Thursday, April 28, 2022

City to Sell Former Incinerator Site for $1 Million

City Council approved the following motion after closed session on 4-19-22:

Council Member Thompson made a motion, seconded by Council Member Gonzales, to authorize the sale of 17.581 acres known as Lot 9D, Block 2, Section 9A Red Arroyo Hills Addition for $1,000,000 to E&B Bryant Properties, LLC 

This property is the former City incinerator and unauthorized dump site.  The City put it up for auction in July 2017.  

City Council tried to sell the land to the Development Corporation which declined after completing environmental studies and a remediation cost estimate.

The owner of E&B Bryant Properties owns a number of active companies. 

Council did not discuss the property or efforts made to remediate any toxins since the Development Corporation declined to buy the land in April 2018.

Time will reveal if the buyer retains the property for their use or flips it to another company. 


Sunday, April 24, 2022

Clinton Bailey Promoted to Fredericksburg City Manager

San Angelo native and former City Engineer Clinton Bailey will become Fredericksburg's City Manager on May 1st.  Bailey took the Director of Public Works and Utilities position in May 2013 after putting in 18 years with the City of San Angelo.  His first promotion added Assistant City Manager responsibilities to his public works/utilities job.  It came in October 2016.  

San Angelo suffered frequent turnover in the City Engineer position since Bailey left.  Names of people holding the City Engineer position since Bailey exited include:

Karl Bednardz -- September 2013 to April 2015 (Left to work for RSandH)

Russell Pehl  -- July 2015 to May 2019  (Left to work for Centurion Planning and Design)

Lance Overstreet -- May 2019 to November 2020

Tim Wolff served at Interim City Engineer and Kevin Pate is currently in that role as the city looks for its next City Engineer.  The Engineering Department has been understaffed as well since Clinton took his leadership talents to the Hill Country.

Bailey is known for providing competent, quality city services in an ethical manner.  He recently terminated a Development Director with a personal conflict of interest regarding a policy under consideration.  

How much better would the City of San Angelo be had he stayed and been promoted here?  It's hard to know but at a minimum the Engineering Department would have attracted and retained professional engineers.  

San Angelo's Public Works Director position once required a Professional Engineering license.  That got waived for Ricky Dickson and then again for Shane Kelton.  I imagine engineers prefer to be managed and evaluated by a peer.  

The Avenue P project would have been completed as originally designed and approved in 2012, not a less robust project not yet completed.   Staff presentations to City Council would also have been more thorough and informative.  The "any rationale will do" and "minimalist nature" of staff presentations must try our local elected officials, although they do their best to hide it.

Congratulations to Clinton Bailey.  His gain has been our loss for many years.  

Update 8-29-22:  The City Engineer position remains unfilled as of today.  It has been empty since November 2020.  That's 21 months without a leader in that critical role.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Standard Times Building Assessment Simplified: Asbestos

In early April City Council approved a budget amendment of $60,233 for the former Standard Times building.  After inquiring I learned the earnest money was actually $47,500 and staff had added money used for a building assessment.  They did so for simplicity.

On 6-3-21 City staff signed a contract engaging Freese and Nichols, an engineering firm, to conduct an assessment of the former Standard Times building.  A 6-11-21 "Requisition Approval City Manager Level" document indicated City Council approval was not needed, nor was a budget amendment.

The proposal arose under an engineering master agreement in place since September 2015.  The city's chronic lack of engineering staff meant much work needed to be outsourced.

 The contract was enacted under a 2019 master contract agreement.

City Council never approved the building assessment.  A portion of the funds were rolled into the recent budget amendment but their actual use was categorized as "earnest money."

Council will need to work in earnest to approve funds for asbestos abatement in the City's newly owned office space.

The assessment had a number of recommendations for the building but the one figure that stood out was the cost of asbestos abatement, over $180,000.  Staff had this information in hand prior to the city closing on the building. 

City Council approved $950,000 for the building purchase.  Did they know an additional $180,000 may be needed for asbestos removal?   

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.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

City to Consider $262,000 for Municipal Pool Filtration System

City Council will hear a presentation on the need to replace the current Love Municipal Pool filtration system at a cost of $262,045.  The pool was renovated in 2012 and the city chose a Filtrex filtration system in conjunction with the project coordinator.  

The Council background packet states:

The current system is a Filtrex filtration system. It was purchased from a company in New Jersey. It is not a known system to anyone in our area or region, our POC for the Filtrex company from New Jersey has recently passed away. Staff have worked on the current system with no success.

That reads as an odd rationale for spending $262,000.  Filtrex has a website with a contact phone number and the ability to submit an online request.  It has a page with specifications and downloads.  

Filtrex will not be in attendance to identify performance issues with their system.  I wonder how they would react to staff's characterization of their company to City Council?

The replacement filtration system is proposed by Progressive Commercial Aquatics.  Their motto is "We do not just build pools, we build relationships!"

Our experienced professionals will help guide you through all phases of development from planning to opening day.

The proposed contract is through BuyBoard and was not put out for bids by the City's Purchasing Department.  

So who helped the city chose the unknown filtration system vendor a decade ago?  Progressive Commercial Aquatics.  Yes, the company lists the City of San Angelo in its Statement of Qualifications document as the pool's contractor.

The company designed and constructed the Municipal Pool and afterwards regularly sold the city pool chemicals.

The public values the city's municipal pool and getting it operational is a priority.  That said, Council may want more details on Filtrex's failures and how Progressive Commercial Aquatics remained our partner since installation ten years ago.  A true relationship would make things clear to decision makers.

Former Development Corporation board member Larry Teague said in 2013 the City of San Angelo does not do maintenance.  "They wait until it breaks, then they fix it."  The $262,045 was not budgeted so Larry's perspective may apply.  It may not.  We'll know more after City Council meets next week.

Update 4-18-22:  City staff provided detail about filtration system issues to Council's pleasure.  They approved the expenditure in today's meeting.  Assistant City Manager Rick Weise spoke of a consulting company that designed the pool but did not mention the name.

Update 4-24-22:  The architectural firm that designed the pool renovation was Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype Inc. and the pool's building contractor was Mega Contractors.  City documents show no design/construction role for Progressive Commercial Aquatics.  

Update 4-29-22:  The city put out a press release on the delay in opening the Municipal Pool this summer due to the need to replace the filtration system.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Standard Times Building Earnest Money was $47,500, not $60,000

City Council approved a budget amendment related to last year's purchase of the former Standard Times building.  Staff asked Council to approve $135,000 for architectural services but added $60,000 in earnest money, $28,003 for taxes and $15,000 for utilities.  The latter expenditures struck me as odd in that most of them had already been incurred and paid for by the city.  

Earnest money would have been put up at the time the purchase price was struck and netted out in closing.  The Tom Green County Appraisal District showed a $28,002.93 payment from the City of San Angelo for the property on 1-27-22, over two months ago.  

The city incurred utility bills since it closed on 8-19-21.  Council chose not to explore this agenda item and approved it 7-0.

A public information request produced documents on the earnest money, which was $47,500, not the $60,000 requested by staff and approved by Council.  Staff suggested their aim was to simplify the presentation by combining the earnest money and building assessment costs.

Engineering firm Freese and Nichols conducted the assessment of the Standard Times building and invoiced the city $28,167 on 7-31-21.  Adding those items together equals $75,667.


City documents show two items netted out of the building price at closing, the $47,500 in earnest money and $23,442.73 for County taxes.  Staff did not mention this when it asked Council for $28,003 for the exact same expense item.  

The documentation as to who approved the payment for the building had been redacted from the information provided.  Council's background packet showed the following staff approvals:

Charles Michalewicz   Created/Initiated
Patrick Frerich             Approved
Shane Kelton               Approved
Theresa James             Approved
Jeffrey Tomlinson       Approved
Tina Dierschke           Approved
Julia Antilley              Final Approval
A copy of the check is below.

All four check signers were present when Council approved staff's "labeled for simplicity" request.  Earnest money is clearly different than building assessment money which is not the same as taxes.  Obfuscation, laziness or some combination of the two?

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.