Lytle cancels 4th of July event, closes park for one day

Congratulations to Officer Robison of the Lytle Police Department for his 20 years of service to the city. Also pictured are Chief Richey Priest and Mayor Mark Bowen

The City of Lytle cancelled its annual 4th of July Celebration they usually host due to the lack of fireworks and concerns of large crowds and control due to social distancing requirements since the City of Lytle is still under an Emergency Declaration due to the corona virus pandemic nationwide. The park will be closed for only one day Saturday, July 4.
The park will be open on Friday, July 3 but will be closed at dusk (between 8:30 – 9:00 p.m.). It will be closed all day and night Saturday, July 4, and reopened early Sunday morning, July 5th.
The city park is normally open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. It is open regularly now, except on holidays when specified during the pandemic.
Mayor Mark Bowen informed the council that “Our fireworks vendor couldn’t get to market due to the pandemic, so we don’t even have fireworks anyways. It’s been a challenging time for everyone, and with the social distancing, how could we do it?”
Mayor Bowen asked Police Chief Richey Priest and each councilman to give their opinion.
“It’s the biggest event we have. We used counters and counted at least 1,200 people inside the park”, said Chief Richey Priest. “And I figured we missed another 500-800 outside the park. And more further out. We had at least 1,500 two years ago. It’s a huge event yearly. The bathrooms are back open and we have new signage. Maybe for big events you might close it, but we will do whatever you want and is needed. It’s up to council, we are here to serve”.
Council members Ruben Gonzalez, Sam Cortez, and Laura Reyna felt like it might be okay to leave it open.

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“I agree with Ruben and Sam we should leave it open. I think on Memorial Day people were very disappointed it was closed. I think we allow patrons, but cancel fireworks,” said Councilwoman Reyna.
Councilman Jerry Stone felt “If we shut down the fireworks it stands to reason that we should keep shut for large occasions.”
Councilman Erik Dahler commented, “The numbers are not getting any better. To control and police crowds, we don’t have enough staff. I don’t think we should put our citizens in jeopardy. I think we should keep consistent like the other holidays.”
City Attorney Tom Cate agreed with Dahler that the park should be closed for the 4th of July.
Councilwoman Reyna had hoped to keep it open, but meet guidelines of the CDC and social distancing. “How did you close it prior?” she asked the Chief.
“It was all kinda new and the kids went ahead and just spread out. I just don’t know how we would do it, but we will do whatever. I think it is going to be hot. Could get tense if we have to tell someone with a brisket cooking on the grill they have to leave, tense moments. But we will do what you want us to do”, said Priest.
Officer Matt Dear added, “With 400-500 people, can we shut it down safely? It could be a riot with brisket on the grill and tensions high. Truthfully I don’t think we will have an issue.”
After much discussion, a Reyna-Gonzalez motion to keep the park open but cancel the fireworks failed due to a 2/3 vote with Cortez, Stone and Dahler voting no.
Dahler then made a motion to cancel for the 4th of July holiday and close the park stating he didn’t want to send out officers into a tense situation as the chief explained.
It was voted unanimously by all five council members to cancel the fireworks and to close the park for one day Saturday, July 4th with the understanding it would be open on Friday and Sunday.
New Trash bins and Recycling Center
The new garbage bins from Waste Management will be arriving in the middle of July. The new garbage program will be a big change for the garbage customers using new carts and the start of the new recycling center. They will continue to pick up bulky waste once a month.
Educating people about the new containers will be important. City Secretary Josie Campa talked with Waste Management on Tuesday after the meeting and let them know Lytle wants to start educating the public about the new garbage containers sooner than the July 1st newsletter. “He told me that he would get busy getting door hangers for putting up probably next week and that Waste Management has picked THURSDAY as the day they will be picking up garbage in Lytle when we get the new containers. Right now they pick up twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays,” said Campa.
It is hoped residents will take advantage of the new recycling center which will help save space in their new carts as each customer will only have one cart. Additional carts are available for rent as well upon request. The new carts are much larger than a regular trash can so that will help as well.
It was thought the new carts would be in place by July 1, but with the pandemic supplies have been delayed a few weeks.
The recycling center looks to be open twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It was discussed the options of hiring an employee or a contractor or using a public works employee to man the station. Waste Management will provide education for the volunteers or employees as well as material such as signage and flyers.
“I think it is important to get as much information as we can out to the public before the containers and center is open. The sooner the better,” commented Councilman Ruben Gonzalez.
Mayor Bowen volunteered to go to visit with Jourdanton and see how they operate and the costs. He would like Lytle’s Public Works Director James McGrath to go with him. Jourdanton recently added a recycling center and are going through the same things so their advice and experience would prove valuable and help answer some of the many questions council members had.
Coronavirus Relief Funds
Councilwoman Laura Reyna briefed the council on options and funds out there available to the City of Lytle through Bexar, Medina, and Atascosa Counties in Federal Grant due to the coronavirus. Some of the money could even be used to help local small businesses and non profits, not just the city.
Numbers were upwards to the tune of $131,600. Of course it would all have to be by the guidelines and documented but the applications didn’t look that hard and it would well be worth the time and effort to the city and the businesses.
More on this next week.
Reyna thinks it would be a great idea to hire someone to take care of all the details, accounting, and distribution of the money, etc. That is a lot of money Lytle will be leaving on the table if they don’t. She suggested a special meeting to go over the programs and process to get it rolling.
SA Food Bank offer
Council voted to accept the SA Food Bank’s offer to host a Food Distribution in Lytle. It was a three month commitment, and 15 volunteers. 11 pallets of food would be brought out each time to be given away. The program is free, so the City of Lytle would incur no cost.
Organizations that would like to help with the distribution are encouraged to contact the city or a council member.
Councilwoman Laura Reyna said she and her husband would help with the event. She mentioned Lytle athletics had helped with the Natalia food event and maybe they might be interested in helping with the Lytle one as well. Mayor Bowen said several non-profit groups had contacted the city earlier in the year and they might still be interested.
It was also mentioned that some money earmarked for the kids could be used to purchase some items for the kids to give away on those dates as well.

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Farmers Market Monthly
The Lytle Chamber of Commerce President Mark Lovelace is eager to get the Farmer’s Market going with the first one on Saturday, June 27 from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm in the old Mr. Pizza parking lot. Fresh produce, baked goods, jams, goodies, and handmade items will be for sale.
Hand washing stations and social distancing will be encouraged.
The program had been scheduled for an April start date but got put on hold due to the coronavirus.
The council voted to give $1,000 to the Chamber to cover a year’s worth of liability insurance for the landowner. They are going to try to have the Farmer’s Market monthly.
5 Small businesses lost
Lytle Chamber President Mark Lovelace stressed the importance of supporting local small business as Lytle has already lost five small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Small businesses are hurting. And many don’t have the relationship with the financial institutions to take advantage of the programs offered. A lot of the programs were not designed for small businesses under 15 employees,” said Lovelace.
“It is important now more than ever for our businesses to shop and support locally. It’s hard to get folks to understand how much this truly helps if they would just shop locally.”
City hiring
Full time Clerk – The City of Lytle is currently accepting applications for a full time clerk. Applications and a job description can be obtained from the City Secretary’s office at city hall. Applications will be accepted through June 30, 2020 at 5 p.m.
Full time Police Officer – The City of Lytle is currently accepting applications for the position of full time police officer. Applicants must hold a current license or be able to be licensed as a Texas Peace Officer certified by TCOLE. Applications can be obtained from the City Secretary’s office at city hall. Applications will be accepted through June 30, 2020 at 5 p.m.
Emergency Declaration extended to Sept. 1
The council voted to revise and extend the Emergency Declaration through August 31, 2020.
See the entire Ordinance No. 431 published in this week’s The Devine News for details of the entire declaration and the revisions.
By Kathleen Calame