Lytle city administrator opts to resume police career

By Anton Riecher
Lytle is again searching for a city administrator after the city council voted Monday to approve a transfer for current administrator Matthew Dear back to police duty with the rank of captain.
“First and foremost, it’s been a great honor to work with you all in the position here,” Dear told the council. “But I think my heart still lies in the police department. That’s where my skill set is.”
The council approved the transfer by a 4-0 vote with District 3 Alderman David Emery absent.
Mayor Ruben Gonzalez said Dear “stepped up during a difficult time and we appreciate him doing that.”
Dear said he pursued the city administrator job as an opportunity for advancement within the city not expecting the captain position to be vacant in the near future. That position is now open due to retirement.
“If I’d have known the captain at the time was leaving I’m not sure I would have made this leap over here,” Dear said.
Dear took over as city administrator in May 2022 after training to qualify for the job. The transfer represents a reduction in salary and benefits.
“The great thing for us is he’ll still be around,” Gonzalez said. “I know that like anything else he always steps up and helps out no matter where we need him within the city.”
Gonzalez said he hoped that the transition could be made no later than the end of the year. However, District 5 Alderman Charles Cate, who made the motion in favor of the transfer, said he was concerned that finding a new city administrator would likely become a lengthy process.
“Devine has had an interim city administrator for several years now,” Cate said.
Dear said it was not his intention to leave the city “high and dry.”
“That’s never been the way I’ve operated,” he said. “Obviously, I would like to transfer as soon as possible but I understand the importance of the position I hold.”
Cate’s motion in favor of the transfer made it contingent on finding a replacement city administrator first.
Gonzalez and Cate agreed that the city administrator job is demanding.
“Whoever fills the role it’s not just about showing up and sitting behind a desk,” Gonzalez said. “This is a job where you’ve got to be out and connected.”
In other business, the council approved donation of $10,000 from hotel-motel tax revenue to the city’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post to promote local tourism.
“The new Lytle VFW hall is not even open yet and we’ve already started putting people in hotels,” said post commander Chris Clouser.
The post is planning several events involving local musicians to draw guests to the area, Clouser said. The money would also go to construction of a corn hole field with proper lighting to bring competing teams to Lytle, he said. Barbecue competitions are also in the planning stage.
Action on a request by the VFW to support its annual Patriot Day Freedom Walk was tabled for further consideration.
At the request of Mayor Gonzalez the council voted to permit Dear to survey council members on priorities for the 2023-2024 budget with Dear compiling the results and reporting back to the council.
“I asked everybody to take a look and see if there are any projects that we need to take into consideration as a way for us to go ahead and minimize going back and forth with staff,” Gonzalez said.
For example, Gonzalez listed two of his own priorities as work on the Benton City Road and developing a city capital improvement plan to help pursue grant funding.

Property tax freeze in Lytle on hold

By Anton Riecher
A motion to further investigate the financial impact of a proposed property tax freeze for city residents either over 65 or disabled was approved by the Lytle City Council Monday by a 4-1 vote.
The motion was made by District 4 Alderman Michael Rodriguez, seconded by District 3 Alderman David Emery, to delay taking any immediate action on the tax freeze. District 5 Alderman Charles Cate who placed the item on the agenda, opposed that motion as he wanted to move forward with the freeze.
“We’re going to have the same figures in six months that we will have in two weeks,” Cate said. “We’re only hurting our residents.”
Michelle Berdeaux, chief appraiser for Atascosa County, told the council that fast action to approve the ordinance would be necessary since the appraisal district is scheduled to certify the tax roll by July 21. Values must be presented to the taxing entities by July 25 to start budget workshops and rate hearings.
“We’re getting ready to start the tax rate calculations,” Berdeaux said. “If you don’t move quickly it will not be on the tax roll before we mail bills.”
In Atascosa County which carries the largest portion of the city’s taxable value almost 200 property tracts or nearly 13½ percent would be eligible for the tax freeze, Cate said. Rodriguez expressed concern that until certified values are available the financial impact of the tax freeze remains unknown.
“I don’t see the rush in trying to get this done by this timetable,” Rodriguez said.
Cate noted that many Texas municipalities have implemented similar measures to stem the impact of rising property taxes on the elderly.
“It does not exempt them from paying taxes,” Cate said. “It freezes their tax value once they turn 65. We’d still be collecting taxes but it would just help alleviate the folks who may be on a fixed income.”
Berdeaux explained that the freeze does not apply if the property owner either acquires more adjoining property or expands their home.
“Then the freeze would be adjusted by the amount of tax that was added,” she said.
Lytle has previously implemented a homestead exemption for property owners over 65 who received a $10,000 exemption, Berdeaux said.
“What you are talking about will freeze that tax amount at the (age 65) level, whatever is established,” Berdeaux said. “If it goes down, the property owner automatically pays less.”
Cate said that Devine passed a similar tax freeze for its eligible taxpayers in June, Cate said.
“While it is able to help the residents I think it also makes the city an attractive place for people to move to,” he said. “If one city has this in place and we don’t they might go there. I just see it as a means for us to help folks out and take care of our own people.”
The council also voted to conduct a workshop to discuss a proposed tax abatement program at 6:30 p.m. July 25.
In other items added to the agenda by Cate, the council voted unanimously to develop plans for replacing and upgrading the city’s water distribution lines. However, action on a proposal to upgrade and improve city road and streets to accommodate future development was tabled.
The council voted to award a $5,046 contract to Advanced Water Well Technologies to remove the wellhead and pump from long dormant City Water Well No. 1 to accommodate the Edwards Aquifer Authority in its plans to use the well to better monitor the aquifer.
City Administrator Matthew Dear reported that the authority had agreed to cover half the cost of the wellhead and pump removal.
Dear reported to the council that the city had received a violation notice from the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality regarding the need to complete mandatory water quality testing for copper and lead in its newest water well.
Mayor Ruben Gonzales stressed that the violation was not based on findings but due to a testing oversight.
Dear explained that the new water well required a specific set of tests to be performed quarterly during its initial year of operation. The tests are performed both at the well and again at where water goes into the distribution system.
Ordinarily the testing is only done three times a year, Dear said.
“We did one and were expecting to do it like we normally do but we missed one in between,” Dear said. “We’ve already done the missed test so we can go back to the normal routine.”
During the information items portion of the agenda District 2 Alderman Richard Hughes asked if additional lighting could be installed at the city park baseball fields for evening hours. Dear said that plans to improve the lighting had been postponed due to other city issues.
“We started down that path a while back but had to put the stop to it because of some major improvements needed at the sewer plant,” Dear said.
He said the city staff has been investigating the use of hotel occupancy tax money to fund the ball field lighting improvements. However, that can only be justified if it can be shown that the park had effectively generated funds for the hotel industry.
The estimate on improving the lighting is nearly $300,000, city finance director LaNet Hester said.
Mayor Gonzalez reported that the Veterans of Foreign Wars is planning the ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new post on July 19, the 100th birthday of local Pearl Harbor attack veteran Gilbert Meyers. Meyers, to whom the post is dedicated, also contributed the land for the new building.
Gonzalez also gave an update on Texas Department of Transportation improvements to Interstate 35. Beginning Tuesday new stripping will be added to convert access roads from one-way to two-way traffic.
Improvement plans also call for closing down FM 3175 lanes crossing beneath I35 for extensive repair.
“It’s the only way to get that road done before school starts up again,” Gonzalez said. “It’s going to hurt for several weeks.”

Election Info…

City of Devine Voters-

All registered voters in Devine can vote in the mayoral race, and early voting is now underway at City Hall.
There are two contested races in the City of Devine, including:
Mayoral Race
-Cory Thompson (i) and
challenger Butch Cook.

District 2 Race
-Angela Pichardo (i) and challenger Michael Hernandez

Distict 5 councilwoman Debbie Randall is unopposed.

Early Voting:
April 24-28, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.;
May 1-2, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Early Voting one Saturday, April 29 – 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Election day: May 6, 2023, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
You can Vote at City Hall, 303 S. Teel, Devine.

Devine ISD Voters-
Polling locations in both Medina and Frio Counties

Vote For or Against the following Bond issues:

Proposition A – 31.5 Million for Safety and Renovations of Schools, Band Hall

Proposition B – 1.5 Million – for 4 New Tennis Courts

Medina County Polls:
Vote at Medina County Precinct 4 Annex Building this year (317 TX-132 N, Devine).
Early Voting: April 24-28, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and Saturday April 29 9am-2pm; May 1-2, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. May 6, 2023 (Election Day) 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Election day: May 6, 2023, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Frio County Polls-
Voting at the Bigfoot Alternative Center, 13777 FM 472, Bigfoot, TX 78005
April 24-28, 2023 (Early Voting) 8:00 am – 5:00 pm; April 29, 2023 (Early Voting) 9:00 am – 2:00 pm and May 1-2, 2023 (Early Voting) 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
May 6, 2023 (Election Day) 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Medina County- Vote at Medina County Precinct 4 Annex Building
(across from Tractor Supply)
Voters can vote in the ESD District elections, where they are registered to vote.
Medina County ESD 2 – (Devine Fire area) – add 1.25 % to sales tax
Medina County ESD 5 – (Natalia Fire area) – add 1.25% to sales tax
Medina County ESD 4 – (EMS Devine/Natalia areas – add .50% to sales tax
ESD4 overlaps both fire districts (2&5), since EMS can bill for services they are asking for only .25 from each district, so .25+.25= .5% sales tax
*Note: 8.25% is the maximum any city or county in Texas can charge for sales tax. Medina County is at 6.75% currently, so that leaves 1.5% open.
ESD 2, 4, and 5 – All Voting at County Building:
Election day: May 6, 2023, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Early Voting: April 24-28, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and Saturday April 29 9am-2pm and May 1-2, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
May 6, 2023 (Election Day) 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Lytle ISD- Vote for one or none, Single Member District 2

Trustee Special Election for Single Member District 2 will be on May 6, 2023 between Jessica Perales , and one write-in candidate Jeremy Davenport.
Voting in a trustee for Single Member District 2. (Voters must vote in the Single Member District where they are registered to vote.)
Note: Lytle ISD is only conducting the special election. They were able to cancel the general election, which is the annual election due to unopposed candidates. The special election is due to having two SMD vacancies however, they canceled the SMD 5 election, but not the other as there was one write-in candidate for SMD 2 before the deadline.
Polling places:
Lytle ISD Administration Office, 1537 Cottage St., Lytle, Tx.
Medina County Courthouse Annex, 1300 Ave. M Room 108, Hondo, Tx.
Medina County ESD No. 1, Station #15, 17934 FM 1957, Rio Medina, Tx.
Medina County Pct. 4 Annex, 317 State Hwy. 132 N. , Devine, Tx.
Medina County Pct. 2 Annex, 8366 FM 471 S. , Castroville, Tx.
Early Voting weekdays: April 24-28, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and May 1-2, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday April 29 9am-2pm.
Election Day: May 6, 2023 from 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

City of Lytle – cancelled election due to uncontested races.
Natalia City/Schools – no elections
LaCoste City – no elections

Local Elections on May 6
Where, when, why, how much
Early voting April 24- May 2

 City of Devine-  Vote at City Hall
 Vote For or Against
Bond Election- $18 Million for drainage and flood control
Everyone can vote in the Bond election
Everyone can vote in mayoral race.
Mayor- Cory Thompson (i) and Butch Cook
District 2 and 4 get to vote in their races as well
Council Dist.2- Angela Pichardo (i) and Michael Hernandez
Dist 4 – Debbie Randall
Devine ISD- Vote at County Building
Vote For or Against
Proposition A- 31.5 Million  for Safety and Renovations of Schools,  Band Hall
Proposition B- 1.5 Million – for 4 New Tennis Courts
Medina County- Vote at County Building
 (across from Tractor Supply)
Medina County ESD 2 (Devine Fire area)- add 1.25 % to sales tax
Medina County ESD 5- (Natalia Fire area) add 1.25% to sales tax
Medina County ESD 4- (EMS Devine/Natalia areas – add .50% to sales tax
ESD4 overlaps both fire districts (2&5), since EMS can bill for services they are asking for only .25 from each district, so .25+.25=  .5% sales tax
*Note: 8.25% is the maximum any city or county in Texas can charge for sales tax. Medina County is at 6.75% currently, so that leaves 1.5% open.
Lyle ISD- cancelled election, no contested races
City of Lytle- cancelled election- no contested races
Natalia City/Schools- no elections
LaCoste City- no elections

Lytle approves contract for water system improvements
estimated at $5.5 million admidst incoming growth

Lytle mayor Ruben Gonzales, right, presents a proclamation honoring neighboring fire departments for responding to a recent fire on Main Street. “You made a huge impact on protecting lives and resources,” Gonzalez said. “This is the least we could do.” From left, receiving the proclamation were City Administrator Matthew Dear, Viola Potter of the Natalia Volunteer Fire Department, Javier Esparza and Jacquelyn Perales of Bexar County Emergency Service District No. 5 and Logan Medina of the Lytle Volunteer Fire Department. The Devine Fire Department was also honored for their mutual aid response.

By Anton Riecher
The Lytle City Council voted 4-0 Monday to approve a $771,147 engineering services contract for water system improvements estimated at more than $5.5 million.
On a motion by District 5 Alderman Charles Cate, the council voted to hire TRC Engineering for the water improvement project including a 250,000 gallon elevated tank on the town’s south side, a 12-inch water line extending from Interstate 35 to Railroad Street and a new pump for the city’s booster station.
Cate questioned whether an even larger elevated tank might be beneficial in the long run.
“Coming back in 10 years from now if we have to build another elevated tank it’s probably going to be triple what it is right now,” Cate said.
For full video coverage of the meeting visit the Devine News YouTube channel at
Craig Bell, representing TRC, said he could prepare estimates on a larger tank for consideration at a future council meeting. The figures presented Monday were already updated from a presentation several years ago.
“Costs aren’t going down, you’re right about that,” Bell told the council.
Financing for the water improvements is covered under $8.5 million in certificates of obligation approved by the council last year.
The elevated tank, to be located in the Rosewood Estates subdivision, will consist of a concrete pedestal supporting a steel bowl. More than 5,800 linear feet of new 12-inch PVC distribution pipe will replace existing six-line pipe as part of the city’s water main loop.
“The longer we wait the more it is going to cost,” Cate said. “If we put this off and don’t pull the trigger in the next six months we are looking at spending even more next year.”
In other action, on motion of District 4 Alderman Michael Rodriguez the council authorized city staff to move forward with a financial cost evaluation for an amendment to the Lytle Farms subdivision public improvement district calling for a substantial increase to $20 million over the next 30 years.
A PID is created under the state’s local government code to provide specific types of improvements or maintenance such as landscaping, sidewalk construction, roads, security, street lighting and water facilities.
The Lytle Farms subdivision will consist of nearly 200 homes of which 99 will be duplexes.
Also related to Lytle Farms, the council scheduled a workshop for 6:30 p.m. March 21 on establishing a consistent policy on providing street lights. The workshop comes after the council voted 3-2 in February to take no action on a request by Lytle Farms that the city take responsibility for the monthly electricity to power 14 street lights.
City Administrator Matthew Dear reported a favorable reception from Texas Department of Transportation officials regarding two sidewalk projects proposed by the city. He said TxDOT is looking for “turnkey projects” without a lot of engineering involved.
One project calls for sidewalks along Main Street near the city hall and post office. Dear said TxDOT recommended extending the project even further to reach Somerset Street with a six-foot-wide sidewalk on one side and a 10-foot-wide pathway on the other.
That project might well qualify for 100 percent funding by the federal government, TxDOT told Dear.
The second sidewalk project would extend from McDonald Street to city hall with pedestrian bridges across Interstate 35. TxDOT objected to the pedestrian bridges, Dear said, and recommended amending the project to eliminate sidewalks already included in the frontage street improvements underway.
With regard to the I35 frontage road project, Mayor Ruben Gonzalez said that TxDOT is nearly two weeks behind schedule with the northbound road being opened to two-way traffic still needing curbs and sidewalks. He promised a complete update at the next council meeting.
District 3 Alderman David Emery was absent from the Monday night meeting.

Re-zoning in downtown Lytle proposed, storm water utility discussed, council asked to help fund “visitor’s center”

The Lytle City Council present a plaque to City Administrator Matthew Dear for 20 years of service as a police lieutenant and assistant fire marshal before taking the reins of city government. The council also voted to make Dear permanent city administrator, removing the word “interim” from his title in place since taking the job in May.

Scheduling of public hearings on proposed zoning amendments restricting the use of recreational vehicles and modular buildings in downtown Lytle received a go-ahead from the city council during its regular session Monday.
Regarding modular buildings, the council voted in February 2020 to create a new zoning district along Main Street that restricted the placement of mobile homes to certain areas, City Administrator Matthew Dear explained. However, that ordinance did not include modular-type buildings.
Extending the ordinance to include that type of construction requires again notifying residents potentially affected and conducting a new set of public hearings on the issue, Dear said.
If re-zoned, any pre-existing modular structure would be classified as “non-comforming,” meaning it would be allowed to remain but could not be expanded or enlarged, city attorney Jessie Lopez explained. If replaced, the new structure would need to comply with the ordinance.
District 4 Alderman Michael Rodriguez asked that any new ordinance be exact in defining the difference between a modular structure and a pre-fabricated building that would be allowed. On a motion by Rodriguez, seconded by District 3 Alderman David Emery, the council approved allowing the legal work to move forward on the amendment.
District 1 Alderman Joseph Morrow was absent from the Nov. 14 meeting.
With respect to recreational vehicles, Dear explained that a 2019 amendment to the zoning ordinance prohibited the use of mobile homes in certain commercial areas along Main Street. But the amendment did not specifically prohibit the use of recreational vehicles in those same areas.
As with the modular building issue, a revision defining zones RVs can be used along Main Street would require notification of affected businesses and public hearings to discuss the proposed changes before the council could vote.
Again, on motion by Rodriguez, the council approved moving forward with the proposed changes.
The council also voted to proceed on developing an amendment to the Lytle zoning and subdivision codes to establish requirements for on-site parking and garage requirements. Dear said the action would be aimed at “bigger, masterplan communities.”
Subdivisions without requirements for garages and ample driveway parking for at least several vehicles tend to develop problems with parking that blocks sidewalks and forces pedestrians into the street, several council members remarked.
“Do we want to paint the picture of what we want our community to look like or do we just want them to come in and build whatever they think we need,” Dear said.
In other action, the council voted to approve updating the city’s building regulations to adopt the latest editions of various national and international codes governing electrical, plumbing and construction work.
The code update comes several months after the council voted to update the local fire code to agree with the 2021 edition of the International Fire Code, Dear said. The city had previously been using the 2006 edition of the code.
“The building code and all the other codes we use for construction here in the city were based on the 2008 editions,” Dear said. “That’s pretty outdated so we needed to bring that up to the 2021 model.”
In certain ways, the updated codes are more lenient than the codes that had been in place, Dear said.
“I can tell as to the fire code what I saw in certain things allowed in the 2021 code weren’t allowed in the old 2006 version,” Dear said. Improvements in technology allowed the changes, he said.
The old codes adversely affected the Insurance Services Organization (ISO) rating which determines the cost of fire insurance for local homes and businesses, Dear said.
“Once we get these (updates) adopted we can contact ISO and they will bring our rate down,” he said.
On a motion by Emery, seconded by District 2 Alderman Sam Cortez, the council approved adopting the updated standards.
On a motion by Rodriguez, seconded by Emery, the council voted to award a $34,900 administrative services agreement with the grant management firm GrantWorks to obtain a Texas Community Development Block Grant.
The grant would be used for flood mitigation and drainage planning, Dear said.
The council also voted to authorize Dear to negotiate an engineering services agreement with San Antonio-based Kimley Horn for development of a drainage master plan for the Lake Shore Estates Subdivision.
Some council members questioned if it would be better to include the Lake Shore drainage plan under the overall city drainage plan under discussion.
“I do believe that if we fix drainage issues in Lake Shore it’s going to cause issues downstream,” Dear said.
However, Emery urged immediate action on the Lake Shore issue rather than wait an additional two years or more to complete the overall city plan.
“They have been waiting and suffering for this for years,” Emery said.
Dear was also authorized to negotiate with Kimley Horn for engineering services to establish a municipal storm water utility in Lytle. Added to the monthly utility bill of Lytle residents, the storm water utility is something common to most cities, Dear said.
“Once we get the utility established by ordinance everyone gets to pay into it monthly,” he said. “It’s an assessment on your property. Then we can use those funds to mitigate storm water and do drainage in the city.”
The Lytle Chamber of Commerce asked for the city’s annual participation of $35,000 in a proposed visitor center to offer information about lesser known offerings and events within the community. The presentation by Dear said the center would “offer a feedback mechanism from the community and visitor to help improve appeal.”
Total cost for the visitor center is estimated at $72,669 annually. Cost of one employee to staff the center is estimated at $52,525.
Dear said the city staff is frequently too busy to assist visitors seeking out tourist information. Funding the center would be on a year-by-year basis just as the city’s participation in Little League.
“Our staff is already busy doing other things such as processing bills and taking care of customers,” Dear said.
On a motion by Emery, the council approved participating in the project using monies from the hotel occupancy tax.
After a brief executive session to discuss pending litigation and purchase of property the council voted to allow the city administrator to acquire property discussed in closed session.

Lytle discusses water woes, votes 3-1 to adopt tax rate

In Lytle, Precinct 5 Alderman Charles Cate votes via Internet against a proposal to adopt a 2022-2023 tax rate of $.3643 per $100 valuation to support a $16.7 million city budget for the same period. The proposal was approved 3-1. Cate, a reservist, is deployed to an undisclosed location and participates in council meetings via Internet connection. Photo by Anton Riecher

By Anton Riecher
The Lytle City Council voted 3-1 Monday to adopt a proposed 2022-2023 tax rate of $.3643 per $100 valuation to support a $16.7 million city budget for the same period.
Precinct 5 Alderman Charles Cate, a reservist currently deployed to an unspecified location, voted against the tax rate and budget via Internet connection during the meeting. Precinct 1 Alderman Joseph Morrow was absent.
Cate said he was concerned about using money from the recent sale of $8.5 million in certificates of obligation to cover approximately $700,000 in annual debt in the near term. That large of a boost in property taxes revenue in the next four or five years is unlikely, he said.
“My concern is future years,” Cate said. “Where is that increase going to come from?”
City Administrator Matthew Dear said that incremental increases in utility rates will bring them in line with what is paid in surrounding communities and would create some of that income.
However, Cate speculated that further investment in infrastructure would also be needed. The $8.5 million bond sale is largely going to water and sewer improvements.
“As we are aware, these aren’t the last projects the city is going to need,” Cate said.
The $.3643 tax rate is expected to produce a 10.6 percent increase in revenue due to higher property valuations. The rate for the current tax year is $.3905. The new rate proposal was approved on a motion by Precinct 3 Alderman David Emery seconded by Precinct 2 Alderman Sam Cortez.
A call for speakers at a public hearing on the proposed 2022-2023 city budget of $16.6 million drew no response from the audience for the council meeting. The meeting was closed after one minute.
Another public hearing on the budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 11 before final approval, Mayor Ruben Gonzalez said.
Lytle public works director James McGrath gave the council a detailed report on a water outage Sept. 18 that resulted in a notice to boil all drinking water through Sept. 20.
The initial problem that led to the breakdown was a contractor who broke a three-inch water line, he said. One day prior to the break, public works was called to the scene to locate several lines in the area.
“It was hard to locate,” McGrath said. “We located one line by about 5 p.m. and promised to locate the other first thing in the morning.”
Unfortunately, the contractor arrived at the work site before the public works department returned.
“He told his crew to lay one more joint of pipe and busted a three-inch,” McGrath said. “We lost water pressure.”
However, in the course of making the repair to the three-inch line, a 12-inch valve “broke loose” several miles upstream. Replacing it and another valve required draining the water system, so work was scheduled for late Sunday evening.
“We turned off the water at 10 o’clock,” McGrath said. “There was no water above ground in any of the overhead storage tanks. Anyway, you wouldn’t believe it but it took until 3 o’clock before the water stopped draining at the creek.”
The crew got the two 12-inch valves installed and repaired the broken three-inch line before daylight, he said. But rescinding the boil notice required the approval of the Texas Department of Environmental Quality.
“We couldn’t get an answer until about 10:30 a.m.,” McGrath said. “They told us where to take our samples. We got them into town about noon.”
It was 11 a.m. the next day, Sept. 20, before TDEQ gave permission to rescind the boil notice.
City officials were forced to post a notice requiring residents to boil their tap water. Water in the area was still safe to shower and clean with according to the issued release, but residents in Lytle could not use the water for consumption.
“To ensure destruction of all harmful bacteria and other microbes, water for drinking, cooking, and ice making should be boiled and cooled prior to use for drinking water or human consumption purposes,” the release added. “The water should be brought to a vigorous rolling boil and then boiled for two minutes.”
On a motion by Emery, seconded by Cortez, the council approved a $440,000 advance funding agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to build more than 11,000 linear feet of sidewalk near local schools.
The project involves 1,600 linear feet of 6-foot-wide sidewalk on both sides of Prairie Street from Cottage Street to Laredo Street, including the front of the primary school. On Cottage Street, the project covers 2,650 linear feet of sidewalk on both sides of the roadway from FM2790 to Prairie Street.
On FM2790, 2,200 linear feet of 12-foot-wide shared path will be built on the west side of the roadway from Blume Drive to Lytle High School. Also included is 1,200 linear feet of six-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side of the roadway from Cottage to Laredo.
Seventy-five linear feet of sidewalk from the southeast corner of FM 2790 and Laredo to directly connect with Lytle Elementary is also included in the project. The project also covers assorted detectable warning surfaces, crosswalks and signage, city administrator Matthew Dear told the council.
“It’s going to give our kids someplace to walk safely on either side of that road (Cottage Street),” Dear said. “It’s quite scary already with kids walking in a bar ditch with the drainage and mud. Or you get up on the roadway and take a chance on getting hit.”
Cortez said he considered the project a necessity “especially right there when it rains pretty hard and gets flooded.”
The TxDOT Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program provides funding for a variety of alternative transportation projects. TxDOT’s Public Transportation Division administers TASA funding for population areas of 200,000 or less.
Funds for the project will come from the sale of $8.5 million in certificates of obligation approved by the council earlier this month, the majority of which will be used to finance water and sewer improvements.
On a motion by Cortez, seconded by Emery, the council approved an annual contract for municipal brush pickup. Hector Barrera & Son, the company currently handling brush pickup, was the only bidder, asking for $5,225 per month.
On a motion by Emery, seconded by Precinct 4 Alderman Michael Rodriguez, the council approved a $1,000 a month increase in the amount it pays the non-profit Lytle Volunteer Fire Department to provide fire protection for the city.
Dear said the added money will allow the department to increase its budget for paid personnel.
“The department went from two paid personnel 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to three paid personnel 24/7,” Dear said.
The department also received an increase from the other entities it contracts with – Medina County Emergency Service District No. 5, Atascosa County ESD No. 1 and Bexar County ESD No. 5.
In the wake of complaints about the potential for flooding in the Lakeshore Estates development, Dear recommended that the council have an engineer review the entire drainage situation and come up with an overall fix.
“The problem is if we throw a band-aid on one thing what is the effect on others downstream,” Dear said.

Lytle approves
$8.5 million bond sale to finance water, sewer improvement

Andrew Friedman, representing SAMCO Capital Markets, reviews the details of an $8.5 million bond sale to finance water and sewer improvements with the Lytle City Council during their Monday (Sept. 12) meeting.

By Anton Riecher
The Lytle City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve the sale of $8.5 million in certificates of obligation, the majority of which will be used to finance water and sewer improvements.
On a motion by District 3 Alderman David Emery, seconded by District 2 Alderman Sam Cortez, the council voted to sell the certificates amortized over 20 years at a 3.94 percent interest rate. The sale closes on Sept. 28.
To see full video of the latest Lytle City Council session visit the Devine News channel on YouTube at
Andrew Friedman, representing SAMCO Capital Markets, the city’s financial advisor, told the aldermen that the sale required establishing a credit rating for the city.
“We went through a rating process with Standard and Poor’s,” Friedman said. “They look at not only audited financials but also want to get a sense of who Lytle, Texas, is on top of what you can read on paper.”
As a result, the city attained a strong AA- credit rating, the highest rating possible is AAA, followed by AA+, AA and AA-, Friedman said.
“When you drop below that you have to go out to pay for municipal bond insurance,” Friedman said. “We were able to avoid that.”
City Administrator Matt Dear told the council that $6.1 million of the certificate sale will go toward water system improvements, including building a water tower to feed a new looped water system. The certificates will also finance a $1.4 million sewer plant project.
Aside from utilities, $1 million will be designated for streets and sidewalks, Dear said.
A portion of the debt will be paid from the interest and sinking (I&S) portion of the city tax rate, Friedman said. However, the $7.5 million going to water and sewer improvements will be repaid from revenues generated by the city’s utility system rates.
Emery questioned Friedman about whether the debt could be refinanced if interest rates improve in the future. Friedman replied that the current rates would be “locked in” until February 2031 when the certificates can either be purchased from the investors using cash or the interest rates can be renegotiated.
In other business, the council voted to table action on proposals to address traffic issues on Lytle-Somerset Street, including the use of speed humps to slow vehicles. Dear informed the council that state law requires an official study by a traffic engineer.
Without state sanction, anyone who damages their vehicle going over a speed hump could potentially have a legal claim against the city, Dear said. In 2021, a plan calling for six speed humps and appropriate signage was estimated to cost at least $10,000, he said.
With inflation, that price is now calculated to be at least $15,500, Dear said.
A motion by District 4 Alderman Michael Rodriguez to table the matter until public sentiment about adding speed humps passed 4-1. District 5 Alderman Charles Cate, a reservist presently serving overseas, monitored the meeting by internet and voted against tabling the action.
Lake Shore Estates resident Trace Joyce once again addressed the council regarding flooding in the subdivision. Joyce reported that his home flooded in 2010 and has been threatened by rising water several times since.
Dear said he has filed a request for quotes from engineering firms in hopes to negotiate a price for the project. It is also under legal review, he said.
“Realistically, this project will probably take a year or two,” Dear said. Resolving drainage issues that stretch back to the beginning of the subdivision is not going to be cheap either.
Joyce asked if the city might have legal recourse against the engineering firm that developed the initial drainage plan for the subdivision.
Action on the item was tabled pending further research into the exact cause of the flooding.
On a motion by Emery, seconded by Rodriguez, the council voted to enter into an amended and restated solid waste contract with Waste Management, Inc., a waste and environmental services company.
Also on a motion by Emery, seconded by Cortez, the council voted to enter into a one-year extension of the CPS Energy gas systems contract.

Lytle increases rates
At the September 12 meeting, the City of Lytle voted to increase water/sewer rates. See details in public notice on page 13 this week.

Lytle approves $16.6 million budget, staff says utility rates must go up soon amidst growing city/ infrastructure projects

Today’s technology is amazing…Lytle City Administrator Matthew Dear, standing, addresses the city council Monday night, including District 5 Alderman Charles Cate who attended via internet connection (see laptop at right where he is on screen). Cate, an Air Force reservist, is currently deployed to an undisclosed location overseas, Mayor Ruben Gonzalez said.

By Anton Riecher
The Lytle City Council voted Monday to approve a proposed 2022-2023 budget of $16.6 million, not including expected federal stimulus funds.
On a motion by District 3 Alderman David Emery seconded by District 2 Alderman Sam Cortez the proposed budget was approved by a vote of 4-0. District 1 Alderman Joseph Morrow was absent from the meeting.
City Administrator Matthew Dear announced that the city’s total taxable value for the new budget year is $234.3 million. To collect the same revenue as the current year a no-new revenue tax rate of $.3443 per $100 valuation would be necessary.
“The new budget will raise $88,205 more than the current year, an 11 percent increase,” Dear said. “A lot of that is based on increased values as well as new properties added to the property roll this year.”
Under state law, the maximum tax rate the city can approve without voter consent is $.3654 per $100 valuation.
If an expected $379,885 in relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act comes through the city will show an income of $17.8 million under the proposed budget.
“We do not have that number built into the coming year’s budget because we haven’t got that money yet,” Dear said.
The biggest obligations would be $6.1 million in water system improvements, $1.4 million in sewer system improvements and $985,000 in roads and sidewalks.
To make the new city budget work, Dear warned that the council will have to increase Lytle utility rates to bring them in line with surrounding communities in the coming year. For water, Lytle residents pay $12.00 a month compared to $38.14 in Devine, $32.47 in Hondo and $30 in Castroville,
For sewer, Lytle residents pay $18 a month compared to $30 in Castroville, $27.06 in Hondo and $23.57 in Devine.
“If we’re not going to change those we might as well put the brakes on everything we’re doing,” Dear said. “Tell the developers ‘Thank you, but not today.’”
A presentation by the Finance Director LaNet Hester noted Lytle experienced a 22% growth in 2021-22 and a 28% growth is expected each year until 2025.
District 5 Alderman Charles Cate, an Air Force reservist on deployment overseas, voted for the increase via an internet connection.
The council set 2:30 p.m. Aug. 30 as the date for a council workshop on utility and inspection rates.
In other action related to taxation, the council voted to approve a tax assessment and collection contract with Atascosa County. The county will charge the city $1.50 per parcel to collect, plus 10 cents for the central appraisal district.
If the city choses a different firm to collect delinquent taxes the cost goes up an additional 10 cents per parcel. The city’s current contract for delinquent tax collection lapses at the end of this year.
The council voted to authorize the city staff to issue requests for proposals to select a consulting firm to help Lytle apply for a $500,000 Texas Community Development Block Grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture.
“We’ve been told that the two top priorities this year will be wastewater and storm water,” Dear said.
First to apply for the job was GrantWorks. Michael Place, a client services representative for the company, works with the Alamo Area Council of Governments, which includes Atascosa County, and other regional COGs in obtaining grant funds.
Part of the grant process is “pre-scoring” the cities making application, he said.
“When we come to you and say we pre-scored you (it means) you rate pretty high and there is a good chance you are going to get funding,” Place said.
GrantWorks charges on a percentage basis but only if the grant application is successful, he said. The grant application would be required to benefit a low to moderate income area. Also, the city would have to provide a current audit.
The grant would also require a two-percent match of $10,000 from the city. The motion to search for consulting help was made by Emery and seconded by District 4 Alderman Michael Rodriguez.
Regarding the recent controversy concerning the proposed 170-plus lot Lytle MHC Mobile Park, the council voted to suggest 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at the city community center as the date for a town hall meeting on the project.
“The main objective out of this meeting is to have the developer present the plans and let the community actually get an idea of what is happening,” Gonzalez said.
“Although the meeting will be posted to the city hall website the city has no plans to make any formal presentation,” Dear said.
“It’s not a city meeting,” Dear said. “We are just facilitating a location.”
Citizen voices concerns on flooding around Lake Shores
A thunderstorm raging outside city hall set the stage for one resident concerned about high water. Trace Joyce spoke during the public comment period of the council meeting to warn that recent work in the Lakeshore Drive neighborhood to add an earthen crown above a pipeline increases the risk of flooding.
“It will increase the water that is going to be held,” Joyce said. “It increases the danger of a greater overflow when it has crested and it is finally pushed out of the way.”
Mayor Ruben Gonzalez said that a new drainage study is being discussed.
Ethics Comission created
On a motion by Emery seconded by Rodriguez the council voted to create an ethics commission to establish standards of conduct for city officials who volunteer to serve as city officials.
“Council members volunteer as full-time employees,” Dear said. “This is going to set forth our ethical standards on what is expected of you.”
The ordinance creating the commission establishes requirements for such volunteers to make financial disclosures and other reporting to avoid conflict of interest.
“For example, the planning and zoning commission is all volunteer,” Dear said. “If they had a financial interest in property being zoned it is information that we as a city need to know. They need to recuse themselves from that decision.”
Step toward Ozone ordinance
The council also voted to take the first steps toward an ordinance limiting the idling of heavy vehicles for lengthy periods of time inside the city limits.
“As we continue to grow and get more gas stations along the I-35 corridor we are going to continue to get trucks that are stopping and idling all night,” Dear said. “Bexar County is probably going to become an ozone nonattainment area.”
An ozone nonattainment area is one where air quality does not meet the federal ozone standards.
“Many truckers keep their vehicles idling overnight to provide air conditioning or heat while sleeping inside. An alternative is to park at a truck stop that provides electrical hookup to keep the vehicle comfortable,” Dear said.
Emery, who made the motion supporting development of an ordinance, urged the city to reach out to local truck stops to find out what alternatives are available. The motion was seconded by Rodriguez.
Other Matters
In other matters, the council:
•Approved $700 to finance the Veterans of Foreign Wars post to cook for a Sept. 11 memorial event to honor emergency responders.
•Appointed Martha Ellis of Lytle and Wanda Eggerton, an Atascosa County resident living near Lytle, to serve on the Atascosa County Library Board.
•Nominated Evangelina DeLeon, Margaret Wilson, Robin Cantu and Barry Sanders to serve on the Annual Citizenship Award Committee.

Lytle Lady Pirates Varsity Volleyball has busy weekend at Devine Tournament

Lytle Lady Pirate Calyssa Sevier is hitting while Cadee Martinez and teammates are ready to assist.

By Noah Gilkey
The Lytle Lady Pirates travelled to Devine on Thursday the 18th to kick off their season of competition at the Devine Varsity Tournament. First up on their six game schedule were the Poteet Aggies, who they fought hard against before unfortunately coming up just short both matches. The final score of both games was 18-25, 18-25.
Leading scorers for that first game were Calyssa Servier with 3 kills, Rose Scotello with 4 aces, and Marissa Lopez with 4 assists.
Turning to their next game the Lady Pirates were eager to improve upon their last matches, and that they did by putting up a hard fight against Feast for three matches before ultimately falling to FEAST.
Leading scorers were Rose Sotello with 2 aces and blocks, Calyssa Sevier with 5 kills, Cameron Hutton with 2 solo blocks, and Alyssa Sprenger with an impressive 8 digs.
Finishing out the tournament on Saturday began for the Lady Pirates with Crystal City.

Lytle Lady Pirate Amelia Martinez sends a nice serve over.

“We made adjustments Friday during practice and prepared for the upcoming teams on Saturday,” said Coach Sam Mendez of the teams’ preparation for the second half of the tournament. “We came out with those adjustments hoping to be as competitive as possible going up against Crystal City. We put in a DS on the right side to fill in for our true RS Hitter Marissa Lopez. Amelia Martinez # 5 our DS held her own in the front row and did her job well.”
The Lady Pirates came out with the win against Crystal City. Leading the 25-21, 25-16 matches were Cameron Hutton with 7 kills, Calssa Sevier and Rose Scotello with 6 kills, Elysa Aleman with an amazing 18 assists, and Calyssa Sevier with 2 aces.
The Lady Pirates’ second match pf the day was against Fox Tech High School. Playing three matches with scores of 25-20, 23-25, and 20-25 the Lady Pirates came up just short of the win against Fox Tech.
Leading scorers for their second match were Cadee Martinez with 9 kills, Rose Scotello with 6 aces, 8 kills, and 22 assists, Marissa Lopez with 8 kills, and Alyssa Sprenger with 11 digs. Finishing up the tournament against Somerset the Lady Pirates finished strong and took the win in three matches with scores of 18-25, 25-15, and 25-16. Leading scorers for that final game were Marissa Lopez, Cadee Martinez and Rose Scotello with 2 aces, Calyssa Sevier with 9 kills, Rose Scotello with 16 assists, and Calyssa Sevier 9 digs.
Of the final results from the tournament, Head Coach Sam Mendez said, “Overall it was a good experience for the Lytle volleyball team. We made a lot of good changes. The girls are working hard and keeping their spirits high!”