Sunday, December 26, 2021

SAPD Needs More Help from Animal Services

Two large dogs wandered away from home Christmas morning.  One was friendly, the other seemed aggressive.  A Santa Rita family found them and tried to do the right thing before going to a family Christmas celebration.  They called the veterinary clinic listed on their collars and tried to track down the dogs' owner.  

A friend looked on the website.  There was no listing for the dogs.  They called San Angelo Police Department non-emergency number as one dog's aggressiveness concerned them..  

The officer drove to the address given by the vet clinic and learned the people living there did not own the two dogs.  The police officer called the on-call Animal Control Officer (ACO).  The ACO refused to assist.  

One reason for mandatory micro-chipping given to City Council was ACO officers would be able to scan a lost pet and take the animal home without a trip to the Animal Shelter.  That was before the city adopted Pets Alive, an initiative that chokes off shelter intake.

The family needed to leave their home and go to their Christmas gathering.  The police officer said he could do nothing more for them (or the dogs) and commented about the lack of service from Animal Services.  

Later that day a colleague found one of the dogs on the HelpMeGetHome Facebook page.  The information had not gone from the Facebook page to the website when they'd accessed earlier in the day.  

How is a member of the public to know the mechanics of HelpMeGetHome's new lost listings or if a missing pet has a microchip?  Those fall within the bailiwick of unavailable Animal Services. 

Recently, City Council learned of San Angelo's loose dog problem from citizens providing public comment.  I don't know if this family will offer public comment at an upcoming Council meeting.  Both parents work so they may not be able to attend to share their experience.

They do not have a City Council representative due to Lane Carter's resignation to run for Tom Green County Judge.  No service, no voice.  That applies to the dogs and this conscientious family.

Most people don't have an area to contain two large dogs, yet the City of San Angelo expects citizens to deal with the loose pet problem under Pets Alive.  When residents can't hold onto loose dogs, one potentially aggressive, the cycle continues.  

SAPD animal related calls are up over 35% since the shelter adopted Pets Alive.   Potential dog adopters find a shelter full of pit bull mixes.  That's a narrow niche from a product offering perspective. 

The way to "no-kill" is to spay/neuter and microchip everything, scan loose dogs and reunite them with their owners and trap dangerous dogs for the safety of the community.  That can take time and resources.  Choking off intake and shifting the burden to citizens is not a winning strategy.  It may look good to paper pushers, but citizens and loose pets are not being served.  

Update 11-4-22:   The Animal Shelter cut off dog intake for the month of November and is asking citizens who've found a stray dog:

"If staying out of traffic, leave pet in home neighborhood"

And how is a citizen to know the pet is in their home neighborhood?  That would require city staff to scan for a microchip.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Abilene Gives Warm West Texas Welcome to Lancium

The City of Abilene posted a news flash on a $2.4 billion energy project that involves bitcoin mining.  The flash stated:

Taylor County and the City of Abilene have approved a project with Lancium, a Houston-based energy technology and infrastructure company, to build a large scale, renewable energy powered data center campus in Abilene and Taylor County. This significant milestone, the largest project in Abilene and Taylor County history, is pending final negotiations with Taylor County, the City of Abilene, and the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA). The project will begin at 200 megawatts with an expansion capacity to over a 1 gigawatt.

Lancium is in rapid growth mode, having just raised $150 million.

Lancium Technologies Corporation ("Lancium"), a technology company focused on the energy transition, today announced that it closed $150 million in financing from leading energy companies and investors. Hanwha Solutions, one of the world's prominent providers of clean energy solutions and owner and operator of Q CELLS, leads this financing round.  

Hanwha Solutions website indicated it provided $100 million of the $150 million financing round.  Hanwha is a South Korean firm with multiple divisions.  Hanwha Solutions has "established local production and R&D centers in North America, Europe, China, and Korea."

The investment allows the Company (Hanwha Solutions) to secure a seat at Lancium’s board of directors, paving the way for close cooperation on future businesses.

Hanwha's 11-24-21 press release on the $100 million investment mentions the Abilene project:

Lancium has been constructing a “Clean Campus” at Abilene, TexasHaving purchased 2,350 acres of land in Texas, Lancium will complete the campus construction next year and expand the number of tenants. They can increase their profits by switching off load-heavy equipment when the electricity price is high – and selling reductant power to the grid.

Other items from the $150 million press release or from Lancium's website state:

Lancium Clean Campuses are built at critical points on the transmission system that are often overwhelmed with renewable energy.

... Lancium Clean Compute Centers™ that absorb excess renewable energy.

Remote data center locations: Work locations may include data centers with both climate-controlled and non-climate-controlled conditions. There may be exposure to extreme temperatures, noise and vibration, and mechanical or electrical hazards.  

Lancium plans to profit from bitcoin mining and situations where the demand for power exceeds supply.  Recall Texas citizens are paying for the February 2021 Texas grid failure through charges on our power bills.  

Lancium's major investor Hanwhat Solutions said the Abilene project is underway.  What remains to be negotiated is how much Abilene residents will pay to subsidize the project.   

A warm West Texas welcome to Lancium, but they know that already from their Fort Stockton Bitcoin mining project.   If Bitcoin goes cold for a long period of time this thing could implode like the Texas power grid.  Abilene residents may hope Bitcoin remains hot.    

Update 12-22-21:  Lancium sounds like a boil removal product.   It may not fare well if the Bitcoin bubble pops. 

Update 3-18-22:  An Appalachian town is sorry they brought in bitcoin miners.  They got noise pollution, an eyesore and no economic boom 

Update 6-14-22:  The cryptocurrency rout impacted Bitcoin miners which may impact the viability of Abilene's project.  

Update 6-25-22:  Energy costs are soaring as bitcoin's price has plummeted, harming the Lanciums of the world.  Will the project need greater public subsidy?

Update 10-27-22:  Bitcoin miner Core Scientific warns it cannot pay its debt.

Update 11-10-22:  Lancium broke ground last week on its planned energy complex in Abilene.

Update 12-6-22:  Bloomberg reported that Texas' crypto boom is starting to look like a bust.  The story mentions Lancium. 

Update 12-9-22:  Fortune reported:

And there is the state of Texas, whose bold experiment to welcome Bitcoin miners to help balance the power grid risks turned into a Lone Star State-sized disaster. In the wake of rising energy prices and debt burdens among miners, one state executive bemoaned a situation where “transformers, switch gears, and mobile data centers and containers for mining...are just sitting there.”

Update 12-21-22:  Crypto Miner Core Scientific declared bankruptcy

Update 3-18-24:  Government subsidies are keeping many bitcoin miners afloat.

...many Bitcoin miners are profitable because the government pays them not to mine Bitcoin. These so-called “load balancing” or “grid stabilization” payments incentivize miners to turn off their machines during heavy electrical usage elsewhere in nearby cities.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

City's Deal with PAWS Shifted Adoption Revenue

Concho Valley PAWS bid submission to the City of San Angelo reflected a number of changes.  The City shifted the cost of spay/neuter and rabies vaccination of adopted animals to PAWS.  In return PAWS got the ability to set and collect adoption fees and the right to set its hours of operations.  

A public information request produced the revenue the city received from animal adoptions prior to shifting responsibility to Concho Valley PAWS.

City staff did not include the loss of adoption revenue in its evaluation for City Council on August 18, 2020.  It only included the contract fee, which rises over the five year period from $60,000 to $76,006.  

City leaders signed the expanded contract with PAWS on November 30, 2020.  Documents show a total maximum amount of $350,997, the sum of the five years of negotiated contract fees.  The signed contract does not reveal any amount for the adoption fee franchise given to PAWS.

PAWS served as the city's adoption coordinator for the last three years.    Adoption fees for 2019 and 2020 averaged $41,000.  If PAWS collects $40,000 per year the organization would garner an additional $200,000 over the life of the contract, courtesy of the City's generosity.  That would bring total proceeds to $550,997.

One can argue the appropriate amount of adoption fees but some estimation should have been made and given to City Council when it considered the arrangement.  That would've shown a more accurate financial impact.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Animal Cruelty Complaint filed 11-19-21 by Shelter Leadership


Animal Shelter leadership reported criminal "cruelty to animals: torture" to the desk duty officer at San Angelo Police Department on Friday, November 19th at 4:31 pm.

The public was made aware of a mystery illness at the shelter the day before, November 18th.  The City and Concho Valley PAWS used Facebook and Twitter to share this news.  The public had numerous questions.  

Shelter veterinary service provider PAWS stated "we will share more as we know more" and "stay tuned for more information."

Twelve days after filing a police complaint on the matter the city informed the public that shelter dogs had been "exposed to an unknown substance."  That must be PR spin for "cruelty to animals:  torture", i.e. poisoning, that occurred on the city's watch.    

Update 1-10-22:  I spoke with the detective on the case today and learned no one has been charged with a crime to date for the November dog poisoning..

Thursday, December 09, 2021

City's Contract with PAWS Includes Veterinary Services for Shelter Animals

Concho Valley Homepage reported:

Adoptions will resume at the San Angelo Animal Shelter following an illness that affected multiple dogs. They became seriously ill after they were exposed to an ‘unknown substance’ on November 13th.  Three dogs died as a result of the exposure and over 200 dogs were given immediate medical attention by the Concho Valley Paws staff.

Dogs died and were sickened as a result of an intentional poisoning while under the care of the City Animal Shelter.  That is why the case is being investigated by San Angelo Police.

“We do think its isolated to the shelter and that citizens at large shouldn’t have a concern for their canines in their home but it is something that is quite alarming,” said Morgan Chegwidden, assistant director of the Neighborhood & Family Services Department at the San Angelo Animal Shelter. “They were getting lifesaving medication in their kennels for the last 28 days as we’ve tried to work through this and identify it and stop the spread of it.”

The City signed a new contract with Concho Valley PAWS in November 2020.  The RFP issued by the city requested the following under scope of services:

Offer emergency medical treatment for animals in residence

PAWS submission stated:

PAWS has sought for years to employ an on staff veterinarian.  PAWS vet "will be able to provide more cost-effective, in-house treatment."   City staff recommended the new contract with PAWS and Council's background packet on the item stated:

Changes include:

  • Assigning the spay/neuter and rabies vaccine expense of adopted pets to the selected vendor;
  • Allowing the selected vendor to set and collect their own adoption fees.
  • Opening the hours of operation to be set by the selected vendor; and
  • Hosting counseling appointments for owned pets jointly by both the selected vendor and city staff.

Other services such as large scale transports, foster programs and emergency medical support will continue unchanged from prior contracts.

City Council approved the change in scope of services in August 2020 by a vote of 7-0.  

The treatment cost Concho Valley paws $13,000, an additional expenditure they say they will have to work to make up for.

“Donations is what goes directly into the animal care so if it wasn’t for our donors and the grants that we get we would not have been in a position to help,” said Jeanie Wilson, executive director Concho Valley Paws.

PAWS was legally contracted to provide veterinary services to shelter animals.   The amount paid to PAWS for the current fiscal year rose nearly $10,000 to $69,556.

There is an issue of liability as the poisoning occurred on a widespread basis on city property.  How did the poison get to the dogs, as cats were not impacted?  Who had access to over 200 dogs and the ability to put a toxic substance in their food or water?  We know city staff and PAWS staff/volunteers had access.  How many members of the public responded to PAWS solicitation for help at the shelter after it closed for all but emergency services on November 4th due to staff shortages?  Who vetted any persons responding to PAWS plea?  Surely, the city wouldn't let someone who walked in off the street feed or water shelter dogs.  

Whoever is liable is a source of funding for the $13,000 in veterinary care.  The additional $9,556 in payments to PAWS this fiscal year is available to go toward the veterinary bill.  And PAWS has the right to collect adoption fees for shelter animals and retain those fees.  

PAWS and the city agreed to the scope of services, however one can expect the shelter to prevent toxic substances from reaching the dog population.  There is more to explore in the city's ever changing contract with PAWS and to learn about the investigation into widespread dog poisoning under city care.

Update 1-10-22:  I spoke with the detective on the case today and learned no one has been charged with a crime to date for the November dog poisoning..

Friday, December 03, 2021

Avenue P Returns to Council Agenda Yet Again

City Council will entertain approving $2.6 million for a project it last addressed as a $1.79 million total project cost (November 2020).   City Engineer Lance Overstreet presented the additional funds needed to address the concerns found.  Overstreet highlighted how they'd worked to reduce costs from an original $2.1 to $2.5 million project.  Using the remaining contingency funds staff requested an additional $106,700.  That was approved.

Staff now say this was an error, even though top city leaders presented or commented on the project last November.  How did that many leaders miss the incorrect total?

In November 2019 staff included these amounts for Avenue P in the City Council background packet:

Street: $ 207,771.40
Stormwater: $ 1,479,295.78
Water: $ 127,834.05
Wastewater: $ 536,216.77
Total: $ 2,351,118.00

The $2.35 million included a 10% contingency fee of $213,738.  Calling the miss an understandable error would have the prior total increase by the additional funding amount of $106,700.  That's $2,457,818, not $2,610,557.  

The original project had drainage installed underneath the street.  By 2013 Council approved $2.44 million for that solution.  Obviously, some of that funding remained to be used for the retention pond strategy.  City leaders may not have wanted Council to see the total picture as significant funds were wasted when the prior project did not move forward as planned.

The 2019 and 2020 Avenue P project presentations by staff were light on total project costs and available funding from prior approvals and current budgets.  That leads to Council having to clean up again after city management.

City Engineer Lance Overstreet gave both presentations and a long list of city staffers approved the information in City Council's packet.  

One year ago Mayor Gunter expressed her concern about total project costs growing.  It appears they grew another $150,000 beyond what Council approved last year.  Staff should answer for that.

Update 12-6-21:  Former City Engineer Lance Overstreet remains the Municipality representative for the Region 9 Flood Plan Board.  He is the board secretary and his name is listed as:

R. Lance Overstreet (Secretary), Municipalities, U.S. Air Force

The City of San Angelo is the web host for the Region 9 Flood Planning effort.  It's not clear if he is receiving any city funds for this work.

Update 12-7-21:   Neither Mayor Brenda Gunter nor Councilperson Harry Thomas had any concern regarding the total cost of the Avenue P project exceeding prior Council budget approvals by $150,000.  No leader rose to explain the "error" to Council or the public.  Under the Redistricting agenda item a Hispanic citizen informed Councilman Thomas that they did not feel represented by him due to their raising issues and never hearing anything back.  

Update 7-5-22:  The city finally finished a project designed to reduce flooding on Avenue P.  The detention pond is complete and ready for Chamber of Commerce blessing.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Dogs Poisoned at Animal Shelter

The City of San Angelo updated citizens on the mystery illness that killed three dogs and sickened others at the Animal Shelter.

Around Saturday, Nov. 13, there was an exposure of an unknown substance to the City’s canine population, resulting in three dogs losing their lives and widespread canine illness throughout the shelter.

Melamine tainted pet food killed thousands of dogs and cats in 2007.  While tainted food from the manufacturer could be the cause that would normally not result in a local criminal investigation. 

The city restricted shelter services on November 4th due to staff shortages.  Their Facebook and Twitter posts did not seek help from the public to make up for low staffing.  Concho Valley PAWS issued an urgent plea for volunteers issued on November 4th in its post on short staffing at the City Shelter.

The Animal Shelter has video cameras throughout the facility.  That footage could be useful to the police as they conduct their investigation.

People with widespread access to shelter dogs are City staff and PAWS paid staff/volunteers.  That should be a relatively small group to investigate.  

Many dogs were poisoned under the care of the City of San Angelo.  Three were killed.  The public deserves to know what happened and why.  This is not the Texas Standard for pet care.

Update 12-8-21:   PAWS Facebook page indicated "over 200 dogs became seriously ill after exposure to an unknown substance at the San Angelo Animal Shelter in November."  Accessing over 200 dogs meant the poisoner was either a City of San Angelo employee, PAWS staff/volunteer or a member of the public that responded to PAWS solicitation for help after the Shelter closed for normal operations on Nov. 4th due to a staffing shortage.  It's not clear who vetted any members of the public for access to shelter animals. 

Shelter leaders provided no update to City Council on the two crises facing the Animal Shelter, dog poisoning and staff shortages.  Council's meeting yesterday was their only one for December.   

Update 12-9-21:  The city issued a news story on shelter adoptions restarting Saturday, December 11th.  It did not include the hours of PAWS adoption event.  The city allows its adoption contractor to set its own hours and keep any adoption fees.

Update 12-10-21:  A rescue in Colorado City had dogs poisoned by an unidentified trespasser.  The rescue was able to identify the toxic substance.  That cruel act killed eight dogs.

San Angelo Animal Shelter leadership reported the criminal act to SAPD on Friday, November 19th at 4:31 pm.  The City waited twelve days before informing the public.

Update 12-30-21:  City Council is yet to take up the poisoning of dogs in the City Animal Shelter.  It is not on their 1-4-22 meeting agenda.

Update 1-10-22:  I spoke with the detective on the case today and learned no one has been charged with a crime to date for the November dog poisoning..