Two contested races for Devine Council

All three incumbents have re- filed for office as well as two challengers Jeff Miller and Ray Gonzales.
The City of Devine General Election will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2024 at City Hall.
Filing began in January as usual and the deadline to file was Friday, February 16, 2024. The deadline to file a declaration of write-in candidacy is 5 p.m. on the 74th day before election day which is February 20, 2024 (press day).
District 4 – Josh Ritchey (i) is the only candidate for District 4.
District 3 race will be between the incumbent Stacy Pyron and Jeff Miller.
District 1 race will be between the incumbent Rufino Vega and Ray Gonzales.

Devine debates mowing Little League Park and adding to Parks & Rec System

By Anton Riecher
The Devine City Council voted to cast its 81 votes for former county commissioners Jerry Beck to represent the city as a member of the Medina County Appraisal District board of directors. The action made official the council’s previously announced decision to back Beck.
Add Little League to city parks
The council discussed at length a proposal by Cook for the city to take charge of mowing the city’s Little League Park in the off season as part of the city’s renewed contract with local Little League.
“I personally would like the Little League Park to be part of our parks and rec system because we do own it,” Cook said.
However, Ritchey…


Devine council special meeting on golf course chemical controversy ends with no action

By Anton Riecher
SG Golf Management co-owner Scott Grego was a no-show at a Devine City Council special meeting Oct. 24 held to resolve an ongoing controversy about $37,000 owned for the purchase of lawn chemicals during SG’s administration of the city golf course.
After lengthy discussion the council took no…


Devine approves new budget supported by ‘no-new-revenue’ rate

By Anton Riecher
Nearly eight weeks of wrangling came to a close Sept. 26 when the Devine City Council voted 4-1 to approve a “no-new-revenue” tax rate for of $.5553 per $100 valuation to support a 2023-2024 city budget of $7,933,402.

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Responsibility for chemical inventory and bill at golf course still in question

By Anton Riecher
By a 3-2 vote, the Devine City Council rejected a motion to release the management group previously in charge of the city golf course from responsibility for an outstanding balance of $36,000 due for lawn chemicals.

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Down to one water well… Devine calls emergency meeting, new pump and back-up on the way

By Kathleen Calame
Publisher, The Devine News
The pump on the Edwards Water Well #1 went down last Friday, August 25, 2023 leaving only one well to service the entire City of Devine, prompting an emergency meeting. At one point in time the City of Devine had five wells.

Continue reading “Down to one water well… Devine calls emergency meeting, new pump and back-up on the way”

TxDOT report offers no “silver bullet” to fix Devine’s airport woes

By Anton Riecher
A recent report from the Texas Department of Transportation’s Aviaition Division on the Devine Airport contained no “silver bullet” to quickly resolve the many problems plaguing the facility, airport board president Hap Squires told the city council Aug. 15.

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Devine mayor requests sheriff investigation into private water tie-in at golf course

By Anton Riecher

Brian Navarro, golf course superintendent with the Devine Golf Group, revealed the existence of the tie-in during a status report on the golf course during an Aug. 19 session of the Devine City Council.

By Anton Riecher
Mayor Butch Cook requested an investigation by the Medina County Sheriff’s Department of water drawn for private use from the city-owned Devine golf course water system by means of a recently discovered water line tie-in.
“I think this needs to be turned over to the sheriff and have an outside investigation,” Cook said. “Whatever the sheriff determines is how we will proceed.”

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Devine City Council decides to pull back on search for permanent City Administrator

Wyatt and Carter Noll, starting 1st and 3rd grade, are all smiles on the first day of school at Natalia ISD. More back to school pics on page 14.

By Kathleen Calalme
In an interesting turn of events, Devine City Council decided to temporarily “terminate and stop advertising” in their search for a City Administrator until further notice, or September 18th, on a Debbie Randall/ Flipper Vega motion.
The motion passeda 4 (Randall, Vega, Hernandez, and Pyron) to 1, with Josh Ritchey voting against stopping the progress.
“I would like to terminate advertising for the city administration position until further notice or until September,” said Debbie Randall, District 5 Councilwoman.
“Not until September…?” questioned Interim City Admin. Dora Rodriguez.
“I think you need a time, September 15 or so,” suggested Mayor Butch Cook.
“Okay, September 18”, Randall replied.
After executive session at 8:11 pm the council reconvened and the mayor announced no action was taken during the executive session item, “Personnel matters- discuss and consider City Administrator issues.”
Randall immediately made the motion to terminate advertising for a new city administrator.
“The motion is to discontinue advertising for a city admin until Sept 18”, said Cook. “Any discussion? Already done?”
Without any further discussion on why, Flipper seconded Randall’s motion and the motion carried with 4 ayes and 1 nay.
Council and mayor responses
After the meeting, The News offered each council person and the mayor a chance to express their opinion on this new turn of events in order to help the public understand why they are holding back on their search for a City Administrator.
They were given the opportunity to elaborate on their “personal reasoning or opinion” for or against this motion to terminate the search, until Sept 18, about 48 days.
Debbie Randall, District 5 response: “I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful, but my motion was based off of what was discussed in executive session, something I cannot discuss in public without breaking the trust of council”.
Josh Ritchey, District 4 response: “Officially, I can’t share what happened in the closed session. In my opinion, it is extremely irresponsible to cease the search for a city administrator with our current lack of staffing and high level of debt. This reminds me of when Mayor Thompson simply stopped releasing resumes to council. While Mayor Cook is releasing resumes, the council has chosen not to interview until sometime in September, if I recall correctly.”
Stacy Pyron, District 3 response: “While I can’t comment on discussions in executive session, I will say that I believe this was the best decision at this time. This is also temporary, and the position will be advertised again in September.”
Flipper Vega, District 1- no response as of press time.
Michael Hernandez, District 2- “All I can say is the only reason we put the thing on hold for hiring a city manager is because of budget. Interviewing 2-3 candidates in one day will take up so much time during budget session. The last 4 people we interviewed took almost 1 1/2 hours each and that was just 2 interviews per council session.”
Butch Cook, Mayor- “It is my personal opinion that we should continuously and aggressively pursue hiring a competent and qualified City Administrator and it should be our top priority. In our style of government, the City Administrator is the most important person of all – more so than the Mayor or any individual Council member and until we accomplish this goal we will just be treading water.”
Next on agenda was the budget workshop, something the council will continue to meet often to decide on priorities, the budget and tax rate.
New Council and Mayor suggesting changes to several procedures
The new City of Devine Council and Mayor are voicing some concerns over old procedures and suggesting new ones. Some would require changing of the ordinances, others not.
Mayor Butch Cook just took office three months ago in May 2023 as well as council members Stacy Pyron and Michael Hernandez.
Josh Ritchey was elected to the council last year.
Flipper Vega has served several terms as well as Debbie Randall.

Mayor Cook asks council for their priorities during Devine Budget Workshop

Top choice withdraws application for city admin position

By Anton Riecher
In a surprising turn of events the top candidate chosen, Deck Shaver Jr. decided not to accept the city administrator position after all, citing “pressing family matters,” Mayor Butch Cook stated at a July 25 city council session. The council asked interim city administrator Dora Rodriguez to continue to advertise the job.

Budget Talk

In other discussion, the council conducted a budget workshop to identify major areas of financial concerns once the city receives its effective tax rate from the Medina County Appraisal District in August.
Dora Rodriguez, interim city administrator, said until the next budget workshop on August 8 the numbers available will be “very raw”. Mayor Cook noted that the final tax numbers are still pending completion of a massive number of protests filed by taxpayers across the county.
District 4 Council Member Josh Ritchey said he was “unclear on what we are budgeting for other than kicking the can down the road and putting band-aids on wounds.”
“We do not have a vision for the city as far as development and a prioritized specs list,” Ritchey said. “So as we are adjusting budgets like last year and the previous year we’re just kind of batting around how do we not increase the tax rate.”
Cook said he agreed. The first step is to determine from each council member what the priorities are in their district, he said.
“Then we take those priorities and apply them to the overall priorities of the city,” Cook said. “We can start there. That doesn’t mean each person gets one priority and everybody has to agree to it. But that’s a good way to get started.”
Cook said one priority he would like to see addressed in cooperation with the county commissioners is better drainage for portions of the city. Another priority would be water storage.
“Until you decide your wants and needs that’s when you decide your tax rate,” Cook said.
Regarding District 5 Ritchey said that emphasis should be placed on attracting more business rather than homeowners.
“I’m not saying I’m discouraging homes but every time you put in more houses that’s increasing impact to your water treatment, sewer treatment and the road work you need to maintain,” he said.
The businesses needed are small and medium sized operations that will add to the sales tax base, not super-sized big box stores, Ritchey said.
“They’re very extractive,” he said. “They bring in a whole bunch of crap from China and about 75 cents of every dollar leaves town.”
Regarding District 5, Randall noted that the city has done little with the 75 acres of property it owns near Interstate 35 set aside for future business development. That development can provide revenue to fund needed infrastructure projects.
Devine is blocked against further expansion on almost all sides, she said.
“That’s where we’re going to grow,” Randall said.
However, Ritchey said development of the property would involve “putting in roads that lead to nowhere.” Randall countered that if you don’t build the roads “they won’t come”.
Hernandez said that concern about protecting businesses already in place will mean never getting anywhere with developing the I35 corridor.
“We are the main corridor going to the coast that way and to the river,” he said.
Ritchey said he agreed with Hernandez but continues to worry about the “second and third order effects” on local business.
For Cook another area of concern is better pay for trained city public works personnel being poached by other communities.
“These guys are the backbone of the city,” Cook said. “We need them vested with the city.”
Public works personnel received a six percent increase in the last budget. Beginning salary for public works is $15 an hour.
“That’s way too low,” Cook said.
On the other hand, Hernandez voiced concern about whether Devine police personnel were performing up to the level required, noting that the Devine police roundup published in the Devine News fails to measure up to the roundup published for the Lytle police.
“You get too complacent because you’ve been here forever,” Hernandez said. He cited statistics showing that while one Devine officer may write more than 30 citations a month another may only show two or three.
Regarding revenue, Randall focused on a topic drawing much recent attention – the Devine Airport. She noted that not counting Hangar 8A and 10 the city earns $46,215 annually for the hangars leased. However, the certificate of obligation covering the city’s purchase of all hangars at the airport costs $81,685 to cover.
If the lease cost for the two smallest hangars, 8 and 8A, were raised to $300 a month and Hangar 10, the largest at the airport, to $2,500 a month then the city would be making $83,415 a year, enough to make the certificate of obligation payments “without dipping into the general fund,” Randall said.
The airport would still depend on the city to finance maintenance, manager salary and the fuel station, Cook said. Randall replied that she was “not trying to make them self-sufficient”.
“I’m trying to make sure we are paying that loan,” she said.
Ritchey said that rather than offering “arbitrary” numbers the rent charged for hangar space at the airport should be based on the cost at nearby competing airports in Hondo and Castroville.
Cook said the airport board will be attending the next regular meeting of the city council.
City Admin
Cook reported that in a text Shaver notified the city of his decision to reject the city’s job offer. In a later telephone conversation with Cook, Shaver explained that the issue involved Shaver’s wife who is currently overseas.
“He decided it was in his and his family’s interest that he remain in Houston for the time being,” Cook said.
The agenda for the July 25 meeting included an executive session on personnel matters to consider an employment contract for Shaver.
Shaver spent last Monday in Devine at the city hall getting familiar with the city, in preparation to accept the job the following night (Tuesday), Cook said.
The mayor stressed that Shaver’s visit was his own choice and not at the insistence of the city.
“I asked him that since he came to Devine Monday if there were any red flags or something at all with our particular operation, or the city building, anything we did,” Cook said. “He was very sincere. He said absolutely not.”
Prior to the July 25 telephone exchange, Cook had last spoken to Shaver on July 19, the day following the council decision in executive session to offer him the job.
“He was surprised and very excited and happy at our offer.” the mayor said.
District 2 Council Member Michael Hernandez said he was impressed with Shaver as a city administrator candidate.“He was a remarkable guy,” Hernandez said. “I don’t know if he saw our budget and got scared.”
Cook rejected the idea, saying that Shaver had reviewed the budget online prior to accepting the job.
District 5 Council Member Debbie Randall asked if Shaver was due any compensation for the time he spent at city hall.
Cook and City Attorney Thomas Cate emphasized that Shaver visited at his own choice in advance of accepting a contract. The council voted 5-0 to offer him compensation for the day anyway.
(Shaver refused the compensation).
Devine City Council Meeting continued on page 8
Golf Group looking towards another exhaust fan to see if it would help first
In other business, the council heard a report from Devine Golf Group representatives Brian Navarro and Ron Richards regarding plans to deal install a large exhaust fan in the attic of the golf course clubhouse to deal with the uncomfortable temperatures indoors.
The council approved the purchase and installation of the $2,250 fan for the clubhouse leased from the city by the golf course group. The exhaust fan was approved as an alternative to a new $9,000 air conditioning unit.
Navarro asked the council for more time to obtain estimates on purchase and installation of a smaller exhaust fan in a storage room behind the bar where ice machines operate.
Ritchey asked about the financial condition of the golf group if purchase of the air conditioning unit proves to be necessary. The golf group has rejected any attempt by the city to split the bill for a new unit.
Navarro said the golf group is paying its bills and its employees. The big issue in the future will be upgrading and improving the course, he said.
“That’s what our members want,” Navarro said. “They want improvement on the course. Financially, a year and three months into this, no, we’re not at that point yet where we can upgrade.”
Asked by Ritchey if the group anticipated needing support from the city Navarro said the biggest concern on the course is several aging water pumps that would cost an estimated $40,000 to replace. Navarro described the buildings sheltering the pumps as quite dilapidated.