City council to approve lease with EDC to begin Mercado construction

By Robert Morales —

City council members on
Tuesday approved the lease agreement with the Van Horn Education
Development Corporation (EDC) for the new Mercado.

The project had been on hold
for several months after City Administrator Fran Malafronte discovered
that the EDC's nonprofit status had been deactivated by the state
comptroller's office in 1998 for failure to file the proper paperwork
with the state at that time.

The Town immediately filed
for nonprofit status again with the state, and Ms. Malafronte was
notified recently that the EDC was once again a nonprofit organization.
The Town sold the original El Mercado to Higginbotham Brothers Hardware
several months ago. The new El Mercado will be across the street on
Broadway on the north side of the street.

Had the city not filed the
proper paperwork, it would have had to pay franchise fees to the state
from 1998 to the present. A special meeting will be held today at 12
noon to formalize the lease agreement between the Town of Van Horn and
the EDC.

In other action:

* Dion Corralez reported
that a new billboard located near the Hampton Inn will soon be installed
once El Paso Electric supplies the power to the billboard; Work being
done at the City Hall fountain is on schedule; The Town is in the
process of gathering information to determine whether it is feasible to
power the city's water wells with solar panels. The Town will likely
install solar panels on one water well, and if it is determined that
solar power is more cost-effective than electricity, then the city will
install solar panels on all its pumping stations. Ms. Malafronte
explained that the Town currently pays in excess of $120,000 for
electricity to the water wells. She said that it was possible for the
city to completely eliminate the $120,000 expense in the span of about
four years.

* Approved a street lamp to
be installed at the intersection of Chuy Uranga Pkwy and the cemetery.
Commissioner Gilda Morales asked the council to install a street light
at the north entrance of the cemetery to help deter drug deals, partying
and general vandalism.

* Nominated Jodi Corrales to serve on the Culberson County Appraisal District Board;

* Approved a request from
Rodney Tilley to have the Convention Center act as a sponsor for a
walking tour brochure designed to promote tourism and overnight stays in
Van Horn;

* Tabled a request from
Moises Badillo to “discuss a solution for contractors to avoid going to
Sierra Blanca to dispose of construction debris. The general consensus
among the council was that there is no “solution” to Mr. Badillo's

* Approved the purchase of
10 new residential dumpsters at a cost of $4,200. Ms. Malafronte
explained that the dumpsters would be paid for by a grant. The Town will
pay the shipping costs of about $1,600.

* Approved the purchase of a
gas meter that will be installed at Eagle Elementary School, a large
customer. According to Dion Corralez, the new meters are much reliable
and accurate. A large-scale gas meter was installed last year at
Culberson Hospital. The cost of the meter for the elementary school will
be $3,272. Mr. Corralez added that it costs about $750 to re-calibrate
the old meters, and the calibration doesn't last long.

* Approved the purchase of two aerators for the golf course ponds at a cost of $2,700.

* Took no action on a
request to approve a new natural gas rate for a so-called “Irrigation
Account.” Ms. Malafronte explained that after contacting the gas
companies in Marfa, Alpine and Fort Stockton, that she had reached the
conclusion that it was not economically feasible to establish a special
irrigation account. She said if the Town did establish such an account,
the city would make about 24 cents per MCF. The council agreed. Members
said they were not inclined to appease a handful of customers.


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