Benavides and architects address City Council concerning Bond Election for new school and Fannin Street closure

By Edna Clark

The Town of Van Horn City Council met Tuesday, February 23, with all aldermen present.

Financial report was provided by City Secretary, Fran Malafonte. Surplus property tax collected in January totaled $147,268.67, and total balance in city coffers is $2,598,435.49.

Dion Corrales reported on departmental operations. Airport water tank repair had been completed. When asked by aldermen if a new tank should be purchased using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money, Corrales stated that it is more cost effective to make repairs as opposed to buying a new tank. The Thrift Well which was addressed at the last council meeting has also been repaired and is working properly. Malafonte advised that she had received notice that eight wells need repairs; discussion for this is scheduled for March meetings.

Gas company survey is in progress and should be completed shortly. Mayor Humphries asked about sewer line trenching. Corrales stated that everything is in place for the project and that he would use a new golf course employee to assist in the work. A new employee for Corrales’s department will be addressed during budget planning.

Corrales stressed a long term plan for the city’s water system must be addressed soon.

Citizen Pete Torres addressed council about concerns he has with his gas bill, stating that meters across town are not being read correctly. Council instructed Malafonte to contact an independent specialist to review current city meter reading and billing practices. Results of the specialist’s findings are to be presented to council in March. Other action pertaining to this issue was tabled until March meetings.

Dalia Benavides, CCAISD Superintendent, presented Scott Reed and Hector De Santiago of Parkhill, Smith, and Cooper, Inc. These gentlemen represent the architecture firm, with which the school district is contracted to build a new school complex, pending passing of a bond election in May. After a 10 minute delay of the council meeting due to lack of preparation by Benavides, Reed and De Santiago.  A power point display was shown to council delineating the financial need for building a new school complex. According to Reed and Benavides, the State tax recapture amount for school year 2014-2015 was about $150,000 that the school district had to pay back because CCAISD is considered a property rich district. The projected amount that will have to be paid back to the state for 2015-2016 is about $2.9 million. This is based on the current school tax rate of $1.04. According to Reed and Benavides, it will take around $25 million to bring the current school buildings up to safety codes while a new school complex will cost about $31 million.

Two possible school construction plans were presented to council, showing one with a Fannin Street closure, school expansion across the current street, and a new street being created through the current employee parking lot to replace Fannin. This plan allows for more separation of PK through 12th grade students. The second plan, leaving Fannin Street as is, was shown. Both plans show three gymnasiums in the complex because, according to Benavides, many other schools do not want to participate in athletic tournaments or games if they have to use the older Delaware (red school) gym.

Benavides stressed the importance of closing Fannin Street for student safety, regardless if the bond passes or not. Heated discussions between council members and the some in the audience ensued. Alderman Mingo Corrales verified that student safety was of utmost importance; however, a Fannin Street closure affects other neighborhoods and has to be studied before action can be taken. Architect Reed who appeared to be unaware of the community water availability and needs stated that as far as new construction, a street closure was months away from now, but that safety should be addressed. He also stated that the cost of road changes and infrastructures would be paid for by the funds received in a Bond Issue. Mayor Humphries observed that students would still have to cross 7th Street getting to and from the field house with either plan of construction. Council tabled closure of Fannin Street until at least after May Bond Election.      

Council approved a request from Erica Urias for CCAISD Golf Team to have use of the Mountain Valley Golf Course on February 26 and 27 for a golf tournament.

A request from Brune and Burnett Enterprises for city review and contract for billboard services was tabled until March budget planning.

Resolutions NO: 16-02-002, NO: 16-02-003, and NO: 16-02-004 were approved by council to grant Jerry Carvajal of GrantWorks of Alpine a bid to purchase a new laddered fire truck. This project is funded by Texas CDBG Contract NO. 7215501. Authorized signatures and policies for the grant were approved. According to Malafonte, the new fire truck will be received soon.

Mayor Glenn Humphries proclaimed April, 2016 as Fair Housing Month in Van Horn, Texas.

Alderman Lyndon McDonald commended city employees for all their hard work and diligence.

Alderman Rudy Hinojos expressed concerns about possible damage being done on 1st Street due to extra heavy duty vehicles using the street to access an office and pipeline yard that has been constructed on the west end of the street. Malafonte assured council that the pipeline company will repair and/or replace the street due to its vehicle use. Also, vehicles must only access the yard by way of Highway 54 to 1st Street, thereby making any highway/1st Street damage the responsibility of TX DOT.

Malafonte stated that the pipeline company, as well as the new Holiday Inn, will be hiring local residents to fill employee needs. A possible long term care facility may also be built beside the new Holiday Inn which will benefit the community for the future of our elderly and disabled.