016. This portion of the project was covered under two contracts for a total amount of $17.3 million.

  • Engineering: Close-out documents are being prepared for the wellfield expansion projects. Approximately $15.9 million of the original $19.38 million contract amount has been paid to date.

Roughly $3.4 million of the contract amount has not been paid per the city's website.  The closed session agenda item cites "pending or contemplated litigation."  So far concerns have not surfaced, but maybe they will.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Council to Take Up Development Corporation Items

San Angelo's City Council will consider three items from its Development Corporation in the consent agenda for its October 4, 2016 meeting.

First, the City of San Angelo must spend $2.4 million to make $1.2 million off an Industrial Park land sale.  City Council documents state:

On Wednesday September 28th with a vote of 5-0 the COSADC Board accepted AEP Texas North Company's offer for 52+/- acres of land in Phase 2 of the Industrial Park at a purchase price of $1,196,000 or approximately $23,000 per acre and authorizing the Board President to negotiate and execute a real estate sales contract in substantially the same form as attached.

The proposed sales contract will require that COSADC provide all utilities to the property line and jointly with the buyer address all City of San Angelo storm water requirements to allow development of the property. The preliminary engineer’s cost estimate is approximately $2.4 M to minimally extend Gateway to a new cul de sac, minimally extend utilities to serve the project and provide all storm-water improvements for Phase 2 of the Park.
Second, Council will consider approving the agreement between the city and the development corporation for staff services:

Consider ratifying COSADC's approval of the City of San Angelo Agreement for Provision of Administrative Services for FY 2016 and FY 2017 in the amount of $471,273.59 for FY 2016 and $513,677 for FY 2017
Oddly the agreement never mentions a critical COSADC bylaw requirement, the production of an annual report.  The city's website does not host an annual report from any year for the development corporation.  One exits for 2011.  The 2012 report was given in October 2013.

The city conducted a compliance audit for fiscal year 2013.  That arrived in November 2014 but the city refused to post the document.  However, it is available here.  It paid local accounting firm Armstrong Backus $1,175 for a contract compliance audit.  The COSADC board approved the disbursement in its February 2016 meeting.

There's been no presentation of an annual report or compliance audit since 2014.  In February 2015 City Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer asked the Sales Tax compliance audit be made public, possibly at a future meeting.  

Third, COSADC will recommend to City Council concerns air service marketing.  The Development Corporation approved the hiring of KSA Engineers for up to $63,000 for air service marketing and recruitment services.   KSA's website had this to say about an earlier effort to add an airline at Mathis Field.

Over the past few years, the San Angelo Regional Airport has undergone significant improvements and more are on the way, including efforts to attract additional airline services and major renovations of the terminal. We are currently working to address a number of air service issues, such as the lack of jet service, need for airline choice and passenger frustration over canceled or delayed flights. These issues are prompting some people to drive to their destination or to other cities’ airports, and that is a serious concern for us and the community as a whole.  June 2, 2011
In August 2014 San Angelo Live reported on KSA's involvement in airport service development for nearly $80,000.  That was in the midst of the oil boom. 

Anyone wanting to watch how the Development Corporation handled these items can do so here.  I found it interesting that several items were taken from public presentation to executive session, meaning the public did not get to hear staff recommendations or hear officials questions, concerns or discussion on the items.  We'll see if this is a one time event or becomes a pattern.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Solar Centex to Open in San Angelo

KIDY reported:

Solar CenTex owner Scot Arey plans to open a solar branch in San Angelo.  He says his company can bring around 7,000 jobs to the Concho Valley.
The company's website had San Angelo front and center.   I'm not sure how Solar CenTex will create 7,000 jobs when OE Renewables Mesquite Solar Project will create one permanent job.  That is if investors take a shining to the project.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

OE Renewables Update as of August 30th

San Angelo hosted the Wind and Solar Expo 2016 August 30-31.  Southwest Energy Coalition put on the event.  Their webpage posted presentations, two of which dealt with OE Renewables solar farm on city property.    The Chamber of Commerce had one slide (shown above).

OE Renewables had six slides dealing with the project.  Number 10 on the list below is negotiate potential tax abatements.  An August 2015 report by San Angelo Live stated OE Renewables staff "hope to negotiate local tax incentives provided by Tom Green County and the City of San Angelo."   The city capitulated last year, providing $583,814 in incentives.

Tom Green County Commissioners heard a proposal on October 27, 2015.  The minutes state:

15. Discussion, consideration and action on the designation of the County Reinvestment Zone made the subject of the public hearing to be known as “OneEnergy Renewables Tom Green County Reinvestment Zone”.
Moved to Table #15 and reset a Public Hearing due to use of the term unincorporated in the agenda item.
The issue concerning County Commissioners was "If you sell the improvements will the tax abatement convey with the sell or would it have to come back to court for the new ownership."

Oddly there is no information on OE Renewables success in marketing solar power to energy users hoping to lock in prices for decades.

As for buyers of this renewable energy, OneEnergy contracts with utilities, corporations, governmental entities and universities because of contract longevity. The company offers contract terms from 10 years to 25 years or more.
Other slides are shown below:

The expo also had a presentation from Goodfellow Air Force base, which is planning its own solar generating project across the street from the base.

That's one customer OE Renewables would love to have.  Goodfellow could utilize half to all of the power from the Mesquite Solar Farm. 

OE Renewables is developing the Mesquite Solar Project with hopes to sell it to investors wanting a predictable income stream.  The math depends on public subsidies and paying customers.  The presentation is light on both, meaning OE Renewables is keeping its cards close to its chest or the project remains up in the air.

Update 1-14-17:  Still no sign of progress on the project.  A search of San Angelo on OneEnergy's website produces no results.

Update 8-17-18:  OE Renewables failed to produce more than slides on the San Angelo solar project.  City Council will declare the deal dead in their 8-21-18 Council meeting.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

City Council Can Educate Public on Economic Development Awards

In their August 24th meeting San Angelo's Development Corporation approved a $600,000 economic development incentive for local employer CalTech.  Longtime Development Corporation board member Scott Tankersley works for CalTech as a Tier 3 Services Manager.  He does not sit on CalTech's board nor does he own a stake in the company.

CalTech's website states two people own the company, Will Welch and Brent McCasland.  However, the company does share profits with employees so conceivably a portion of the $600,000 award, should it be earned, could come back to Tankersley in a much smaller amount.  

San Angelo Mayor Dwain Morrison brought back ethics standards for city officials regarding economic development awards.  Morrison served on City Council when standards were loosened to enable then Mayor Alvin New to stay in office while the city awarded a $3.6 million economic development agreement for MedHab.  New served on MedHab's board and held equity stakes in the company high enough to trigger the old rules.

The Development Corporation chose not to speak directly to the public on the rule and how Tankersley's position at CalTech complied with the agreement.  It seemed like a missed opportunity for an organization that practiced deceit not terribly long ago. 

I trust Mayor Morrison to educate the public as to how Scott Tankersley's COSADC board service is not in conflict with CalTech's $600,000 economic development award.  The opportunity to educate is not over.

Update 9-4-16:  The CalTech $603,050 economic development award is on City Council's agenda for their September 6 meeting.  It is on the consent agenda, so a City Council person would need to pull the item for public presentation and discussion.

Update 9-6-16:  City Councilman Harry Thomas publicly declared his son works for CalTech and recused himself from this agenda item by leaving the room.  Staff and elected officials did not share COSADC board member Scott Tankersley's similar action when the item came up for consideration.

Update 9-25-16:  An editor for the Standard Times did what city leaders wouldn't.  The editor wrote "Council member Harry Thomas, SMD 3, recused himself from discussion and voting on the CalTech item as his son works for the company. COSADC board member Scott Tankersley likewise absented himself during CalTech proceedings, as he is a longtime employee of the company."

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sales Tax Decline 2nd Biggest for Fiscal Year

Sales tax proceeds for July 2016 dropped almost to the level seen four years ago.  Only January's decline of 18% topped July's 16% fall.  This occurs as city staff and Council work on a budget for 2016-2017. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

MedHab's New Website Is Up

MedHab's website finally finished construction.  For three years the public saw a graphic that said "Under construction..  Check back with us soon.". 

Their new site listed MedHab's Advisory Board members but not it's Board of Directors.  The website bio for Alvin includes:

Alvin was elected the Mayor of San Angelo in December 2009.  He served in that capacity until June 2013.  His other activities include serving in several areas for Texas Tech and Angelo State, investing in and mentoring small businesses and operating 4N Ranches.
San Angelo's ex-Mayor Alvin New sits on both of MedHab's boards.  Board of Directors member NNNN LP is the very same Alvin New.

The City of San Angelo signed a $3.6 million economic development agreement with MedHab in August 2012.  This occurred under Alvin New's mayoral service.  

MedHab has taken little of their potential economic subsidy from the City of San Angelo.  The company's new website may indicate MedHab has more developments to share. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

OE Renewables Solar Farm Late on Plans

Two years ago citizens learned OE Renewables wanted to develop a solar farm on city land.  The original lease details were not included in the City Council background packet.  They were not shared with the public in the August 2014 City Council meeting.

A year ago OE Renewables pressed for public subsidies from the city and county.  The acreage for the lease increased by 75%.  The Midland Reporter Telegram suggested the company had a mid 2016 time frame to have solar generation up and going.  San Angelo Live and the Standard Times also reported on plans for the solar generation facility.

One might expect San Angelo's Mesquite Solar Project to make the News section of One Energy Renewables, the parent company of OE Renewables Texas LLC.  It did not.

Energy prices changed dramatically from two years ago.  Did they drop enough to cast a financial shadow on San Angelo's Solar Farm?  Is it dawn or dusk for OE Renewables in San Angelo?  I expect the public will find out soon.

Update 1-14-17:  Despite a detailed presentation on the project in late August there is no sign the Mesquite Solar Project is progressing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hiring Brandon Dickson: An Engineered Outcome?

A concerned citizen wrote City Council members on June 13 regarding the hiring of Brandon Dickson as the Assistant Water Treatment Administrator.  The citizen expressed their belief that Executive Director of Public Works Ricky Dickson's son was being hired in at a significant premium to other 2nd tier management positions within the water department.  City leaders quickly mobilized to quell the nepotism concern which had reached the Standard Times news desk.

I learned of Brandon Dickson's hiring from a confidential source the week before he officially started on June 16.  That source prompted my research into the city's process.  The official timeline shows:

City staff provided the following information on the selection process.
The Assistant Superintendent Water Treatment Plant is a new title that was created by upgrading the vacant Water Treatment Supervisor. This was part of the succession planning efforts of the City of San Angelo.

The Assistant Superintendent Water Treatment Plant position was posted to outside candidates from February 26, 2016 through March 11, 2016.  The position was posted once for internal and outside candidates together.

The panel consisted of Bill Riley, Director of Water Utilities; Allison Strube, Assistant Director of Water Utilities; and Charles McGuire, Water Treatment Administrator. 

Thirty four applicants applied for the position; five were interviewed by the panel; Mr. Brandon Dickson was selected.
The panel reported their recommendation to Lisa Marley, Director of Human Resources, who consulted with the City Attorney for review against the nepotism policy of the City. When the City Attorney confirmed no conflict, the recommendation was approved by Lisa Marley and Bill Riley, Director of Water Utilities, was notified of the approval. At that point, the panel’s recommendation was finalized.

Brandon's base salary is $84,500 plus two 5% bonuses for his Class A Operators license in both water and stormwater. His annual pay is $92,950 plus relocation expenses. Given the Class A Water Operator license from TECQ was a basic requirement for the position I thought it odd that this would result in a bonus. 

Also, the city bridged Brandon's time such that his start date with the city is 8-28-2000, which gives him benefits at over the 15 year seniority level.  That makes a difference in both vacation and retirement benefits.

I followed up with several questions for city staff and their responses can be reviewed below:

1)  If the Class A Water Operator license was a requirement for the position,as stated in the job posting, why would that result in an extra 5% bonus?  It would seem to be part of the position's base pay as it is a basic requirement to get the job.

1. There are no documents responsive to this request. In March 2009, the practice was implemented to pay 5% for each Water or Wastewater Operator license that was received by any Water or Wastewater operators up to the Superintendent level. This was a result of the pay and classification study that was completed in 2008. It was determined that it was necessary to augment the pay scales in order to reduce attrition. In July 2014, the practice was expanded to include Water or Wastewater employees other than operators.
2)  In a June 14th 10:24 pm e-mail City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said he wanted to quash concerns about Brandon's hiring with city council.  He said he wanted to update City Council tomorrow, which was June 15.  The information I reviewed lacked what Daniel did with City Council.  I would be interested in knowing Daniel's response to the citizen's concerns to members of City Council, the means and content of his communication with Council members.

2. Please find the attached email from Daniel Valenzuela. Portions of the e-mail included: 
The Assistant Water Treatment Administrator position was not “given” to anyone. We advertised the position, received 34 applications which included several good candidates, 5 of which were invited and interviewed.
Prior to offering Brandon the job, we checked with Lisa Marley in HR as well as the City Attorney to make sure there was no conflict considering his father’s position. Both were confident that there would be no conflict due to the fact of the multiple layers of supervision between father and son. It is also important to point out that this process was conducted with no involvement from Ricky Dickson.
3)  What was the pay range for the position before it was upgraded to Assistant Water Treatment Administrator?  What is the new pay range for the upgraded job?  How does this compare to information in the most recent wage survey for that position (information the city uses to keep its wage and salary program competitive?  Where does the city benchmark itself overall for competitive purposes?  Where does this position fit competitively relative to the city's overall pay program?

3. There are no documents responsive to this request. There was never a classification of an Assistant Water Production Superintendent. The previous position was the Water Treatment Supervisor, grade 20. The current salary range for that grade is $36,526 - $54,790. (The FTE from the vacant Supervisor position was used to create the new classification. The position is not replacing the Supervisor position.) The new classification is Assistant Water Treatment Administrator, grade 31. The current salary range for this grade is $61,516 - $91,991. The grade placement of the new position is in line with the current pay plan, based on requirements of the position and similar positions within the City. 

As for the question "Where does the city benchmark itself overall for competitive purposes?"

4)  A number of e-mails copied City Attorney Theresa Adams.  I never saw a reply from her.  Water Utilities Director Bill Riley wrote City Manager Daniel Valenzuela "Prior to offering Brandon the job we checked with Lisa Marley as well as the city attorney to make sure there was no conflict."  I would be interested in knowing when city legal staff advised on the process which resulted in the interviewing, hiring and employment of Brandon Sanders (dates and times).  If there is any further information that can be shared in this regard, I'd be most grateful for the opportunity to review it.

4. Lisa Marley worked with Bill Riley on his email response to Daniel, and she asked that he include that Theresa James was consulted on the hire. Lisa spoke with Theresa to be sure there was no conflict with the City nepotism policy once Brandon Dickson was the selected candidate. There are no documents associated with this conversation other than the nepotism policy, which is attached.

5)  Public Works Executive Director Ricky Dickson was copied several times in e-mails and there were no replies from him.  Did he at any point in the process expressly recuse himself from the hiring process once he learned his son was a candidate?  If there are any other e-mails from Ricky relative to the upgrading of the position, prior to his circulating the job descriptions on February 8th, I would appreciate the opportunity to review them.

5. There are no documents responsive to this request. Ricky Dickson did mention to Lisa Marley that he wanted to stay out of the process concerning Brandon. To her knowledge, the job description was the only input or involvement Ricky had in the process.
A confidential source believes Dickson set up the process for his son to be chosen for a greatly enhanced position with nearly an immediate opportunity for promotion. The reason they believe this is Ricky Dickson told them Brandon would be returning to city employment. The source says this conversation occurred in January, prior to Ricky's kicking off the search by circulating the revised job description in early February.

The last time a citizen challenged Brandon's hiring leaders went into overdrive defending the action.  I've shared the city's stance extensively in this post and added information that could call the process into question.  Those who really know Ricky Dickson will have a sense as to what is true.

Update 1-19-17:   Ricky Dickson became aware in 2011 that trash hauler Republic Services was charging fees outside those allowed by city ordinance.  Rather than investigate the case for wider fraud Dickson had Republic stop billing one account for unauthorized fees.  Documents indicate Dickson was aware of Republic's fraudulent billing and helped sweep it under the rug.

Update 3-25-17:  Three of the people involved in hiring Brandon Dickson were featured in a San Angelo Live piece on employee recognition.

Update 8-17-18:   Ricky is consistent.  The Executive Director of Public Works created a new high paying job under his purview for his son-in-law to fill.   Will he engineer the hiring of a second family member?   Brandon's relation to the Executive Director of Public Works may have saved him a disciplinary action.  Writing up Brandon could put Water Utilities Director Allison Strube at risk.  Ricky plays dirty and she likely has some understanding of it after eight months as a Dickson direct report.  Many people in San Angelo believe Ricky retired but that is not true.  He stays behind the public glare pulling strings to promote his family members under the City of San Angelo's nepotism policy.

Update 8-26-18:  A timely public information request mobilized opposition to Ricky's hiring his second relative.  At least three key people in City Hall stepped up to block Dickson's latest attempt at nepotism.  One of those just announced her retirement.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

City of San Angelo Courting Two Interstate Highways

The City of San Angelo Development Corporation funded the city's sponsorship of Ports-to-Plains/Interstate 27 and Interstate 14 running through town.  Interstate 27 would be a North-South route while Interstate 14 would be more East-West.  These two efforts are in sync, according to the Ports-to-Plains blog.

“Overall I view this as positive for Texas and Ports-to-Plains,” said PTP President Michael Reeves. “It shows that there is a recognized need for new interstates in Texas, provides a valuable new connection for the Ports-to-Plains Corridor, and also the potential for collaboration on an extension of Interstate 27.”
That collaboration involves the section of Interstate between San Angelo and Sterling City.  It would be branded both I-27 and I-14.

The Development Corporation approved $20,000 in sponsorship for the Ports-to-Plains Annual Meeting to be held in San Angelo September 13-15.  The budget called for $5,000 for a Port-to-Plains Summit and money for travel to a number of meetings, including PTP.  Annual dues for the year were estimated at $60,300.

City Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer said San Angelo City Manager Daniel Valenzuela approved another $20,000 in sponsorship money from the public coffers bringing the city's total donation to $40,000 for the upcoming Ports-to-Plain annual meeting.

San Angelo could go from no Interstates to two in a relatively short period of time.  Many people attribute San Angelo's charm to not being on an interstate.

Citizens recently turned out to share their concerns about local trash service, which city leaders designed and bid with little public input.  It will be interesting to see if and when city leaders update citizens on their interstate plans. 

Update 8-15-16:  The Standard Times reported Interstate 14 is in Congressional hands. 

Update 11-10-21:  When I moved to San Angelo in 1994 not having an interstate was considered a huge quality of life plus as interstates brought in rift raft. Interstate 14 is coming courtesy of a Blue administration.

"San Angelo and Tom Green County have a long history of advocacy for our area to be part of the national interstate highway system," said Steve Floyd, Tom Green County judge.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Devon Energy Monetizes Midland Basin Assets

San Angelo's Standard Times reported in July 2013

Geography, geology and charm brought Devon Energy to San Angelo.
The need for capital may take Devon Energy away from our area.  A corporate press release stated:

Devon Energy Corp. (NYSE: DVN) announced today it has entered definitive agreements to sell its remaining non-core assets in the Midland Basin for $858 million. These transactions include the Company’s upstream assets in the southern Midland Basin and its undeveloped leasehold in Martin County, Texas.

In the northern Midland Basin, Devon agreed to monetize its working interest across 15,000 net acres in Martin County, Texas along with 13,000 net acres in eight surrounding counties for $435 million. 

In a separate transaction, Devon entered into an agreement to sell its assets in the southern Midland Basin for $423 million. 
A June 2016 Investor Presentation showed Devon focusing on two areas for exploration, the Delaware Basin in Far West Texas and Eastern New Mexico and Oklahoma's STACK formation.  This raises questions as to how much longer Devon will be in San Angelo. 

Geology, geography and charm may not have been enough.  Will Pioneer Resources or the unnamed buyer take over Devon's San Angelo operation?  The answer may come at the next Development Corporation meeting.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Dickson's Son New Assistant Water Treatment Plant Superintendent

San Angelo's Public Works Department, headed by Executive Director Ricky Dickson, hired Brandon Dickson as Assistant Superintendent for the Water Treatment Plant.  Brandon is Ricky's son.

Public Works is an administrative office that oversees and coordinates the work of the three City departments that are most responsible for San Angelo’s municipal infrastructure – the Water Utilities, Engineering Services and Operations departments. 
This past week Brandon started work in the Water Utilities division under Water Production.

It turns out Brandon's father had a similar beginning.  The press release on Ricky's 2014 promotion to Public Works Executive Director stated:

He (Ricky) began his career with the City in 1990, working in Water Distribution/Waste Water Collection.
It's not clear if Ricky's start involved supervision.  In1994 Ricky began supervising street maintenance and today hold's that ultimate operational responsibility.   As you drive around San Angelo's city streets know Ricky Dickson supervised their maintenance for most of the last two decades.

This isn't the first Public Works father-son team.  City Councilman Dwain Morrison sang an early warning on Carollo Engineering's hiring of Blake Wilde after Blake had been fired from the city's Engineering Department for cause.  Carollo designed and managed construction of the Hickory Aquifer project for San Angelo's Water Department, then headed by Will Wilde, Blake's father.

Area citizen may have a bad taste in their mouth from the Wilde-Wilde father-son history.  That would mean a Dickson-Dickson father-son employment situation would need to be crystal clear and squeaky clean.  It would be concerning if the son were slotted for rapid advancement within his father's bailiwick.

Father's Day will have passed when City Council meets on Tuesday but relationships, like memories, live on.

Update 6-19-16:  The City's website has no record of an Assistant Superintendent for Water Production or Water Treatment Plant   Site searches on these terms produced no results and there is no current record of such a position in the City's Staff Directory.  This leads me to believe Brandon's position is new but I will confirm this with city staff.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Conserrvative Approach to Estimating Water Suppy = Aggresive Water Billing

City Council will entertain a presentation on water supply next Tuesday.  Water Chief Bill Riley informed council on the city's approach to estimating future water supply.  His memo states:

The City’s Drought / Conservation Plan implements different stages of drought levels based upon water supplies. This calculation takes into account our current and available surface supplies coupled w/ the minimum daily Hickory Groundwater pumping. CRMWD provides the number of remaining months for the City of San Angelo to continue bringing in water from O.H. Ivie. This calculation also takes a conservative approach by assuming a "no-inflow" scenario and also utilizes monthly evaporation rates established by the Texas Water Development Board for the area.
No-inflow and high evaporation rate assumptions mean the city enters drought levels much sooner than it did in the past.  Drought levels impose higher water rates on citizens.  As the drought level increases so do water prices.  A conservative approach to projecting water supply is an aggressive approach to billing San Angelo water users.