Operating hours questioned at contentious council meeting

By Gilda Morales

Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting attracted a vocal crowd who was there to support the status quo on the City’s hours of operation. Alderman Lyndon McDonald drew the ire of those in attendance by requesting that the council consider changing the current hours of operations which are currently 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. According to McDonald, he had spoken to quite a few people who “as soon as he mentioned about the hours, he got a lot of negative comments.” He said that people felt that the current hours did not allow enough flexibility for residents to pay their bills or conduct other business. McDonald contended that city residents were more comfortable speaking to their representatives instead of voicing their concerns to city staff and administration. He then cited the TML handbook and reminded other council members that “We gave an oath to serve the citizens,” and that council was also there “for the benefit and protection of the employees.”

Edward Torres then addressed Council and told them that he had done his own poll of his men and that the consensus was to keep the current hours, which especially in the summer made more sense. He stated that with the time change coming if his crew needed to stay a little longer to complete a project, there would be extra daylight to be able to do so. He also cited the fact that his employees who had kids in school, liked to attend their activities and that the current hours allowed them to do so without having to take time off, which was good for morale.

Several city office staff also spoke up in support of the current hours stating that the majority of residents pay between the hours of 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and by phone. They said that employees were very accommodating and willing to wait for someone to come pay their bills if they get a phone call. The staff was adamant that no one was going to slam the doors on someone showing up at closing time to pay their bills.

Fran Malafronte, City Administrator, added that most of the town’s working population worked from 8 to 5, and if the City mirrored those hours, it would actually prevent those people from paying their bills at city hall and having to take time off to conduct business. She also concurred with her staff that most people pay their bills on the way to work between 7 and 8 or call in. She added that residents have five different ways to pay their utility bills and guaranteed that no one would be turned away at the last minute and that they would wait for anyone who called that they were on their way to pay.

Alderman Michael Garibay offered a compromise by asking if the staff would stay from 7 to 5, but Alderman McDonald disagreed stating that his position was “all or none.” He then made the motion to change the hours to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the motion died for lack of a second. Alderman Garibay then made a motion to modify the hours to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., which also died for lack of a second. As such, the hours of operation will remain 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Council also heard from Edward Torres and Jamie Hudson who reported on inspections from the Railroad Commission and the annual water inspection, both of which went well. Hudson stated that much-awaited construction on the new water tank had begun but that there had been a slight delay because of a large amount of concrete left from the previous utility building that was demolished there.

In other business, Council approved a quote from Texas Multi-Chem to treat the greens at the golf course and voted to return most of the incumbent members of the Rio Grande Cooperative. Rudy Hinojos, Fran Malafronte, and Pam Young were designated as signatories for the Pecos County State Bank, which also submitted the only bid to be the depository for the 2018/2019 calendar years with an automatic renewal for one year. In another unanimous vote, Council voted against Zoning Board recommendations for variances to allow mobile homes as requested by Manuel Molinar and zoning board recommendation to deny the request on another property made by Karmesh Patel.

Council then approved payment for another new $211,000 firetruck made possible by a Texas Fire Service Grant and in-kind contribution by Culberson County. The truck will be picked up on Wednesday by Alderman McDonald.