New internet company will use water tower; food trucks, airport hangar value draws debate

By Anton Riecher
The Devine City Council voted unanimously on June 20th to allow SAGO Internet to place an antenna on the Devine Ingram water town near the golf course. The motion by Ritchey, seconded by Vega, calls for a $200 a month charge during the four-year contract.
Company owner Rodney Hitzfelder told the council that SAGO is a three-year old Internet service provider that benefited from a $700,000 grant issued through the county to expand available local Internet to national standards.
“Since then we’ve gotten eight towers up,” he said. “We’re growing very rapidly. A lot of our requests are in Devine, Natalia and Lytle.”
In the Devine area, SAGO already operates a monopole tower on Rossville Road, he said. However, because the system he offers requires line-of-sight between the tower and the client “we found a bit of an issue getting from our 100-foot tower to the other side of town.”
Hitzfelder assured the council that the five gigahertz (5G) bandwidth used by the new water tower antenna will not interfere with police communications or other remote equipment used to monitor the water level in the tower.
Short of a direct lightning strike, the SAGO antenna will not require continuing maintenance, he said. The company does not require routine access to the water tower.
“We don’t generally go to these sites once we get them up and running unless there is some type of issue,” Hitzfelder said.
In other matters, the council did take action to end paid quarantine leave for Devine employees contracting COVID. However, that action was with the exception of law enforcement personnel still under the protection of state law.
The motion by Ritchey was seconded by District 3 Council Member Stacy Pyron and adopted unanimously.
New action was taken on filling the long vacant city administrator position currently occupied by interim city administrator Dora Rodriguez. Following a closed executive session, the council voted unanimously to schedule appointments with city administrator applicants.
Ritchey, who made the motion, said that multiple applications for the opening have been received to date.
Council renews Airport mowing contract $19,200 a year on split vote

By Anton Riecher
The council also approved a contract with Joe Munoz, owner of M C Aircraft Refinishers, for mowing at the Devine Municipal Airport. Councilman Josh Ritchey was the lone opponent to renewing the annual contract which increased to $19,200 per year.
Munoz testified that the 65-acre airport sometimes requires mowing as often as five or six times a month. Of his seven employees, one is dedicated almost full time to mowing.
A monthly $100 increase requested by Munoz is to cover additional area to mow behind Hangar 10. Munoz provides his own equipment, fuel and chemicals for the airport lawn care.
Councilman Josh Ritchey asked if the contract, in place since 2018, had ever been put out for bids to guarantee a competitive rate.
Ritchey made a motion to go out for bids on mowing, but it died for lack of a second.
Debbie Randall made the motion to continue with Munoz, stating that the constant attention required by the airport grass made it impossible for city public works to keep up with, with support from Rufino Vega, Stacy Pyron, and Michael Hernandez with Ritchey voting against the action. Instead Ritchey had suggested amending the agreement to paying for each time mowed.
With regard to Munoz’ previous request in May to lease the 17,500 square-foot Hangar 10 for his business at a monthly rate of between $1,000 and $1,500 Airport Advisory Board chairman Hap Squires suggested to the council that the Texas Department of Transportation be consulted.
“What we are hoping for from them is a look at the whole airport and how best do we utilize it now that the city owns the majority of the hangars,” Squires said.
A meeting with TxDOT’s aviation division is scheduled for July 12, he said.
Mayor Cook made a presentation based on further discussion with the airport advisory board. In a sale finalized March 9 the city purchased Hangar 10, the largest hangar at the airport, for $609,000. By comparison, the purchase of hangars 8 and 8A amounted to only $165,000.
Based on the appraisal that established the sale price, Hangar 10 should be leased at 40 cents per square foot for a return of approximately $7,000 a month to the city, Cook said.
“We have a pretty large investment there and we need to proceed accordingly to get the best return possible for our investment,” Cook said.
He said it might take another month to arrive at a decision on the Munoz offer. No action on the mattter was taken at the council meeting.
Food truck debate
Renewed effort to suspend an ordinance more closely regulating food trucks and other mobile food units in favor of existing state and county statutes proved unsuccessful during the June 20 regular session of the Devine City Council.
A motion by District 4 Council Member Josh Ritchey to repeal the city’s ordinance regulating these food vendors failed for lack of a second.
“I don’t like diverting resources to this when there are two other government agencies that do this,” Ritchey said.
Filling in the background, Mayor Butch Cook said the controversy revolved around a business who has objected to the city requiring him to obtain a permit to sell from a mobile food unit.
Ritchey said the recently enacted city ordinance managed to put city staff “in a tough spot.”
“Now we are essentially requiring extra certifications for our folks to go check ‘Is this safe?’” Ritchey said. “Did we make it clear enough that the state already has requirements? If we didn’t have this ordinance we could simply refer to the state and say ‘Hey, please enforce your policy.’”
District 5 Council Member Debbie Randall countered that all the city ordinance requires is for the vendor to show copies of their state or county health certificates.
“We don’t ask for anything additional to the state or county requirements but we need to see it and make sure it’s good to go,” Randall said. “Otherwise, Mr. Policeman will go and tell them to shut down.”
Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez reported that the city currently has nine permits for mobile food units issued. Cook stated that the fee is $10 a day or $50 for a year.
“So it’s a very reasonable fee,” he said.
Jerry Stevens, owner of Charlie’s Daughter restaurant, said the city ordinance provides accountability for people doing business in Devine.
Local restaurants are required to obtain “certain permits, licenses, the things we have to have to be able to run a business and sell to the public,” Stevens said.
“If you have a vendor that comes in that may or may not have the proper permits I would be concerned about what they are selling out of their trailer,” he said. “Maybe it isn’t up to the standard it should be.”
Stevens said that he would support the need for the ordinance even if he did not have food business of his own.
Cook also said the city ordinance is important with regard to sales tax enforcement.
“Without a permit no one would know if they are charging the required tax,” he said.