By Anton Riecher
The Lytle City Council voted 4-0 on Oct. 11 to formally adopt a proposed 2022-2023 budget of $16.7 million. The vote made official a preliminary vote on the budget taken Sept. 26.
As with the Sept. 26 meeting, the vote followed a brief public hearing at which no local residents took the opportunity to speak. Mayor Ruben Gonzalez asked audience members waiting to discuss other items if they wished to comment on the budget.
“I’d like to open it up,” Gonzalez said. “No one has signed up for that one but I still want to see if anyone has any comments.”
After a one-minute wait, the council closed the public hearing and, on a motion by District 3 Alderman David Emery, seconded by District 4 Alderman Michael Rodriguez, voted to approve the new budget. District 5 Alderman Charles Cate, a reservist deployed on active duty, was unable to monitor the council meeting by Internet as ususal.
Drawing more debate was action on a new ordinance to limit the idling of heavy-duty vehicles within the city limits. The council has previously directed city attorney Jessie Lopez prepare such an ordinance by reviewing examples such as a similar ordinance in San Antonio.
The ordinance proposed for Lytle regulates the period of time that truckers can idle without the risk of police issuing a citation. Such vehicles would not be allowed to idle more than five minutes unless some special exception is met.
Lopez said the proposed city ordinance would be a little less strict than the state’s own Locally Enforced Motor Vehicle Idling Limitation rule. It lists special exceptions involving operating in a school zone, near a hospital or in a residential neighborhood.
“I recommend we stick to our own ordinance rather than accept the state ordinance,” Mayor Gonzalez said.
However, Lytle Police Chief Richard Priest said the new ordinance would be difficult for officers to enforce.
“How do you spot vehicles that are just idling?” he said.
The issue came to the forefront in Lytle with the new truck stop opening soon that will be offering nearly 70 parking spaces for truckers who would not be permitted to idle their trucks while sleeping inside.
On a motion by Emery seconded by District 2 Alderman Sam Cortez the council approved the new ordinance.
In other action, the council voted to annex a four-acre tract of land that will serve as parking space for the new truck stop near the southeast corner of the Interstate 35 frontage road and FM 3175.
City Administrator Matthew Dear explained that the owners discovered when attempting to file their final plat with the county that the city’s proposed annexation of the property about a year ago had never been properly completed.
As with the city budget public hearing, the hearing scheduled to complete the annexation process drew no comment from local residents.
Annexation also proved to be a thorny issue with regard to granting an easement for the installation of a water line on the east side of McCoy Lane. Dear explained that city staff thought McCoy Lane was in the county. However, county officials claim the opposite is true.
Under state law, when the city originally took the easement in 2006 it also acquired the road and the easement on the opposite side as well, Dear said.
Now for the property owner to install the needed water line, it will require a permit from the city, Dear said. On a motion by Emery, seconded by Cortez, the council voted to grant the permit.
Despite the lack of comment during the public hearings the council did hear from one local resident during the session – Maria Gonzalez. Her concern involved parking near her home at 19329 S. Somerset Street.
Priest explained that the parking issues involve two local businesses operating near her home without parking space of their own. Instead, customers often park on the public easement near Gonzalez’ home, causing congestion problems.
Dear said he had conferred with police and code enforcement but that as long as the parking is done on the public easement the city has no recourse. He recommended that Gonzalez obtain the official survey for her property to determine if her property rights are being violated.
In other action, Dear updated the council on the status of obtaining city files from previous city attorney Tom P. Cate who was replaced by Lopez last May.
“We are still trying to see where we are on obtaining whatever city files our previous city attorney has that our current city attorney needs,” Dear said.
A hectic tax season has made it difficult to coordinate obtaining the files, Dear said. Also, the amount of files involved could range from everything for the last 10 years to just those files regarding pending cases still open.
Emery asked if the city did not have copies of any material that the previous attorney may have. Lopez said that since nearly 30 years of documents may be involved it is difficult to say if duplicates of everything exist.
“Anything that is a matter of record needs to be with the city,” Mayor Gonzalez said. No action was taken on the matter.
Another issue open to a wide range of opinion was interest in Atascosa County to use hotel occupancy tax money collected by the cities to support either a convention center or a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association arena near the county seat.
Dear reported to the council that Lytle has been mentioned as a location for the proposed facilities “but I can tell you it was not the number one place that three of the entities wanted.”
The city administrator said he could not view investing local hotel occupancy tax revenue in such a project favorably.
“It’s a hard sell for me to come to the city and say ‘Hey, I think we should send our hard earned tax money to the other side of the county and help support this project when it will not support any of our local tourism,’” Dear said.
Without Lytle’s participation, the other entities will not be able to support the sale of bonds to fund the project, he said.
By Anton Riecher