Council hears the good, the bad, and the ugly

By Gilda Morales

The Van Horn City Council met in regular session Wednesday evening and tackled multiple grant-heavy agenda items before going into executive session.

Council heard from an engineer with the Frank Spencer Engineering firm about the TXCDBG Downtown Revitalization grant that Council previously approved. Council was told that the grant would include the downtown area on Broadway from Ash Street to Almond Street on both the north and south sides. The scope of the project is extensive and will include new sidewalks and gutters, lighting and driveways and possibly new sewer tie-ins.

Council was advised that bids for the project would have to be advertised by the end of January, but had no other dates were given to Council.

City administrator Fran Malafronte reported on a new grant for $94,000 from the Texas Bureau of Reclamation to replace commercial water meters and those that were not replaced by the previous grant for meters. Per Malafronte, the in-kind requirement for the grant would be met by City employees doing the actual replacements instead of hiring an outside contractor. The meters would have the capability to be read via radio, virtually eliminating any mistakes that arise from manually reading and inputting numbers and providing more accurate billing while eliminating hand reading.

Malafronte updated Council on the ARPA grant, of which approximately $460,000 was earmarked for the City’s infrastructure updates. The initial scope of the grant included the initial $460,000 plus approximately another $1 to $2 million which was dependent on getting funding from the Texas Water Board. Still, the funding was denied, so the City must resubmit another application with the correct scope.

Under Departmental operations, Malafronte reported that Burgess and Niples have not received any bids on the Elm Street project , and bids have just gone out for the wastewater DAF unit. However, engineers with Burgess and Niples are busy designing the plans for relining the ponds at the golf course.

Utilities Director Jony Garcia reported that his staff had been very busy with leaks on Eisenhower Road caused by pressure coming from the lines on FM 2185. He stated that the department had installed some valves to relieve the pressure helping with the leaks.

Garcia added that his men had really stepped up after losing Chief Operator Jaime Hudson, who left unexpectedly. Reno Carrasco, who has been working on the landfill, reported that the landfill is shaping up with staff working with the litter problem, stricter control of dumping with better monitoring of utility bills and issuing tickets to those not abiding by weight restrictions. Garcia added that Lupita Ramirez and Rachel Mendez had helped him get up to date with TCEQ dumping regulations with a plan in place to comply with the current permit. Garcia also reported that landfill recycling is up and running again after not having been done in two years. He added that the new dump truck driver, Mr. Rubio, is working out well and he will be reporting which dumpsters are broken and need replacing in response to a question from a councilman.

Cody Davis, County Liaison Officer at The Texas Division of Emergency Management, advised Council that there is help available from the Texas Public Utilities Response Team if there is ever a need such as a utilities emergency that the City would need help handling. Davis said that that is the reason he is usually on the scene of major leaks, in case help is needed.

Councilman Michael Garibay commented that he had requested the agenda item to replace or appoint EDC board members because the current board had not responded to Council’s request several months ago to provide financials, report on projects and to stream the EDC meetings online. (It should be noted that all EDC agendas, minutes, and annual budgets are available to download and view on the city’s website- Council in general concurred and voted to have all the board members reapply for their positions and interested citizens would be encouraged to apply as well.


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