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Council Approves $1.6 Million Loan for Public Works, F.D. Vehicles and Equipment

It took awhile, but after hours of discussion the Van Alstyne City Council narrowly approved more than $1.5 million in public works vehicles, new equipment and emergency services vehicles for the city.

The big ticket item — relatively speaking — on the Tuesday night agenda was $973,083.20 in vehicles and equipment for the city’s public works department. Public Works Director Steve White explained to the council that $519,000 of the loan amount was for water system maintenance and program items with just over $400,000 slotted for new vehicles and equipment. The list of equipment and programs for the department include: a gooseneck trailer, sewer cleaner jetter, push camera trailer, trench shoring, confine space equipment, push camera, traffic safety equipment, zero turn equipment, skid steer loader, mini excavator, concrete saw, Scad control system, booster pups, aerator gear and motors, RAS pump, water meters and the repair of Well No. 6, which is currently down. The vehicle list includes: one 2014 Ram 3500 4x2 and two 2014 Ram 2500 4x4s with optional accessories.

Alderman Jim Smith questioned White, stating that he was against spending nearly $1 million all at once though new equipment is necessary and that the city could not afford to do so.

“I think it is dangerous to spend $1 million all at one time,” said Smith.

Smith told White that he respects him and the job he is doing but suggested parceling out the debt in $375,000 increments.

White justified the need to spend this money all at once by going down the list of items and the problems with the current system. He stated that the Scada system, for instance, controls the city’s water system but that it is so old that software updates can no longer be had and that it has gone down twice already in the past year and this could eventually mean a complete shutdown of the city’s water system. He discussed his department’s playing catch-up with old systems experiencing numerous problems and the need to spend thousands on rental equipment for needed repairs in addition to possible Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fines for substandard systems.

Alderman Kaaren Teuber expressed her opposition to the loan stating that the public works department currently has less than 30 days reserve capital. She also stated that she believed this should be paid out in $250,000 increments.

“We can’t afford this; there is just no way we can pay for this,” said Teuber.

Marti Sauls, representing the lender — Government Capital Corporation (GCC) — was present at the meeting and was at one point asked if GCC was concerned about the amount of debt the city would incur with this loan or if it would affect the ability of the city to take out loans in the future should the need arise.

“We’re not in the business of lending money to people who can’t pay it back,” stated Sauls.

Eventually, the item was called and passed by a 3-2 vote with Billy Plake, Russell Moore and Robert Jaska voting to authorize City Manager Frank Baker to execute the contract for the loan and Smith and Teuber voting against.

The terms of the loan are seven years on all vehicles and 10 years on equipment at an interest rate of 3.115 percent and 3.185 percent, respectively.

Coming after this vote was a similar item regarding a $675,000 loan for the fire department. This loan package includes $400,000 for a new fire engine and $275,000 for a new ambulance, command vehicle, cot and equipment. Fire Chief Landon Smith explained that the new engine would replace the current Engine 1 which is 10 years old and no longer meets standards. He also stated that the city is currently operating with just one of its three ambulances due to various mechanical difficulties and that the city has lost out on $50,000 in ambulance revenue as a result.

“These trucks are old, they’re worn out,” said Landon Smith.

Chief Smith fielded questions from Council pertaining to the need for the new equipment with Teuber, in particular, questioning the need for a command vehicle. Additionally, Alderman Smith queried the chief on the department’s revenues being 12 percent down from projected budget amounts.

Ultimately, Council voted 3-2 to authorize the city manager to execute the loan contract, again with GCC. Jaska, Moore and Plake voted for and Smith and Teuber voted against.

Terms on this loan are five years on the ambulance and equipment and 10 years on the fire engine.

One other agenda item brokering discussion was submitted by Plake in regards to implementation of procedure for the distribution of council packets. This was a variation on an earlier agenda item submitted by former alderman John Jennings. Plake’s item was requesting a submission deadline five days earlier to give council and staff more time to review items. Mayor Teddie Ann Salmon and Teuber stated that they felt that moving the date to five days earlier penalized citizens. The item failed to pass with a 3-2 vote with Teuber, Smith and Robert Jaska voting to keep the current deadline of noon on the Friday before the monthly council meeting.

MEETING NOTES: Council approved an amendment of utility bill credits. After a flaw was discovered in the formula to tally water rate refunds erroneously collected a new formula and amount ($50,756.05 total) was approved in a 5-0 vote…A request to abandon an alleyway at E. Jefferson and Sherman St. was approved unanimously…Facilities usage fees proposed by the Parks & Recreation Board were tabled and will be on next month’s agenda…Council voted 5-0 to to have the city initiate an amendment to the planned development regarding double fencing standards. Those standards will be the subject of future public hearings.