Devine City Council discusses Municipal Airport compliance issues, postpones Go Medina County decision for third time

City Attorney Tom Cate swears in Cory Thompson as District 5 Councilman in the Devine City Council meeting held May 16.

The Devine City Council discussed Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) compliance issues at the Municipal Airport and agreed to pay Airport Manager Vickie Pumphrey a salary at the Regular meeting held last Tuesday, May 16.
Council members David Espinosa, Hal Lance, Steve Lopez, and Kathy Wilkins were all present, as were Mayor Bill Herring, Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez, and City Attorney Tom Cate.
Councilman David Valdez was also in attendance, but arrived late.
After canvassing the election returns for District 5, Cory Thompson was sworn in as the representative of that district, replacing Lance.
Lopez and Herring, whose positions were up for reelection but faced no opposition, were also sworn in for additional two-year terms.
Municipal Airport
D. Rodriguez, Airport Manager Vickie Pumphrey, and City Treasurer Denise Duffy recently attended a Texas Department of Aviation workshop, and came away with the understanding that major changes needed to be made at the Municipal Airport because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is going to start cracking down on non-compliance issues.
“There’s a lot of things now that the FAA’s going to start looking at starting in July,” D. Rodriguez said. “They’re going to look at every hangar, and we need to make sure that we are doing everything correctly.”
To make sure that the airport is in compliance, Texas Department of Aviation airport planner Megan McLellan recommended that the City hire Cleburne Airport Manager Sharlette Wright to help.
“She’s willing to come on board to help us out,” D. Rodriguez said. “She’s going to come to the airport, look at everything, and then give us everything that she has that’s making sure our airport is in compliance.”
Pumphrey added that Wright has been an airport manager for 21 years, and is a member of the Texas Airports Council.
“[Wright] is willing to lay it out and tell us what we need, how we need to fix it, and what we need to do,” Pumphrey said.
The worst-case scenario for being out of compliance could result in the City being required to pay back grants that have been received over the years.
Council voted unanimously on an Espinosa-Valdez motion to postpone hiring anyone as a consultant until D. Rodriguez returns with contractor fees.
Airport Manager salary
The City is also out of compliance because Pumphrey conducts City business but has not been compensated.
D. Rodriguez said that the position of Airport Manager has never received compensation.
The idea of waiting until the 2017-2018 fiscal year to start compensating Pumphrey was discussed, but D. Rodriguez expressed concern that waiting “could bite us.”
Cate said that the recent increase in activity at the airport made the issue more urgent.
“There’s a lot of things going on out there,” Cate said. “Last meeting Council voted to have the lease areas surveyed, and we’ve got a couple of leases out there that have changed hands recently. David Ehlinger has talked about getting fuel in at the airport, and we really need to have someone who’s involved in it on a day-to-day basis.”
Thompson pointed out that the City having an unpaid employee was problematic.
“We have to compensate her something, or else once the FAA starts really cracking down, we take a risk of really getting in trouble,” Thompson said.
A Lopez-Valdez motion to pay Pumphrey a gross sum of $150.00 per week passed 5-0.
Pumphrey will be a part-time employee and will not receive benefits.
Go Medina County
The City was first asked to join nonprofit County-wide economic development group Go Medina County in Aug. 2016, postponing the decision both then and in Sept. 2016. Medina County Judge Chris Schuchart briefed Council on the group during the March 2017 meeting.
“They’re asking us to give a yea or nay [on joining] tonight, because if we go yea, they want the next meeting over here July 13,” Herring said.
According to its website, Go Medina County’s mission is, “To promote economic growth in Medina County through the attraction of new business and industry by identifying resources (state, regional and local) that enhance economic development and the general economic well-being of the County, its businesses and residents.”
The cost to join Go Medina County is one dollar per citizen inside City limits, as per the 2010 census. Devine’s cost would be $4,350, and the money would be due in Oct. 2017, after the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year budget has gone into effect.
Hondo, Castroville, and Natalia have already joined, and government representatives from each town regularly attend the group’s bi-monthly meetings.
Representatives from Gov. Greg Abbott’s and State Representative Andrew Murr’s offices have also attended meetings.
Other partners in the organization include the Medina Healthcare System, Medina Electric Cooperative, Inc., Southwest Gulf Railroad Co., commZoom, UTSA’s South-West Texas Border Small Business Development Center Network, Security State Bank, Community National Bank, and the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG).
The Hondo and Castroville Chambers of Commerce are also members.
“How is the City going to benefit from this?” Espinosa asked.
“It’s advertising,” D. Rodriguez replied.
Lopez came out against joining.
“I hate to be the bad guy,” Lopez said, “but that’s a lot of money to invest for one year.”
Wilkins said she wasn’t very familiar with the group, and questioned how they would know if the City was getting anything out of it.
“The advertising is everything that I see that we’re going to be getting out of it,” D. Rodriguez said.
Herring suggested making the City joining Go Medina County contingent upon Medina County itself agreeing to join a TIF the City wants to institute.
“We can use that as leverage,” Herring said. “Because we can’t do that TIF by ourselves.”
Cate said that Lance Elliott of TIF Services of South Texas said the County didn’t want to join the TIF unless the value of houses built inside it was guaranteed at $300,000.
“And the problem that we have is, the area that we’re talking about is mainly commercial, and we don’t see many residential developments going in,” Cate said.
Herring asked Thompson for his thoughts, as he has experience building houses with his family’s business, G&E Custom Homes.
“We can sell between $150,000 and $250,000 all day long, but $300,000s doesn’t sell,” Thompson said. “Even on Jack Nicklaus, even in that area, it doesn’t sell, not quick enough to justify making that the bottom line for the TIF.”
An Espinosa-Thompson motion to postpone making a decision until Herring, D. Rodriguez, and Cate spoke to Schuchart passed 5-0.
The issue was on the agenda again at a Special meeting scheduled for press day, Tuesday, May 23.
Bright Dr. parking lot damage
The City recently contracted Maldonado Construction to replace a broken sidewalk on Bright Dr. During construction, a parking lot owned by Maria Rodriguez of MROD Co., LLC, was damaged.
“The reason why I’m here is as a contractor, in any city work that I’ve done in the past, I have to provide a certificate of insurance to cover any damages or any liabilities that my company has,” M. Rodriguez said. “I have pictures of [Maldonado Construction’s] skid steer just breaking away on the asphalt that was there, and I cannot lease this building without liability on my end. I’m here to ask that the general contractor comes back and does a soft cut and fill in what has been damaged.”
Cate said that the City needed to notify its insurance company about the issue and present it to Maldonado Construction.
An Espinosa-Thompson motion to table the item until Maldonado Construction and the insurance company had been notified passed 4-0.
Jack Nicklaus Dr. repair
Carolyn White requested that the City repair a section of Jack Nicklaus Dr. in front of her house.
“This consists of hiring a contractor to come in and do that section in front of her place that has a low spot on the street itself,” Public Works Director Ismael Carrillo said, explaining that the City lacks the needed equipment.
City Engineer Raul Garcia of Garcia & Wright Consulting Engineers, Inc., estimated that the requested repairs would be around $9,000.
Mary Jane Balderrama, who also lives on Jack Nicklaus Dr., addressed Council regarding the possible repair.
“So what reason has she given good enough for her to fix her spot if we’re not going to fix all of Jack Nicklaus?” Balderrama asked.
Herring explained that he, Garcia, Carrillo, D. Rodriguez, and Public Works Superintendent Rob Flores had all examined the area in question after White’s request, and determined that it needed to be fixed.
“Okay, well I’ll put my name down next week,” Balderrama said.
“Be sure and turn in your request to your new City Alderman,” Herring replied, referencing Thompson.
Herring went on to explain that each June, Carrillo and Flores present Council with a list of streets that need to be paved, and each Council member decides which ones are the priorities in their district.
A Thompson-Espinosa motion to put this section of Jack Nicklaus on the list of streets to be repaired passed 4-0.
The meeting adjourned at 7:00 pm.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer