With agenda intended on streamlining city leadership roles, projects and procedures, the Lytle city council passed all but one tabled item during Monday night’s four and a half hour meeting.
While council voted to table the approval of the minutes from the prior meeting due to what Mayor Ruben Gonzalez described as a turnover in city hall, they did approve the newly created job descriptions for city administrator, city secretary and finance director.
Campa retires, Rios appointed
Council also acknowledged the retirement of City Secretary Josie Campa and appointed Paola Rios as her replacement.
In order to ease the city’s day to day business, council approved the addition of the city administrator as a bank signatory, and added the city secretary as a credit card carrier.
Council also approved a $1.50 an hour pay raise for employee Melinda Flores who completed employment certifications for the city’s animal control department.
Police Officer and Deputy Fire Marshal David D. Lopez also received a $1.50 hourly pay increase for completing the fire inspector course and passing the arson investigator exam in May. Police Chief and Fire Marshal Richey Priest said Lopez’s course completion is no easy feat, it required 160 hours, with 16 hours being hands-on time. Priest also said it was of great importance for the police department to build up the fire marshal program since Matthew Dear, who was the department’s assistant fire marshal, was appointed city administrator at the previous city council meeting. Priest said Lopez has been with the city for ten years and can see him staying much longer, since the city takes great care of their employees.
Lauded for maintaining the city employee’s best interest at heart, city council approved the renewal of employee insurance plans.
Delinquent tax mishap
In other efforts to correct past hinderances and create streamlined procedures, the city asked council to halt delinquent tax collections through the Law Office of Tom Cate. Dear explained that the issue is not with the law office itself, it is with the information and accounts the city was providing Cate’s office.
Referring to the mishap as a costly mistake, Dear said city employees must learn first to correctly use the tax system and update its information before relaying that information to Cate’s office for collections.
Some citizens had gotten letters stating that they were delinquent on taxes, but it was a mistake due to the system not being updated.
“The software is not 100% up to date because we weren’t doing the updating as we should,” Dear said. Dear also added that the process is going to take some time to correct.
When asked how many erroneous letters went out, Dear stated “Our staff in the last couple of weeks have identified a handful of incidents….I want to err on the side of caution before we move forward, and do what’s right for our citizens.”
Citing the ability to have smoother internal city hall operations, Hester also requested the city administrator be an additional signatory for banking and check singing needs, giving city hall three staff members with the power to move projects along. Department heads, and city secretary will be city credit card holders for purchases needed for their departments, and for city hall respectively.
Grace period for utility bills
As Lytle’s new administration works to improve its overall performance, city hall also expressed a desire to improve its relationship with city residents regarding utility billing. Finance Director LaNet Hester asked the council to adopt a short-term utility bill delinquency extension due in part to sever weather conditions and drought, asking for termination to include a 10-day grace period allowing households the opportunity to have another pay period before they pay their bill or lose services. Billing is set for the 20th of the month, but services will remain connected until the 30th of that month.
City department heads and council members shared that their electricity bills had doubled, as had bills for a local church. Between gas prices and the extreme heat driving high electric bills, Council approved the request and set September 30 as a termination date to the billing extension.
Budget workshop dates for department heads are scheduled for later than in past years due to the city being audited and its dealings with infrastructure, Dear told council. Workshop dates for department heads are set for June 29 and July 6.
Changes to City’s 4th of July celebration
On a separate measure, the VFW approached the city requesting permission to sell beer at the upcoming 4th of July event, as funds are intended to help in fundraising for a new building.
Priest’s concern was that fireworks tend to draw a larger crowd and introducing alcohol to the event would require more security as a safety measure.
Since the event will not have the free hotdog and drinks as in past years and instead include food trucks to make purchases from, crowd size is up for interpretation. However, Priest reminded council and staff that the city cannot skimp on public safety and shared that “fireworks plus beer” should not be easily dismissed. The VFW representative said the organization can probably donate $1000 for additional security. Council approved the beer sales contingent on the VFW producing proof of insurance.
City Calendar and Holidays
Considering the observation of the upcoming Juneteenth holiday, city council approved the city’s official calendar to follow the federal calendar observing holidays that land on Saturdays, on Fridays, and those that land on Sunday on the following Monday. Priest said the designation would make the police department’s work easier since the courts follow the federal holiday calendar. Hester agreed, noting banks also observe federal holidays.
Council debates changes to Rules of Procedure
The most contested item on the agenda was the hotly debated resolution regarding the adoption of rules of procedure governing city council meetings. Aldermen Charles Cate and Joseph Morrow voted to table the motion to allow for the reading of the packet that had been handed to council members before the item was presented. Aldermen Sam Cortez and Michael Rodriguez sided to move ahead with the resolution, as Davidson, Troilo, Ream and Garza (DTRG) Law Firm’s Molly Solis acting city attorney, stated the council needed to establish procedures and past ordinances could be brought up to the same procedural format, if needed. Cate stated he believed the city already had a procedural ordinance in place and requested tabling the motion to review the materials he and other members had just been handed.
The motion to table was met with opposition from Cortez and Rodriguez. With Alderman David Emery absent, the tied vote was broken by Mayor Gonzalez, who voted against tabling.
After another round of discussion including Cate stating that the new procedures kept last minute items from being added onto the agenda. Solis and Dear both expressed the need for the cutoff date for city departments to research material related to the item for presentation at city council meetings. Solis explained that once the city is done, then it gets submitted to her and she does not want to be in a position where she or the city are submitting shotty work to council because of time constraints.
Cate countered saying council should have the weekend to review materials on the agenda to be prepared for discussion of that item at council meetings.
Mayor Gonzalez called for a vote, this time to adopt the rules of procedure governing city council meetings. Cortez and Rodriguez voted to approve, with Cate and Morrow voting against. Mayor Gonzalez again broke the tie allowing the measure to pass.
No action was taken on executive session items that included an update on an employee complaint investigation and on pending litigation matters against the city.
By Alexandra Valdez