The San Marcos City Council held a special meeting last night. Council members Pam Couch and Daniel Guerrero were absent from the meeting. The presentation of the update and council discussion of the Sustainable Green Energy Team (SGET) dominated the agenda taking up an hour and fifteen minutes.
Richard Mendoza of the Public Works department, presented the update on the work of the SGET. Mendoza related that the team was created in response to a city council workshop on October 22, 2007. At the workshop, the council directed staff to: develop a citizen energy policy survey and an internal department survey, conduct a city facilities energy/resource utilization audit, i.e. the city government’s carbon footprint, research existing municipal energy policies, and draft a “straw Man” i.e. laundry list of sustainable energy policies. The city audit was designed to establish benchmark measures of energy use.
Mendoza explained that to accomplish the council’s goals, two city staff teams were established: an executive team which was charged with setting the goals and objectives for the energy working team and to review and evaluate research and draft reports and provide feedback to the working team and a working team which conducted research on green/sustainable energy initiatives and draft survey instruments, policy and an audit. Mendoza is serving on both teams.
The Working Energy Team was assigned four tasks. Richard Mendoza and David MacMillan were in charge of drafting a citizen energy survey. Jan Klein and Oscar Hairell were in charge of developing an internal department energy survey. Steve Sands and Chance Sparks were in charge of drafting a city energy policy and Ken Claybourn and Kyle Dicke were in charge of conducting a city facilities electric and water use audit.
Mr. Mendoza informed the council that a draft citizen energy survey had been completed and had been reviewed by Dr. Hassan Tajalli, associate professor of political science at Texas State University. The survey has forty nine (49) questions and was organized in four major categories: saving energy, conserving water, transportation and clean air, material resources efficiency and recycling.
A draft internal departments energy survey has also been completed. It is organized into five (5) major categories: energy management, water management, transportation & clean air, materials and resource efficiency, and land use management.
Mr. Mendoza also informed the council that a draft city sustainability policy had been completed. The proposed policy contains eighty (80) separate initiatives and is organized into seven (7) major categories: land use management, urban forestry and water quality; transportation planning and clean air; green power and energy efficiency; green building; water and waste-water management; recycling and waste reduction; and education and outreach.
Mendoza reported that the city’s facilities electric and water audit is still being worked on. Mendoza next provided council with a proposed project schedule and requested council direction on six (6) items. Mendoza asked for council direction on the citizen survey, means by which survey would be conducted, the internal department survey, replacing “green” with “sustainability” in this project’s title, potential calender for additional public meetings and approval of project schedule.
Most of the council discussion concerned the citizen survey. The council expressed concern over the wording of the survey and how it would be conducted. The survey draft in the council’s packet was not the latest version of the survey. The latest draft had dealt with many of the same concerns as the council’s. The staff assured the council that it was reviewing how the survey would be conducted.
The council also discussed the timing of any additional public meetings. Council member Porterfield suggested not holding any public meeting in the summer but instead hold it no earlier than September so that university students would be able to participate.
The council agreed to have the staff proceed with the citizen survey keeping in mind the council’s concern over question wording and the conducting of the survey. The council also directed staff to proceed with the internal department survey and approved the “sustainability” name change. The council decided to hold a public meeting in September and held off on approving the project schedule. The council also decided to keep a budget line item for energy conservation to carry over into the 2008-2009 municipal budget. The council had allocated $250,000 for energy conservation and the city had spent approximately $25,000 of that total.
The council then turned to its other agenda items. Chance Sparks, senior planner, presented a draft downtown master plan which includes a marketing analysis.
Council member Bose moved and council member Thomaides seconded council approval of a resolution approving an Inter-local Agreement between the City of San Marcos and Hays County regarding the improvement of McCarty Lane and the future completion of Loop 110. The cost of the improvements is estimated to be $10 million. Council member Jones expressed his hope that the county and state governments would recognize these proposed McCarty Lane improvements as contributions to the proposed Loop 110. Mayor Narvaiz said that the Hays County Commissioners Court unanimously passed putting a Loop 110 bond on the November ballot. City staff said that the city will get the approval of TXDot for this project. If these improvements are accepted as being part of Loop 110 then the city will be eligible for reimbursement. The resolution passed unanimously.
The council dealt with two other items quickly. The council approved $25,000 to fund a request from Rail Relo Now! for lobbying. The council approved the transfer unanimously. The council also tabled a discussion on the city’s Beautification Committee.
The Council discussed adopting a resolution recommending three priority transportation projects to Hays County to be included on the November 2008 Transportation Bond Election ballot. Ted Marchut, chair of the city’s Transportation Advisory Board, (TAB), spoke about the board’s discussions and recommendations. The TAB had recommended Loop 110, Hunter Road widening from Bishop Street to Wonder World Drive, and Post Road widening. The TAB recommendations were made before Hays County Commissioner’s Court had acted on Loop 110. Mr. Marchut discussed other transportation projects that had been of some interest to the board. The council unanimously approved it’s three transportation priorities as widening Hunter Road from Bishop to Wonder World Drive, widening Post Road, and improving Ranch Road 12 from Holland Street to the proposed intersection with the Wonder World Drive extension, including bicycle and pedestrian paths.
Finally, the council unanimously approved an employment agreement with Rick Menchaca for the position of city manager. The contract is for one year. The yearly salary is $170,000 with a $500 per month car allowance. Up to $8,000 is set aside for reimbursement for moving costs and there is a temporary housing stipend of $2,000 per month for three (3) months. There is also a six month severance agreement. After council approved the contract, Mr Manchaca spoke briefly to the council. He thanked the council for its consideration and said San Marcos was “poised for such greatness.” Mr Manchaca starts his duties today.
The next meeting of the city council is scheduled for April 8.
By ED MIHALKANIN, Ph.D