PRESIDIO — At Monday’s meeting, the Presidio City Council made some progress in many different areas, putting the city in a good position to begin the long process of finalizing next year’s budget. Mayor John Ferguson and Pro Tempore Mayor John Razo were absent from the meeting, so council member Arian Velázquez-Ornelas was chosen to preside over the short and sweet proceedings.
First on the roll: Council heard an update from Presidio County Groundwater District Chairman Trey Gerfers on a local committee formed to maximize county gains from state revolving funds dedicated to water treatment and management. Gerfers has been actively updating the Presidio County Commissioners Court since Marchbut took the time to address the concerns of South Presidio County residents during Monday’s meeting.
Councilwoman Nancy Arevalo echoed longstanding local concerns about extending the city’s water infrastructure to Las Pampas Colonia, a subdivision north of the city on Highway 67. where developers have sold land with a promise to provide utilities but have yet to deliver on that promise. Since then, residents have been hauling water to their residences, straining vehicles and roads. “There is an urgent need to have water there,” Arevalo said.
Next, the council presented a proposal from Police Chief Margarito Hernandez to fund the cost of police academy training for a promising young cadet. “We feel bad for the officers,” Hernandez said, repeating a concern he tried to impress city officials. The cadet in question hopes to become a fully certified peace officer, but cannot afford the necessary training.
Finance specialist Malynda Richardson supported the idea but suggested Hernandez contact the city’s legal counsel to clarify some issues and simulate a more specific contract. Richardson wanted assurances that if the cadet did not pass the academy, the city would not be responsible for funding his education.
Hernandez explained that police academy students undergo regular testing and are allowed a certain number of retakes, so it would be easy to track the cadet’s progress. “I like this idea,” Councilwoman Nancy Arevalo said. The Board ultimately voted to approve the funding, pending legal review of the rewritten contract.
The Council then tackled two rounds of federal grants: American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Federal State and Technology Partnership (FAST) funds. Finance Director Glorisel Muñiz made a brief presentation and submitted project orders for elements of the city’s water infrastructure to be financed with ARPA funds. Repairs to two wells will be carried out with the funds as well as an overhaul of the “main and main” system that connects to the city’s water meters.
The ARPA funds were intended to be part of the Biden administration’s broader efforts to stimulate local economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic; FAST funds, on the other hand, channel federal money to projects initiated by local economic development agencies. The City of Presidio is still in the middle of the application process, but hopes to fund projects that will benefit the city’s emergency and fire departments.
To close the meeting, the Board set a date for the next budget workshop: Saturday, August 13, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. At this meeting, Council will hear proposals from department heads regarding their financial priorities for fiscal year 2023. will be held at City Hall, and members of the public are encouraged to attend virtually to accommodate the limited space in the conference room.
Councilman Velazquez-Ornelas also assured the public that the city is accelerating its search for a new city administrator. Presidio has been without a city manager since April, when former city manager Brad Newton was fired. At the June 29 board meeting, the search was narrowed down to five candidates: Arvin Tucker of Brownsville, Daniel Bueno of Vinton, Henry Arredondo of Del Rio and Jessica Carpenter of Port Lavaca. The Presidio’s hometown candidate is Pablo Rodriguez.
Board members agreed that they were willing to devote more time and special meetings to choosing the next director. “We need a new municipal administrator by August,” tentatively promised Velazquez-Ornelas.