Council “Zooms in” to address city issues

By Gilda Morales

The Van Horn City Council met in regular session last Tuesday, in an anything but regular session, utilizing Zoom to meet for several council members, the city administrator and the city attorney. Council members and staff were given the option to utilize the Zoom application to participate in the meeting given the current rash of Covid cases and a councilman sidelined with the flu. 

Director of municipal services, Edward Torres reported that the local landfill has received the final approval from TCEQ to officially open on November 2. Although the opening of the landfill will be a great convenience, there will be more stringent regulations that will have to be implemented to ensure compliance with TCEQ. The rules and regulations will be posted on the city’s website, municode.com. 

Becky Brewster, EDC president provided council with information on possible funding available to help assist the City with its infrastructure problems. According to Brewster, the VHEDC has been working with the RGCOG to update the 2021-2025 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). The RGCOG has been charged with updating the plan and assisting political subdivisions with grant applications to the U.S. Economic Development Administration. 

The Brock and Bustillos water study contracted by the Town provides the documentation of need that is required to be competitive. The funds are for economic development so the 3rd pressure zone fits within the parameters. That leaves the existing infrastructure improvements to be funded with local funds, other grants, and loans. The VHEDC is willing to work with the Town to provide some of the required match since the removal of the water moratorium is essential to future economic development activities. Below is the breakdown of the proposed project cost per the water study:  

-Total Project: ~$1.8 million (subject to change)  

-Funding request: ~$1.5 million (subject to change)  

-Match: 20% (Van Horn) / 80% EDA (in-kind is allowed) 

Steve Mitchell, city attorney, also spoke on behalf of Gloria King on a previous request to close the alleys at the Kings Inn. Mitchell presented Council with an offer from King to place $5000 in escrow for future new owners, to cover the expenses related to removing gas lines in the alley as part of a closure agreement when the property sells. 

Council then heard a request from a consortium of residents who live behind Pilot, to erect low clearance barriers to keep tractor-trailers from driving into the neighborhood. This problem has plagued the neighborhood and multiple councils for years without finding a permanent solution. Currently, there are concrete barriers placed at the Pilot parking lot area which is actually Firebush Street. However, as effective as the barriers have been, the large trucks have still managed to drive into the neighborhood, prompting the new request for the low clearance barriers. Councilman McDonald argued that the proposed barriers would impede passage of firetrucks into the neighborhood in an emergency. Other council members expressed their doubt that the proposed barriers would actually be effective in preventing the trucks from driving into the area. Council agreed to keep the concrete barriers for now, voting down the low clearance barriers. 

In other action, Council:  

Voted to issue Requests for Proposals for administrative services and requests for qualifications for engineering services for the 2021-2022 Community Development Fund Program administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture

Adopted Resolution Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which governs how employees are paid during the Covid epidemic in Texas  

Adopted an ordinance to amend Chapter 8.20 Sanitary Landfill and Chapter 8.24 Bulk waste

Heard from Councilwoman Karolyne Carloss on the public Covid testing held at the school on Monday, which tested 222 people or roughly 10% of the town’s population.