Benavides asks City Council to donate Fannin Street for new school

By Edna Clark

Town of Van Horn City Council opened its meeting on Tuesday with a moment of silence to remember our friend and The Van Horn Advocate Editor, Robert Morales.

Approval of Financial Reports was tabled until the next meeting.

Dion Corrales reported that there were still issues with a city water well that needed to be corrected, possibly by an outside source, for optimal performance. He noted that an increase in stray dogs and cats was being addressed, and the gas company is preparing for its audit.

With regard to city-owned property being rented by private individuals and contractors, Council tabled the issue pending budget reviews. Currently, private entities may rent equipment, such as backhoes and front end loaders, for $75.00 per hour, with a minimum of two hours. A city equipment operator is included in the rental causing employee shortage for possible extended time periods. Dion Corrales related that the current procedure is not cost-effective and recommended that Council terminate equipment rentals. City Secretary, Fran Malafonte, stated that an ordinance removing the equipment rental policy must be drafted and could be addressed in the budget review process in March.

City Council voted to hire a local licensed electrician to review electrical components of the city water system. According to Malafonte, the insurance company is concerned about the number of claims filed by the Town of Van Horn for electrical damage to the system due to last year’s storms.

CCAISD Superintendent of Schools, Dalia Benavides, requested that the city donate a two block section of Fannin Street between 7th and 9th Streets to the school district. Benavides stated that the closure of Fannin Street was necessary for construction of a new PK-12 school, salvage of tennis courts, and student safety. She stated that architects have drawn up four plans for the future school which would include keeping and updating the current gymnasium and auditorium; however, the projects would extend and cover Fannin Street. Alternative parking areas and parent pick-up areas are included in the plans as current areas would be taken. A Bond Election, which is scheduled to be approved by CCAISD School Board, will be on the May Election Ballots and is needed to pay for the new school.

Alderman Lyndon McDonald expressed concerns about fire dangers to any new school buildings on the northern section of school property and all residences north of 9th Street, (Chuy Uranga Parkway). These areas would be affected by the lack of fire hydrants and availability of water pressure in the area that are needed to fight a structural fire. McDonald stated that closure of Fannin Street could result in increased response time for First Responders to get to a fire or emergency areas in the neighborhood north of 9th Street. Corrales concurred that new water lines to replace the current 6-inch water line would have to be rerouted at a considerable amount of money for Fannin Street construction to occur. Benavides stated that the school district will pay for any such relocation; such work will be covered and paid for by the Bond Election. McDonald and Corrales reiterated that the availability of water to fight any fires remained the issue at hand.

Benavides then said that regardless of pending construction, she was concerned about student safety when crossing Fannin Street and still requested the street closure. She invited City Council to attend the CCAISD School Board meeting on Thursday, February 11, to visit with architects and see the plans for a new school.

Council voted to table the issue and advised Corrales to perform a feasibility study of water, fire, and safety issues before street closure could be considered.

Council approved water donation for the 2016 Series Roping and Frontier Days Roping events per request of Elaine (Lanie) Koch on behalf of the 4-H organization.

Council passed Resolution NO. 16-02-001 concerning handguns on city property. According to new State laws, handguns are prohibited only in open-meeting and courtroom areas. Handguns are permitted in all other city property. Malafonte was instructed to post appropriate signs showing that the only place that handguns are prohibited is inside the Municipal Courtroom. The rest of City Hall remains unaffected by the handgun laws.

Council approved keeping current city contribution to TMRS, City Retirement Plan, at 8.76%.

Alderman McDonald ended the meeting by stating that the VFW located on Crockett Street was in need of financial assistance from the city. Malafonte advised him that the VFW directors should complete necessary forms as soon as possible for budget considerations scheduled in March.