Saturday, July 29, 2017

City Council to Consider San Angelo's Latest Water Study

San Angelo's City Council will entertain hiring Alan Plummer Associates, Inc. to fulfill RFQ WU-3-17 at a not to exceed price of $547,000.  Proposals were due January 24, 2017.

The purpose of this project is to assist the City of San Angelo in developing a plan of action to address its current and future water supply needs. The primary goals of the project are to: 
  • Evaluate San Angelo’s current water supplies and develop a plan for future use of these current supplies; 
  • Identify potential new water sources and water management strategies; 
  • Evaluate risk factors associated with new water sources and water management strategies; 
  • Develop planning-level project concepts of new water sources and water management strategies, including preliminary opinions of project development costs and operations / maintenance costs; and 
  • Prepare a Water Supply Engineering Feasibility Study that presents a comparison of options for meeting existing and future water supply needs for the City. 
San Angelo City Manager Daniel Valenzuela waived the engineering qualification required of the top two water positions.  His first waive enabled Ricky Dickson become our local Water Chief.  After kicking Dickson upstairs to Executive Director of Public Works Valenzuela waived the engineer requirement again for current Water Chief Bill Riley. 

Water Director Bill Riley wrote several months ago:

2017 will be spent pursuing that next water source, improving infrastructure and fortifying the Water Utilities Department’s financial standing.
City Council will consider an engineering proposal that focuses on finding our next water source(s) but it comes at significant cost, a nearly $550,000 maximum.  That will eat up some of the current $3.2 million in Water Enterprise fund balance as of 6-30-17.

The city last hired Alan Plummer in 2014 to conduct a study on using reclaimed water.  The study had a not to exceed price of $190,000.  City Council contracted with Alan Plummer for the direct potable use pilot study at a cost of $1.2 million. The Water Advisory Board did not go through with the use of reclaimed water.

The Water Advisory Board learned of the city's $43 million purchase of the Ford Ranch over the Hickory Acquifer at the same time as the general public.  In May 2016 the Water Advisory Board began narrowing down possible water projects for serious consideration.

After the city hired Riley it has gone on to hire/pay consultants for numerous projects

Raftelis - Water Rate Study for an initial $90,000 + a $17,000 add on (November 2014)
CDM Smith - Water Master Plan $314,460 
Gateway Planning - Lake Nasworthy development  $335,000
Consider Riley's background as a water consultant:

He served as the water and wastewater utilities manager at College Station for 11 years, although he worked for the municipality for about 17 years.

From 2000-02, Riley managed the water and wastewater consulting practice of Reed, Stowe & Yanke, providing financial, management and operations guidance to public sector clients, the release stated.

For the past 12 years, Riley served as president and general partner of Water Resources Management LLC — a water resources consulting firm that helps water utilities develop strategies for their operational, management, financial and resource challenges, according to the release.
So the city hired a non-engineer water consultant who has repeatedly hired other water consultants. I don't expect this pattern to end anytime soon.

Update 8-7-17:  The Water Advisory Board will hear a report on the CDM Smith study on 8-9-17 and consider approving the $547,000 study by Alan Plummer.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Animal Shelter Advisory Committee Fails to Get Quorum 2nd Month in Row

Despite appointing three members at Tuesday's City Council meeting the Animal Services Advisory Committee failed to get a quorum for its July 20th scheduled meeting.  Only four members of the current six appointees comprise a quorum.  This is the second month in a row the board did not meet due to poor attendance from appointed representatives.

After the cancelled June Animal Shelter Director James Flores resigned.  His resignation had two dramatically different story lines.  One had Flores the hero, the other saw him resign under pressure from poor handling of a series of events:

1) a shelter distemper outbreak, which may be lingering
2) the failure to respond to dog packs killing small pets near Glenmore Park/Old Christoval Road
3) the extermination of Misty after she'd been hurt by a car but appeared to have non-life threatening injuries
4) the $700 fine for two dogs temporarily being out of their yard and not being micro-chipped.
5) the prospect that the city's former veterinarian did not perform spays/neuters for shelter pets as represented by the vet and former Shelter Director James Flores. 
These issues remain outstanding but none of them were on the June or July ASAC agenda.  In addition, Flores outright lied in his representations to the ASAC on other Texas cities handling of community cats.  This discovery was not made by ASAC members or its chair, the group providing oversight.  It took an interested citizen to submit a public information request on the survey and conduct research which revealed Flores' numerous misrepresentations. 

Oddly, the June meeting only lacked one member for a quorum.  Sitting in the audience was former ASAC Chair Jenie Wilson, who'd apparently submitted her resignation.  As her resignation had not been accepted by the board or City Council I wondered why didn't she start the meeting, allow public comment and then entertain the agenda.  As this scenario did not happen many citizens who took the time to participate in local governance did not have an opportunity to speak in public comment.

The Standard Times article indicated Wilson resigned in time for it to be placed on the agenda, which must be posted 48 hours in advance.  

Jenie Wilson, who served as the chairwoman of the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee and resigned about a week ago, was also in the audience, waiting.--6-15-17

"I have my hands full with Concho Valley PAWS," Wilson said about her resignation. "There are only so many hours in the day and I decided to focus on all the positive things going on with PAWS and the shelter."
City Councilman Tommy Thompson re-appointed Wilson, the person who prevented public comment on the series of issues.  He did so as a new City Council representative, citing staff support as the main reason.  He did not indicate how he helped Jenie find more hours in the day to return to her ASAC role.

Consider approval of the withdrawal of a resignation and reinstatement of the Jenie Wilson (SMD2) to the Animal Services Advisory Committeee.
Thompson did so despite receiving numerous letters of concern about Wilson's clear conflict of interest overseeing a $60,000 contract with the city to run shelter adoptions.  The series of controversies arose under her board leadership and have not been placed on the agenda for the public to hear the results of needed investigations.

The new regime added this to the ASAC agenda:

All agenda items are subject to action. The Animal Services Advisory Committee reserves the right to consider business out of posted order and/or meet in a closed session on any agenda item should the need arise and if applicable pursuant to authorization by Title 5, Chapter 551, of the Texas Government Code.
This language did not exist prior to the July agenda.  In addition to cancelling two meetings in a row the ASAC has two new tools to limit public comment.  Many people who wanted to give comment in June took off work to do so.  Moving items can impact people's ability to offer comment on a listed agenda item.  Addressing an item in closed session completely removes public comment and accountability.

Eventually the newly reconstituted ASAC will meet.  Their first task will be to select officers.  It will be interesting to see who they nominate and elect.  I expect City staff (who engineer the composition of the board) to influence the selection of officers.  It's a longstanding San Angelo tradition. 

Update 7-31-17:  Ms. Wilson's resignation letter was sent on Friday, June 9, 2017 at 1:29 am to Michael Dane, Bob Salas, James Flores and five members of the ASAC.  Oddly, current ASAC member Bradley Petty was not included in the e-mail list.  The scheduled meeting for June 15, six days after her resignation, was not held.