Natalia City Council faces issues with finances, brush pickup

The Natalia City Council addressed financial issues and problems with Republic Service’s brush pickup services at the Regular meeting held on May 20.
Fiscal Year 2018-2019 amendment
City Administrator Lisa Hernandez informed Council that Utility revenues to date were lower than anticipated.
“In the Utility Fund, we had budgeted $311,000,” Hernandez said. “Last year, our actual was $292,000. Right now, at the eight-month point, we’re at $170,000.”
Councilman Mike Fernandez said that water usage is down because rain has eased the need for residents to water lawns.
“We’re into June almost and we haven’t had a lot of hot, dry days,” Councilman Darin Frazier said. “Our water usage is going to be down the whole time. We’re going in the hole this fiscal year.”
Hernandez added that the decreased water usage would also affect sewer revenues, as that is based on consumption.
A Sam Smith-Fernandez motion to adopt an Ordinance amending the FY 2018-2019 budget passed 5-0, with Frazier, Councilwoman Selica Vera, and Councilman Chip Bluemel all voting for the measure.
Uncollectible Municipal Court receivables
Municipal Court clerk Nicole Bermea said that $905,562.20 in Municipal Court receivables issued between October 1, 2002, and September 30, 2014, were uncollectible.
Bermea said that the receivables had been through two collection agencies over the past four years, and that skip traces had been run in an attempt to locate those who owed money, but with no success.
Part of the difficulty in collecting the money stems from police procedure at that time.
“Until 2016, there were no complaints being done,” Bermea said. “A written complaint was not accompanying the citation.”
Only two of the Natalia police officers from that time are still with the department. Additionally, the statute of limitations on cases under Municipal Court jurisdiction is two years.
“So the only thing we’re left to do is to try to use a collection agency, which we’ve exhausted,” Bermea said.
A Frazier-Fernandez motion to vacate the uncollectible receivables passed 5-0.
Brush pickup
Hernandez said that she had received a number of complaints about Republic Services not picking up brush piles, even after residents had their names added to the brush pickup list.
Ruby Vera added that it’s a problem all over Natalia.
“There’s a lot of snakes, there’s a lot of rodents, and I don’t particularly care for my great-granddaughter being outside in the yard and these little things wiggling out of that fresh pile,” Vera said. “So I would ask that something be done about it, because this is part of what we pay for.”
Blake Caesar, who transitioned to Republic Services after that company bought out ACI Recycling & Disposal, asked for patience.
“I’ve been here a long time, and Republic is sticking with it,” Caesar said. “But as I’ve explained to some of you, we’re going to have little hiccups the first couple of months, and we’re facing those hiccups, and we’re working through them. So please bear with us.”
Ryan Whiteside, Republic Services’ General Manager for the San Antonio area, offered assurance that the issue would be taken care of.
“We’re going to get this resolved really fast,” Whiteside said. “You guys pay for us to pick up trash, pay for us to pick up brush, and we’re not doing it right.”
Whiteside added that he would take care of any internal communication issues within Republic Services, and make sure there were thorough checks and documentation regarding what needed to be picked up.
“When we took over ACI, we have a very strict limit on we don’t let drivers go over 60 hours into duty,” Whiteside said. “We don’t have any overweights in our trucks because it’s not safe. We value those things.
’So making sure that we’re hitting those things, we’re adding routes, and that’s why we’ve been able to catch back up. That’s why we’ve gotten better from the first month. That’s why I know really confidently that we can catch back up on this, and it’s not going to be an issue going forward.”
Additional discussion was held on whether the current system of having residents call City Hall to have their names added to the brush pickup list needed to be adjusted, but no decision on the matter was made.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer