Sports complex leases hot topic at Natalia City Council meeting

The Natalia City Council tackled leases of the City-owned baseball and softball fields and heard a positive audit report during its Regular meeting on October 18.
Natalia Veterans Sportsplex leases
Council unanimously approved a lease agreement between the City and Edward Castro for use of the baseball/softball fields, and postponed consideration of a lease agreement between the City and the Natalia Little League for use of the same facility.
During the period of his lease, Castro will be responsible for maintaining the fields and paying the electric bill. He will also be charged $600 for every tournament held at the facility because he is operating as a private individual rather than a non-profit like Little League.
Castro will also be responsible for informing Natalia Police Chief Valerie Naff about tournaments and arranging for security.
The fields will be available for public use, including team practices, outside of scheduled tournaments.
A motion by Councilmen Darin Frazier and Sam “Chip” Bluemel to approve the lease agreement with Castro passed 4-0 with support from Councilman Mike Fernandez and Councilwoman Selica Vera. Councilman Sam Smith was absent.
The decision on whether to approve a lease agreement with the Natalia Little League was unanimously postponed following discussion with NLL President Jaime Gomez regarding billing and proof of the NLL’s solvency and ability to pay bills.
Under previous leadership, the NLL neglected to pay the Sportsplex’s electric bill, leaving the City with an unexpected bill and forcing it to pay thousands of dollars to settle the account. A clause was then added to the lease agreement with the NLL, stating that the organization must provide the City with a monthly bank statement to prove its solvency and ability to pay its bills.
“From day one, right when I took over, it’s been an issue,” Gomez said, citing dumpster and security fees as well as complaints about the upkeep of the fields. “Every time I come here it’s an issue.”
The NLL recently paid the Sportsplex’s electric bill after falling two months behind, and according to Council, does not regularly provide the City with a bank statement as required by contract.
“You always pay your bills late,” Mayor Tommy Ortiz said. “Not only this past year, it’s happened over and over, sometimes it’s gone out to three or four months.
“All we’re asking – and we’ve told you before – we could care less what you have in your bank account. But we have to account – in case we’re asked, we have to answer – yes, they have money to cover [their bills].”
Vera echoed Ortiz’s thoughts.
“We’ve asked it year after year,” Vera said. “Just provide the copy of the bank statement. We haven’t been getting it.”
“For what purpose?” Gomez asked.
A short argument ensued, and a Frazier-Fernandez motion to table a lease agreement with the NLL passed 4-0.

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The City received an unmodified opinion on its Fiscal Year 2019-2020 audit, the highest mark that can be given.
Wayne Beyer of Beyer & Associates performed the audit and reported its results, describing it as a bird’s eye view of the City’s finances over the past year.
The General Fund had a net positive growth of $72,250 and an ending equity of $144,943.
“If you compare that ending figure, $144,943, to your expenditures last year of $559,244, it comes out to about 25 percent, and that’s what we want,” Beyer said.
The Natalia Municipal Development District had an ending reserve of $236,677, which Beyer described as “a very healthy-looking figure.”
On the Utility side, Beyer said the City has $117,078 in unrestricted equity, an increase of around $30,000 from the previous fiscal year.
In addition, the Utility fund has $166,716 in current assets versus $76,211 in liabilities, just over a two-to-one ratio.
However, the Utility fund had an operating loss of $51,055, following a $58,088 loss the prior fiscal year.
“I’m not sure how y’all view going up on [utility] rates, but might want to maybe start thinking about that,” Beyer said.
Other business
Council unanimously approved nominating Cindy Segovia for a position on the Medina County Appraisal District Board of Directors, a position she currently holds; amended Section 8-55 Business Permits of the Code of Ordinances to establish a late fee; and approved an agreement with TxDot regarding the maintenance and control of state highways within the City limits. Responsibilities regarding Hwy. 132 did not change.
One new full-time police officer and three reserve officers were introduced and sworn in. Council later unanimously declined to approve an ordinance expanding the number of the City’s police officers.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer