Deadline to file for Joint General Election is February 17

Ballot will include Town Proposition No .1

By Edna Clark

Town of Van Horn City Council met for a lengthy meeting on January 31 with all aldermen present.  Mayor Pro Temp Pam Young presided over the meeting in place of the absent Mayor Glenn Humphries.

City Secretary Fran Malafronte presented Council with the news that an additional $50,000 had been added to City coffers after $111,000 in monthly bills were paid.  Such positive news remains a result of the pipeline presence and Hotel/Motel taxes.

Ms. Malafronte delivered to Council copies of Special Election PROPOSITION No. 1 which reads:

“The Reauthorization of the Local Sales and Use Tax in the Town of Van Horn, Texas at the Rate of One-fourth of One Percent to Continue Providing Revenue for Maintenance and Repair of Municipal Streets.”

What this proposition means for the citizens of Van Horn is that the City keeps this portion of sales tax to be used exclusively for street repairs and for equipment for making those repairs. It is this money that has allowed City crews to make necessary street repairs after seasonal flooding. Voting for the proposition takes place with City and School Board elections.

Ms. Malafronte advised Council that Friday, February 17, at 5:00 p.m. is the last day to file for Town of Van Horn Alderman and CCAISD School Board Trustee positions.

On May 6, 2017, the citizens of Van Horn will vote on Proposition No. 1, Town of Van Horn Aldermen, and CCAISD School Board Trustees.   

Incumbents for Town of Van Horn Alderman positions are Nuny Morriss, Ryan Martinez, and Lyndon McDonald. As of January 31, Alderman Morriss was the only person to have filed for the elections.

Incumbents for CCAISD School Board Trustees are Mrs. Lettie Hernandez and Ms. Sandy Urias. As of January 31, there had been no filings for the School Board.

Citizen Eva Melendez spoke to Council about poor lighting in the downtown parking lot and surrounding areas. Ms. Malafronte assured Mrs. Melendez and Council that she is actively working on the lighting issues. Two electricians with whom she had contracted to perform the electrical repairs are working out of town, therefore unable to complete the task. Currently, Ms. Malafronte has contacted another contractor to troubleshoot lighting issues and advise Council on the cost of repairs. Additionally, there is $3,000 designated in the annual budget for holiday lighting which will be used for 2017 and ensuing years.

Oscar Espinosa Jr. asked Council for street shoulder repairs in the 400 block of Laurel Street. According to Espinosa, previous rains have caused street damage and thus vehicle damage when entering the Mom’s Café parking area. He alleged that the area of concern is a City easement and asked for further repairs. City Supervisor Dion Corralez advised Council that caliche had been laid to correct the problems and that Mr. Espinosa should do whatever was necessary to correct the Mom’s Cafe parking area. Alderman Nuny Morriss asked Espinosa for an update in about 60 days on the status of the street shoulder repair.

Mr. Corralez related to Council that City water tanks had been inspected and received passing grades. Some superficial repairs such as rust treatment and painting should be accomplished as soon as possible to prevent major damage in the future.

Council approved financing a HAMM HD12 VO DD Roller with Welch State Bank for the streets department. This roller is devised to prevent damage to utility pipes located under streets which have been damaged by the current roller. Delivery of the unit will be in February with payment being due in April.

Discussions regarding passing an ordinance to regulate commercial bus stops/depots inside the city limits ensued. City Attorney Steve Mitchell advised Council and citizens that Van Horn is designated as a General Law City. As such, the City is prohibited from passing ordinances restricting the operation of commercial companies, such as Greyhound Bus Lines.

Business owner, Bill Storey, and McDonalds Manager, Victor Ramirez, and in absentia, Chevron and Holiday Inn Express management, asked Council for any help that is possible to regulate commercial bus lines that stop at the Super 8 Hotel. Protecting their businesses, employees, and patrons from theft, bodily threats, and damage caused by many commercial bus riders has brought about this request.

Previously, Greyhound Bus Lines and other companies used Pilot Travel Center for their bus stop/depot. Due to the same complaints that were heard last evening, Pilot discontinued its relationship with Greyhound Bus Lines. As a result, Greyhound brokered an agreement with the Super 8 Hotel on the I-10 westbound frontage road to serve as a bus stop for bus driver changes. During this stop, bus riders inundate McDonalds and the Chevron which are not part of the Super 8 agreement. Employees and patrons of the two businesses are subjected to rude, destructive, and threatening behavior of some of the bus riders. Mr. Storey showed Council pictures of damage done to McDonalds, allegedly by some Greyhound passengers. Mr. Ramirez had been threatened with bodily harm by a Greyhound passenger earlier on the morning of January 31.

Sheriff Oscar Carrillo supported Storey’s and Ramirez’s claims and added that a Greyhound bus passenger had been left behind in January and was found dead of an apparent heart attack behind the Holiday Inn Express. Additionally, Carrillo related that the Holiday Inn Express stands to lose a very lucrative contract due to excessive foot traffic of bus line passengers.

All of the concerns, complaints, and allegations point to a need for some type of ordinance regulating commercial bus line operations. As Attorney Mitchell reiterated, however, the City Council, under General Law, cannot affect such legislation. To do so would result in multiple law suits against the Town of Van Horn, which ultimately adversely affect local citizens.

Attorney Mitchell extended his sympathy to the businesses and assured them and Council that he will continue his research into some way to help all those involved. He also asked Mr. Storey to continue research through his sources to find some legal way to rectify the situation.

Ms. Malafronte presented Council with a natural gas purchased/sold spread sheet showing the amounts of money that the City has been unable to recoup due to gas leaks outside of the city limits. Mr. Corralez had previously been instructed by Council to begin shutting down unused gas lines located outside city limits in an effort to prevent further leaks that affect the environment and finances. Corralez advised Council that he and Jesse Fernandez had begun the shutdowns as instructed and that, hopefully, the end result will be less, if no, further gas leaks.

Alderman Lyndon McDonald told Council that equipment for the new fire truck is still being received and that the fire truck itself is anticipated at any time. Application for the 2017-2018 Block Grants has been submitted. Hopefully, these grants will bring about high voltage generators to supply continuous power to City water wells.

Two separate City personnel executive sessions were held. No action was taken as a result of either session.

Alderman McDonald related that he had met with Culberson County Judge Carlos Urias about ongoing issues of runway lighting at the airport. Allegedly, the airport has lost business from many flights which are being redirected to the Carlsbad, New Mexico airport because pilots cannot land at night without operative runway lights. Judge Urias asked Council for assistance in obtaining grants to pay for a quality runway lighting system for safety, as well as financial purposes. Ms. Malafronte told Council that if such grants were available for such issues she will work to help get the necessary funding for the lighting and a specialty electrician to install the lighting.

Alderman Rudy Hinojos requested that a street sign be placed on an unknown Harris                                                                    Street for delivery and 911 locations.

            Council stressed that all businesses and residences need to have street numbers easily visible on buildings for 911 and delivery purposes.