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Council discusses budget changes


La Vernia City Council members and city employees continue to discuss budget changes for the upcoming fiscal year.
During the July 28 budget workshop, Mayor Harold Schott, councilmen Bobby Richter, Brad Beck, Randy Leonard, Eloi Cormier, and Marie Gerlich, City Secretary Angela Cantu, Code Enforcement Officer Janet Thelen, Director of Public Works Richard Fryer, and Police Chief Bobby Hyatt discussed possible changes to the budget.
A topic discussed in depth was the city sewer plant operation. Gerlich asked if it would be more prudent to hire someone locally to take care of the operation, as opposed to the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), which funded the infrastructure.
“The stipulation on the sewer plant was as long as we owe them money, we have to allow them to keep taking care of it themselves,” Schott said.
The mayor also said he doesn’t know if the city could hire a person to maintain the sewer plant for any less than what it pays now.
According to Schott, the city also receives some benefits from the river authority while it maintains the sewer plant.
Beck said that it’s possible the city may not lose the benefits from SARA if it wants to modify the agreement with the river authority and allow someone else to maintain the sewer plant.
The mayor said he’s never heard any complaints about SARA operating the plant.
“They do a good job and I think it’s money well-spent,” he said.
Also addressed was compensating the public works employees for their time on-call and the use of their own vehicles to respond to calls.
The current payment is time-and-a-half for responding to calls.
According to Fryer, the public works department has been busier than normal. Schott agreed, noting the number of events taking place in the park and the extra upkeep needed for the park’s restrooms and garbage removal.
Fryer said every weekend there is a public works employee on call to fix any problems that occur.
Leonard suggested that employees be paid for eight hours for the whole weekend they are on call, plus their hourly rate when they are called out on a job.
“They need to be compensated for having to stay at home,” he said.
The mayor suggested paying two hours minimum for each call-out, and then per hour if the job takes longer.
The council agreed to table the discussion.
Another priority for the city is municipal wells. The mayor said drillers are lined up for mid-September.
“There’s a possibility to be making our own water for half this fiscal year,” Schott said.
The council also discussed performance evaluations and new job descriptions for city employees, and the purchase of a Bobcat and/or Gator for use in the city park.
There are still blanks to fill in on the city budget. Budget workshops will continue; dates have yet to be confirmed.

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