Meeting came to order at 6 PM on Tuesday July 8th, city hall, Marfa. By the way, all of these meetings are open to the public. Photography and recording are allowed.
In attendance were councilmen Rudy Garcia, Scott May, Manny Baeza, and David Beebe. Absent was Rusty Garlick. Mayor Dan Dunlap presided. City Administrator James Mustard was in attendance.
Citizens' comment period- no citizen comments
Minutes of the meeting of 6/26 were approved.
Mayor Dunlap informed council that our computer software support and designer Mike Gearing will be retiring in Decemeber and will no longer be available in that capacity. He had also done the systems for Alpine, Van Horn, and Presidio. Those cities are looking at options and a new software firm will be chosen. This is bad news from the financial side of things, since we'll need to reprogram our systems, but the newer technology should allow us to integrate all our city systems. The goal is to implement a new provider and begin the process by Oct 1.
City Administrator's Report-
Marfa EMS has received a $29,697 grant due to the efforts that our EMS director, Burt, put into completing training and paperwork (voluntary work on his part).
The Rio Grande Council of Governments recycling grant application has been submitted (by Marfa). This will provide funding for our "Cram-A-Lot" cardboard baler and also will get 3 phase power over to the recycling center to run the baler and other machinery.
The city is requesting additional options for pickup and/or dumpster number reduction from Duncan Disposal in preparation for the new contract. No response from our request for numbers from West Texas Disposal yet.
The USO building/ Amvets Hall- the building has developed some serious roof leaks and also some of the electrical problems are severe enough that the hallneeds to be renovated starting ASAP. The conditions are so bad that we may not be able to rent it out anymore. The Chamber of Commerce is proceeding with studies as to how to renovate it into a proper convention center.
Rudy Garcia mentioned the new Rotary Club weekly targeted city cleanup. Rotary Club now cleans up a 2-3 block area of their choosing after every Wednesday night meeting, weather permitting. Rudy also wanted to know if city alleyways were open to cleaning without contacting neighboring property owners (yes). Also, the metal recycling firm that conducted the steel pickup program last month will be leaving roll-offs at the old landfill (composting area) for use by citizens to dispose of appliances and steel refuse at no cost to the city or individuals.
By the way, speaking of Rotary, Marfa Rotary meets every Wed at 5:30 PM in the tipi behind Adobe Moon BBQ. All are welcome- and anyone is welcome to assist with the targeted neighborhood cleanup after the meetings.- David
Councilman May mentioned that the roll-offs for non-steel large trash at the composting area are full. Mayor Dunlap responded that Duncan Disposal had been contacted to remove and replace them with empties.
No comments from Baeza or Beebe
Next we had a presentation from Southwest Municipal Gas Corp on the new increase in gas rates. We had this presentation because the cities of Marfa and Alpine co-own the gas company. The gas company in a non-profit, so all extra monies collected have to go back into maintenance and/or improvement of the system. The system itself covers Alpine, Marfa and Ft Davis.
Basically, director Hal Craig gave us a detailed description of the company's overhead, gas costs, and efforts to increase the use of gas appliances in homes locally. The more gas SWMGC can sell, the better the price is that they can buy it for.
Here's a basic breakdown of the plan for the next several years with the new increase in wholesale rates to SWMGC taken into account.
1) the gas comany plans to hold expenses per year at 1.2 million dollars. this is even with a gasoline and diesel fuel increase in cost.
2) the Gas corp plans to add zero dollars to it's already empty contingency fund.
3) There will no longer be a tap fee to hook up a gas meter to your home or business.
4) the company will promote rebates to your gas bill for customers who replace and electric appliance and install a new gas water heater, heater, etc to new or remodel construction projects.
5) the gas corp will encourage people to switch from propane to natural gas. Propane is roughly 2-4 times more expensive per BTU.
6) the new contract for natural gas to SWMGC from WTG will be for $12 per MCF (old was $9.29)
7) New consumer rate will rise from $14.11 per MCF to $19.29 per MCF.
I was impressed with the presentation from Hal and even more impressed with the information and Q&A froom system foreman Melvin (last name not written down- sorry). I would absolutely encourage citizens to inquire about the reabtes for gas appliance installation, as they are substantial.
1) Council unanimously approved a contract with Warren CAT to supply a new backhoe. Total out from city to Warren will be $57,290, including extended warranty and trade-in for our old unit. This funding is part of the tax note, which came in a net to us, $260,000. This means our somewhat slippery tax note man only took $10,000 for administration, which is on the low side. Looks like he's honest! Whew- a sigh of relief from me.
2) Water Well Grant- Passed unanimously to add some amendments based on discussion of topic from last meeting, 6/26
3) City Ordinance 08-05- Ordinance to Define Changeable Electronic Variable Message Sign (CEVMS), to prohibit same, et al.
This was my only piece of legislation I wanted to pass as a new city coouncilman. After seeing the worst-case scenario involving these new LED message signs in the form of Berdoll's Pecan Farm ouotside of Bastrop (what were they thinking- Jeez!) I felt it was important to regulate and prohibit these signs in Marfa, since we rely so much on tourism and our appeal as a secluded town "in the middle of nowhere" is an integral part of that. There are already several of these signs running 24/7 in Alpine (Sonic, True Value, Sul Ross University, The Prescription Depot(?). I could, in my nightmares, see both Town and Country Food Stores on either end of town running (2 BURRITOS, $1.19!!!) all night long for eternity. I made a short presentation to council about these signs and why I oppose them for our area. City Administrator James Mustard refined an existing ordinance from Castroville (I think) to fit our town. The ordinance does not create a sign ordinance, but is narrowly written to prohibit signs that flash, use motion or color changing technology to get attention. This would actually also include incandescant and neon signs in some of their forms. Existing signs are exempt. Also, there was discussion about the Open/Abierto LED sign in the window of Adobe Moon BBQ. As an existing sign, it is exempt, but I made the point that as a sign inside a plate glass window of the dining room, it can easily be argued that it is not actually a sign. It would not be considered one in Houston, that I know.
Ordinance passed unanimously.
Whew- I was actually really stressed out about doing this.
Next we appointed a councilmember to the Parks and Rec Board to fill the empty council position that had been held by former council member Lionel Salgado. Rudy Garcia nominated me. Passed unanimously!
Resolution 08-11- Create a Library Donation Bank Account-
This was a great news item- the Lannon Foundation has donated $75,000 to assist with the ongoing library renovation. for complex reasons, this money has to be used after the grant monies are exhausted. Carl Robinson made a presentation relating the library board's situation and library funding in general. In a nutshell, here is the scoop.
The total cost of complete renovations is around $454,000
The ORCA grant that expires and must be spent by the end of July covers $216,000
The Library Board has raised an additional $97,000
The Friends of the Library has raised $19,000
That leaves the library still $156,000 short on funding. Lannon is now contributing $75,000, nearly halving the deficit. The Board expects this donation may prompt others, as the finish line is near.
The Council approved the formation of a specialized bank account under the city name for this purpose unanimously.
Thanks goes to Carl Robinson for his work and a very informative presentation.
Next we discussed, as the request of Rudy Garcia, the city's policy on streets and alley ways. Without going into too much detail, the city does control and own all alley ways, even those people have built on, landscaped on, and/or tried to hide. None have been officially or unofficially abandoned. It is a crime to block access to these alley ways. Regular traffic laws apply, including parking laws. We actually have no parking ordinance, so there is gray area; however, blocking an alley is not considered a parking violation- it is a ingress/egress violation. I predict we'll have a parking ordinance come about before the end of the year. There was some heated discussion about points of detail, etc. There have also been accusations around town of police activity that has been targeted towards certain people and/or businesses. Surely there will be additional discussion at some point on these matters. No action taken by council following council and citizen comments and discussion.
Next we approved unanimously the payrolland expenditure reports for June.
Finally we adjourned. Thanks for reading!- David Beebe