Saturday, December 21, 2019

City Won't Ask PAWS for Compliance Information for Public

The City of San Angelo said it had no documents available in response to the following public information request (however it did answer the first two questions as seen in graph above):

“Please provide information on the animal shelter's compliance with the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance during 2019 (January to September). Please indicate:

1. Total animals adopted
2. How many were already altered before arriving at the shelter?
3. How many adopted animals had their spay/neuter surgery prior to leaving the animal shelter?
4. How many adopted animals left with an appointment for spay/neuter surgery?
5. Of those that left with an appointment, what was the wait time between leaving the shelter and the spay/neuter appointment (minimum, maximum and average)?
6. How many animals in this category made their appointment and were successfully spayed/neutered as required by city ordinance?

Assistant City Manager Michael Dane said the city would prepare such a report at the September 2019 Animal Shelter Advisory Committee Meeting.”
This issue arose in January 2018 prior to the city expanding their arrangement with adoption contractor Concho Valley PAWS.  Staff dodged Council questions on compliance with the city's spay/neuter ordinance.

Mayor Brenda Gunter asked for statistics on missed spay/neuter appointments.  Morgan started off with calling this rare, then elevated it to occasional.  She said the city has a "tremendous trust in this process where there's a reconciliation.  We know who is outstanding for their surgery and who is not."  One might expect Morgan to have used data from this reconciliation to answer the Mayor's statistics question. 
It arose again September 2018.

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.
I raised the concern about the city hiding behind a contractor at the last Animal Services Advisory Committee (September 2019).  I shared that the city did that very thing when I requested compliance data (in late 2017).  Two years ago the City said it did not have the documents (although their external contractor PAWS did).

Animal Services has provided an update that this (rabies certificate) is not a document of the city – an external vendor provides these services.
ASAC member and Concho Valley PAWS Director Jenie Wilson said they have that information and that city data used in my prior reporting was inaccurate.  I said all the more reason for the city to compel PAWS to provide basic compliance information when requested by the public.

The city has the right to compel PAWS to provide requested information at any time but it chooses not to do so.  I suggested Mrs. Wilson use the city's juggernaut public information department and her great ties with area media to broadcast PAWS compliance data with city ordinance and state law for the public to review. That has not happened over the last two years.

The City of San Angelo has defended PAWS in the past by implying it had data.  PAWS Director Jenie Wilson stated to a city board they had the information .  Yet neither party can or will share.  It's a two year journey to find the most basic compliance information.  When will it end?

Update 1-15-20:  Standard contract language for the City of San Angelo states: "PUBLIC RECORDS: Contractor understands that the public shall have access, at all reasonable times, to all documents and information pertaining to City contracts, and agrees to allow access by City and the public to all documents subject to disclosure under applicable law. Contractor’s failure or refusal to comply with the provisions of this section shall be considered a material breach of the Contract and may result in the immediate termination of the Contract by City."

In addition "City may, at reasonable times during the term hereof, inspect Contractor’s work, worksite and facilities and perform such tests, as City deems reasonably necessary, to determine whether the goods or services required to be provided by Contractor under the Contract conform to the Contract terms and applicable codes and regulations."  Compliance with spay/neuter ordinance fits under this provision.

"OWNERSHIP OF DOCUMENTS: Contractor understands and agrees that any information, document, report or any other material whatsoever which is given by City to Contractor or which is otherwise obtained or prepared by Contractor pursuant to or under the terms of the Contract is and shall at all times remain the property of City. Contractor agrees not to use any such information, document, report or material for any other purpose whatsoever without the written consent of City, which may be withheld or conditioned by City in its sole discretion."

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

City Council Ignores High Volume Spay/Neuter Nonprofit for Poor Veterinary Services Performer

San Angelo City Council approved the donation of veterinary surgical equipment to Concho Valley PAWS despite a request from Critter Shack Rescue to purchase the equipment from the city.  Critter Shack operates a low cost spay/neuter clinic that averages 1,800 spay/neuters per year.  It also partners with the city as the only sponsoring organization for the Community Cat program.

City Council contracted with PAWS in February 2018 for veterinary services.  PAWS performed 87 spay/neuter surgeries from May to July 2018 and has done none since that period.  Critter Shack performed 3,000 spay/neuter surgeries during the same period.

Council did not consider the Critter Shack proposal or its track record in serving citizens by providing low cost spay/neuter services.  The city's surgical equipment would have allowed Critter Shack to expand their clinic which benefits the public.

Critter Shack fits staff's stated rationale of "keeping it local, within Pets Alive coalition" better than Concho Valley PAWS.  Community Cats is a top strategy for the city under Pets Alive.  At the September Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting Morgan indicated community cats are taking up shelter slots due to the wait for spay/neuter surgeries.

Council did not consider PAWS role in making the current equipment "unused" by failing to perform under their veterinary services contract with the city, nor did it set any conditions for the equipment donation.

This sets the stage for Council to once again ignore PAWS performance on complying with the city's spay/neuter ordinance for pets in the Animal Shelter.  PAWS now will get the city's veterinary services equipment as it leases land next to the Animal Shelter for an adoption center for $1.  The two organizations are firmly in bed with one another as a new, deeper arrangement looms. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

PAWS to Get Animal Services Equipment from City

On 12-17-19 City Council will entertain staff's recommendation to donate Animal Shelter equipment to Concho Valley PAWS.  The equipment is an adoption trailer and veterinary surgical equipment for conducting spay/neuter surgeries.  The item is on the consent agenda which means it can be acted upon with no discussion for the public to hear.  Citizens should hear the reason staff chose PAWS over other area nonprofit animal service organizations, some of whom provide low cost spay/neuter clinics for the public.

Staff omitted two important considerations in their recommendation in the background packet.  The first is how PAWS has performed under their agreement with the city to provide spay/neuter surgeries at the Animal Shelter.  Council approved this arrangement on 2-20-18.  PAWS performed 87 spay/neuter surgeries over a three month period from May to July 2018.  That level of performance should be concerning to staff and City Council.  PAWS veterinarian was supposed to have been utilizing the surgical equipment for spay/neuter surgeries, not letting it sit unused. 

The second consideration that Council should be aware of is a draft RFP for expanded adoption/veterinary services was presented to the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee in their 10-17-19 meeting.  The vendor would set and collect adoptions fees independent of the city and bear the cost of spay/neuter surgeries and rabies vaccines.  The vendor will have full fiduciary responsibility, yet there was no information requested in the RFP to assess the contractor's financial stability or the quality of its accounting/fiscal controls. 

The ASAC discussion of the RFP on 10-17-19 raised concerns that the agreement would be arm's length, so much so Assistant City Manager Michael Dane intervened to coach members on the need for the proposed relationship to appear arm's length.. 

Donating equipment with value should be done within the arc of the proposed changes and the city should understand how cost savings would be passed on to citizens. 

The City has a contract with PAWS for adoption and veterinary services.  Any movement of city assets to this contractor should occur in public view and citizens should have a clear understanding of how such donations will benefit them.

Update 12-15-19:  Critter Shack Rescue is the Community Cat sponsoring organization for the city and it operates a low cost spay neuter clinic for area citizens.  They have performed well roughly 3,000 spay/neuter surgeries since Council approved hiring PAWS for veterinary service.  PAWS did 87.

Update 12-16-19:  Last week Critter Shack contacted Shelter Director and expressed their interest in buying the idle veterinary surgical equipment from the city.  They followed up again today.  So far there has been no response.

Update 12-17-19:  City Council asked two questions before approving the donation of city owned equipment to Concho Valley PAWS.  Mayor Gunter asked why the equipment was not put up for auction and Councilman Lane Carter asked if the equipment would revert back to the city should the adoption services contract end (answer No).  Shelter Director Morgan said the community would benefit from giving the equipment to Concho Valley PAWS for the city's Pets Alive initiative.  No councilperson raised the concern of PAWS nonperformance under the veterinary services contract with the city.

Update 1-20-22:   PAWS new building opened in summer 2020.  PAWS indicated it was recruiting a vet in November 2020.  There is no indication that PAWS has used the veterinary services equipment despite Morgan's telling Council that PAWS was "hungry to take on that service" over two years ago.

Update 4-29-22:  Concho Valley PAWS will hold a grand opening of the Judith and David Hirschfeld Adoption Center at 11:00 am on Saturday, April 30th. 

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Natural Gas Pipeline to Go Under San Angelo Water Sources

A number of Concho Valley residents recently received letters regarding the planned development of a natural gas pipeline through Irion and Tom Green Counties.  SPGlobal reported last month:

Tellurian has invested in shale acreage and has proposed building four natural gas pipelines. Tellurian recently initiated the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission pre-filing process for one of those pipelines, Permian Global Access Pipeline.
Permian Global Access Pipeline filings with the FERC show the pipeline will cross three tributaries , Spring Creek, Dove Creek and the South Concho River.  Tellurian plans to put the pipeline below each flowing stream/river via horizontal directional drilling.

The pipeline will run between Mertzon and Sherwood. The area below is the most populated the pipeline will traverse in the two counties, Irion and Tom Green.

The next pipeline water crossing also has homes.  It's Dove Creek.

The Permian Global Access Pipeline will cross the South Concho River between San Angelo and Christoval.

All three tributaries feed Twin Buttes Reservoir, a main water source for the City of San Angelo. The City recently proposed replacing a city sewer line under Lake Nasworthy and plans to have the new line inside casement for safety reasons.  It's not clear if Tellurion plans to encase its 42 inch natural gas pipeline under each tributary.

Residents of San Bruno, California learned in 2010 natural gas pipelines can be deadly.

A faulty seam in a pipe owned by PGandE led to a tremendous explosion. The blast flattened or damaged dozens of homes and killed 8 people. To make matters worse, the section of pipe that led to the explosion was incorrectly listed as seamless, meaning it was not part of the safety inspections for sections with seams.PGandE faces numerous criminal charges for this incident.
Concho Valley residents expect their property and water to be safe from hazards.  Will the City of San Angelo take measures to ensure its water sources are not harmed by the planned Permian Global Access Pipeline?  Will elected officials do their part to ensure property is not harmed by the natural gas pipeline?  Citizens in Irion and Tom Green County have legitimate concerns and the time to hear them is now.

MotleyFool wrote in June:

LNG project developer Tellurian (NASDAQ:TELL) has proposed building the Permian Global Access Pipeline to transport natural gas from the region to Louisiana, where it's developing an export terminal. The pipeline would have the capacity to ship at least 2 Bcf/d and could start service as early as 2023. That time frame lines up with when Tellurian hopes to complete its proposed Driftwood LNG export facility.
Pipeline and Gas Journal reported in August: 

Tellurian has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to initiate a review of its proposed Permian Global Access Pipeline (PGAP) following an oversubscribed open season for the 625-mile natural gas project from West Texas to Southeast Louisiana's growing LNG export market.

In its 12-page FERC request to initiate pre-filing review of PGAP, Tellurian emphasized the economic and environmental benefits the 2.3 Bcf/d, 42-inch pipeline would provide as an outlet for stranded natural gas associated with Permian Basin oil production. 

PGAP construction could begin as early as 2021, and the project could begin service by late 2023-early 2024. To meet that timeline, Tellurian anticipates receiving FERC approval for use of the pre-filing process in September 2019, according to the filing.

PGAP is one of three proposed pipelines that would comprise the estimated $7.3 billion Tellurian Pipeline Network, which is integral to its planned $15.2 billion Driftwood LNG export project near Lake Charles. 
Tellurian is an liquefied natural gas (LNG) export playTotal and India's Petronet are the first big investors/buyers for Tellurian's LNG.  Bloomberg reported on Petronet's deal with Tellurian:

India’s Petronet LNG Ltd. signed a $7.5 billion agreement to buy into Tellurian Inc.s proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Louisiana in what could potentially be one of the largest foreign investments in the U.S. to ship shale gas abroad.

Petronet will spend $2.5 billion for an 18% equity stake in the $28 billion Driftwood LNG terminal -- the largest outside holding so far in the project -- and negotiate the purchase of 5 million tons of gas per year. The remaining $5 billion of the total will come from a debt commitment.
India is one of the fastest growth markets for LNG and should soon become the second-largest LNG importer.

India's need for natural gas is clear.  It need not come at the expense of area property owners or San Angelo water users.

Update 1-2-20:  Tellurian CEO said "Most of the natural gas in the U.S. can be produced for as low as $2 per thousand cubic foot.  In our production in the Haynesville and associated gas in the Permian we can do it cheaper than that.  Less than $1."

Update 1-20-20:  The Standard Times picked up this story and used three of the four maps in this post.

Update 2-17-20:  A gas pipeline exploded in Corpus Christi.   

Update 7-4-21:   Morgan Stanley said Tellurian will decide on the PGAP pipeline by June 2022.

Update 2-6-23:  PGAP remains on hold as Tellurian tries yet again to find buyers for its proposed LNG.  The cost of PVC pipe has soared to the point a City of San Angelo sewer line will more than double from earlier estimates.

A new pipeline, the Matterhorn Express Pipeline will run below our water sources.   

Update 3-10-23:  Tellurian's Chief Financial Officer resigned effective today according to an SEC filing.  The company's Chief Accounting Officer will assume the CFO duties.  That gentleman is a CPA but that means less and less in today's world of ethical lapses and distorted numbers.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

City Got Little Service from PAWS Veterinary Contract

The City of San Angelo contracted with Concho Valley PAWS for veterinary services in early 2018.  The February 20, 2018 City Council background packet stated:

Due to the City's need of veterinary services to spay, neuter and rabies vaccinate adoptable pets, we desire a contract with Concho Valley PAWS to facilitate these services. Before you today is such an agreement which will expedite the delivery of spay/neuter procedures as well as rabies vaccinations. 

We currently contract with PAWS to provide adoption services which includes coordinating off-site rabies vaccinations, spaying and neutering of adoptable animals. Such services are coordinated based on availability of local veterinarians at varying rates for those services.

Concho Valley PAWS recently contracted with one or more veterinarians to render these services on-site at the animal shelter at a consistent rate. PAWS will provide a veterinarian licensed by the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners on-site at the shelter as needed to provide services to include 1-2 weekly visits as well as Saturdays for surgeries. 
Council approved the arrangement by a 6-1 vote.  How has PAWS performed under the veterinary services contract?  Not as promised.

The PAWS veterinarian conducted spay/neuter surgeries for three months in 2018.  PAWS altered 87 pets, which is 29 spay/neuters per month on average.  They billed the city in May, June and July of 2018 for spay/neuter surgeries.  No invoices have been submitted under the contract since last summer. 

Twenty months after approving the arrangement the city received services for only three months.  That's PAWS performance under its existing contract with the City of San Angelo for veterinary services.

Update 12-12-19:  City staff recommended donating Animal Shelter equipment to "an organization that can utilize them and further serve this community."  The equipment is an adoption trailer and veterinary surgical equipment purchased for spay/neuter surgeries.  The proposal does not mention PAWS contract with the city for spay/neuter surgeries and why the equipment remains unused 22 months after Council approval.   It also does not state why it chose PAWS over other area animal organizations, some who offer low cost spay/neuter clinics for the public.

Update 12-21-19:  City Councilwoman Billie DeWitt asked about the PAWS veterinary contract in regard to a spay/neuter budget amendment for community cats.  Staff said the PAWS vet contract did not cover community cats.  The city's PAWS contract was for spay/neuter services for shelter animals.  Community cats are shelter animals.  There is only one reason for the PAWS vet not to be doing these surgeries.  There is no PAWS vet performing the contracted service.

Update 4-29-20:  The new Adoption Services RFP has been posted on the city's website.  It fails to address spay/neuter surgeries for shelter animals.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Executive Session to Consider Two Lawsuits from Former Councilmen

Two lawsuits are on the agenda for City Council on 11-19-19.  One arose from an motor vehicle accident.  The suing attorney is former City Councilman Jon Mark Hogg, who is running to replace Congressman Mike Conaway.  Hogg hopes to be the Democratic Party nominee.

The second lawsuit is in reference to the city's recent action allowing Texas Tumbleweeds Gymnastics to set up in a local church facility.  That suit was filed on 10-30-19.  Plaintiffs seek up to $100,000 in damages the reversal of the council's resolution allowing the business to operate in the church gymnasium.  Plaintiff H.R. Winkie Wardlaw also served several stints on City Council. 

Two Makes a Quorum for Special Election Canvassing

San Angelo's City Council held a surprise meeting today to canvas the local election.  It came nearly a week later than originally planned and two council members attended out of seven.  

In mid September City Council planned to canvas the local election during their November 12th meeting.  City Council minutes from 9-17-19 state:

The decision was made to meet November 12 and November 19, 2019 (with Special Election canvassing held November 12, 2019) to allow for two November meetings, with one falling within the State’s canvassing dates.
Councilmen Harry Thomas and Tommy Hiebert approved the special election results today.  Council meets again on 11-19-19. 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

City Not Behind Stories on Shelter Being Full

I requested information from the City of San Angelo after San Angelo Live reversed its story on the Animal Shelter being full and not accepting animals from the public.  My request stated:

Please provide a copy of the communication sent to the media on 11-13-19 regarding the shelter being at maximum capacity, the one San Angelo Live referred to in their 11-13-19 article that stated the shelter would no longer accept animals from the public Also, please provide a copy of the city's public information policy for staff and contractors on communicating with the media. In addition. please provide the policy/contract that has the city's adoption contractor performing as the public face for the city animal shelter. Thank you.
The City responded with no documents and a denial on how that story got out

The City of San Angelo has reviewed its files and has determined there are no responsive documents to your request. Additionally, we did not send anything to the media. We are not sure where SAL got their information from
I'll venture Public Information Officer Brian Groves called to find out.  One can deduce the source as Live's articles quoted Concho Valley PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson.  Mrs. Wilson spoke of her great relationship with the media at the September Animal Services Advisory Committee meeting.  PIO Brian Groves was in attendance.

Live's Facebook feed on their original story blew up as area rescues tried to state their case to a PAWS board member, the wife of a former City Mayor.  The interchange was not a testimony to that board member's listening skills.  Rescues ended up inviting that person to tour their operations, which do significant work in our community on behalf of animals. 

Update 11-20-19:  Live ran another PAWS shelter story featuring Executive Director Jenie Wilson from start to finish.  Jenie mentioned "critics" but avoided the main concern from area animal organizations that animals are adopted from the shelter unaltered with an appointment for spay/neuter surgery.  Many miss that appointment leaving unaltered animals, some of which end up at area rescues.  Also, Wilson did not address PAWS or the shelter not taking animals back when the adoption does not work out.  Live fell for the straw man ploy.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Shelter "Not Taking Animals" Message Reversed

How did a story get written about the San Animal Animal Shelter no longer accepting animals?  That message hit San Angelo Live yesterday around 3:30 pm.

A different message ran on this morning:

The shelter continues to accept animals, according to adoption contractor PAWS Director Jenie Wilson.  Wilson is the only person quoted in either piece on the city animal shelter.  That seems odd given shelter operations encompass more than adoptions.

Below is information from the city's website from all departments potentially involved:

As of noon today there is no official communication on the city's website relative to the shelter being full and any ramifications for the public.  I know of no city department where public information is outsourced to the vendor.  That's not supposed to be the case for Animal Services.

Update 11-21-19:  City officials provided Live no information on the shelter being full, saying "We are not sure where SAL got their information from." Only one person was quoted, PAWS ED Jenie Wilson, so it's clear Live got their information from the city's adoption coordinator.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Council Accepts Whitewashed Minutes

On October 15, 2019 I stated the following in public comment

"I am here to ask Council how the City decided to no longer record four boards and commissions.  That decision was made six months ago.  I found that out when I returned from a trip and I was interested in watching the Animal Services Advisory Committee.  It was not available for me to view.  The public can no longer watch on Channel 17 or the City's YouTube channel four boards.  They are:

  • Water Advisory Board (which only meets when y'all charge it to meet)
  • Civic Events Advisory Board
  • Animal Shelter Advisory Committee
  • Parks and Recreation Advisory Board
After noticing those meetings were no longer recorded I did contact Mayor Gunter and you were kind enough to reply, thank you.  The Mayor did indicate she was not aware of the change in her communication with me.  

I have learned the city does not have a policy on recording board meetings for the public to view.  It does have a practice and that's available on its website.  That practice changed six months ago today (changed on 4-15-19).

During the discussion of the frequency of one board's meeting City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said "It's what Council prefers from an advisory board."  It's clear Council was not consulted prior to the decision was made to drop video public access for those four boards.

Many of you ran on transparency and openness of government.  I believe that has been reduced by staff's action.  I encourage Council to explicitly shine some light on this, the rationale for the decision to stop and if Council wishes the public to continue to hear the advice you receive in these boards and their deliberations I would be grateful for that information.  Thank you very much."

The minutes of that meeting condense the above into:

""Citizen Alan Prest (SMD1) spoke regarding city board meetings."  
That sentence does not adequately represent my concern that four city boards/commissions are no longer recorded and shared with members of the public.  It leaves out my concern that this decision was made without City Council input and that staff refused to share any information as to why the decision was made.  It's clear to me that staff do not wish to be transparent with the public in this matter.  On 11-8-19 I requested Council change the minutes to reflect my actual concern, not some attorney's whitewashing.

Council has shone no light on staff's decision to reduce government transparency and accepted the whitewashed version of my public comment. What's the point of public comment?

Update 11-18-19:  Council minutes state the following for public comment on 9-4-2019:  "Operations Director Shane Kelton gave an update on potholes and encouraged citizens to report new potholes online or at 657-4231. He also mentioned job applications for positions on his crews are available at City Hall." 

Friday, November 08, 2019

City to Lower Bar for CalTech Employment Incentives

City Council will entertain reducing the number of new jobs CalTech must provide for economic development assistance.  The original agreement was approved in August 2016.   Staff wrote:

CalTech Software Systems Inc., located at 940 Arroyo Street, San Angelo, is a business enterprise engaged in computer systems design, consulting, and support services. The company has determined that over the next several years they will be hiring between 15 and 100 new employees at a starting salary of at least $30,000 per year plus benefits and performance bonuses and also will be investing a minimum of $100,000 in capital investment. CalTech is headquartered in San Angelo and currently employs 38 full time employees, 2 part time employees and 1 Intern.
The Development Corporation board discussed CalTech changes during their October meeting.

"From what they told me they have been creating jobs but its actually other locations than San Angelo.  So, the job creation is there, it's just not here in town."--Staffer Shannon Scott at 10-23-19 COSADC Board meeting.
Isn't that the purpose of economic development agreements, to incentivize companies to create jobs in San Angelo?   Where is CalTech hiring that they need to lower their San Angelo promise from 15 to 10?   Their website shows all over Texas:

Not one person asked why CalTech was hiring elsewhere, even with a $600,000 incentive to place jobs here. That question deserves an answer.

Update 11-12-19:  Councilwoman Billie DeWitt asked why CalTech jobs were being created elsewhere and not in San Angelo.  City staff did not know the answer.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

City's Community Cat Initiative: Shelter-Neuter-Release

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee background packet for 10-17-19 had the following initiative to address community cats, a top four strategy for the city in its Pets Alive! initiative:

"Although we've launched a shelter-neuter-release pilot program with one-time seed money, a long-term sustainable funding source as well as robust participation by veterinary partners is necessary to address the euthanasia of adult feral cats."
At the last ASAC meeting I asked Shelter Manager Morgan Chegwidden to share information about the new shelter-neuter-release program for community cats.  Morgan said trapped cats are brought into the shelter.  If determined to be feral they are taken to an area veterinarian and neutered before being returned to their area of origin.

I asked who traps and brings the cat into the shelter.  Morgan said San Angelo residents, adding the city is not allowed to trap community cats under the ordinance.  I said that is not true.  The Community Cat ordinance provides legal space for citizens to practice trap-neuter-return-maintain under specific conditions.  It does not prevent city staff from trapping a community cat if those conditions are no longer met or if a cat were a nuisance.  The city is also free to address the vast real estate occupied by cats that are not under official colony management.

Morgan then said the shelter does not offer that service (cat trapping).  Under the pilot program shelter staff pick up the neutered cat from the area veterinarian and return it to its area of origin.

I found it odd that community cats needed to be neutered by area veterinarians given the city contracted with Concho Valley PAWS for veterinary medicine services.  City Council approved the scope of services in February 2018.

Under city ordinance Community Cat colony managers register with a sponsoring local animal rescue. 

Critter Shack is the only local rescue to step up and serve as a sponsor.  Below is the City of San Angelo's webpage on community cats:

Communities that have made significant inroads in reducing unnecessary pet deaths have conducted outreach and devoted resources to address community cats.  That includes education, loaning of traps, assistance with neuter surgery and vaccinations.  The City of Waco's webpage states:

Community Cats (outdoor or outdoor/indoor) qualify for free Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). TNR includes spay/neuter, Rabies and a left “eartip” performed by a vet during spay/neuter surgery. Loaner TNR traps available with refundable deposit. 
Austin Pets Alive website states:

Community cats, the free roaming outdoor cats who populate nearly every community in the country, are well managed in the city of Austin thanks to a robust Trap-Neuter-Return program and dedicated feline caretakers who look after the cats and ensure they are vaccinated and sterilized.

In the case that a community cat is injured Austin Pets Alive program treats the injured cat rather than euthanize it.

Once treated, a volunteer team reaches out to the caregiver to discuss returning the cat to its outdoor home. The area is assessed for suitability, the caretaker is advised on ongoing care, and Austin Pets Alive! remains a lifelong resource and safety net for the cat.
Morgan never mentioned a cat colony manger or caretaker in the city's Shelter-Neuter-Release pilot program.  Critter Shack has not been contacted by the San Angelo Animal Shelter regarding its community cat effort, a top four strategy adopted six months ago.

However, Animal Shelter contractor Concho Valley PAWS is conducting a community cat survey while working as adoption/veterinary services contractor and member of the Animal Services Advisory Committee.

How can PAWS provide oversight on its contracted operations for the city animal shelter?  Those duties will expand in the proposed RFP for Animal Adoption Services, a motion which PAWS Executive Director seconded on 10-17-19, before withdrawing her second.

That's not on tape as the City stopped taping certain board meetings earlier this year.  One has to show up now to hear deliberations.  Next ASAC meeting is 11-21-19 at noon and the topic will be revised city animal ordinances.  Interested parties may wish to make plans now to attend.

Update 3-13-21:  PAWS is still conducting its Community Cat survey on its website: 


The following must be completed to receive a voucher. Incomplete submissions will not be processed. This program is feral cats only. The information collected here will be used to create a pilot program to provide free or reduced cost spay and neuter services to community cat caregivers in an effort to provide a targeted spay and neuter approach to reduce the population of cats. Approximately 65% of the animals euthanized at the shelter last year were feral cats and orphaned kittens. We want to change this! You can help.

If you are feeding a colony, we want to help you sterilize the cats in that colony. Once we secure additional funding we will be contacting you to sterilized the female cats in your colony first. We also hope to provide additional services to community caregivers such as access to free or low-cost cat food, free or low-cost microchipping and free or low-cost feeding stations. But it all starts here with gathering data. Thank you for participating in our Community Cat survey.

Update 1-15-22:  PAWS Community Cat survey remains on its website.  Still gathering data.  PAWS has had a completed spay-neuter clinic since mid-2020 but is yet to employ a veterinarian to put that clinic space to use.  PAWS latest RFP submission to the city stated "Concho Valley PAWS is currently seeking to employ a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  The contract was signed in November 2020.

Friday, October 18, 2019

ASAC Plans to Give More Power to PAWS

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee approved an expanded scope of services in a Request for Proposal for Adoption Services.

1.  Support San Angelo Pets Alive! and become the city’s partner in such initiatives
2.  Adopt the lifesaving vision as set forth in American Pets Alive!
3.  Manage a population-based foster program
4.  Administer adoptions utilizing progressive adoption policies
5.  Coordinate large scale transfer and transport programs
6.  Host intake diversion counseling appointments for owners seeking to surrender their
pets to the shelter
7.  Support disease prevention protocols with routine medical treatment of animals in
8.  Offer emergency medical treatment for animals in residence
9.  Support the immediate make ready of adoptable pets by photographing and marketing
upon arrival
10.  Support targeted safety net programs for animals in need
11.  Offer appropriate capacity for large adult dogs with additional sheltering
12.  Support rescue transfer efforts from the city’s euthanasia list sharing
13.  Ensure compliance with state statutes governing shelter adoptions
Not mentioned is compliance with local ordinances which require mandatory spay/neuter and micro-chipping.   This was an issue a year ago in the run up to awarding PAWS its second adoption services contract.

PAWS and the City Animal Shelter have not been in compliance with city ordinances for quite some time.  Ordinances require animals to be spayed/neutered prior to being adopted. 

All animals adopted from the animal shelter shall be spayed or neutered and microchipped prior to release.  No animal shall be eligible for adoption unless spayed or neutered and microchipped.
The shelter adopts "ineligible animals" with an appointment to be fixed.

State law requires a rabies vaccination. When asked for compliance information with state law the city hid behind vendor PAWS.

Animal Services has provided an update that this (rabies certificate) is not a document of the city – an external vendor provides these services.
As a result of this past experience I asked the ASAC to add a requirement that the adoption services vendor provide information requested by the city which may include public information requests.  I shared my attempts to get basic compliance information and how staff put off some requests.

Assistant City Manager Michael Dane suggested a monthly report be generated that provides information in my example vs. adding a requirement the vendor provide information when compelled the city.  This suggestion came 22 months after I wrote:

PAWS is the current adoption services contractor for the Animal Shelter.  It should be able to provide actual data as to how it has met city specified requirements, city ordinances and state law.
Michael Dane's suggestion handles that long-lingering case.  The City and PAWS had nearly two years to produce information in this regard and it chose not to do so.  Dane's compromise does not give the city a mechanism to compel the vendor to share information with staff or the public under an expanded scope of services.

A slide indicated changes from the current PAWS contracts for adoption and veterinary services
Scope of service changes include:
 • Spay/neuter and rabies vaccine expense paid by vendor
• Adoption fee collected by vendor
• Vendor sets their hours of operation
PAWS will get the revenue and be responsible for paying expenses, i.e. the city is delegating full fiduciary responsibility for adoption services.  What kind of due diligence will the city do in this area?  There is no requirement the vendor provide a financial audit or any financial information. 

Back to the meeting yesterday.  One ASAC member turned to PAWS Executive Director/ASAC board member Jenie Wilson and said, "You are going to bid on it again."  A motion was made to approve the RFP as presented.  PAWS Wilson seconded the motion, then said "Oh, I shouldn't do that."  Assistant City Manager Michael Dane coached the committee, saying it needed to give the appearance of an arm's length handling of the process.  Public Information Director Brian Groves was also in attendance at the meeting.

PAWS is building an adoption center next to the shelter on City owned land.  Requirement #11 will be met by that new facility.  There is no arm's length, just a big bear hug.

Wilson did get a dig in on area rescues just as the ASAC considered the new Adoption RFP.  Fortunately, those rescues provided information San Angelo Live missed (read comments).

Next Shelter/PAWS hug is due November 21, 2019 when animal services ordinances will be addressed.  I expect ordinance changes to be like Adoption RFP requirements that loosened each year to meet PAWS practices, not stated shelter requirements.  Will Jenie Wilson vote on ordinances she is charged with implementing as a city contractor?  Stay tuned.

Update 11-20-19:  After not finding an agenda on the city's website for the 11-21-19 special meeting I contacted the City Clerk.  She said there would not be a meeting that day and would check as to when the ASAC would address ordinance changes as originally planned.

Update 4-29-20:  The RFP has been posted on the City's purchasing page and it contains the expanded scope of services listed above.  It does not address spay/neuter services, adoption fees or the vendor setting their hours of operation.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Hickory Expansion to Cost $65.7 Million

City Council will consider borrowing $56 million to finish expansion of the Hickory Aquifer project.   Texas Water Board approved nearly $66 million in financial assistance for the project.  City documents described the expansion:

The proposed project is the second phase of expanding the City's groundwater supply from the Hickory Aquifer. The project will involve improvements at multiple locations spanning over 60 miles. The City’s wellfield, raw water collection system, transmission line, and Groundwater Treatment Plant will be upgraded to ensure the needed production rate of the Phase II design can reliably be achieved. To accomplish this, five new wells are proposed at the wellfield, bringing the total production capacity to 10,000 gallons per minute. New interconnecting piping will tie the new wells into the existing collection system infrastructure, with several improvements recommended to improve the reliability of the collection system. Additional optimization efforts will also be evaluated to improve the service life of the equipment and minimize influent groundwater iron concentration.
Council will take up this plan without review by the Water Advisory Board, which last met in September 2018.   

Monday, September 09, 2019

Council Never Discussed Stopping Recording City Board Meetings

The last two City Council meetings tackled City boards and commissions.  City Clerk Julia Antilley and City Attorney Theresa presented staff recommendations for Council to consider.

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said it all came down to Council preference.  City Council approved ordinance changes last October for many city boards.

Changes Council approved in September came after considerable discussion:
One thing Council did not address publicly was the cessation of recording city boards/commissions.  I noticed the change and asked staff about it.  When communication stopped I submitted public information requests to understand how and why this decision was made.

The City chose to invoke attorney-client privilege and not reveal the rationale for no longer recording meetings for the public to view.  In January 2019 citizens could keep up with the following boards.

That commitment changed on the city's website in mid-April, four days before the scheduled Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting:

City staff made these changes without informing City Council.

I informed Mayor Gunter in mid-August and she was not aware of the change in practice, then four months old.  After contacting the Mayor I learned the city does not have a policy on recording board/commission meetings.

The City of San Angelo has a website statement on recording and televising board meetings for the public to view.  Many would see that as a policy.  At a minimum it is a written commitment to the public, which changed dramatically with no input from City Council or any applicable board.

Citizens can longer view the following boards going forward on Channel 17 or the City's YouTube channel.  I totaled the number of views for the specific board meeting.

The City has a new face for SATV, per a recent news release.  Let's hope more public service reductions are not on the way.

Many elected officials run on government transparency and openness.  There was none of that in the decision to stop recording three city boards/commissions.  That should be concerning to Council and citizens wanting to remain informed in specific areas of local government.

Update 10-17-19:  I attended City Council on October 15th and raised this concern in public comment.  It starts at the 11:30 spot on the video recording.

Update 11-7-19:  City Council minutes from October 15th state ""Citizen Alan Prest (SMD1) spoke regarding city board meetings."  That sentence does not adequately represent my concern that four city boards/commissions are no longer recorded and shared with members of the public.  I was concerned that this decision was made without any input from members of City Council and that staff refused to share any information as to why the decision was made.  It's clear to me that staff do not wish to be transparent with the public in this matter.  Today I requested Council change the minutes to reflect my actual concern, not some attorney's whitewashing.

Update 11-26-19:  The City recorded the 11-21-19 Civic Events Board and placed the video on its YouTube site.  There has been no change in stated practice on the city's website, just a change in actual practice.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Municipal Court Revenues Down, Expenses Up

City Council's budget workshop on 8-27-19 had staff projecting a nearly $400,000 decline in Municipal Court revenues.  When asked why revenue had fallen the manager said the number of tickets written declined.  A second why question from Council got a deflection.

The Municipal Court manager was not the person to answer why the number of citations declined.  What manager fails to ask why when numbers differ from projections?  Staff frequently are unable or unwilling to answer the most basic questions from elected officials.

Curious as to the long term trend I pulled financial figures from the City's annual budget documents.  The numbers below are actual for 2012 to 2018, while 2019 takes the first ten months of the year and annualizes those numbers.  2020 is staff's projected budget.

Municipal Court revenues varied over the last seven years while expenses rose.  Assistant City Manager Michael Dane mentioned a reorganization that reduced court staff expenses but city numbers do not show an expense reduction for the year of Judge Gilbert's retirement or the upcoming budget year.

Judge Gilbert, now President and Consulting General Manager for Ener-Tel, retired from City employment after 44 years.  The Judge's reorganization got him full retirement benefits from the city, the top job as a major local employer that does significant business with the city and a $60,000 a year consulting gig with his former employer.  That doesn't count the Judge's spice business or his small court fill-in gigs at nearby towns.   Often employees suffer financially in a "reorg."  Not Judge Gilbert.  City Council approved the Judge's consulting agreement in March under the consent agenda.

I trust the revenue and expense numbers for each year until 2020 projected.  Finance staff like to under-estimate revenue and over-estimate expenses, sometimes called a budget cushion or sandbagging.  Time will reveal the accuracy of staff's predictions. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Council Talked Interest on Fund Balance, Not Current Balances

On August 13, 2019 City Council held a budget workshop on the major funds.  Council tackled water, sewer and solid waste funds at the beginning of the meeting.  They discussed interest income as coming from fund balance but not the amount the city currently held in those funds.  Water, sewer and solid waste fund balances are up $20 million since September 2016.

Finance Director Tina Diershke mentioned the water rate plan intended to fund new projects.  City residents paid dearly since this plan was enacted in 2016.

Water fund rose over $11 million through June 30, 2019, smashing the 75 day cash on hand target.

Sewer revenue rose and its fund balance grew.  The City refers to sewer as water reclamation.

Water reclamation fund balance rose nearly $6 million though the end of June, reaching $13.4 million.

Trash (Solid Waste) revenues and fund balance grew over the period.

Fund balance more than doubled for Solid Waste, increasing nearly $3 million.  With almost $5 million in the fund the city has 2.5 years cash on hand.  That's way more than 75 days.

San Angelo's City Council and citizens deserve a clear presentation on major fund balances as they are substantial.  Council is responsible for the strategic direction of the city and the annual operating and capital budget.  Going through a budget process without addressing these significant funds shortchanges elected officials and the interested public.  City staff have a history of doing just that.