Friday, May 28, 2021

City's HIV/STD Clinic Closed for Fourteen Months

The City announced its STD/HIV Clinic will reopen June 7th.  Funny, I hadn't heard the clinics had been closed.  The City Clerk wrote yesterday:

In mid-March the clinics were postponed due to staff being redirected to work on Covid.  
I asked if that was 2020 or 2021?  The clerk's answer:

March 2020. I haven’t been able to find anything in our press releases regarding an announcement, I believe it was in conjunction with closing city facilities to public traffic.

City Emergency declarations make no mention of the clinic's closure in mid-March 2020.  The only indication the city was reducing public health services came on March 26th in a partner update.

Nursing Division 

Due to the increased Public Health duties with COVID-19, the Immunization Clinic will be postponed until Tuesday April 7, 2020. This is subject to change, if needed.

The federal government granted the city over $1 million to spend on COVID related expenditures.  At no point did City management recommend an increase in Nursing Department resources to ensure ongoing public health services. 

In the middle of a pandemic City Council approved a decrease in Nursing Department funding and a cut for the Hazards Division, responsible for public health emergency preparedness and response.   

Vaccinations began without the city health department as an administration site.  The City's began offering COVID vaccinations on January 6th of this year.  

I had surgery in March 2020 just as COVID preparations consumed our community.  Shannon Medical Center limited the number of visitors the day of my surgery.  By September I saw my primary care physician in person.   Providers and patients took precautions, but necessary healthcare was being delivered.  

Where does HIV/STD diagnosis and treatment fit into necessary health services?  The STD clinic has been fully funded by a Section 1115 federal grant since 2013.  The grant application stated:

There is no Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinic at the San Angelo‐Tom Green County Health Department, nor any available space, and therefore, hundreds of patients needs are not being met.

The STD clinic never really closed while the city sought federal funding. A nurse told council on December 4, 2012 the clinic was still treating STD patients.

"Anyone who is identified as positive by the state can be treated through us."

The city is historically hesitant to spend its money on public health services but is happy to utilize federal/state funds.  COVID is the latest evidence of this pattern.

How can a public health clinic close for fourteen months with not a peep from city staff to City Council or the general public?  It's surprisingly, head shaking San Angelo. 

Update 5-31-21:  The city received $2.2 million in COVID funding from three rounds, $1.1 million in CARES Act funding, $636,480 from Texas Department of Emergency Management and $582,000 in federal grant money.

Update 6-3-21:  Why is it important for critical public health programs to be ongoing?  "Geneticists and infectious disease specialists there have uncovered potentially dangerous coronavirus mutations in a 36-year-old woman with uncontrolled HIV who was unable to shake the SARS-CoV-2 virus for close to eight months. The driving force behind the patient’s rapid accumulation of genetic changes is probably her impaired immune response due to her unsuccessfully treated HIV, the researchers said."

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

PAWS Built Without Permits, Failed Inspections

Concho Valley PAWS announced the addition of dog kennels to their existing buildings next to the City Animal Shelter.  They referred to the project as "Dog Dorm."  The City refers to the project as Phase three.  It will cost $1 million.

San Angelo Live reported on PAWS groundbreaking in August 2018: 

The construction of the facility will have two phases. Phase one will be the delivery and set up of modular buildings that will be used for office space, spay and neuter clinic and cat habitats. This modular structure was purchased for Concho Valley PAWS by philanthropists Judith and David Hirschfeld who are long time supporters of the PAWS mission.

Phase two will include the construction of a large kennel facility with fenced play yards that will serve as an adoption showcase center for adoptable dogs.

PAWS couldn't fulfill all of phase two as envisioned in 2018.  It had difficulty with that portion of the project. 

City of San Angelo Planning staff sent the following e-mail on June 24, 2020:

3142 US Hwy 67 - Concho Valley Paws Adoption Center. This project stared in 2018 with a modular building being added to the large lot. This triggered several items, parking, hydrant, drainage; the typical new construction site requirements. Earlier this month they called for Finals; during inspections it was discovered they are adding on to the modular building; kennels and covered walkway plus and addition building in the back.

The agreement with the Contractor was to submit for a second Building Permit and Site Plan for the additions. Engineering would postpone their requirement of the completed drainage/detention. All other Site items are approved and completed; only Building Finals and Fire Prevention Finals are needed for the modular Building if the detention is postponed to the second phase.

Concho Valley Paws wants to use the front portion of the building now; however they can't get a CO with the new items started without a permit or an approved Site Plan.  Concho Valley Paws has publicly scheduled an open house for June 26th, Friday

It is unlikely the contractor will be able to have an asbestos survey completed, submitted and approved before Friday; thus not allowing occupancy to the Modular building for the Concho Valley Paws Open House.

I think the City will be blamed. I want to let you know so this can go up to 4th floor if you see fit. Also Should anyone be prepared to do enforcement on Friday; or do we wait for a complaint or self discovery?

The City's Development Director send the following message to Assistant City Manager Rick Weise on June 10, 2020.

FYI. Wanted you to be aware of this. Concho Valley Paws is performing construction beyond what they showed on their approved building permits.  We are working with them to get “phase 2”permits for those additions and can issue a Certificate of Occupancy for “phase 1” once they have submitted the plans for phase 2 and had all final inspections for phase 1.  However, depending on how quickly they do their part and how their inspections go, this could delay their planned Grand Opening.
Here's how the city characterized the PAWS project last month:

It's not clear if anyone did enforcement during PAWS June 27, 2020 Open House for their new adoption center.  The building did not open to the public until early September.

The building opened during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Now that the disease burden has decreased PAWS hours are fewer, falling from 24 hours per four day week to 19 hours.   I imagine the Hirschfelds want their generous donations to be utilized as much as possible.

Before the project even started Shelter Director Morgan Chegwidden wrote City Attorney Theresa James on April 4, 2018.

Monday, you’d mentioned we needed to order a survey for the PAWS adoption center project. Can we go ahead and get that ordered? What would you estimate the cost to be? I believe I can fund it in my budget but wanted to make sure.

PAWS got free use of the land, the Animal Shelter's veterinary surgical equipment and $1,400 survey.  It appears city staff looked the other way when PAWS held its open house in June 2020. It's a partnership, I'm not sure how functional.

Update 5-29-21:  Former City Engineer Lance Overstreet told the Assistant Planning Director last summer:

Lance has said no, they applicant must get an approved Site Plan and Permit for Phase two.  

I think he is afraid they will continue to do work without a permit and the additional drainage hasn't been accounted for.  6-24-2020 e-mail

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. 

Monday, May 03, 2021

"More than Zero" Cross Connection Control Program

San Angelo's City Council heard a final presentation on the toxic water crisis that hit residents in early February.  After learning the City of San Angelo had "not a zero" cross connection control program but "less than a robust and rigorous program" I submitted a public information request.

City of San Angelo ordinances state:   "Backflow preventers shall be required by the Director of Public Works in [as] deemed necessary to protect the water system from possible contamination." 

 I request documents, communications and e-mails from Ricky Dickson relative to the ordinance above. The time frame requested is from his promotion to Director of Public Works/Executive Director of Public Works in 2014 to his retirement from city employment. A simple list of the businesses/locations and dates required by Dickson to have backflow preventers would fulfill this request.” 

City staff responded:

The City of San Angelo has reviewed its files and has determined there are no responsive documents to your request. 

City residents faced soaring water bills due to the cumulative impact of a five year water rate increase, approved by Council in December 2015.  One might expect a portion of those increases to have been used to implement a compliant cross connection control program as required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in 2016.   

As of May 3, 2021 the City of San Angelo finally met TCEQ;s standards.

The water utility has been successful in providing information to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, allowing the northern industrial area to return to normal water usage.

San Angelo citizens deserve what McAllen, Lubbock, Abilene and Brownwood had, a robust and rigorous cross connection control program that protects the water system from possible contamination.  Residents experienced how a program resting with one executive director can fail.   

TCEQ and City Council need to ensure systems are in place that are deeper and broader than one person and that water users get what they paid for the last five years.

Update 6-10-21:  TCEQ issued a Notice of Violations to the City of San Angelo on 6-4-21.  The letter cited four failures of TCEQ's cross connection control program standards.  Three of the four violations must be corrected by early August, while one involving updating city ordinances has an October due date.