Thursday, March 29, 2018

ASAC Didn't Meet in February Despite Expanded PAWS Deal and Serious Compliance Concerns

San Angelo's Animal Shelter Advisory Board did not meet in February due to lack of agenda items according to Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden.  I inquired about the cancellation in February and the City Manager's office said it was due to lack of a quorum.  These are two very different reasons.

A number of citizens wanted to make public comment in February on two items, the proposed expansion of PAWS contract with the city to include veterinary services and PAWS releasing animals from the shelter without rabies vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery.  Approximately 100 shelter animals missed their veterinary appointments for both services in 2017.  Several area rescues received former shelter pets that had not gotten a rabies vaccination or been altered.

For several citizens this was not the first cancellation of the Animal Services Advisory Committee during a time of public consternation.  It happened after packs of wild dogs killed numerous pets along Christoval Road and Animal Control exterminated Misty before rescues or her owner could intervene on her behalf.  I showed up to speak on gross/fraudulent misrepresentations made by Director James Flores in his community cat survey of other Texas cities but did not get that opportunity.

Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden represented to City Council that their were no rabies or spay/neuter compliance concerns on 1-23-18 when she spoke of a "trusted reconciliation process" and 2-20-18 when she cited "dozens of pet deaths prior to spay/neuter surgery."

“So the veterinarians report a missed appointment but we would not report a compliance issue.” -- Morgan Chegwidden to City Council on 2-20-18
When asked for information on the reconciliation and pet deaths prior to vaccinations/surgery the city said it did not have that information.  The digital reconciliation does not create a document and Morgan does not know how many pets died under PAWS adoption contract with the City.  How does Morgan represent to City Council that such data exists but none can be produced via a public information request?

The strategy appears to be avoid accountability by delay and obfuscation.  If staff throw enough stuff against the wall maybe something will stick.  Lack of quorum, splat.  Lack of agenda items, splurt.  Both led to lack of public input, one of the major aims of city boards and commissions.  Accountability isn't easy but it is important in local government. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

City Stumbles Over Increasing Nursing Fees

Staff stated the clear need for the city to recover the full cost of lab testing in proposing increased fees to City Council.  Finance Director Tina Diershke implied federal grant funds could not be used to subsidize lab testing for patients needing affordable access to healthcare with her statement.

“1115 Waiver grant is for costs associated with operating and maintaining the clinic”
City Council heard in its application for Section 1115 Waiver grant funding in December 2012:

Council must have been confused after learning the City did not need to charge every patient a price to cover city costs.  Health Department Director Sandra Villareal said the city needed to offer free testing to meet goals under the Section 1115 Waiver grant.

Tina and Sandra gave two very different descriptions of how the new testing fee would work.  It took Council time to discern who was correct.  Staff's explanation of testing charges went as poorly as the city's need to charge/not charge presentation.

There was no crisis for City Council to approve new nursing fees which likely will result in a miniscule incremental revenue for the city.  City Council could have sent staff back to rework the item.  Instead they voted unanimously to approve new testing fees for an area accounting documents show had nearly $700,000 in excess revenue over expenses for the last five years.

There appears to be a low bar for staff to hurdle for Council approval for price increases in an area where the state and federal government provide grants for citizens to obtain affordable access to care.

Monday, March 19, 2018

City Wants to Increase Nursing Fees

City Council will consider establishing fees for certain nursing services in their 3-20-18 meeting.  City staff omitted the Health Department is/has been the recipient of state and federal grant funds intended to help members of the public get access to affordable healthcare services.  In some cases the city has to match state and federal funding with local dollars.  The resolution for Nursing Services omits this major funding subsidy. 

Proposed language in the resolution would have City Council ignore this major consideration.

WHEREAS, the City Council has reviewed staff’s accounting of Health Services
Department, Nursing Division, patient related services costs and revenues
, and desires to establish fees for patient services that reasonably reflect the cost to the City of providing the services

The Health Services department is in a substantial five year surplus as of the end of FY 2016-17.  The City's Bluebook shows a five year surplus for Nursing of $195,924 and $492,531 for the Section 1115 Waiver grant which funded the re-opening of the city's Sexually Transmitted Disease clinic. Combined the two areas had excess revenues over expenses of $688,455 over the five year period ending 9-30-17. 

Staff failed to reference the major funding for Nursing Division is public grant money, thus they left out an important consideration City Council needs to make appropriate fee decisions. 

Also, the city is up over $800,000 year to date on Sales Tax Revenue.  For these reasons it seems prudent for Council to deliberate with excess grant funding as a major part of the public discussion.

Update 3-20-18:  City Staff did not bring up the five years in a row of excess revenue for both Nursing and the Section 1115 Waiver grant and City Council remained mum on this fact despite my writing every member in the limited window after agenda/background packet publication.  Council approved the proposed fee structure despite a disjointed and contradictory presentation by staff. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Update on Rejuvenating City Roads via Benedetti Equipment

In December 2016 San Angelo's City Council approved a $1.2 million Benedetti Phoenix machine to resurface city roads in ill repair.   That same month the city released a video on the new equipment.

This equipment allows for the City to rehabilitate entire roadways that are in disrepair or in poor condition. The equipment is part of a comprehensive restructuring of the street repair process as a result of Council's street priority.
In June 2017 the city solicited bids for 50,000 gallons of oil for street repairs.  That bid document stated:

The Street & Bridge Division of the City of San Angelo is requesting bids for the procurement of oil for street repairs. This oil will be used as the rejuvenating oil for the City’s Benedetti Phoenix and for the Bagela rejuvenating system, for rejuvenating the hot asphalt for the pot holes and water cuts.
Rejuvenating entire roadways is different than filling pot holes and doing road repair after water cuts.  One manufacturer cited the history of asphalt rejuvenation:

Early tests showed that crews that had been completing 1-2 patches per day with traditional repair methods were instantly doing 8-9 patches per day with what would later prove to be even greater durability. It wasn't long before full roads of up to a half-mile or more were being completed per day.
Prior to buying the Benedetti machine San Angelo had asphalt milling equipment.  It loaned its asphalt zipper to the City of Fredericksburg via a May 2016 Inter-local Agreement.  This loan saved Fredericksburg $100,000 on a $300,000 project based on 60 hours use.  San Angelo's asphalt zipper had a mere 8 hours on it when Fredericksburg  borrowed the equipment.

Fredericksburg went on to lease an asphalt zipper.  A Public Works official estimates significant savings, citing the unit has already paid for itself.  The official said Fredericksburg prides itself in having zero potholes.

San Angelo citizens suffer from widespread deteriorated roads.  One City Councilman asked for an update on the Benedetti machine and the use of road crews to optimize the city's $1.2 million investment.  Operations Director Shane Kelton is on deck to report, unless Public Works Executive Director Ricky Dickson reappears to speak before council.

It's been sometime since Dickson updated City Council on any Public Works projects.  The Benedetti machine and road crew staffing/training would be a good topic for San Angelo's top Public Works official. Council has five possible people to hear from on this issue.  Maybe all will show up to illuminate San Angelo's City Council.

Update 3-18-18:  City Council minutes from 3-6-18 state "Council Member Tom Thompson asked for a presentation and update on the Benedetti Asphalt Recycling machine."  It's not on the agenda for 3-20-18

Saturday, March 03, 2018

City Council to Hear about Intergraph/Hexagon?

City Council will entertain spending $150,405 on a maintenance contract for its police and fire emergency dispatch system.  The city council background for 3-6-18 states:

The City of San Angelo is in the process of migrating our CAD/RMS system back to our previous provider. The maintenance cost cover support and installation for the preparation of these servers prior to and after they go live.

On March 21, 2017 City Council approved spending nearly $2.4 million to replace the Spillman dispatch system by upgrading its ancient Intergraph system.  Hexagon bought Intergraph in 2010.  

The quickest, most reasonable path to a working system is to begin working with our previous vendor, Hexagon/Intergraph, to re-establish the functionality of our previous system.
Might City Council get a staff update on the Intergraph upgrade?  Not likely. 

The item is on the Consent Agenda.  A City Council member would have to pull the item for discussion.

Staff should want the public to hear how they addressed a system that placed people in jeopardy, the clear message a year ago.  Is the fix in and working? If not, when will the city get value for spending over $2 million on a system it ignored for decades?

Update 3-6-18:  No member of City Council pulled this item for public explanation.  It passed quietly in the consent agenda.