Friday, September 30, 2022

Former City Staffers Touch Council Agenda


San Angelo City Council faces seven consent agenda items and one on its regular agenda.   Two former city staffers touch the upcoming agenda.

Former staff engineer Blake Wilde served as the land surveyor for Rimrick Development Co LLC (Item b on the consent agenda).  Rimrock seeks to donate land from its development to the city for stormwater management purposes.  Blake was fired from city employment but got work on the Hickory pipeline to the concern of some council members.

Former Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff is Account Director for Central and West Texas for engineering firm Freese and Nichols.  Council will entertain spending almost $1.1 million for Freese and Nichols to undertake phase 2 of the Lead and Copper Rule Revision Compliance Program.  Grindstaff was a key player in the unauthorized purchase of $100,000 of furniture for the Water Department.

San Angelo's engineering drought created much work for firms like Freese and Nichols.  Council will likely have a short meeting next Tuesday.  It might be a bit longer if they asked why the city has been unable to fill the City Engineer position for nearly two years. 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Guy Andrews Shares Reasons for Surprise Retirement


The public experienced two surprise resignations of City leaders, Economic Development Director Guy Andrews and Water Utilities Director Alison Strube.  Both announcements came near or after their last day of city employment.

On July 14th Guy Andrews informed City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and Assistant City Manager Michael Dane of his intent to retire effective August 31st.  Dane texted Mayor Brenda Gunter and members of City Council with that news.

The Development Corporation met on July 27th and August 24th.  Andrews said nothing about his impending retirement in either meeting.  No city official acknowledged his accomplishments and contributions.  

I found this odd and asked the city for information about the reasons for Andrews retirement.  They provided e-mails between Andrews and Human Resources regarding the mechanics of his resignation.  There was nothing about why the Economic Development Director stepped down.

That changed in yesterday's Development Corporation meeting when Guy Andrews shared a number of reasons for his surprise resignation.  Andrews disclosed his discomfort with aspects of the agreement with the City of San Angelo for staff services.  He shared instances where city management exercised control over what he viewed as Development Board responsibilities.  Andrews said he "could not stomach it anymore."

Andrews said two projects were imposed on the Development Corporation, the Chadbourne Streetscaping Project and the West Texas Water Partnership.  Andrews referred to bullying tactics by City management and called out Michael Dane for his role that bullying.

Board member John Bariou is a fixture on the Development Corporation, having served multiple terms.  He raised a number of issues facing the board.

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela directed his public comments to John Bariou and Guy Andrews.  He told Bariou his legal concerns had been raised before and could have been addressed outside the meeting.  He chastised Andrews saying his door was always open to directors with concerns and Guy never accessed that opportunity.  Andrews shared his experience with Valenzuela's avoiding significant issues, with city staff taking action to discipline witnesses to a serious situation Andrews elevated to the city manager's office.

City documents did not answer my public information request but city video did.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Hiebert Hands On for City Raises


City Council approved a 7% cost of living raise plus market adjustments when it voted for the 2022-2023 budget.

One City Council person was hands on for the raises and salary adjustments, spending 30 to 45 hours interviewing middle management.

From: Hiebert, Tommy City Council Representative District #1
Sent: Wednesday, August 3, 2022 4:50 PM
Subject: Compensation Plan ‐ Current and Future 

Good Afternoon,

After two months of meeting with most Directors and some managers, it has become clear, at least to me, there are:

  • problems within the City's current compensation plan
  • many departments are woefully understaffed
  • inadequate pay throughout the entirety of the organization regardless of level within the organization
  • It also became clear that for the largest single line item in our budget - personnel- and the greatest asset the organization has - personnel - there is no strategy and/or plan(s) to begin addressing these issues.

Council received a presentation on a future compensation plan in last year's budget workshops according to HR Director Brian Kendrick and chose not to commit to the presented goals.  

It undertook the topic in its August 11, 2022 budget planning meeting.  Prior budgets referred to a Compensation and Classification Committee but there is little information on the city's website regarding this committee.

Hiebert talked how other staff have to do the job of the city engineer.  That position has been open for nearly two years.  Former Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff works for engineering firm Freese and Nichols.  Former City Engineer Russell Pehl works for Centurion Planning and Design, another engineering firm.  Their firms make money from the city being understaffed in engineering talent.  Angelo State University has a civil engineering program with experienced professors.  

In many cases the issue is pay, but in some cases the issue is management.  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela waived the engineering requirement for the Executive Director of Public Works position for two people. Ricky Dickson and Shane Kelton.  How many engineers want to report to and be evaluated by someone without that credential?  The City's headhunter firm should have feedback as to why it is so difficult to fill the City Engineer position. 

The engineer talent pool decreased further after Water Utilities Director Allison Stube left city employment with a $9,000 raise in sight.  Surely, management learned her reasons in an exit interview.  Time will reveal the impact of Council's investment in staff compensation.  It likely will go a long way, but other fixes will be needed for deeper issues not related to pay.

Update 9-29-22:  Tommy Hiebert spent many years on the Development Corporation board.  Did he interview Economic Development Director Guy Andrews during his summer compensation tour?  If so, he may be aware of what came out yesterday in the COSADC board meeting.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Face of the City Animal Shelter for How Much Longer?


Concho Valley PAWS Executive Director Jenie Wilson spoke with San Angelo Live.  Jenie could have admitted that not fixing pregnant shelter pets had contributed to its gross overcrowding.  PAWS provides veterinary services and is responsible for getting shelter pets fixed per city ordinance.

Wilson also had ample opportunity to inform the public of PAWS spay/neuter services while stressing the need for citizens to fix their pets.  She missed it.

For years the city let Wilson be the public face of the City Animal Shelter.  I expect city leaders to pull that role back after City Council meets Thursday.  

How will Council ensure a sanitary animal shelter where pets are housed safely going forward?  A November 2021 crisis in cleanliness had Wilson inviting the public in to clean cages.  During that period someone with shelter access poisoned the dogs, killing three.  The city conducted no investigation and made no operational changes as a result of that poisoning.  The case was referred to SAPD but charges have yet to be filed.  

There is a need for a greater strategic reorientation of shelter services but that requires listening to citizens, local rescues and making the shelter "bad citizen" proof regarding spay/neuter surgeries.  That includes fixing pregnant pets in shelter care.  

Years of widespread spay/neuter can eventually reduce the flow of pets into the shelter.  Until that day comes citizens expect the shelter to not look like a horrific hoarding situation.  

Update 9-22-22:  Oddly, no one from Concho Valley PAWS gave public comment at City Council this morning.  Their all out public relations campaign had a letter to members of Council and city leaders, yet no PAWS representative(s) showed up to make those points to elected officials in person.  Even though it was not on the agenda City Manager Daniel Valenzuela spoke about the city's efforts to gather information to provide a better way forward.  

City Council remains AWOL on these three questions:  How were conditions allowed to get so horrific under shelter leadership?  How can this be prevented in the future?  What can Council do to ensure public trust in Animal Services?

Update 9-23-22:  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said "Animal rescue groups must work together."  Actually, the City Animal Shelter needs to have quality services that make the shelter "bad citizen" proof regarding spay/neuter.  The Shelter needs strategies that ensure pets safe, sanitary facilities, serve citizens in need, don't exclusively cater to Concho Valley PAWS and over time reduce the numbers of stray/unowned pets in San Angelo.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

PAWS Political Power Play

Concho Valley PAWS is mobilizing supporters to challenge the City of San Angelo's recent changes to Animal Service operations.  PAWS serves as the shelter's adoption coordinator and veterinary service provider.  The City has frequently deferred to PAWS as its voice on animal issues.  PAWS was present and working as the shelter deteriorated into disturbing unsanitary and overcrowded conditions.

San Angelo's City Council should have at least three questions on their mind.  How were conditions allowed to get so horrific under shelter leadership?  How can this be prevented in the future?  What can Council do to ensure public trust in Animal Services?

Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden said this summer's overcrowding was primarily the result of litters.  How were pregnant pets allowed to deliver litters in the Animal Shelter?  PAWS recently wrote:

"PAWS employs a licensed veterinarian to spay and neuter all shelter pets upon adoption."

An unaltered Husky gave birth to seven puppies on her third stay in the Animal Shelter.  The shelter and PAWS had two months to conduct spay/neuter surgery before the dog gave birth in June.
 
The City and PAWS have long been less than forthcoming in information about fixing shelter pets as required by city ordinance.  That continues:

 
When asked which veterinarians fix shelter pets the city responded adopters "are told the date, time and location to report for their pet's surgery."  PAWS does not have which vets accept their spay/neuter vouchers on their website and did not respond to several inquiries for that information.
 
If PAWS wanted to push spay/neuter why letters to City Council, free yard signs and $10 t-shirts?   Why not make information on PAWS spay/neuter services widely available to the public?  PAWS has a new surgery suite with the city's former veterinary services equipment.  Why not show City Council all it has done to alleviate shelter overcrowding by fixing pregnant pets in shelter care?  

It's the city's job to manage, to hold people accountable.  It's City Council's to provide the strategic focus.  
 
Council had an opportunity to revisit the Shelter's pursuit of Pets Alive strategies which resulted in choking off intake such that some people had no choice but to dump their animal, regularly releasing unaltered animals from the shelter, holding large dogs for years in cages, not holding citizens accountable for failure to spay/neuter their pet as required by ordinance, not fixing pregnant pets in shelter care and shifting the public animal response burden to SAPD.  Council passed on that and now must deal with a public outraged by the shelter's and PAWS horrific treatment of animals in their care. 

Update 9-19-22:  The latest spay/neuter shelter compliance data PAWS shared with the ASAC indicated 34% of shelter pets were spayed/neutered by partnering veterinary clinics.  
 
After asking which locations shelter animal adopters have been instructed to take their pet by PAWS the city responded:
 "The vast majority of shelter pets are spayed/neutered through Concho Valley PAWS at their facility.  In the rare circumstance a pet is adopted out on an unaltered contract, they are notified of the date/time to deliver/pick up the animal at PAWS clinic.  It is a rare time indeed PAWS directs an adopter to a private vet clinic.  I cannot recall the last time that happened."

Update 9-23-22:  San Angelo Live reported the impact of Pets Alive choking off shelter intake and not prioritizing spay/neuter services:

Valenzuela said the number of pets abandoned inside the city limits has greatly increased over the past year.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

PAWS "Shelter Horror" Defense is Offense


What happens when the public face of the San Angelo Animal Shelter turns on the hand that feeds it?  Adoption contractor Concho Valley PAWS has done just that in a number of Facebook posts on the recent crisis.  Many were picked up by local media.

PAWS acknowledged the shelter's horrific hoarding conditions and defended its work internally to get attention to the problems.  PAWS "stayed in its lane."  The lack of cleanliness and overcrowding brought significant public outrage.  

PAWS publicly lamented its lack of audience with city leadership, the city's not taking PAWS up on its many offers to help mitigate the disgusting conditions animals endured and the city's poor pay/working conditions for shelter staff.  

PAWS is also the city's veterinary service provider.  Widespread unsanitary conditions impact animal health.  Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden told the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee on August 18th that litters of puppies and kittens were mainly responsible for the overcrowding conditions.  The roach explosion occurred the following week.

Saturday, September 3rd Critter Shack's Sharon Halfmann wrote (as the shelter received roach treatment):

It is, above all, true that the failure of pet owners to spay/neuter/vaccinate/microchip/provide proper care is the primary reason for the large numbers of unwanted/abandoned animals that we see here every day. 
 
It is also true that San Angelo has a ”mandatory spay/neuter/microchip ordinance” requiring animals to be spayed/neutered at six months, with some exceptions. The ”quotes” signify that this ordinance is rarely enforced; we would ask why the CIty is so hesitant to enforce this important ordinance? Obviously, it would not be easy, but wouldn’t the fines generated pay for an enforcement officer -or two, or more? Does the City place less importance on the lives and well-being of dogs and cats than they do on the length of our grass or of overhanging branches in alleyways? 
 
It is true that many of the people and rescues in our area stepped up to help foster, adopt, give supplies for, or offer support for many of the dogs and cats that were housed in the Shelter during this recent closure - that is extremely heartening to see and shows how animal lovers can come together and work for a common goal. 
 
While it is true that the dog/cat overpopulation problem is due to irresponsible pet ownership, once an animal is accepted into a shelter or rescue, that animal becomes the responsibility of that entity and proper treatment/housing of those animals is part of that commitment. When a shelter or rescue reaches maximum capacity, they have an obligation to the animals in their care to NOT overextend and fail to provide reasonable care to the animals they are responsible for. For rescues, that decision is usually to limit or stop intake - a City Shelter faces a more difficult choice. If capacity is reached, if many more animals are coming in than are being adopted, fostered, transported, then choices are limited and harsh. However, warehousing dogs/cats for weeks, months or years in crates, cages or small pens is not a humane answer. Continuing to house more animals than can be properly cared for by insufficient numbers of caretakers/workers is not a humane answer. 
 
So, what can we do? Can citizens, rescues, veterinarians, city officials, shelter administrators work together to better the lives of our animals? Can we figure out a way to offer as much low cost spay/neuter as possible? Can we help educate pet owners and offer help with proper pet ownership? Can we enforce a spay/neuter ordinance aimed at reducing the overbreeding of pets? Can we put our agendas aside to help animals? Critter Shack is ready to work with groups or individuals to find some reasonable, workable solutions to address the plight of animals in our area. Let us know what positive ideas/possible solutions or steps in the right direction you have. 

Yes, city leaders could have said "The bugs have been treated and the shelter is clean.  We'd like to listen to citizens and area rescues and find a better way forward."  They didn't do that.

PAWS could have said "What role did we play in overcrowding by not spaying pregnant pets in shelter care as the city's veterinary provider and releasing unaltered shelter pets back into the community?  How can we change those practices?"  They did not.

The two parties that created the mess are at odds.  PAWS has gone on offense by repeatedly reaching out to the public with its case.  I expect next week's City Council meeting to have lots of public comment.  Mayor Brenda Gunter will have a challenge if she is back from her bout with the flu.

The public deserves to know how we got here and why we should trust the people who created the horrific conditions to make lasting improvements.  

One local rescue is "ready to work with groups or individuals to find some reasonable, workable solutions to address the plight of animals in our area."  The way forward will reveal if there is more than one.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Chokehold on Shelter Intake Remains as Capacity Reduced


The City announced shelter changes.  It appears the same group that brought the Animal Shelter to its recent horrific conditions is navigating the way out of its numerous dysfunctions.   Overcrowding and incapable operations turned the shelter into a roach infested, bad hoarding situation.  Pictures of San Angelo's shelter went viral in the worst way.

City leaders failed to accept responsibility for the disaster caused by Pets Alive's misplaced priorities.  Choking off shelter intake meant citizens could only surrender their pet for two reasons,  aggression towards people in the home or natural disaster.   The shelter refused to take pets from San Angelo residents moving overseas or going into a nursing home.  The death of a pet owner is not a reason for the shelter to accept an animal.  

Intake from owner surrenders went from almost 3,000 pets in 2016 to a mere 77 in 2021.  The City recently further tightened its chokehold by "asking" citizens to hold onto found pets for two days before bringing a lost animal to the shelter. 

Three years of severely limiting intake resulted in large numbers of unaltered dogs roaming city streets.  Recent overcrowding at the shelter was caused in part by pets having litters in shelter care.  One Husky had been in the shelter twice before and delivered seven puppies two months into her third shelter stay. 

Pets Alive does not prioritize spay/neuter as a means to prevent unwanted pets.  Concho Valley PAWS contracted with the city for spay/neuter services multiple times.  PAWS and shelter leadership assured Council that shelter pets were spayed/neutered through a "trusted reconciliation" process.  This "trusted" process allowed that Husky three unaltered stays in the Animal Shelter.

San Angelo's version of Pets Alive resulted in overfilling the shelter with large, unaltered, difficult to adopt dogs that resided in the shelter for years.  City Council had a months long strategic planning/budgeting process to consider the impact of Pets Alive strategies.  I saw no evidence of Council deliberations in this arena.  The roach infestation occurred as budgets were being finalized.

Last week at City Council Mayor Pro Tem Tom Thompson assured the public changes were underway.  The crisis included spending over $23,500 on temporary dog cages.  It also paid a professional contractor for roach treatment and another for deep cleaning the shelter.

Four business days after hearing from the public at Council the city announced the result of that work. 

As usual, city leaders missed the opportunity for wider citizen input, the opportunity to leverage area rescues knowledge/energy and a deeper discussion on institutionalizing spay/neuter of shelter animals making it "bad citizen" proof.   

Choking down shelter capacity is layered on top of years of choking off animal intake.  Less service for more money.  That may as well be the City's motto.

Update 9-23-22:  San Angelo Live reported the impact of Pets Alive choking off shelter intake and not prioritizing spay/neuter services:

Valenzuela said the number of pets abandoned inside the city limits has greatly increased over the past year.

Friday, September 09, 2022

Citizens Express Concerns over Shelter Operations


City Council heard concerns from a number of citizens about Animal Shelter operations.  The recent roach infestation caused a partial evacuation of the building.  Conditions deteriorated during the crisis to what looked like a horrific pet hoarding situation.  

Mayor Brenda Gunter had the flu according to Mayor Pro Tem Tom Thompson.  Thompson assured citizens that Council is aware and that a group is "working hard behind the scenes to address the situation." 

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela, Director of Neighborhood/Family Services Bob Salas, Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden, PAWS Director Jenie Wilson and Pets Alive got the shelter to where it is today.  It will take more than this group to chart a better course.

Prior to the roach outbreak the shelter was occupied by large dogs with long stays, many multi-year.

 

Pets Alive strategies choked off intake to a fraction of its prior level.  No longer would the shelter take a pet if its owner died or needed to go into a nursing home.  

 

City Council heard in public comment about loose animals in the community that killed a cat sitting outside on the porch.   

The San Angelo Police Department increasingly took up the issue of problem animals in the community.

 

Pregnant pets give birth in the City Shelter adding to the overpopulation problem. Councilman Harry Thomas cited irresponsible citizens for the shelter's plight.  The city has had seven years to learn how irresponsible citizens are and design systems to do what they won't, spay/neuter pets in the shelter's care and prevent unwanted litters. 

 

There is a need for change, for wider citizen input.  There is an opportunity to leverage area rescues knowledge and energy.  No-Kill remains a laudable goal.  It's what nearly everybody wants.  San Angelo wants to be like the communities receiving our shelter pets via PAWS transfers.

These communities are long standing no-kill communities where spay and neuter practices have successfully reduced the population of shelter pets.

Daniel, Bob, Morgan and Jenie brought the shelter to where it is today.  More of the same insular strategies won't cut it.  Spay/neuter needs to be made "bad citizen proof" and the shelter needs to never become a horrific hoarding situation again.

Update 9-9-22:  ConchoValleyHomepage got on the story of horrific shelter conditions.  The city did not respond as of the time the article was released at 6:43 pm.

Update 9-13-22:  The City announced shelter changes.  As usual, they've missed the opportunity for wider citizen input, the opportunity to leverage area rescues knowledge/energy and a deeper discussion on institutionalizing spay/neuter of shelter animals making it "bad citizen" proof.   

Update 9-14-22:  Animal Shelter adoption contractor PAWS put out a statement challenging the city's planned changes.  Their response avoided PAWS role in releasing unaltered shelter pets into the community under Pets Alive.  This lack of spay/neuter resulted in numerous litters being born in the shelter.  That practice needs to end.

Update 9-15-22:  Concho Valley PAWS has gone on the offense regarding spay/neuter, encouraging citizens to spay/neuter their pets so fewer animals will be killed in the shelter.  PAWS had a direct role in releasing unaltered animals into the community from the shelter and in scores of litters being born inside the shelter.  Puppies and kittens were a major cause of the recent overcrowding that resulted in a roach infestation and what appeared to be horrific hoarding conditions.  . 

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Water Utilities Director Strube to Leave COSA


The City of San Angelo issued a press release this afternoon.

Effective Sept. 8, Water Utilities Director Allison Strube will be leaving her position with the City of San Angelo.

Strube has accepted an opportunity with the Colorado River Municipal Water District.

The CRMWD posted an Engineering Services Manager job in mid-June.   

The city's press release highlighted Stube's accomplishments which include:

Serves as chairwoman of the Region 9 Flood Planning Group and a voting member of Region F Water Planning Group.

That is the Upper Colorado River Regional Flood Plan.  

Former City Engineer Lance Overstreet remained the Municipalities representative and serves as Secretary of the Flood Planning Group.  Overstreet left his position as San Angelo's City Engineer in November 2020 and the city continues to recruit for his replacement. 

Water is a precious resource in West Texas, as are professional engineers.  It hurts to have a drought of either.   

Update 9-8-22:   Strube went from reporting to Assistant City Manager Michael Dane to Executive Director of Public Works Shane Kelton.  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela waived the professional engineer required for the top Public works position for Ricky Dickson and then Shane Kelton.  Might that have contributed to the city's difficulty finding and retaining engineers?   Kelton will "oversee the Water Utilities Department until Strube’s replacement has been found."

Update 9-27-22: Strube left with a $9,000 raise in the budget from a 7% cost of living raise.  Her pay would have risen to $137,763.

Friday, September 02, 2022

Facility Maintenance on Roach Infestation: Run

San Angelo City employee John Long e-mailed the top two Facilities Maintenance managers and an HVAC specialist about the Animal Shelter roach infestation.  Management's response was "Get out of there" and "something needs to be done before I will send any of our guys back to your facility."

Other city e-mails equate the shelter's roach conditions to working around wastewater (sewage).  The problem can be addressed safely with proper personal protective equipment and ventilation.  I found the "Run response" a bit odd given facilities maintenance's role in preventing pest problems.

Facilities Maintenance management may have changed their tune and did work to ensure MDK Systems had proper access to all necessary portions of the building for the fumigation roach treatment.  They did help assemble the new dog kennels/crates.  The roach treatment occurred last night and the facility must be empty for 48 hours.  Then it will be safe for staff to return, including facilities maintenance.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Seven Years of Spay/Neuter Ordinance


One local rescue did its part yesterday by taking 32 cats and one dog from the City of San Angelo Animal Shelter as it addresses a roach crisis.  CritterShack's Sharon Halfmann noted only three of 33 pets had been spayed/neutered.  A young cat needs surgery to amputate an injured leg and that will happen tomorrow.

Halfmann stressed to Neighborhood and Family Services Director Bob Salas the need for the Shelter to fix pets in their care and enforce the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance.  Salas said that would be a "long term strategy" and the city "did not want to push people on this issue."   

Those are odd things to say given Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden just informed the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee the cause of shelter overcrowding is due to puppies from unaltered dogs.  One Huskie had two prior Animal Shelter stays before delivering a litter in the shelter during her third stay.  The shelter had two months to spay the pregnant dog and did not.

Salas must have forgotten his seven year old position on mandatory spay/neuter, shared by partner Concho Valley PAWS.  PAWS is the shelter adoption coordinator and veterinary service provider.

February 2015 --  Bob Salas received City Council Proclamation on the Spay/Neuter Initiative Program (SNIP) collaboration with Concho Valley PAWS.  He stated:

"together we will be able to reduce the number of stray animals in our streets...  if you love your pet, get it spayed/neutered."
August/September 2015 --  City Council tackled mandatory spay/neuter ordinance.

"We can't adopt our way out.  We cannot kill our way out.  Spay/neuter is the answer"--Concho Valley PAWS Director Jenie Wilson's statement in public comment

This effort was combined with the City's hiring a veterinarian to conduct spay/neuter surgeries. 


October 2015 -- City Council approved the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance

February 2018 --The City awarded Concho Valley PAWS its veterinary service contract.

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."

December 2019 -- City Council approved management's recommendation to donate its veterinary surgical equipment to Concho Valley PAWS.  

Morgan said PAWS "is hungry to take on this service" and highlighted the benefit of "services we can continue to provide our citizens locally for years to come."

Councilman Tommy Thompson made the motion for veterinary services equipment go to PAWS free of charge.  Morgan said PAWS could put that equipment to use immediately.  How many spay/neuter surgeries has Concho Valley PAWS conducted with donated equipment from the city?  

Seven years is a long time for the city to have made remarkably little progress in spaying/neutering shelter pets as required by city ordinance.  It's made worse by Animal Services taking a laissez-faire attitude toward enforcing the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance.

 

Bob Salas showed his memory problems regarding the city's Neighborhood Blitz.  It's expanded to SNIP.  One minute it's there, next it's gone.  

Conditions in the shelter are the worst area rescues have ever seen.  Local citizen Jillian Haddad posted pictures of the horrific conditions dogs are enduring on her Facebook page.  It looks like a bad hoarding situation.  Haddad communicated with city leadership about possible space options and is on a mission to improve shelter conditions.


Haddad spoke on behalf of the spay/neuter ordinance in 2015.  She shared how communities in Wisconsin drastically reduced shelter occupancy after ten years of mandatory spay/neuter ordinance.  San Angelo is at year seven of the ordinance but might as well be at year zero.

There's a need for strategic reorientation at the City Animal Shelter.  Let's hope City Council is paying attention.

Update 9-1-22:  CritterShack conducted a spay/neuter clinic today and fixed all 31 cats and the one dog rescued from the City of San Angelo Animal Shelter.  They also received recommended vaccinations and were tested for heartworms (dog), leukemia and FIV (cats), micro-chipped and have a clean safe place to live.

Update 9-2-22:  The City posted an update on the roach treatment on its News page.  The young cat with the leg injury is doing well after its amputation surgery.   Concho Valley PAWS is responsible for the veterinary care for shelter pets and has contracted more than once with the city for spay/neuter services.  CritterShack's vets did in a day what PAWS has been unable to do for as long as those 33 animals have been in the City Animal Shelter. 

Update 9-8-22:  San Angelo Live published the photos showing horrific, hoarding conditions at the Animal Shelter.  They normally run PAWS press releases free of charge.  The Animal Shelter relies on PAWS to be its public face. 

Update 9-9-22:  An October 2021 compliance report from PAWS stated under the pet transfers section:

These communities are long standing no-kill communities where spay and neuter practices have successfully reduced the population of shelter pets.
Year seven should be close to longstanding but it feels like we've gone backwards in the spay/neuter arena.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

City Addressing Shelter Cockroach Infestation


The City of San Angelo's plans to treat a cockroach outbreak at the Animal Shelter are underway.  The cockroaches pictured in this post are from the back entrance hallway on the north side of Animal Shelter.


The roaches are German cockroaches according to the city's pest exterminator MDK Services.  Entomology at The University of Kentucky describes this type of cockroach:

German Cockroach (Blattella germanica)  This is by far the most common cockroach infesting homes and buildings. The pest thrives in the presence of humans but does not occur outdoors. Adults are light brown and about 1/2 inch long, with two dark stripes running lengthwise along the shield-like area behind the head. The nymphs are smaller and darker with a tan stripe down the middle of the back. German cockroaches reproduce very rapidly, which is one reason why controlling these pests can be difficult. A single mated female can produce thousands of new cockroaches in less than a year.   

German cockroaches require warmth, moisture, and food, which is why they are most common in kitchens and bathrooms. Preferred hiding places include cracks and crevices under sinks and toilets; beneath/behind refrigerators, dishwashers, and stoves; near trash containers; and inside cabinets and pantries. German cockroaches also congregate in clocks, toaster ovens, and other heat-producing electronic equipment. When populations are large or food is scarce, they can be found in bedrooms, closets, and other areas of the home. German roaches spend most of their time hidden in cracks and crevices, but can be quite mobile. They often travel between rooms or adjoining apartments via walls, ceilings, pipes, wires and other openings.


After extermination the city plans to have the shelter professionally cleaned.  It is exploring this possibility with Serv-Pro.  

The City plans to move 86 dogs and 49 cats to a temporary location.  The Red Barn at the Fairgrounds was mentioned as a possible site to keep shelter animals in new kennels/crates.  The vendor is scheduled to deliver those kennels to the 4H area today.  City maintenance and shelter staff will assemble those and move them to the decided location.  

The tentative schedule is below:


The city committed to inform the public of its plans.  

The City will update the public once dates have been finalized for the temporary closure of the shelter.

Stay tuned to the city's website for official information on their progress treating the roach outbreak..

Update 8-31-22:  The City chose to update the public via Facebook and Twitter, not on the News portion of its website:


The shelter will use the 4H building to house 67 dogs and 17 cats as the community has responded to this crisis situation.

 Better yet, volunteer for the local animal rescue of your choice.

Note:  The information for this post came from the City of San Angelo via a public information request.  Update images came from the city's Facebook page. 

Update 9-2-22:  The City is back to posting updates on its News page.  

"The shelter will continue to be treated for pests moving forward to ensure this roach problem does not resurface."

I'd prefer the city add a commitment to keep the shelter sanitary and not have what looks like bad hoarding conditions. 

Update 9-6-22:  PAWS returned the favor and defended the horrific conditions at the shelter while taking a swipe at people with legitimate concerns about the shelter choking off intake, releasing unaltered pets from the shelter, housing unadoptable animals for years while not fixing them and not writing citations for people who repeatedly ignore the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance.  

PAWS went on the ding the city for "inadequate staffing and staff wages claiming the people responsible for animal care and welfare are making less than what they could make if they went to work for any fast-food restaurant in San Angelo." 

Update 9-8-22:  San Angelo Live published the photos showing horrific, hoarding conditions at the Animal Shelter.  They normally run PAWS press releases free of charge.  The Animal Shelter relies on PAWS to be its public face.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Shelter Tightens Intake Chokehold


The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee (ASAC) met last Thursday and members learned 64 cats died or were euthanized in May due to an illness outbreak at the city shelter.  85 more cats died in June, some from the same Feline Panleukopenia outbreak.  Panleukopenia is a preventable illness if cats are vaccinated.  No one asked about if the shelter provides such vaccinations through their agreement with Concho Valley PAWS.

Dog intake is up by 200 and puppy intake is up 30% from last year.  "We are so overrun with puppies," stated Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden.  She noted puppies and unwanted litters are a major factor contributing to the Shelter's current and ongoing space crisis.  This occurred even with PAWS housing 128 pets in their building next to the shelter.

The City enacted a mandatory spay-neuter ordinance in October 2015.  It rarely enforced the ordinance over the last four years.

 

The Shelter's inaction on enforcing the city's mandatory spay-neuter ordinance helped create today's overcrowding situation.  In 2022 the shelter has averaged one citation per animal services officer per month for citizen noncompliance.  That's four per month.

Pets Alive and the City want to provide even less service by asking residents who find a lost pet to hold on to that animal for 48 hours before contacting the shelter.  This places the citizen in a precarious position as shelter staff use the "72 hour possession" as an excuse to not help, saying the animal is "now your pet."  It matters not whether the shelter was open or closed during that 72 hour period.  

Most citizens do not have a microchip scanner or the ability to get information from the microchip company.  Animal Services Officers staff have the ability to can scan for a chip and call the chip company for owner contact information.  The only veterinarian who assisted the community with micro-chipping information ceased that service earlier this year. 

Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden told the ASAC they "respond to a loose, stray dog every time."  That is false.  There are numerous instances where the shelter did not respond to a request from area employers or SAPD dealing with loose dogs.  In Spring 2021 I wrote Mayor Gunter:

This month one of San Angelo's longtime, major employers tried to get assistance from the Animal Shelter for loose dogs on their property and was refused twice.  City contractor PAWS refused to help as well. 

Pets Alive model works when citizens and the shelter do the upstream work to prevent unwanted litters of puppies and kittens.  It does not work when it is used to artificially choke off intake.  It fails miserably when unaltered animals repeatedly cycle through the shelter until they become pregnant and deliver in the shelter after being there two months.

Morgan spoke of their robust community cat program but a friend in Santa Rita called for help regarding a feral cat in their backyard and was told the shelter did not provide that service.  As of June the shelter had not spent any of the $5,000 City Council gave for addressing problem cats.

The August Animal Services Advisory Committee meeting had its usual surprises and service promises not backed up by citizen experience. Four years of choked off intake resulted in many citizens abandoning unwanted dogs in the community.  The local employer and SAPD cases mentioned earlier ended with those dogs continuing to roam unsupervised.  Citizen failure to fix their pets and the city's to enforce its spay-neuter ordinance resulted in many unwanted puppies and kittens.  Unaltered, abandoned pets is not the goal of Pets Alive but it is their product in our community.

Update 8-26-22:  The Shelter will close soon to address a roach infestation and is asking for assistance from the public in sheltering the occupants while the treatment occurs.  Why was this concern not mentioned at the ASAC meeting last week?  

Update 8-30-22:  "The City will update the public once dates have been finalized for the temporary closure of the shelter."  No word yet on those dates.

Update 9-23-22:  San Angelo Live reported the impact of Pets Alive choking off shelter intake and not prioritizing spay/neuter services:

Valenzuela said the number of pets abandoned inside the city limits has greatly increased over the past year.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

City Goes Light on Spay/Neuter Citations

The City of San Angelo passed a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for pets in October 2015.  Nearly seven years later the Animal Shelter is chronically overcrowded, even after the addition of a PAWS adoption center and kennels next door.

In early June the Animal Shelter issued a plea to the public after three dogs gave birth producing 20 puppies in an already full shelter.  One of the mothers had been in the shelter twice before and released unaltered.  She had been in the shelter two months, plenty of time for a spay to have been conducted.  City Council awarded PAWS its veterinary surgical equipment in December 2019 for such a purpose.

Flashback to August 2015 when staff began floating the idea of a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance

If Animal Control Services picks up an animal over 4 months old, and that animal is not spayed or neutered, the repercussions will be a citation. Not to mention, the Shelter would spay, neuter and microchip the animal at the owner’s expense. The only exceptions to this ordinance would include people who breed with a current license and microchip, people who need their animals for medical reasons, people who compete their animals professionally, and those people who use animals for specialty reasons, including law enforcement.

“Of course we would need to allow time for citizens to get ready for the ordinance, which would be 6 months.” 

Animal Services is under Neighborhood and Family Services while includes Code Enforcement.  The City has four Animal Services Officers and four Code Enforcement Officers.  Between them they average just over 4 failure to spay/neuter citations per month.  That's less than 1 per ASO/CEO.  That seems rather sparse for a city with an abundance of irresponsible pet owners.

Update 8-22-22:  Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden was on KLST News last night talking about the Animal Shelter's increase in the number of dogs entering the shelter.  She said there has been a 10% increase relative to last year.  The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee met last Thursday and one agenda item was further restricting intake from city residents trying to do the right thing after finding a lost dog.

Update 8-25-22:  Morgan told the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee the dog increase is mainly due to puppies.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Planning Commission Approves Lake Nasworthy "Illegal Divisions"


The Wild West applies to more than one city operation as evidenced by a recent Planning Commission meeting.  City staff presented the need to replat four homes on Lake Nasworthy's Hillside Drive due to owners undertaking a number of projects and/or purchases.

SKG Engineering's Russell Gully said in public comment:

"We would ask for your approval with the variance as requested.  This is really cleaning up.  I guess some of the ... one of the property owners had bought two lots and did some improvements, moved some lines and then bought the neighbor.  They swapped a little bit of land and moved some stuff around, so this is really....I think one of them was going to put one of the houses up for sale so they were kind of like, you know what let's fix this, clean it up, get the lines, platted lines, where we've done some "illegal divisions" and correct that.  So really this is really just getting the platted lines in the correct locations.  I'll be happy to answer any questions and I guess Mr. Vannoy has done such a great job maybe we can see him every month going forward for awhile.  Thank you."

Oddly Mr. Vannoy made an excuse that this item came from another planner late in the process and wasn't sure what changes were being made in the replat to correct years of "illegal divisions."  He pointed to two property lines he thought were moved but could not say so with authority.

What's the duty of a contractor or engineering firm to inform residents of the need to go through the planning process for major changes in property within city limits?  

What's the penalty for residents who ignore city ordinances and add structures or move property lines without going through the required process?  


Staff previewed several upcoming items for the commission.  One included changes at another Lake Nasworthy development The Palms which has been developed by the Russell Gully's Psalm 100.  

Planning staff said it involved more cleanup.  I can't imagine there are illegal divisions from such a new development, especially one developed by someone with knowledge of city ordinances.  We will see.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

City's Asphalt Zipper Sits Idle


City Council's budget planning is aimed at high priority areas.  One of those is city streets.   Executive Director of Public Works Shane Kelton offered an internal road resurfacing crew to Council as an option in a 2022 budget session.

The City of San Angelo website states:

After decades of deferred maintenance, San Angelo’s streets earned a pavement condition index of 45.9 on a 100-point scale in a 2015 Fugro Roadware study.

That was seven years ago.   In December 2016 city management recommended Council approve the $1.2 million purchase of  a Benedetti machine to resurface streets.  That project failed miserably and the city returned the equipment to the manufacturer in January 2019.  

The city purchased an asphalt milling machine (asphalt zipper) in 2005.  It has 102 hours of use over 17 years.  That's six hours a year.  Most of that use came from loaning the asphalt zipper to the City of Fredericksburg in 2016.  

In preparation for the Milam Street Reconstruction Project that is scheduled to be completed this year, the Street Department will be making repairs to failed sections of Milam Street in advance of the project. The use of an asphalt milling machine would greatly expedite the City's repair process which would result in a reduction in construction time thus reducing the overall inconvenience to traffic and adjacent business and residential areas. City of San Angelo owns an asphalt milling machine (asphalt zipper) and has agreed verbally to let the City of Fredericksburg borrow this piece of equipment.

Fredericksburg put approximately 80 hours on the City's asphalt zipper saving over $100,000 on a street repair project.  That means San Angelo used the equipment a mere 22 hours since 2005 or an average 1.3 hours each year.

Decades of deferred maintenance, failure of Benedetti machine and negligible use of its asphalt milling machine occurred under the leadership of Public Works Chiefs Ricky Dickson and Shane Kelton. 

An engineer with knowledge of city operations said recently:

"There will be no marked change to the overall condition of the streets in San Angelo in our lifetime….guaranteed!" 

City Council may give "the boys with the big toys" a new job.  That may require street maintenance to use its asphalt zipper more than 1.3 hours per year. 

Thursday, July 07, 2022

City's Award Winning Neighborhood Blitz Reduced to "Siding Program"


San Angelo's City Council learned the annual Neighborhood Blitz ended two years ago.  Neighborhood and Family Services Director Bob Salas called it "a siding program" that ended when siding got too expensive.

It was once an award winning program that caused Mr. Salas much pride.  A 2013 city press release stated:

“It’s fabulous to be recognized by our peers – from towns as small as Dalhart to cities as
big as Dallas,” said Bob Salas, Neighborhood and Family Services director and the point
person for the blitzes.  “But the true reward comes in seeing how beautifully my colleagues have transformed neighborhoods that desperately needed some attention.  Only one word can do their work – and this award – justice: Wow!” 

Salas did not do justice to the program by limiting it to siding.  That press release also stated:

In recognizing San Angelo’s annual Neighborhood Paint and Clean-Up Blitz, the TML noted the effort “began with a simple challenge: to paint as many houses and pick up as much trash as it could in one day. The impact of that challenge has resulted in the complete transformation of neighborhoods from blight and stagnancy to progress and vibrancy.”

The TML applauded the City’s partnership with volunteers from West Texas Organizing Strategies, a grassroots organization; Angelo State University; Goodfellow Air Force Base and various nonprofit agencies such as Habitat for Humanity to grow the event to two days and to tackle a range of projects. Those have spanned from the renovation of Little League fields and improvements to historic Fort Concho to the repainting of two recreation centers and the freshening of the Concho River trail. The annual clean-up has eliminated potential code violations, which has saved an estimated $75,000 in staff time, the TML noted. More importantly, it has “rekindled neighborhood pride and spirit among residents.” The neighborhoods touched include Blackshear, Fort Concho, Lincoln, Reagan and Rio Vista.

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela seemed committed to the program in 2013:

“This is a proud day for the City of San Angelo,” City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said.  “And it’s a direct result of the pride our City employees have in the public service they deliver every day and in the pride they have in being San Angeloans. The exciting thing is, this is only the beginning. Our staff and the City Council, which has provided both great leadership and steadfast support for these award-winning efforts, are brimming with ideas and with the motivation to continually improve our community.”
City Council asked about assistance for elderly persons with issues complying with city codes.  Council approved CDBG and HOME grant funds paying for one full time code compliance officer to work problem areas of town.

The annual Neighborhood Blitz clean-up has eliminated potential code violations, which has saved an estimated $75,000 in staff time.

The Blitz was clearly much more than a siding program.  It's strange to hear city staff with direct responsibility for an effort describe it in a factually inaccurate manner.  It's becoming a pattern.

Update 7-8-22:  KLST ran a piece yesterday evening with Salas again referring to the Blitz again as "a siding program."  Their website does not include that video.  Oddly the documents include money for the Neighborhood Blitz which was cancelled two years ago.

Update 8-2-22:  Mayor Brenda Gunter shared her wish for the Neighborhood Blitz program to be rejuvenated in today's City Council meeting.  She said it should be reinstated as it was more than a siding program.  . 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Three Dogs Gave Birth in City Shelter


The City of San Angelo instituted a mandatory spay-neuter ordinance in October 2015.  Despite the ordinance three Animal Shelter dogs had puppies in early May   Two of the three arrived very pregnant and delivered shortly after their shelter admission.  However, one had a distinct track record of shelter stays and releases.  How did the same owner get to reclaim their unaltered dog multiple times from the shelter? 

Also how did a pregnant dog in city hands for two months deliver seven puppies?  The City gave veterinary surgical equipment to Concho Valley PAWS in December 2019 for such a purpose.  

PAWS committed several times to recruit a full time veterinarian to serve the needs of the Animal Shelter including spay/neuter surgeries.  It did so in 2017 and again in 2020.


It's latest RFP submission from February 2020 has a commitment to employ a Veterinarian.  PAWS veterinarian search specifically mentions the shelter's need for veterinary care and spay/neuter surgeries.

It's been over two years since PAWS made service commitments in writing.  Surely someone could have fixed a pregnant dog during its two month stay in the animal shelter.  

That the unaltered dog was released twice to the same owner by city staff should be a surprise given leaderships statements from 2018.

"100% of dogs adopted have been spayed/neutered or are scheduled for their surgery."

...."tremendous trust in this process where there's a reconciliation.  We know who is outstanding for their (spay/neuter) surgery and who is not." 

“So the veterinarians report a missed appointment but we would not report a compliance issue.” -- Morgan Chegwidden to City Council on 2-20-18

Consider this dog's experience in light of staff's words.   The speaker is the person entrusted with enforcing the city's mandatory spay/neuter ordinance.

The present is a chronically overfilled shelter that saw three litters (20 puppies in total) born in May.  One third of those were entirely preventable as the dog had been in the shelter twice before and released unaltered.  It's disturbing that PAWS service commitments made two years ago remain unfulfilled and that spay/neuter surgery could not be accomplished during a two month window while the pregnant dog was in the Animal Shelter.  

Update 6-29-22: