City council members have again raised questions about why the city borrowed money years ago for projects that have yet to be started.
The discussion began when City Manager Matt Wojnowski presented Del Rio City Council members with a capital projects update during the council’s Nov. 10 meeting.
Wojnowski began his update by thanking city staff members for their work on the update. He noted since he became city manager, the city’s capital improvements plan (CIP) has been updated every six months.
Wojnowski told the council in the future, he plans to present a capital projects update every quarter.
The list of ongoing capital projects were included as part of the council’s agenda packet and grouped by department: water, wastewater, natural gas, refuse/landfill, international bridge, streets, public safety, facilities, parks and golf course, transportation and international airport.
After Wojnowski’s remarks, Mayor Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano asked the council members if they had any questions.
Councilwoman Diana Bejarano Salgado asked about drainage and flood control projects.
“God knows, we’ve got a lot of problems there,” she said.
“We do have a list of projects. Most of them are over this funding amount (allocated), so what we’d like to do is go through and see what flood control projects we can do with the funding we have available at this time,” Wojnowski said.
“Okay, because I’d really like to see something done about the flood control,” Salgado said.
The councilwoman also asked about street work that will needed as part of a major sewer line project planned for the city’s north side.
“What street or streets are affected by this project?” Salgado asked.
“I know they’re at about 60 percent on the design for the (sewer line) project. I don’t know exactly which streets. I know a lot of them will be the north side and around the airport,” Wojnowski replied and asked City Utilities Director Matt Evans to elaborate.
“It’s going to be a number of streets. To name any specific street is a little premature, I believe,” Evans said.
Salgado asked that as soon as the information is available, it be provided to the council, and Evans assured her it would be.
Salgado also asked about a planned assessment of the air conditioning units for the Kennedy Room the Del Rio Civic Center.
“We’ve gone several years without being able to generate any monies from the Kennedy Room, and that was because of the mold damage that we had there, extensive mold damage, and at one point they were replacing the floor and painting the walls when the (mold) problem was still there, so I’m curious if it has been determined that it’s the air conditioning that is continuing to cause the problem, how long does it take to do the assessment, and why hasn’t it been done?” she asked.
“This is something that’s been going back and forth. With the different changes in personnel, this project gets started, and it doesn’t get finalized, but right now we are trying to move this forward and trying to get an assessment. Again, we’ve had different opinions throughout the years, but currently we are moving forward to try and get this resolved as soon as possible,” Assistant City Manager Manuel Chavez answered
“So right now we are trying ... to obtain an assessment to help us move forward,” Chavez added.
Councilman Jim DeReus said some of the projects listed in the update “show that we haven’t spent any money on these projects in four or five years.”
“And this whole time, we’re paying interest, like the new City Hall project, 2016 CO (certificate of obligation), with $700,000 outstanding, and there’s not a single expense showing. I realize we have staff turnover, but we have to have a process in place, so when we have staff turnover, these projects don’t fall by the wayside and then we have to start from scratch. We are paying interest on all this money, and we borrowed it for specific reasons, and that is to use it,” DeReus said.
“It doesn’t make any sense that we haven’t had a single outlay toward a number of these projects in three to four to five years,” the councilman added.
Wojnowski said he wanted to clarify that when council looked at the year columns.
“Yes, I wholeheartedly agree, and that’s the effort to updating (the council on projects) every six months and now on a quarterly basis. We’ve known that, and that’s why we didn’t issue any COs in this current budget year. We, for lack of a better term, had borrowed maybe too early or taken on too much at once, and my efforts here are to do that exactly, to spend it as we said we would, and as quickly as we officially can. I am making efforts to remedy that,” Wojnowski said.
“My last comment is that I agree that it looks like on some of these projects we borrowed earlier than we needed to, because we just haven’t spent it, and so, as part of our CIP planning process going forward, we need to make sure if we are going to borrow it, we’re ready to start executing in a reasonable time,” DeReus said.
Lozano said he, too, hoped the council and city staff would “concentrate on drainage and flood control” projects and identify some upcoming projects.