By Gilda Morales
The Van Horn City Council met in regular session Tuesday night and were feted with good news throughout the meeting from department heads in attendance. Chief Financial Director Jodi Corrales reported that at the end of the fiscal year which ended in March, every account and department had very healthy fund balances and that $150,000 had gone into the reserve account even after paying all bills.
City Administrator Fran Malafronte told Council that Saldivar Electric had completed their work on bringing the three-phase electrical system that powers the Courthouse well, to code. This is part of the infrastructure improvement plan that the City is implementing to insure that residents have minimal disruptions in their water sources.
Council members then heard from Edward Torres, Gas Department Manager, who gave a glowing progress report from the Railroad Commission on infrastructure improvements required of rural areas. Torres stated that although the gas department is only required to replace two miles of steel pipe with PVC, 4 ½ miles were replaced. He also reported that the city had received a $25,000 credit from West Texas Gas after replacing a faulty meter on their end.
Mr. Torres told the council that the Sand Plant is running at full capacity and purchasing upwards of $97,000 worth of gas and plans are in the works to add a second burner at the plant. Torres stated that the gas company is not having any problems keeping up with the demand and that a second burner for the Sand Plant would not be an issue. Torres also gave a positive report on the replacement of lines in the Lobo area, stating that his crew is steadily catching up on repairs and replacements and should be in good shape by the next audit.
Mr. Torres then turned his attention to the required DIG 411 program which requires that all residents in the county be advised to call 411 prior to digging to prevent hitting a gas line. To that end, it was decided to mail out notices to all residents and to consider other methods of getting the word out and to get surveys back to the city as required.
Ms. Malafronte reported that new, plug-in CO2 meters would be available to residents at no cost, with the last meters being given out approximately two years ago. She stated that these meters would not require installation beyond plugging them in. Malafronte then presented a report provided by Jamie Hudson on the progress on testing and repairing hydrants in town as well as disposing of old transformers. Hudson also made a recommendation to council to apply up to another 50 gallons of epoxy to the water tank at the water department tank, to completely seal the remaining small leak until the new tank construction can be completed. Malafronte reported that she and Hudson have also been looking into a liner for the tank, which would last for up to 25 years, making the old tank a backup if needed.
Council also heard a request from High Point Soil and Conservation District for a financial contribution but decided not to contribute since that has been the practice. Aldermen also heard from Malafronte of the nearing completion of a new website for the Town of Van Horn which would allow residents to pay their bills online, access forms and leave comments. There would also be a feature to allow local business to advertise on the site, offsetting the cost of maintaining the website. Brenda Hinojos and Becca Mendias, city employees, would be the webmasters.
In other matters, council unanimously approved a bid and payment for two long-range access points for better WI-FI reception at the convention center and an Optima business projector and installation at a cost of $3,713 to ZAP’D IT.
Before adjourning, council heard more good news from City Administrator Malafronte, who gave council an update on reopening the local landfill. According to Malafronte, TCEQ gave notice that they had received and were reviewing the final application after resolving concerns on the gatehouse, fencing and finalizing the deed with the Lipsey family. Malafronte reported that the final permit would be coming in the near future. She also reported that Grantworks had obtained funding for the purchase of three, gas-powered generators which would enable the town’s water pumps to continue pumping in case of power outages, ensuring that residents would have plenty of water. Malafronte also reported that she has been in contact with El Paso Electric, who will be donating a larger generator for the convention center to provide power for those on oxygen and in emergencies.