Municipal judge ousted
By Gilda Morales
A large number of people crowded into City Hall last Monday for the regular meeting of the Van Horn City Council. Before starting on agenda items, Council heard from Jose Aleman and Shanna Strickhausen as part of public comment. Mr. Aleman, the current Van Horn Economic Development Corporation (EDC) president, gave an impassioned speech about two agenda items: one dealing with removing the current EDC board and staff and the other with removing the current Municipal judge.
Coincidently, both agenda items targeted Krissy Lerdal, who serves as the EDC Director and Municipal Judge. Mr. Aleman took issue with the fact that the parties affected had no prior notice until last Friday, when the agenda was posted for Monday’s meeting. He questioned Council’s expectations of the EDC board since there was little communication from the Council with any concerns. As such, Mr. Aleman volunteered to step down and took responsibility for any failure of expectations since he was board president. According to Aleman, he had recently met with the Mayor, Mayor pro tem, and City Administrator to discuss goals and the possibility of working with other governmental entities for the town’s benefit, and no issues or concerns were mentioned at that meeting.
Shanna Strickhausen, a long-term resident and rancher was the second person to speak during public comment. She also voiced concerns that Council had not done their “due diligence” before deciding on the removal of the Municipal court judge and the EDC board. She asked the Council if any of them had asked Ms. Lerdal what the EDC was working on before deciding to remove the board. Ms. Strickhausen stated that she had asked the EDC director what she had been working on for the town and was amazed at all the projects that were in play to improve the town. She asked Council not to be short-sighted by not asking questions and again implored the Council to do their “due diligence.” As with any public comment, council does not usually respond to public comment.
Jerry Carbajal from GrantWorks, who has been working on finalizing two grants, addressed Council on how to proceed with the bids for the downtown revitalization project and the sewer collection system improvement. Action was tabled at the last meeting because the low bids for both projects exceeded the budgeted amounts. Mr. Carbajal told Council that after talking to the Texas Department of Agriculture, he recommended that Council accept the low bids with the contingency that the contractors allow change orders to be made to the contracts to bring the amounts to comply with the budgeted amounts. Council agreed with his recommendation and awarded the downtown revitalization contract to Jacques Construction Company from El Paso and the sewer collection system improvement contract to Hot Shot Construction from Austin. Both agenda items passed unanimously.
Council heard from City Administrator Mark Cabezuela, who requested that the new hours of operation at the Golf Course be open from Thursday through Sunday and closed on Monday through Wednesday. The motion passed unanimously.
After a 36-minute executive session, council returned to open session and proceeded to vote to accept the bid from Culberson County-Allamoore ISD for 12 lots east of the City-County park for $200,000. Then, without any discussion, the Council unanimously voted to remove the Van Horn Economic Development Board of Directors effective immediately but asked the board to reapply. The Council then moved swiftly to remove Municipal Judge Krissy Lerdal from the Town of Van Horn Municipal Court, also without any discussion.
Mr. Bhakta, who is the investor building the new Avid hotel, appeared before Council on a conference call to ask for approval for a 15-unit housing complex behind the hotel. Mr. Bhakta told Council that his initial request was for 24-units but that he could accept 15 units in order to provide nice living quarters for his employees. He also reassured Council that he would do whatever it took, reasonably, to ensure that the units and the hotel have adequate water pressure. His request was approved on a 3-2 vote with Lyndon McDonald and Michael Garibay voting against.