Devine City Council addresses complaint, casts votes for Appraisal District Board

Code Compliance Officer Eddie Diaz updated City Council members on a complaint by Porfilio De Leon in a Special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28.
De Leon lives in the 500 block of Corley Dr., and submitted a letter of complaint to the City on Oct. 27 stating that weeds on the property behind his home were not being cut, and that the wind blew seeds from the weeds into his yard.
Diaz explained that the problematic property around De Leon’s is open acreage owned by two different people. Letters notifying one property owner that her grass needed to be cut were sent in April, August, and October, and each time she complied. Diaz said the second property owner never acted to bring her property into compliance and was issued a summons to Municipal Court. After failing to show up to court, a warrant was issued for her arrest.
“Once [Diaz] sends it to court, it’s out of his hands,” Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez said.
Mayor Bill Herring asked what the City could do, and City Attorney Tom Cate replied they had to follow the procedures in place.
“Following that procedure, there are parts of that that would allow us to go in and to mow and to place a lien on the property and to go in and remove junk cars, but it all requires due process,” Cate said. “We can’t just go over there, if somebody registers a complaint one day, go over there and mow the grass and put a lien on the property and take their junk vehicles, that’s not the way it works. So we have to give them the opportunity – again, due process – to remedy the problem themselves. If they don’t, the City can eventually do it.”
If the City determines a situation has become unsafe, they can mow or clear the property themselves a place a laborer’s lien on the property, which won’t be paid until the property is sold. The City recently mowed the lawn on a property on Hwy. 173 near Devine High School because the grass was so high it was deemed unsafe for students walking past it. If the property is too large for City workers to handle, Diaz will contract out with a company to take care of the cleanup.
De Leon’s letter Oct. 27 letter of complaint was submitted after the Regular monthly meeting held Oct.24. He submitted a second letter of complaint on Nov. 22, after his issue was not on the agenda of the Regular meeting on Nov. 21.
Rodriguez missed several weeks of work after the death of her mother, Maria Velasquez, on Nov. 4, and said that De Leon’s complaint was inadvertently missed during her time off.
De Leon twice questioned what Velasquez’s death had to do with his complaint; once to Rodriguez herself before the Nov. 21 meeting, and again in his letter of complaint on Nov. 22.
“I don’t think Eddie and Dora are doing their jobs,” De Leon said.
Herring disagreed.
“I am very upset, and I think Council is too, with your remark in this letter, and what you said verbally the other night when [Rodriguez] told you why you were not on the agenda,” Herring said. “She told you that her mother had been killed in an automobile accident, and you said it wasn’t your fault, and what’s that have to do with your job. That is very rude, and that will not be tolerated.”
De Leon repeated that he didn’t think Diaz and Rodriguez were doing their job, indicating again that Velasquez’s death was irrelevant to the address of his complaint.
“You’re going to have to live with what we just stated,” Herring said, referencing Council’s discussion of the matter previously in the meeting. “Unless [Council] makes some other motion.”
“No, not me,” De Leon replied. “I’ll repeat this – she had no right to tell me about her mother outside right there.”
Prior to the start of the Nov. 21 meeting, De Leon stopped Rodriguez outside Council chambers to inquire about why his issue wasn’t on the agenda. The conversation continued past the time the meeting was scheduled to be called to order, and Rodriguez explained that she left the discussion when De Leon brought up her mother.
“She left you when you got rude with the remark about her mother,” Herring said.
“Exactly!” De Leon said. “I did say that, and I admit it. But she had no right to tell me those words!”
“We’re getting nowhere on this,” Herring said. “Unless I have some other motion from Council, as far as I’m concerned, this is over with.”
Councilman Steve Lopez suggested that De Leon had further problems, he should speak to his representative, Councilman David Valdez.
De Leon then complained that he called Valdez several times “two or three years ago,” and that Valdez never answered his phone.
“I’m not worried about myself,” Rodriguez said. “I can take care of myself. But my staff – [De Leon’s] not going to be coming in and doing the way he’s been doing with my staff.”
“You’re not to come in here anymore and talk to the people like you’re doing now,” Herring told De Leon. “You want to talk to someone, you call down here and they will call me, or we’ll call [Valdez] and we’ll talk to you.”
“Exactly!” De Leon said. “But just tell [Rodriguez] her mother has nothing to do with her job!”
Rodriguez said the City would keep De Leon updated on the progress of dealing with the problematic properties around his home.
Councilman Cory Thompson said that when he lived in a town on the coast, that city that was known for foreclosing on properties. After doing so for several years, the town became known for being willing to foreclose, and residents responded by dealing with code compliance issues in a timely manner.
“As far as liens, the law doesn’t provide for liens on a Homestead,” Cate said.
“We’re not dealing with Homestead properties, we’re dealing with the ones on the golf course which are vacant properties, at least my district,” Thompson said. “Land that is overgrown…things like that that really are eyesores.”
Thompson said foreclosing might be costly in the short term, but if the City developed a reputation for it, it might be worth it.
“I think it’s a conversation for another meeting,” Thompson added. “Maybe after the first of the year, to give us all time to think about it. I think it would be nice to revisit at some point in the future.”
Medina County Appraisal District Board
Candidates for the 2018-2019 Medina County Appraisal District Board of Directors were Mamie Navarro, Roy Sheetz, Jeffrey Diles, Tim Hardt, and J. Gruber. The City had a total of 85 votes to cast, which could be cast for one person or split between multiple candidates.
Council had cast all 85 votes for Navarro during previous elections and did so again, unanimously approving a David Espinosa-Lopez motion to do so.
Walmart Community Grant
Rodriguez explained that the Police Department is hoping to receive $1,000 from the Walmart Community Grant in order to help provide gifts for children from economically disadvantaged children through their Silent Santa program.
A Thompson-Lopez motion to allow PD to apply for the grant passed 5-0.
Holiday banners and lights
Rodriguez informed Council that the City had purchased 25 new Christmas banners that have since been hung from power poles along Hwy. 173. The new banners replace those that have been in use since 2007, though some of those that are in good enough condition can be used elsewhere throughout the city.
“We’re asking for everybody to help light up the town,” Rodriguez said, specifically noting businesses along Hwy. 173 and Hwy. 132.
Thompson suggested reaching out to the churches alongside those highways as well.
A request for participation was also included in the City newsletter that went out with utility bills.
The meeting adjourned at 6:41 pm.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer