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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Marfa City Council meeting 1/13/09

Here's a recap of the meeting held on Jan 13th.
We began the evening with a public hearing on the proposed noise ordinances for the city. Few people were present (unlike last time), and I fault the holidays, new year and the fact that the paper has not been published for a few weeks (they take 2 weeks off for Christmas) for the low turnout. The meeting was peaceful and most people seem to be happy with the proposed regulations. More about this later as it was an agenda item on the regular council meeting.

We opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance, as usual. Councilmembers in attendance were Manny Baeza, Rusty Garlick, David Beebe, and Scott May. Rudy Garcia was absent due to the extremely unfortunate illness of his son, who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Rudy will likely be missing a few more meetings as the treatment is going on in San Antonio. My prayers are with the Garcias.
City administrator James Mustard and Mayor Dan Dunlap were also present, as was city attorney Teresa Todd.
The first item was the citizen comment period. Although a few more citizens had trickled into the chambers by this time, there were no comments.

Next up we approved the minutes (with a few small changes) of the last council meeting from Dec 16th, which was mostly met in closed session (discussing inter-governmental business regarding leases, sale of property offers, etc. Unanimous.

The brightest spot of any recent meeting occurred next during the Mayor's report. Mayor Dunlap honored Alex Leos, the retired animal control officer for Marfa, who had served loyally for ten years. He was presented with a gift and was given a very nice speech by the Mayor commending him on his work. Applause came from the whole room.
Next, since the city administrator had not put anything on the agenda for his comments, he was unable to give us his regular update.
Same went for all councilmen, who are now required to place all items for even casual discussion on the agenda. None of us did, so we were silent.

An aside- Attorney General Greg Abbott's opinion of the interpretation of the Open Meetings and/or Public Information Acts was recently updated and now holds us to these new "silent" standards. I understand the rhetoric behind the ruling, but, to me, this new interpretation of the same rules actually results in a less transparent government and cloaks operations and governing officers' opinions from the general public. There is a lawsuit challenging this ruling, and Alpine city councilman/Sul Ross professor/movie theater owner Avinash Rangra is one of the ones involved in the lawsuit. I think his/their chances of winning a ruling so we can go back to a more (literally) responsive way of doing things at public meetings will fail, but I am rooting hard for him.

Next, we went on to "Old Business". This is business that has been brought up and wither postponed and/or tabled by the council. The first item under this header was the request from the "little Dribblers" to use, free of charge, the basketball court in the MAC building for practices from the present through Feb 28th. The Little Dribblers are 7 teams of very young local kids. The coach/organizer (I forgot to write down his name- shame on me) made a compelling presentation and promised to clean the building and lock it up properly following each practice. Practices would occur for several hours four days per week. After it was confirmed to the council that the building would be kept clean and that any equipment that became broken or damaged would be replaced at his cost, we approved the request unanimously. Hopefully those kids will have a great season. I am glad that the city, despite our somewhat precarious financial situation, can still sometimes provide a venue that is valuable to the community at large and to kids specifically.

Next up we discussed proposed city ordinances 09-01,09-02,09-03 and the repeal of 95-02. These are all noise ordinances. The potential repeal is the blanket ordinance from '95 that is essentially unenforceable and doesn't serve the realities of our city well. The new ordinances deal with "quiet hours", "non-quiet hours", and noise from vehicles (boom box cars, engine braking, idling diesels overnight, etc). I could go into intensive detail regarding these ordinances but won't until we finally pass the finished product(s), which looks pretty imminent. City attorney Teresa Todd had reviewed the language and the premises of the three separate ordinances that we on the committee worked on and had some suggestions, all of which had validity to varying extent. Once she had made her presentation about her suggestions and/or misgivings about the documents we discussed them and there will be several of her ideas that the committee, which will surely meet once more, will almost certainly adopt. The main addition will likely be a wording of a permit application for a variance to the noise rules which would go before council to vote on (rather than the administrator and/or police chief). Also, there will likely be a sliding upwards scale of fines for repeated violations of the ordinance. A reminder- all violations other than vehicle violations would require an official warning before a ticket could be issued. Council voted to postpone taking action on this item to give the committee and council more time to work on it. I abstained, but otherwise it was unanimous.

Lastly in old business we discussed the lease/purchase from the county of the land upon which our recycling center and animal shelter rest. Once we decided in closed session to make an offer to the county for the land research on surveys, etc was done deep into the catacombs of the files by the city administrator and it was discovered that we were deeded the land by the county years back, so there's no need to sign a lease or purchase land we already own. However, to out it into perspective, for years the city has provided free water (to the tune of over 2 million gallons per year- in the DESERT!) in lieu of rent. For land we already OWN. This should give you an idea of how murky inter-governmental policies out here have been for years. This is another example of why the adage I hear out here so often (It's all the same taxpayers' money, therefore the same money) is so untrue. If it were true we would all share the same bank account, budget and equipment. It is NOT the same. I made a motion to rescind making an offer to buy property we already own and it was seconded and approved unanimously to some laughter from the audience, which by this time had grown to be fairly large.

NEW BUSINESS:

We voted, with some but not a lot of discussion, to approve the Planning and Zoning Board's submission of their recommendation to approve the zoning change from R-1 to C-3 of the property upon which the future Marfa Motor Inn (also known as the non-La Quinta La Quinta) is slated to be built. The P&Z vote was 3-2 in favor of changing the designation. What the council's action means is that we accepted the P&Z commission's submission to us and now will have a council-based Public Hearing on the matter on Tues Feb 10th at 5PM. A vote of official approval or disapproval of same issue will be on the agenda of the council meeting to follow the public hearing on that same evening. Citizens present in the audience this night who have had some impact on this situation included (but were not limited to) representatives for the new development, county commissioner Felipe Cordero, Tom Schmidt (P&Z), Lucy Garcia (P&Z), Cory Van Dyke (P&Z) and several local citizens associated with the Thunderbird Hotel and/or Ballroom Marfa. Surely the Public Hearing on feb 10th will be well-attended.

Next we discussed and voted on ordinance 09-04. This ordinance allows the city to require developers, large and small, to conform with city regulations and enter into contracts/agreements with the city regarding water and sewer line requirements, restrictions and regulations in order to hook into the city's systems. This is a mere formality of basic sanitation and building issues. Essentially, this is an actual wording of what is practiced nationwide when dealing with a new building seeking water/sewer service. Unanimous.

Next up we discussed Mayor Dunlap's initiative to turn back on more streetlights along selected streets that are dark and have some significant traffic. Other lights included are lights requested to be turned on by the police department (mostly along the drainage ditch from Mimm's Draw that runs along the Abbott street right of way north of the RR tracks). All of these streetlights (unless I missed one) were included as lights to re-light on my "compromise" study from last August/September during our council budgeting committee meetings. After some discussion and consternation from some residents who did not want lights near their houses turned on versus some other citizens who want all the lights on that we can possibly afford, a vote was called with no serious animosity in the room (thank goodness). Unanimous with Manny abstaining.

Lastly, we went through the monthly accounts payable and budget/reality check sheets. The renovations to the MAC and AMVETS buildings were discussed at length, as was the expensive and inconclusive maintenance work to our ancient city (steam)roller, which will need to be in working order once the Southwest side wastewater renovation project gets underway and the streets are torn up to facilitate that project. There were a few other items, but the long and short of it is that the city is currently able to pay all its bills within a 30 day window. Now that is GREAT news. Let's keep it that way.

Rusty made the motion to adjourn- unanimous. - DB

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

David,

What's your contact info / e-mail. I would like to talk to you about the P&Z issue - hotel and what could possibly be done before CC approval.

vilisinde@yahoo.com