Thursday, December 27, 2018

Water Fund Balance at FY End Reaches $10.3 Million

The City's Water Enterprise Fund performed $4.6 million over expectations by selling $2.33 million more water than budgeted and spending $2.28 million less than expected.  City Council heard this information in early December.  Not one Council member asked about the Water Enterprise fund balance which has a target of 75 days revenue. 

As of September 30, 2018 the City held over $10.3 million in the Water Enterprise Fund.  That's over 135 days of budgeted revenue sitting in city coffers.  City leaders believe this excess capital is necessary for future water plant upgrades and its plans to re-purpose the city's wastewater for public consumption.

It rained millions more dollars into city coffers while area rains blessed local lakes.  Twin Buttes Reservoir currently holds over 120,000 acre feet and is up over 35 feet.  Tom Green County farmers have rights to 25,000 acre feet per year as long as Twin Buttes holds at least 50,000 acre feet of water. 

Those farmers were happy with the City's arrangement of providing treated wastewater for irrigation in lieu of drawing water from Twin Buttes.  That sentiment changed when the City pursued using treated effluent for potable water. 

For decades the city's stance on its abysmal maintenance of Twin Buttes was "it has no water."  That clearly has changed.  

The city has lots of water to sell.  So far City Council has been silent on most of these developments.  What might the New Year bring in the way of public discussion?  For a dammed lake there are lots of swirling undercurrents.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Solid Waste Fund Balance Rises to $4.37 Million

San Angelo's City Council authorized City Manager Daniel Valenzuela to amend the solid waste contract with Republic Service allowing a reduction in acceptable recycling materials.  Republic committed to the following recyclables at City Council in March 2015.

Council reduced this list to:

This is the second change in the contract for Republic Services.  The first removed recycling collection from weekly to every other week and increased bulk collection from quarterly to the week opposite recycling.  The second reduces the kind of material allowed.

The City did not remove the recycling penalty charge of 50 cents of a month when it reduced the frequency of recycling and has been silent on this fee as the types of recycling are reduced.

The Finance Department updated Council on the Solid Waste Department's fiscal year close.  Solid Waste made a nearly $900,000 profit.

Finance Director Tina Dierschke failed to mention the Solid Waste Fund Balance of nearly $4.4 million at the end of the fiscal year.  It turns out trash is highly profitable for Republic and the City of San Angelo.

Update 12-21-18:  The Standard Times ran the city's position on the recycling change.  The 50 cent recycling charge remains in place according to the story. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

City Removes Financial Report Documents from Website

The City's Finance Department received recognition at City Council for Excellence in Financial Reporting on 12-11-18.  The proclamation stated the award:

"demonstrates “a constructive spirit of full disclosure to clearly communicate its financial story.”

Our citizens want assurances their city government manages their tax dollars with the utmost efficiency, effectiveness and transparency. Earning this honor five years in a row gives the public a high level of assurance that is indeed the case.  Interested taxpayers are invited and encouraged to go to the City’s website to  read our award-winning audit report.

Oddly, the week before this recognition the Finance Department removed monthly financial report documents from its website.  The City no longer has any 2018 or 2017 Bluebook documents available for the public to access.

Older documents from 2015-2016 remain accessible to the public.  I wrote Mayor Brenda Gunter and blind copied every member of City Council.  Not one council person responded after being informed of this move away from openness and transparency.

The documents remain inaccessible on the city's website.

While not on the city's website the 2018 Bluebook accounting documents are available here. (added to this post on 12-26-18)

Update 2-15-23:  The City was honored yet again for its annual financial audit.  It's the city's 9th Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. 

Saturday, December 08, 2018

City Seeks Bids for 2019 Street Sealcoating

The City set a December 11, 2018 deadline for contractors to submit bids for 2019 street sealcoating.  The only bidder to attend the pre-bid conference was CSA Materials, a division of ReeceAlbert.  The city provided contractors a map of the targeted streets, which can be seen above.

September and October rains took their toll on city streets.  Many San Angelo city streets are beyond rehabilitation via sealcoating due to base failure.  Public Works staff told former City Councilman Marty Self the city would not throw money away sealcoating streets that needed greater restoration work.  If Mr. Self drove through the targeted neighborhoods what would he find? 

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Benedetti Phoenix Buyback Date Looms

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela provided information on the city's road repair portfolio in his 2017 State of the City address.  Valenzuela highlighted the city's Benedetti Phoenix which enables city crews to rehabilitate certain San Angelo streets.  :

Asphalt Recycler Picks up Steam: Once proficient on the operation of the new recycling machinery, the crews will move to N. Chadbourne from 29th Street to 43rd Street. Chadbourne Street from Loop 306 to 29th will be reconstructed in 2018-2019 and the asphalt recycler will extend the pleasurable driving experience to 43rd Street. From there, the City will systematically work its way across town with a focus on the roadways identified as needing mill-and-overlay in the 2015 street assessment.
A related e-mail from Assistant Operations Director Patrick Freyrich stated:

Asphalt Recycling: The new Benedetti Phoenix asphalt recycler that Council approved in November 2016 arrived in San Angelo in July 2017 and City crews began the training process on Rio Concho Drive shortly thereafter. Through research and discussions with engineers and users across multiple countries, asphalt recycling provides an option to improve the condition of our street surfaces as well as provide a smoother, more pleasant drive for the traveling public. At just a fraction of the per-square-yard cost of the alternative mill-and-overly or reconstruction options, asphalt recycling could allow the City to improve roadways that may not have been repaired beyond seal coating every eight years. Our crews have been working hard learning the proper operation and techniques that meet our expectations. The learning curve has been greater than anticipated, but we are being meticulous about ensuring we get a great final product and still expect the asphalt recycling project to meet our expectations. In addition to saving bond money that can be reassigned to other reconstruction projects, this process is expected to provide a better ride for travelers and a roadway that is protected from further deterioration.
In the first week of operation city staff experienced at least one fireball and two members of the HIPAR crew quit.  City documents reported:

Our first accident happened on Day 3. As the crew was performing the end-of-day cleaning, diesel was sprayed on the plant that was still too hot from the day’s operation and ignition occurred. The fireball engulfed an employee that was cleaning the screed augers, but thankfully no serious injuries occurred.

At the beginning of Day 5, two of the original crew (screed operator and hand operator) opted to leave the HIPAR crew. The reason given by both was due to the amount of smoke from the operation. 
We had substantial flame-ups that came from, it was later discovered, our end-of-day shutdown procedures. Apparently, at the end of the day, diesel was liberally sprayed on the Recycler components to rid them of asphalt. This resulted in a lot of diesel running onto the roadway and soaking in. As such, when the Preheater and Recycler crossed those areas the residual diesel ignited and flames engulfed the machines. The hand crew worked hard to cover the enflamed areas with sand, but it was a losing battle. The end-of-day cleaning changed from using diesel as a cutting agent to scraping the bulk of the asphalt off by hand and lightly misting the augers, mill, and plant with diesel to break down any remaining asphalt.
During Spring 2018 budget sessions City Council discussed staffing issues with the Benedetti Phoenix and implemented pay changes intended to retain trained staff.  The city took another crack at utilizing the equipment. Crews worked on Era Street from May-July.

City documents show their specialized street crew used the Benedetti Phoenix only four of the last thirteen months.  Statistics indicate the city did only 0.6 lane miles far less than projected breakeven amount.

The manufacturer expressed their desire for San Angelo to be a showcase site for the impact of their equipment.  Certainly the need is here given the city's poor track record in street maintenance.  Citizens feel decades of under investment every time we get behind the wheel.

City Council will undertake whether to keep the asphalt recycling equipment or ask the manufacturer to buy it back.  That decision needs to be made in December 2018.

The public deserves to hear from responsible parties City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and Executive Director of Public Works Ricky Dickson on this item.

Update 1-13-19:  City staff plan to provide Council an update on the Benedetti machine.  They made this commitment at the 1-8-19 City Council meeting.

Update 1-19-19:  Staff recommends City Council exercise the buyback provision in their upcoming meeting.

Friday, November 23, 2018

City's Agreement with MedHab Nears Expiration

The City of San Angelo's economic development agreement with MedHab LLC will expire January 1, 2019.  City Council approved the $3.6 million incentive package on January 3, 2012 and the approved the contract seven months later.  The city had high hopes for significant job creation which can be seen in estimated impact of 75 new jobs (with up to 227 total).

The City projected an annual economic impact of $9.9 million.

The 2014 Annual Report for the Development Corporation stated:

Under that agreement, MedHab LLC will locate its production operation in San Angelo, create between 75 and 227 full-time qualifying positions, and relocate its offices to the Incubator Annex at 2009 W. Beauregard Ave., which was accomplished in December 2012.
To date MedHab has not had the projected impact on San Angelo employment.  The company accepted three years of free rent but has not accessed any other incentive provided in the contract.

Several months ago both the Development Corporation and City Council took up MedHab in executive session.  City officials shared nothing in regard to those discussions.  What happens on January 1, 2019?  Does MedHab, with its promising fall detection device for seniors, walk away from the City of San Angelo? 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Mayor Gunter Snubbed by Finance Staff

On October 20, 2018 Mayor Brenda Gunter asked city staff to present information on how the city performed in its just closed fiscal year.  Finance Director Tina Dierschke expressed reluctance to present unaudited numbers in her reply.  Four days later Dierschke did just that for the city's Development Corporation.

"Good morning, Board.  I'm going to present your year end unaudited financial statements to you this morning."--Tina Dierschke, Finance Director

It's not clear why city staff ignored the Mayor's request for November 6th and 20th City Council meetings, but they have. 

Update 12-8-18:   Staff will present preliminary financial results for fiscal year ended 9-30-18 at the upcoming City Council meeting on 12-11-18.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Mayor Asks, City Staff Ignores

Mayor Brenda Gunter made a clear request of San Angelo city staff during the October 16, 2018 Council meeting.  It was not recorded in the minutes or acted upon for the November 6, 2018 City Council meeting.

Mayor Gunter asked staff to present the financial results from the just closed fiscal year.  This item is not on the November 6th agenda as requested.  The Mayor made a clear request the minutes fail to document in that section or under future agenda items.

The Water Enterprise Fund Balance rose to $10.3 million as of 9-30-18.  That's 158 days of budgeted water revenue.  The city said its target is 75 days.  Other water fund balances total $20.5 million.  That does not include the Lake Nasworthy fund of $14 million.  With massive runoff the last two months the City's water supply is the healthiest I've ever seen. 

The Solid Waste Fund Balance rose to $4.3 million.  Council will deal with the solid waste contract in Executive Session.  Republic Services requested to walk back its recycling commitments.

Council makes strategic budget decisions and should hear the results of their actions prior to the completion of the fiscal audit.  I applaud Mayor Gunter's request for timely feedback.  Time will show if staff intend to deliver. 

Update 11-16-18:  Once again city staff ignored the Mayor's request (as reflected in the November 20 City Council agenda.)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

City Staff to Bring New Water Conservation Incentives to Council

San Angelo's City Council held existing water conservation credits in place until staff can bring new water conservation incentive program(s) to Council.  I wasn't sure the program was ill conceived and researched City Council history on the credits.  The City's Slideshare repository produced the following.

In April 2011 City Council heard a presentation on the impact of the 2006 Water Conservation Credits.

The City had two water rate increases, one in 2007 and another in 2011, during the evaluation period below.

Citizens conserved greatly between 2011 and 2015, reducing daily water usage by 37%.  The 10% conservation credit was in place during this period of significant conservation.

Two thoughts entered my mind as the 10-2-2018 discussion ensued.  First, hadn't prior City Council's asked staff to bring updated water conservation incentives for consideration?  The Alvin New, Kendall Hirschfeld and Paul Alexander era had leaders high on water conservation and pursuing new options.  A number of faces changed since Councilman Kendall Hirschfeld asked staff to do this very thing.  In May 2013 Hirschfeld called for advancing:

 "user conservation efforts via incentives for improvements such as rainwater collection, drought-tolerant landscaping, and high-flow toilet replacement, as examples".
Kendall Hirschfeld served on a private citizen group that proposed water conservation strategies to City Council in June 2014.  Hirshfeld was appointed to a re-constituted Water Advisory Board in 2016 where he echoed his call for a comprehensive water conservation program with incentives for citizens.  Despite the calls for new, updated conservation incentives city staff never delivered.

It's 2018 and staff, albeit different due to turnover, are still working on a water conservation incentive package. City staff's recommendation to cut the 10% conservation credit for low water use until they had time to bring back a more comprehensive updated program looked lazy in light of this history of waiting.

My second thought centered on the increase in water rebates from $150,000 in 2006 to $400,000 for 2018.  As water rates have gone through the roof since 2006, most of the huge increase in conservation credits occurred solely because of city induced water rate increases.

The City enacted water rate increases in 2007, 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  Another water increase is coming January 1, 2019.

2007 - Average increase of $13.22 per month
2011 - Average increase of $14.75 per month
2011-2016 - Additional fees of $5.42 per month added.
2016 - Average increase of $5.88 per month
2017 - Average increase of $6.56 per month.
2018 -Average increase of $7.32 per month
Two more rate increases are planned for 2019 and 2020.  Combined they total $7.96 per month.

Math shows rate increases to be the sole cause of increased conservation credits since 2011 for the 3,000 gallon a month user.  It's not fair for the city to act like conservation credits rose rapidly outside their repeated jacking up of rates.

It looked like another $400,000 grab from citizen pocketbooks, but fortunately City Council put that on hold.  We'll see how the proposed conservation incentives compare to the current program.  That is if staff present cost projections in a regular agenda item.   

Update:  The City adopted the 2019 Water Conservation Plan.  The document is dated September 3, 2019.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Ruffini Parking Lot Nearly $200,000 More Expensive than 2018 CIP Budget

Staff presented San Angelo's City Council with an October surprise, a $279,000 parking lot for the Ruffini Chapel and Station 618 Senior Center.  The background information made no mention of the history of the project under a prior City Council.

The December 6, 2016 City Council background packet stated:

"This project, to construct the parking area, is funded and moving forward."

The December 2016 agenda item was for an amendment to the Old Town Conservancy agreement allowing for construction of the chapel. 

"There is no cost to the City for approving the amendment to the agreement. In fact, approving this item will add funding from the Conservancy for development of the City property.In terms of development of the City property, $175,000 was allocated to abate and demolish the old building (which has been accomplished) and to develop the parking lot. At present, about $90,000 remains for development.

Staff also omitted the $85,000 capital improvement budget for Station 618 parking lot (CIP 2018-2023) approved by this Council in February 2018.  Assistant City Manager Rick Weise left out these key details in representing the project to Council.

Staff informed the public via a Standard Times article by Parks Chief Carl White.  His piece on 9-27-18 stated:

The property upon which it sits was acquired by the City about 20 years ago for construction of a parking lot. That budgeted parking lot project, pending successful bid and Council approval, is planned to begin in the late summer or early fall. 
Neither the newspaper piece or staff's presentation gave an explanation as to the scope of project changes that drove it from $85,000 to nearly $280,000. 

Weise did say they could reduce the project some by eliminating a few decorative planters such that it would give them more parking spaces.  Don't planners used site specifications/requirements, like the number of parking spaces required for optimal/peak use, to design a project?

Apparently the requirement is spending excess city dollars without detailing the history of a nearly $300,000 project and why it changed so dramatically in such a short period of time. 

Thursday, October 04, 2018

City Rams Through Wastewater Reuse

The City of San Angelo discussed future water supply in Executive Session on 9-18-18.  Only Council members heard the presentation by hired consultant Scott Hibbs.  With no discussion of the facts or their deliberations Councilman Tommy Thompson made a motion for the city to apply for permits that would allow for discharging treated wastewater into the Concho River for a short distance then pulling that water back out of the river for citizen use.   There was no public comment.

The Water Advisory Board learned of this on 9-24-18, nearly a week after Council acted.  Consultant Scott Hibbs updated the water board as to City Council's planned strategy.  This may explain the poor attendance as four members missed the meeting.  It's hard to see any advising from this board if City Council already acted.  Educated and talented people don't like to be used as a rubber stamp. 

The Water Board did hear from members of the public concerned about the city pursuing groundwater south of San Angelo.  One did ask about the city's arrangement with the Tom Green County Water Control and Improvement District #1 (TGCWCID).  Water Chief Allison Strube said City Council would address the irrigation contract with TGCWCID but hopes the city could send effluent water to the district during times when the city does not need treated water for citizen use.

The City's broken pipeline to Lake Spence will remain unusable.  There are no plans to fix the intake or pipeline for the city to garner 3,000 acre feet annually.  City staff may wish to remove Lake Spence from the water supply web page after Council passed on a workable Spence strategy.

On 10-2 the city published a video on Council's strategy staring two hired guns, the lead consultant and the city's water rights attorney.  This video mentioned the city's current use of wastewater one time.

For all the discussion of process the video failed to mention City Council decided the top water supply strategy behind closed doors without any public comment.  Continuing the lack of disclosure theme was Water Chief Allison Strube who said the city wanted the water fund balance to be "closer to 75 days cash on hand or greater."

She failed to mention the gusher of funds currently in that account, nearly $9.4 million as of 8-31-18.  That's double the amount needed for citizen water rebates cited by staff in November 2017.

How does all this nondisclosure happen under the leadership of City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and Executive Director of Public Works Ricky Dickson?  Why does City Council allow it?

Update 10-14-18:  Another level of nondisclosure arose with SanAngeloLive's piece by Yantis Green on the change.  Green is the former Executive Director of the Tom Green County Water Control and Improvement District #1.  He left the position after embezzling over $60,000 in public funds.  Author Yantis Green provided no disclosure as his history with the TCGWCID. 

Update 3-23-19:  San Angelo Live Editor in Chief Yantis Green defended his professional ethics as a journalist since 1988.

Friday, September 28, 2018

City Staff Want to Eliminate Water Conservation Credit

City staff recommend the cancellation of the 10% conservation credit for water customer users who consume 3,000 gallons or less on a monthly basis.  Not on the October 2, 2018 City Council agenda is staff's botched billing of the conservation discount since 2009.

Staff recommends the 10% conservation discount be removed.
Water Chief Allison Strube indicated in the decade long over-billing press release:

“Many of the customers who earn the discount currently are not actively seeking to do so,” Strube said. “They manage to earn the credit simply by circumstance, such as the case with a realtor briefly needing water service for an inspection or a single person living alone in a home. We want to create a robust conservation program that encourages our customers to actively take steps to save water.”
Horse hockey!  Our household regularly uses 3,000 gallons per month due to conservation.  We have low flow shower heads and water sparing toilets.  We have not operated our sprinkler system since our last major drought when Council worked hard to bring Hickory Water online.

At the time City Councilman Kendall Hirschfeld suggested the city not charge citizens the monthly base fee if they turned off their sprinkler meter.   That was never implemented.  Our contribution to conservation is low water use in the home and no sprinkler use in the yard.  For this we pay $100 a month in the smattering of water associated fees.  That's $33.33 per thousand gallons used.

The city wants to take away the 10% discount we received or were supposed to receive.  I haven't seen how much the city owes for not applying the discount since 2009.

Rather than come clean with Council on their decade long billing errors, city staff will propose taking away the conservation credit, the only means currently in place for citizens to get a portion of their ever increasing bill returned to them.

The Water Enterprise Fund Balance stands at $9.37 million as of 8-31-18, nearly twice the level the city cited as needed for a citizen rebate in November 2018.  Council dropped the regular review of the water fund balance for possible rebate.

There is no urgency to drop the conservation credit while staff look for other programs to incentivize conservation.  City Council should retain the credits until a substitute program can be designed, shared with the public and be evaluated for potential impact.

Update 9-30-18:  SanAngeloLive ran a piece on the proposed change.

Update 10-3-18:  City Council did not eliminate the conservation credit as proposed by staff.  They may in the near future when staff has another incentive program to offer in its place. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Republic Gets Answers from U.S. Cities on Recycling Concerns

San Angelo's City Council heard from citizens last night about possible changes to its trash contract with Republic Services.  The public meeting is worth the watch.

Republic has approached San Angelo about needing to rethink a 10-year contract - signed in 2014 - after local processor Butts Recycling quadrupled its price last month. The San Angelo Standard-Times reports that options include raising rates, scaling back the program or cutting it entirely. 
Republic Services employed various strategies in response to recycling changes in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.

Arab, Alabama denied Republic Services request for a contract change.  WasteDive reported:

Republic Services asked Arab for a cost increase in June, but after exploring its options, WAFF reports that Arab decided to stay the course. Its contract terms are technically still valid through May 2020.
Alaska municipalities are wrestling with the same concern.

Multiple communities were informed by Republic Services and others that markets for their mixed paper, and in some cases mixed plastic, no longer existed.
Arizona communities experience includes:

Municipalities and MRF operators throughout the state begin reporting more issues, with hints that some material is now being disposed, according to The Arizona Republic. Republic Services tells CBS 5 News that it continues to meet with municipalities about potential contract changes. The town of Bisbee considers cuts to its drop-off program, according to the San Pedro Valley News-Sun, and is landfilling low-value materials.

Arizona Daily Star reports on wide-ranging issues in the state, focusing on a host of potential changes in Tuscon such as reduced collection or higher fees. The city's recycling program is projected to run a $500,000 deficit this fiscal year and local MRFs are reporting high contamination rates. Green Valley News later reports that Republic is still moving material at its local MRF and has even offered skeptical residents ride-alongs to prove recycling continues as usual.

Kankakee, Illinois held Republic to the terms of its contract.

Republic Services, the city’s waste hauler, recently stated the curbside program was being discontinued because so much of the recyclable materials in the containers were not acceptable.
However, the city administration explored the matter and determined Republic would not be living up to the terms of the contract, and after discussions with the company, it was agreed the program would continue as it has for several years.
In Indiana Republic will raise prices.

Republic Services is nearly doubling rates for Indianapolis residents, the maximum allowed under its contract.
St. Lous, Missouri citizens are luckier:

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on cost pressures for the local Republic Services MRF and its regional customers. Mixed paper is reportedly moving at a loss, though Republic said pricing is better than it was a couple months ago and no program changes are currently being considered.
Missoula, Montana restricted the types of plastics that could be recycled:

Republic Services and Garden City Recycling stop taking mixed plastics #3-7 in the Missoula and Lake County area, according to the Missoulian. Glacier National Park does the same, while Yellowstone hasn't made changes yet.
The City of Brotherly Love will pay Republic more while other Keystone state communities have long term contracts with Republic.

Philadelphia's recycling budget could take a $2 million hit this year now that it's paying Republic Services $38 per ton, according to The Inquirer. Others, such as Camden County, may be spared for now due to long-term agreements.
The City of San Angelo has a long term agreement with Republic Services.  Will City Council hold Republic to it, amend the agreement or rebid a new scope of trash/landfill services?

Update 3-4-19:  This video link highlights how City Council caved to Republic Service.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

City Owes Citizens Conservation Credits from 2009-2018

 A City of San Angelo news release stated:

The Water Utilities Department is seeking to refund $284,138 to 25,031 water customers who did not receive conservation discounts they have earned since 2009.  City officials unearthed an error in a handwritte, 48 page computer code that a former City employee created in 2006 to determine who receives the discount. 
It's not clear why refunds don't apply to bills after the computer code was implemented in 2006.  The City's website describes the credit:

A conservation credit applies to customers who use less than 3,000 gallons in a month. Ten percent of the base rate and usage fees credit the customer’s account in the following month.
This is the latest decade long billing error by Public Utilities.  It follows the city's overcharging commercial trash customers.  Executive Director of Public Works Ricky Dickson was aware of Republic's overcharging commercial customers in August 2011. 

City leaders promised a rigorous response to that overbilling, including auditing utility bills for compliance with local ordinances.  That did not happen.  The city's practice of ignoring compliance with city laws went beyond public utility billing. 

Ten year over-billing of water customers is hardly a "mishap."  It's the latest sign that the City of San Angelo is lackadaisical about complying with local ordinances.  The city charges citizens late fees for paying their water bills.  Council should implement an incompetent billing refund bonus for effected citizens in recognition of the time value of money.

Water Balances Grow for City of San Angelo

San Angelo is much richer in water resources and water fund holdings.  Twin Buttes Reservoir doubled in the last month from recent rains.  The Water Enterprise Fund balance rose to over $9.3 million, nearly double the level city staff said was required to offer citizen water rebates in a November 2017 City Council meeting.

The Water Advisory Board heard a report on future development of water supplies.  Former City Councilman Kendall Hirschfeld missed the meeting.  He would have been disappointed in the analysis which included an ongoing contribution from Lake Ivie.  Hirschfeld was on City Council when San Angelo faced the prospect of a dry Lake O. H. Ivie along with our three local lakes, Nasworthy, O. C. Fisher and Twin Buttes Reservoir.  The city's pipeline to Lake E. V. Spence has not worked for decades.  Hirschfeld wanted the city to plan from a scorched lake perspective. 

During dry times City Council decided in Executive Session to put treated wastewater into the Concho River and pull it back out further downstream.  The Water Board learned six days later of Council's decision.  Staff informed the Water Board that farmers would no longer get the city's treated effluent for irrigation during extended droughts.  I don't know how farmers would've known to attend City Council on 9-18-18 or the Water Advisory Board on 9-24-18 to make public comment. 

There is an agreement with the Tom Green County Irrigation Control District that would need to be reworked.  That should happen in conjunction with City Council's strategic water decisions which clearly have begun.  San Angelo has significant funds in the Water Enterprise account and been blessed with a huge increase at Twin Buttes Reservoir, which no longer needs expensive pumping to move water around.

Friday, September 21, 2018

ASAC Effectively Neutered

San Angelo's Animal Shelter Advisory Committee had five of its nine meetings cancelled thus far in 2018.  The ASAC met in January, March, May and July.  The last two meetings, August and September were cancelled. 

City Council undertook three strategic decisions without input from the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee, the most recent being approving $200,000 for garage expansion/processing room changes. Earlier this year the City contracted with Concho Valley PAWS for veterinary services and leased land to PAWS for an adoption center.

City Council not only missed input from ASAC members it limited the opportunity for public input in bypassing the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee. 

The February meeting had the item pulled from consent for council discussion.  Several members asked questions about compliance with the spay/neuter ordinance.  Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden did not provide the data she shared with Councilman Tommy Hiebert a month prior.

After considerable discussion the Mayor did not ask for public comment.  Council voted to award PAWS the contract for veterinary services.  City Councilman Tommy Thompson asked if it would "get pets out of the shelter better, faster, more efficiously and get the capability to meet the guidelines we want as far as they are vaccinated and altered."  Morgan said it would.  She also stated "this is the solution to removing our pet overpopulation epidemic."

The strategic vision of PAWS adoption center has not been shared with the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee or the public.  The land lease was not pulled for council discussion on May 2, 2018.  It passed within the consent agenda for that meeting.

In the last City Council meeting Mayor Brenda Gunter pushed for the city to spend $200,000 on improvements to the current animal shelter building.  This was embedded in a budget amendment.  There was no discussion as to how the $200,000 fit into the Capital Improvement Plan priorities for the Animal Shelter.  I haven't heard any discussion in Council strategic planning/budget sessions about Animal Services.

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee assists with compliance with state law.  Proposed facility changes fit within this scope of responsibility.

It would be difficult for a busy citizen or Animal Shelter Advisory Committee member to discern this shelter renovation/expansion was even on the agenda.  Getting time off work to attend would've been the next hurdle for the aware.

I'm not sure the city could design a better system to keep planned animal service changes a secret from an interested public with its neutered Animal Services Advisory Committee and propensity to bury strategic animal services decisions within City Council procedures.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Animal Shelter Released 500 Unaltered Dogs over 6 Month Period

Animal Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden informed City Councilman Tommy Hiebert in January that the shelter released approximately 500 unaltered dogs to PAWS or other approved facilities.  The recipients would be responsible for spaying/neutering the unaltered pets.  The City of San Angelo adopted a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance in May 2017.

Morgan's numbers to Councilman Hiebert indicate the city paid for spay/neuter surgery for 188 of the 688 unaltered dogs adopted from April through November 2017.  That's a mere 27.3% of the unaltered dogs processed and adopted by the shelter during that period.  PAWS took responsibility for fixing 14.5% and other facilities 58% of dogs adopted over the six month time frame.

Morgan cited 8 dogs were not yet spayed or neutered, a higher number than represented to City Council.  For some reason city leaders chose not to share these numbers with the public, despite numerous inquiries and renewing the PAWS contract.

Update 9-29-18:  The Animal Shelter is experiencing a Parvo virus outbreak among the dog population.   From April to November 2017 vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries were done in the same veterinary visit, thus 500 of the 688 dogs left the shelter without vaccinations or spay/neuter surgeries as required by city ordinance.

Monday, September 03, 2018

COSA Budget Cites $7.8 million Water Fund Balance as of July 31

City Council examined the Water Fund in a special budget meeting on August 14.   Finance Director Tina Diershke mentioned the need to grow the water fund balance to a certain number of days revenue but never shared the Water Enterprise Fund Balance, over $7.8 million as of the end of July.

Council could remember Finance Director Dierschke's representation of Water Fund Balance as of 9-30-18 as a mere $3.5 million.  The 2017-18 budget shows a beginning fund balance of $6.1 million.  That's a $2.5 million difference.

Mayor Gunter tried to get a picture of the current water fund balance with direct questions on the number of days and amount.  Dierschke would only give the adjusted budget fund balance of 62 days.  She did not give an actual fund balance figure in days or dollars.

City staff can compare budget to budget but it has accounting documents that show actual figures.    The Water Enterprise Fund is holding enough cash to cover 109 days of water enterprise expenditures.  Council should be astute enough to recognize staff's sleight of hand.

City Council eliminated the twice a year rebate discussion requirement in April of this year.  That may well have been a mistake.

Update 9-25-18:  As of 8-31-18 the Water Enterprise Fund balance stood at $9,369,008.  That's nearly double the last 75 day fund balance goal shared with City Council in November 2017.

Update 8-25-19:  City Council held a budget session on major funds, including water, in early August. Once again staff avoided sharing current fund balances which now total over $31 million.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

MedHab Back on City Council Agenda

For the first time in five years City Council will take up MedHab's economic development agreement with the City of San Angelo.  The item is slated for Executive Session.  In return for a $3.6 million economic development package MedHab promised to provide up to 227 jobs within six years.  Over two years ago MedHab President Johnny Ross reported the company hit a key milestone for ramping us San Angelo employment.

The contract is due to expire on January 1, 2019.  Will the city ask for early cancellation, like the Mesquite Solar Project announced to great fanfare in 2014?

I'll venture the Development Corporation Board is itching to do something with money reserved for MedHab.  Will they give it back to nonperforming MedHab?

Update 9-2-18:  MedHab is pursuing a $3 million equity capital raise and already sold over $900,000 of new equity, according to an 8-20-18 SEC filing.