Council considers Library District Sales Tax; discuss golf course agreement

By Lisa Morton

A lengthy regular meeting of the Town of Van Horn last Tuesday included several presenters and speakers beginning with the municipality’s annual Audit. Rick Knapp, CPA of Knapp & Company, PC gave the city a good audit acknowledging the work of City Administrator Fran Malafronte and Financial Officer Jodi Corrales for their work, especially working remotely during the pandemic. The 2020-2021 Audit was approved as presented.

Next, Raul Issa of Brock & Bustillos presented the Water/wastewater System Study and Capital Improvements Plan for approval. Issa remarked that the study spreadsheet reviewed is flexible and customizable to the changing needs of the municipality. The council approved the study as presented.

A motion to deny a request from Bill Story, (presented by Abraham Gonzalez), to have the city consider reduced rate/no fee water and sewer taps on new construction and for his duplex construction permits, failed to pass on a vote of 2-3.

Council approved parking variance for new 10,500 sq. ft. Family Dollar/Dollar Tree off of Broadway St. The request was taken to the Economic Development Corporation earlier this month and given the thumbs up for city approval. The variance changed the city zoning code requiring a 53 space parking lot to 37 parking spaces to accommodate an average of 4-6 regular vehicles and merchandise trucks or delivery vehicles at any given time during their business hours.

Council considered the feasibility of the creation of a Library District Sales Tax based on the total State Sales Tax currently collected in Van Horn and approved the new Library District. The creation would bring the total state tax to 8.25% which is inline with most of the state. It should generate the $150,000 needed to fund the new Library District with $75,000 of the funds previously contributed by the city to be used for other expenditures. Culberson County would also be let off-the-hook for their annual contribution of the same amount.

The review of survey information gathered to pursue a 2021 Planning Grant through the Texas Community Development Block Grant Planning and Capacity Building Program, yielded good results with an 88 percent response rate and a 58.08 percent result of low to moderate-income eligibility. Council directed Malafronte to advertise for grant planners in pursuit of funding.

Councilman Lyndon McDonald took the floor to discuss several things regarding the July 15, 1986 Golf Course/Law Enforcement Agreement with Culberson County. McDonald referenced The Van Horn Advocate July 1, 2021 article from a County Commissioners meeting where Commissioners noted that the County is holding up their end of the agreement by providing law enforcement within the City limits (except for code enforcement), and suggested that the Town needs to do their part for the golf course – a statement McDonald took offense to. McDonald questioned the validity of the open-ended agreement he orally read from, stating that the golf course was turned over for future operation under the sole discretion and control of the town.

After more suggestions and recommendations and opinions from council members and departmental staff, Mayor Becky Brewster told council members that they are working on fixing the problem with the sewer treatment facility which is necessary before they can commit to using effluent (treated) water for irrigation at the golf course. “We are operating (the golf course) as best we can,” said Brewster.

In other business:

Approved Minutes of August 10, 2021 meeting.

Approved Financial report as presented.

Approved payment of current bills as presented in the amount of $96,026.79.

Approved Effective Tax Rate on Property Tax for Calendar Year 2021 at $0.506716 per $100.00 Valuation and a Tax Base of $77,979, 250 per Ordinance No. 21-08-425.

Updated Program Funding source and match amount for EDA Grant.

Approved payoff with Ally Financial for $4,106.26 and $4,213.14 for financed equipment.

Approved contract with Lamar for billboards on I-10 in Las Cruces for $771.83 per month and 2 additional months free.

Approved RFQ & Agreement for qualified engineering firm of Burgess and Nigel to prepare all preliminary and final design plans and specifications, and to conduct all necessary interim and final inspections for the relocation/replacement of an eight inch main water line which traverses under the Union Pacific Railroad at Elm Street.

Selected GrantWorks, Inc. as the administration/project delivery service provider to complete project implementation for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP ACT) Funding administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, other federal or state agencies.

Approved reallocation of Gas Company checking account balance.

Council and Mayor requests for electronic agenda packets and Town of Van Horn email addresses were offered to those who wanted it.

Updated fee schedule to include line item for rental of Little League Field in anticipation of newly organized adult sports leagues.

Accepted proposal for roof repair and 10 year warranty for $23,000 from Gary Roofing from San Marcos, Texas.

Approved request for rehearing by El Paso Electric Company regarding an application to change rates or rate structure affecting the Town of Van Horn and its residents under Resolution No. 21-08-014.

Heard various updates regarding Departmental Operations.