Thursday, March 31, 2022

City Utility Billing Again Nudges Out SAPD

The City of San Angelo purchased two downtown buildings with the possibility of hosting the Police Department.  The most recent buy involved the former Standard Times building on West Harris.  City Council approved up to $950,000 in April 2021.  GoSanAngelo reported:

San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter said the city is exploring options to turn the building into a possible site for a new police station.

"We are excited about the opportunity that purchasing the Standard-Times building presents to the city," Gunter said. "We have known for a long time that our police department has needed a new building."

The City closed on the Standard Times building last summer.  The possible use shifted after purchase according to City Council's background packet.  It states:.

In August 2021, the City of San Angelo purchased the old Standard Times Building located at 34 W. Harris Street. The building was bought with the intention of transitioning it for use primarily by Public Works and Utility Billing

The earlier purchase was the former First Financial Bank building on Beauregard.  GoSanAngelo reported:

Originally City officials were pushing to renovate the former bank building into the San Angelo Police Department's new headquarters. However, Police Chief Frank Carter rejected the idea because remodeling the building to meet SAPD needs would be too expensive. Carter also said his priority was getting additional officers and pay raises rather than the building.

Over four years the City's press release revealed which departments would occupy the new space::

The City of San Angelo’s water billing office is moving to the former First Financial Bank building at 301 W. Beauregard Ave. Its first day of operations in its new location will be Monday, Oct. 30. 

The water billing office will occupy the first floor of the newly renamed City Hall Annex. Also on the first floor will be administrators and other employees of the Water Utilities, Operations, Public Works and Engineering Services departments. 

Next week City Council will consider hiring architects to redesign the Standard Times building interior for $135,000 as well as approve funds for property taxes ($28,003), earnest money ($60,000) and utilities ($15,000).   

Tom Green County Appraisal District received a check from the City of San Angelo for $28,002.93 on January 27, 2022.  That was two months ago.  

Earnest money would have been offered prior to closing and netted out of the purchase price on 8-20-2021. 

According to real estate attorneys, earnest money funds are basically a deposit on a property being offered for sale. This money is put into an escrow account where it stays while the details of the sale are finalized. Giving a seller earnest funds means the buyer agrees to purchase the property once negotiations are completed. In return for these funds, the seller agrees not to sell the property to anyone else. When the sale of the property is finalized, the earnest money as well as any earned interest is applied to the purchase price

Why would Council need to approve $60,000 in additional funds if the deal was within the original $950,000 approved?  

Given the first two expenses already occurred I assume some portion of the $15,000 in utilities has also been expended.  It's not clear how much the city has already paid utility providers.  It appears staff is asking Council to rubber stamp funds already spent.

City Manager Daniel Valenzuela dealt with the delivery and installation of over $100,000 in Water Utility furniture prior to City Council approval.  It wasn't his faux pas.  Is the furniture sturdy enough to survive two moves?  Hopefully so.

Update 4-2-22:  San Angelo Live reported on the agenda item but raised no questions about the change in intended use or requested funding for items already paid.

Update 4-5-22:  City Council approved all the items under this presentation.  No one spoke or asked about the shift in usage and why Water Utility billing needs to move after relocating to prime downtown office space in 2017.  

Update 6-6-22:  SAPD will go into the City Hall Annex as proposed in 2017.  A City Council Strategic Planning session included a slide addressing this.

Update 5-23-23:  The city budgeted $14.3 million to upgrade the Standard Times building for Public Works and other departments.  Staff will move from the former First Financial Bank building (City Hall Annex) into the Standard Times space.  At that point the cost to upgrade the former bank building for a police station will be identified.

Hunt for City Engineer Continues

Former City Engineer Lance Overstreet is listed in City Council's background packet for their April 5th meeting.  Overstreet is on the committee developing a regional flood plan Council will consider spending another $600,000 in state money on the project.

He stepped down at City Engineer November 2020.  The City has not been successful in finding Overstreet's replacement for a year and five months.  It's been a hard job to fill since the city removed the professional engineer requirement for the Executive Director of Public Works job.  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela removed the requirement for Ricky Dickson and kept that in place for Shane Kelton.

It might be a challenge reporting to and being evaluated by someone lacking your basic skill set.  High turnover in engineering leadership and difficulty in hiring a City Engineer should be of concern to City Council.  

Update 6-7-22:  The City Engineer hunt remains on according to Concho Valley Homepage

Update 6-29-22:

Update 8-29-22:  SGR remains on the case to find San Angelo a City Engineering.

Update 1-25-23:  As of 1-1-23 the City promoted Interim City Engineer/Assistant City Engineer to the City Engineer position.  There has been no announcement of this change.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

PAWS "Invested Heavily" after City Dumped Unaltered Cats

The City of San Angelo continues touting their live release achievement for 2021.  Last June City Council heard that Animal Control workers dumped nearly fifty cats, most of them unaltered, into various neighborhoods. 

Animal Services released 48 unaltered cats into city limits.  Bentwood, Fort Concho, Santa Rita, Angelo Heights, Lake View, Southland Hills, The Bluffs, Bellaire, River View Heights and Wall received cats with intact reproductive systems, courtesy of the City of San Angelo.  

The Shelter asked City Council for $5,000 in June 2021 to once again fix community cats prior to release.  Community Cats have been a top four Pets Alive strategy since 2019 for the Animal Shelter.

Concho Valley PAWS said it invested heavily in spay/neuter and return for community cats.  That should warrant a report to City Council given Mayor Gunter wanted follow-up on the success of their $5,000 investment. 

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.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Gilbert Consulting Gets Contract Renewal for 2022

San Angelo's City Council approved another $60,000 contract with Gilbert Consulting for Municipal Court services.  Judge Allen Gilbert retired in 2019 to much fanfare.  Less publicized was his staying on as a contractor.  The item was generically stated on the Closed agenda and had no information in council's background packet.

A public information request produced a memo to council on the item.  The memo referenced the item as being on the consent agenda, not in closed session.

 This is the first year the Judge's contract was explored in closed session.  

City Council has consistently approved Judge Allen Gilbert's consulting agreement.  How did the deal became "New" in 2022 from the same City Attorney who initiated the item in 2019?   

Update 5-31-22:  City Council discussed Municipal Court revenue in today's strategic planning meeting.  It's down for the last three years and expected to fall again in the upcoming year.  One might expect a consultant to help reverse this trend.  If dollars continue to fall significantly can the city afford to keep Judge Gilbert on the vendor rolls?

Update 2-18-23:  City Council will consider another contract with Gilbert Consulting for $36,000.  Council approved four $60,000 annual contracts since the judge's retirement in 2019.  That's a nice $240,000 post retirement gig.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Pfluger Makes Trading List

Who knew Rep. August Pfluger's public service would be so profitable?  Unusual_whales did.

Update 8-26-23:   A study showed members of Congress benefit from insider knowledge:

Economist Serkan Karadas identified a "suspicious pattern" in Congress members' stock investment returns, suggesting that some may be profiting from their positions through access to nonpublic information.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Rep. Pfluger Votes Against Burn Pit Benefits for Veterans

Rep. August Pfluger, an Air Force veteran, voted against The Honoring Our Pact Act, a bill that "addresses health care, presumption of service-connection, research, resources, and other matters related to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service."  His House website makes no mention of reasons for his opposition to the bill.   

Pfluger made the "No vote" list at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's website.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Sanctuary Ordinance Discussion Raises Key Questions

San Angelo City Council chose to deny the sanctuary city for the unborn ordinance submitted by a committee of citizens.  They did so in order for the item to be placed on the November ballot for citizens to consider.  

One aspect of the ordinance should be made clear to the public prior to the vote.  The effort's leader said the ordinance would apply to any San Angelo resident who underwent an abortion procedure in another state.  

City legal staff stated city ordinances end at city limits and don't follow residents for actions they take in other communities or states.  Any future communications on the vote should be clear on this aspect.

Also, I don't trust the main proponent to represent current medical knowledge around OB/GYN surgical procedures.  I hope physicians from Shannon Medical Center would share their perspective for citizens to hear regarding any clinical information in the proposed ordinance prior to the November vote.

Conservative people live conservatively.  Generally, that does not involve spying and tattling on their neighbors for medical procedures currently legal under the U.S. Constitution. 

A vote is coming and citizens should be informed so they can show God's love, mercy and grace to our neighbors on this earth.  

Update 3-11-22:  The next step towards a public vote on the ordinance comes at next week's City Council meeting.  The item is on the consent agenda.  It is unlikely any discussion will be held given the placement of the item.