Council works through lengthy agenda

The Van Horn City Council met in regular session Tuesday night and tackled a lengthy agenda lasting more than two hours. City administrator Fran Malafronte started the meeting by advising council that the final payment to the environmental services in the amount of $4000, would be the final payment in the long process toward opening the local landfill. Malafronte reported that the next and final phase would be TCEQ making their final inspection before the much-awaited opening of the landfill, tentatively in January.

Jamie Hudson, water department supervisor, reported that the easy valve installation at the new school construction went well, but that repairs at the Thrift well would be taking longer than expected. Hudson stated that the whole well would have to be pulled, and an extension of 15 feet would have to be in place before it would be operational. Hudson also reported that residents living on Ash and Desert would be getting better water flow after upgrades to a larger pipe were completed. He also told the council that he had received a call from the Town of Toyah asking for help with their water system since they do not currently have anyone licensed to do their inspections and paperwork. After consulting with Steve Mitchell, the council decided that the legal department at TML should be called for guidance into potential legal pitfalls that might arise. Mr. Hudson then updated the council on the generator project for the city water wells, which are awaiting a docking station for the generators but are fully operational in case of a power outage.

On the subject of generators, Malafronte advised council that she has been in contact with one of the vice-presidents of El Paso Electric Company about their providing a larger generator for the Convention Center and that she would ask if EPEC would consider allowing the Town of Van Horn to keep the old generator as well.

Edward Torres, gas department supervisor, reported that his staff had been focusing on getting ready for the upcoming inspection by the Railroad Commission. He stated that his department had also shut off approximately 12 miles of obsolete and unused gas lines to several farms in the Lobo area, cutting down on leaks and maintenance, and had plans to shut down 4 more miles in the near future. Torres also commented that Vance Cottrell, a local farmer, had expressed interest in converting his electric-powered wells and pumps to natural gas and council encouraged Torres to provide Cottrell information on the possible conversion. Torres also reported that the upgrades for the purchase points for the gas department are in place, which means that gas usage will be extremely accurate, even more so than West Texas Gas Company meters.

Council then heard from Raul Rodriguez, golf course supervisor, who reported on the upcoming, annual golf tournament scheduled for this weekend. He stated that there are currently 55 teams, some from as far away as Phoenix have registered to play, with more expected to register before the start of the tournament. The two-day tournament provides a financial boon to local restaurants and hotels and has been a popular, annual event for the past 20-plus years. Rodriguez was then questioned by the council about the concession business he runs at the golf course, selling drinks, snacks and renting range balls. Rodriguez stated that the concession had initially been established more than 25 years ago as a way to supplement the supervisor’s salary at a time when the salary was very low. Council members concluded that it was not a good idea for a city employee to run a concession and that the city should actually run it. Rodriguez agreed with the council that vending machines for drinks, snacks, and even range balls, would be better overall, and the new policy would be effective immediately.

City Administrator Malafronte then advised council about implementing a stringent policy regarding internet use at the library, especially with children under 18. Malafronte reported that although there are strict internet filters already in place to prevent access of objectionable or offensive sites, invariably some sites are occasionally accessed, and the new policy will protect the city and ensure compliance with grant regulations, as well as protect the children even further from objectionable websites.

Members of the local Christian Shelter were in attendance to ask the council to consider increasing the city’s contribution to the shelter in light of a recent increase in their electric bill. City Administrator Malafronte reported that the Shelter had been on a fixed payment with the electric company after averaging monthly costs, and at the end of the year, the payments were not enough to cover the usage. Council agreed to up their contribution to the shelter by $250 per month for a total of $750 monthly, but asked Jennifer Guevara, Shelter Manager, to provide monthly reports to the city administrator on occupancy and other services provided.