Council adopts new policies on meetings

By Gilda Morales

The Van Horn City Council met in regular session last Tuesday with a lengthy agenda ahead of them. Edward Torres, Utilities Director, in his regular report, told Council that his crew had been busy addressing inspection issues at the lagoon, but still found time to fill 11 trailer loads of bulk waste throughout the town in only 5 hours. Torres updated Council on the construction of the new water tank, where framing has already begun, and the foundation is set. He also reported that his men have also been busy cleaning out arroyos and culverts in cooperation with the Railroad, to improve drainage during rainstorms.

Council then moved unanimously to accept the only bid for fuel submitted by C&L Gas Card and approved a bid submitted in the amount of $5000 by Eugenio Lozano, to enclose 3680 feet of City-owned land at the landfill. This was a requirement by TCEQ prior to granting permission to re-open the local landfill and wastewater lagoons. According to Edward Torres, several 4-wheelers had been seen in the area, with some riders carrying rifles, and who apparently thought that since the area was not fenced, that it was not restricted. APCO of New Mexico was also given the go-ahead to repair and replace the doors at the convention center at the cost of $12, 553.

In an effort to do something different for Christmas, Council agreed to promote a giving tree at City Hall with the names and shoe sizes of deserving children with a need for athletic shoes. Since other organizations and companies have giving trees addressing other needs, the Council felt that athletic shoes would fill a need not yet addressed.

City Administrator Fran Malafronte reported to Council that after doing much research and speaking to the legal department at Texas Municipal League, she learned that Council compensation could not be tied to attendance at meetings. Previously, if any council member missed a meeting, he would be docked, but according to Malafronte, the most that council could have been fined was $3.00. She also reported that there is no legal requirement for Council to have two meetings monthly and recommended going to once-per-month meetings like other governmental entities, unless the need for a special meeting arises. Council voted unanimously to adopt State Local Government Code Section 22.038 on absences and to change from two regular meetings per month to once monthly to be held on the last Tuesday of the month.

Edward Torres, Utilities Director then addressed Council on an ongoing and worsening problem in maintaining the integrity of the water lines to Sierra Blanca. Both Torres and Jamie Hudson, from the water department, spoke of their increasing frustration at having to continually fix leaks on the line, with Hudson describing the line as “A never-ending problem…as soon as we fix one problem, another one crops up.”

Torres continued, “The system is outdated and originally meant to serve the small population of Sierra Blanca, but now we have to service the large prison population as well, and we have even heard that they are selling bulk water.”

After much discussion, Council agreed to form a committee comprised of Alderman McDonald, Alderman Morris, City Administrator Malafronte, Utilities Director Torres, and Attorney Mitchell, to reach out to the appropriate representatives in Sierra Blanca to proactively rectify the current situation. The committee is set to meet later this week or early next week.

Under report of officers, Alderman McDonald questioned whether the EDC could use its funds to develop a water park, but Administrator Malafronte reassured council that she had researched the issue thoroughly and that the EDC is allowed to use its funds to both rehab and develop a water park. Malafronte stated that EDC funds come from sales tax as opposed to hotel/motel taxes, which cannot be used for what McDonald was questioning. Alderman Garibay reported that he had received several complaints on commercial sand trucks driving through residential areas, especially around Second, Third and Crockett Streets. Council asked that employees and staff keep an eye out for unusual activity but agreed that the trucks might belong to drivers that live in Van Horn.