San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

December 1st, 2009
Council to look at police, fire contracts


San Marcos City Councilmembers could be voting on close $3 million of expenditures in the next three years when they decide whether to accept collectively bargained agreements with their police and firefighters Tuesday night.

The police agreement hit a snag last month when the council asked for a provision to re-open the deal if the city is unable to make the funding provisions. The funding provision at the end of the contract said the agreement is “null and void in its entirety” if the city fails to appropriate the funds “sufficient to meet city obligations hereunder.”

The agreement going before the city council night includes the following language:

“In making funding determinations in the second and subsequent fiscal years of this Agreement following ratification, the City Council may consider operational and administrative costs including its debt service obligations, the increases in other employee personnel costs, and the obligations arising under this Agreement. If at any time it is determined by the City that it would not be able to meet its financial obligations hereunder after considering the above factors, the Association and the City may mutually agree to renegotiate the financial provisions of this Agreement. If sixty (60) calendar days after these negotiations begin, no agreement has been reached; this Agreement shall terminate and be null and void in its entirety. In the event the City Council fails to appropriate funds in any fiscal year of this Agreement in an amount sufficient to meet the City obligations hereunder, this agreement shall terminate and shall be null and void in its entirety on the first date that such funding is not met pursuant to this Agreement.”

The same language is contained in a proposed agreement with the city firefighters, which will go before the council for the first time Tuesday night.

The police negotiated with the city through the San Marcos Police Officers Association (SMPOA). The firefighters negotiated through the San Marcos Professional Fire Fighters Association (SMPFFA).

The two deals include many of the same features, including step and “soft pay” increases in the first year, with those increases and scale increases included in the second and third years. Each contract also calls for longevity incentives and leave pools so members can do association work.

Each contract is for three years.

However, unlike the police contract, for which councilmembers were provided detailed information showing that the deal would cost $1.8 million over three years, the fire fighters agreement has no such information attached. Thus, the true cost of the deal is unknown to councilmembers as they approach the vote.

The city staff information for the council said the police contract would call for $209,000 in the first year of the contract, while the firefighters contract would call for $118,000 in the first year.

Among other matters, the council also will look at a development agreement with Craddock Area Partners, LLC, for about 150 acres along the Craddock Road extension at the Wonder World Drive extension.

The developers wish to build a mixed use project over the land, some of which is in the city limits and much of which is over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.

According to a proposed resolution, “The proposed agreement permits more dense development along the Craddock Avenue extension in exchange for much less density in those areas of the property that lie over sensitive environmental features.”

The item is on the consent agenda, which means it may pass without a council discussion. The matter has not gone before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).

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15 thoughts on “Council to look at police, fire contracts

  1. All together again, one more time… Circumvent the decent and orderly process in order to facilitate a “wonderful deal.” The public, nor anybody experienced in land use matters, has any cause to meddle, even if there have to be considerations, exceptions, incentives, flaws, variances–not to mention environmental due diligence on the part of both the applicant AND the erstwhile fierce protector of the public interest. Slicker that way.

    The County is mostly inert on such goings-on in the City or its ETJ. The P&Z, which is the public forum for scrutinizing what is (in this case, literally) going to crawl out from under the rocks, is allowed to snooze as the grease is being applied to the wheels–outside the public purview, maybe the public interest as well–so the consent agenda can lend speed and dispatch to the “decision” of the governing body. It would always be more interesting to read about if a citizen or two showed up and demanded such stuff be “pulled,” just for the sake of explanation, maybe even discussion. Might be fun to get to play with the Big Boys, and to learn from them.

    Have the Edwards Aquifer Authority and the State verified the ostensible recharge zone protraction plan? Whose map is used to make the determination? Might there be an engineer-certified mitigation or drainage plan? A sound and factually verified and sealed (and normally required) Environmental Impact Study? How much tax value is being swapped along with the development rights? How much “more density'” and what kind of development, and how much “less density,” and what kind? Anybody seen the area Master Plan (again required by law) or zoning (ditto) being proposed? Surely they are not swapping nothing for nothing? Any large parking lots which will concentrate polluted runoff? (Craddick does mostly overlie the direct channel into the City’s drinking water supply, after all, as well as the River.) What’s 150 acres, anyway, some big deal, or a future neighborhood or two, or some NEW BIDNESSES (!!) as the land is sold?

    Who, pray, are “the Partners,” the Lone Ranger and Tonto, or is it a closely held secret until after the “deal”? Do WE supply the current Council cigars for their room where they do all this magic, which seems to defy the State Open Meetings Act and the “Sunshine laws” generally? If not, who buys the smoke for the room?

    Ah, what the heck? I live on high ground, so flooding won’t be a biggie. I’ve already had all the kids I could afford, so I don’t have to worry about future mutations and diseases and “conditions.” I won’t be living next to any incompatible “mixed use.” I have a geezer exemption to cover any future tax expense. And I’ll probably die of curiosity before questioning any of my elected representatives, their appointees, or their patrons. It’s just so old-fashioned of me to think of this stuff as the taxpayer’s business done by their servants.

    Mum’s the word, again. Don’t tell until the coonskin is on the wall!

  2. Billy, Billy, Billy. It’s a development agreement, not legislation. We learned the difference between these two instruments in the recent lawsuit filed by some citizens from Buda over US Foods. When it comes to development agreements, city councils can do as they please – and the citizens just have to get over it. We elected them – now we have to trust them… or not…

  3. I’m assuming that Lila and Billy will both be at the Council meeting tonight to ask the item come off Consent and be discussed?? AFterall, it is YOUR idea? If not, readers of these posts should consider the old saying, “all talk, no action.” I’m betting they don’t show!

  4. Citizens don’t have to sit on the side and wait for an election to voice their displeasure. Mayor Moore’s idea of openly questioning the use of the consent agenda seems an appropriate outlet for citizen frustration. The Council was elected to stay within the constraints of the system and to be open in their governance. Where was this discussed that all council members are in agreement? Not in public, that much we know.
    The lesson of US Foods is that just because you complain doesn’t mean you get what you want. The same might happen here; the public may express displeasure at Council’s secretness and cry foul, but the Council may choose to move forward despite complaints. Then, you don’t get to sue, you have to wait for an election. That doesn’t mean you have to be quiet in the interim.

  5. I don’t think Lila lives in San Marcos.

    As for Mr. Moore, it is difficult (for me, anyway) to classify a former mayor as “all talk, no action,” for not attending a city council meeting.

  6. I have seen a copy of the development agreement. It states that the “Buildings in the Phase 1 MF-12 tract must be a minimum of 3 stories”. Not maximum 3 stories, minimum. And there is not going to be any discussion of this?

  7. the plan also state 75% impervious cover in phase 1 which is in the recharge zone with recharge features. The map also clearly shows Craddock road bisecting the land. In order to build this road on this land the landowner would likely ask for some compensation. Is this the compensation, an extremely high density development in a neighborhood with concrete draining to recharge features? So the aquifer and river might become polluted, but at least we’ll have a fresh new concrete connection to the fast track out of town on wonderworld drive. good riddance!

  8. It should be noted that the applicant submitted a geologic assessment to the TCEQ, but it was deemed deficient by that entity. It was incomplete and incorrect. They then withdrew their geological assessment, which means there is no proposal being reviewed by the TCEQ at this time. Hhmmm….

    The City does not need the applicant’s permission to annex the property. They should have done it years ago. If they had, the City may have been able to stop the illegal clearing of the entire tract last Spring.
    The landowner who illegally cleared the land should face serious consequences.

    The developer showed the representatives from the surrounding neiborhoods, including myself, a PDD that looked like a pretty good plan from my perspective. This development agreement does not in any way reflect what was presented to us.

    Why this is a consent agenda item I do not understand, except for the obvious avoidance of any public commment. This item should be postponed at the very least.

  9. A reason that has been given for approving the development agreement is that it is needed to protect future land use options for the portion of the tract that will not be annexed. All of this land is within the ETJ of the city of San Marcos. While the city does not have as much power in that area as inside of city limits it does have a lot of influence. Any platting of land parcels of less than 5 acres in size must be reviewed by both the COSM and Hays County. Since this is one large contiguious parcel nothing can really be done without platting it into smaller plats. As for the possibility of some sort of uncontrolled commercial development happening in that area, like big box stores or multi storey apartments. Those proposals would have to go thru the commissioners court for approval. the only land use that would not come under these controls would be single family residential on lots of greater than 5 acres in size.

  10. Thank you to Council member Porterfield, Thomaides and Bose for voting no on the Buie Tract Development Agreement. Bose brought up many good points, and was ‘shut down’ by the Mayor in mid-sentence. Thomaides and Porterfield also raised legitmate concerns that went unheeded by their colleagues.
    These 3 Council members were interested in simply postponing the vote to get more information on the project asd well as the input of the Planning and Zoning Commission before they voted to approve. Sounds reasonable to me. The Mayor and her minions win again. Where the hell is everybody?

  11. Yes, I am bitter and not a good loser.

    The taxpayers of San Marcos got screwed tonight by a vote of 4 to 3 to approve the Police Union Contract. Most of us expected for the agenda item to be tabled for right now because there were so many questions being raised. Mayor Susan! knew that it was now or never. If she didn’t get these passed before more people became aware of the huge cost of political pay back for the cops, she would never get it through. Several councilmen asked the city manager to address some of the serious questions regarding the contract that have been publicly discussed on Newstreamz. The staff just lied or phrased their answers in such a way that misinformation was used without actually lying. For example, at one point the question was raised by John Thomaides as to where this would put San Marcos in comparison with the other cities used in the salary survey. The City Manager answered that this would put us in the top one third. That is technically correct. San Marcos would be, by far, the number one paying city in the salary survey cities. First place is within the top one third so he did not tell a lie. The staff stumbled on a lot of questions. They did not seem to really know a lot about what was in the document. They especially did not know what was in the supporting documents. Or they put on an awfully good act so they would not have to defend the indefensible. At one point, Mayor Susan! tried to get the City Attorney to rule that one of John Thomaides questions to the Chief of Police was out of order because it was not listed on the agenda. Since nobody knew what the hell she was talking about, even the City Attorney had to tell the Mayor that John was not out of order. It was just another attempt by the Mayor to shut down any disention. The 4 members who were for the union contract limited their discussions to what brave people we have as San Marcos Cops and we can never pay them enough to defend our lives. Blah, blah, blah.

    Then came the crowning blow. Last week, we were told that the Fireman’s union contract was still being negotiated. Surprise, surprise, it was put on the agenda tonight for approval. Since the cops are getting a $19,000 dollar a year raise, it was assumed that they had taken all the money and the firemen were going to be left with less. The council, with almost no discussion voted 4 to 3 to approve the firemen’s union contract giving every fireman, in the next 3 years, a $20,000 a year raise. That’s not a typo. $20,000 for the firemen.

    I am finished with San Marcos politics. If we can elect 3 councilpersons and a mayor who are so interested in their little political careers that they would sell the citizens of San Marcos down the rat hole for a cheap endorsement from a police union and a firemans union, then we have not a chance of ever turning around the city or the police dept. What is with Pam Couch? She is leaving the council and has nothing to lose by doing the right thing.

    Thank you John Thomaides, Mr.Bose and Chris Jones. You tried but cheap politics and little politicians did us in.

  12. I still maintain that the hybridization proposed for the Civil Service Program and the “show and tell,” or “meet and conspire,” or whatever we bought from the mediator/ consultants, are not legally compatible. Having been through early negotiations at least three times just to see what was offered in exchange, I believe for sure two previous City Attorneys researched the matter thoroughly and came back with the finding the system used must either be a historic and well-define system born of the
    fedral system, which offers broad job protections, including tenure (without serious offense); special rules and standards for pay grades, hours, etc., along with special due process protections and standard ranking, pay, snd promotion relative to all Civil Servant public servants; standard appeal and grievance procedures, etc.

    If a group chose to move away from these, they lost the protections and special benefits, period. The choice to move away from externally-defined standards became a de facto abandonment, to be replaced in toto by a retreat from the “one for all, all for one” method determined by other means such as union negotiations.

    There was then a great hue and cry about whether such specific actions as creating unions for the purpose was even legal in itself, given the need for uniformity in the City’s policies as they related not only to highly trained, special service employees as public security personnel.

    The second method would not only threaten to disrupt Civil service itself, but also replace it with outright collective bargaining, only to lead into a continual flow of bad will and insecurity over the rank, pay and performance standards, as well as future disruption snd dissention that might include walkouts, strikes, “sick-outs” etc., as well as legal wrangling, politicization, and likely declines in service quality in public safety in general.

    Like Austin, entering the Courts to seek remedies and possible punishment actions against the Firefighter Union. The personnel themselves saw the wisdom in not taking the City’s personnel matrix and its individual achievers in this direction.

    Seems the current Council either has no knowledge or experience in these matters, or is sold out and become politically helpless for their own various reasons, with the reselt that the unions may call the tune as the City
    (the bosses and administrators) are bound by the whim of the employees–worts of all, bound to two complete and incompatible systems, just for SOME votes in their own publicelections–the sons and daughters have become the parents.

    The citizen’s role, meanwhile, is to stand by and pay the new contract expenses. WITH WHAT AVAILABLE RESOURCES?, ONE MAY ASK. TAXES and other program adjustments, sez I.

    Those who resisted are bold, indeed, and most likely to be targeted politically by the other side, for their recalcitrance. In SM, it seems, to GO along with SN (even if she confuses the two sometimes), is to GET along, and not only in this. Must be an early graduate of the new GW Bush School, which is itself still desperately seeking a few good $ supporters. (Hear the Team mascots are to be called, “The Orwells!” I’d like to see a fresh legal review of the matter, but again, alas, it is a “done deal,” already consummated out behind the barn and once more not exactly having the light of the Sunshine Laws shone on it. (But this type of politics doesn’t come cheap!)

  13. Mason, with the blind shot in the dark, you are correct. I will NOT be down there, for several reasons, the first being that “I gave at the office.” I was Chair of P&Z when Emmy Craddock’s Council began ignoring our legal recommendations, approving things itself for expediency, ect. The unanimous reaction of my Commissioners was an offer in public that we should all resign visibly and volubly on the spot if it continued. Council could not themselves have survived that, so they relented.

    Another developer came through us with false statements in the plat certifications, with the help or through error of staff, The water supplier turned out to be non-existent at the time it was sealed, so we did two things: Threatened to go for de-certification of the engineer for the perjury, and, since we had already tentatively given the development approval, went to State Court and SUED OURSELVES for a reversal based on use of false evidence. The case is still a landmark in what lawyers call “estoppal.” We beat ourselves and made ourselves revoke the approval. Weird, but sort of fun.

    Stuff like this happened fairly often in the greedy ’80’s. We went by the book and by the principal that if you extend yourselves to conform to good order and make your development proposal special, we would help where we could to save time, interest, grief, etc. and succeed. For those who just couldn’t seem to get with a rational program and do it honestly, we broke out our little silver hammers, since we represented everybody’s interest, and beat them senseless.

    I spent far too much time down there for two decades trying to keep the Public’s trust and faith and make sustainable development, and the City persisted in electing smart and conscientious and well-trained folks.
    Our accomplishments seem now to have been mostly thoughtful, wise, useful elements in building a prosperous and ever-more impressive City. When I laid down the mallet, I swore to avoid the stuff like the plague, but alas, the methods, motives, and shenanigans have come back full force–ditto-head deals being done under private and irregular circumstances, and collusion with non-conscientious developers and “clients” won’t bring me out any more, I think, except to shine my little candle on the cracks in the system. Besides, people did (and still do) get tired of my orations and attempts to show them better practices. So did I–takes time, energy, empathy, and a lot of virtues being mustered up.

    So I now prefer to come out late night and suggest ways to reform the system. Otherwise, I’ve got my life back and intend to keep it. (Maybe if I’d been more interested in locating power, position, and money at City expense, I would have stayed longer, or bailed out sooner to run for something using help from those backs I’d scratched.) Just didn’t seem right.

  14. “Threatened to go for de-certification of the engineer for the perjury, and, since we had already tentatively given the development approval, went to State Court and SUED OURSELVES for a reversal based on use of false evidence. The case is still a landmark in what lawyers call “estoppal.”” So if false testimony was given by the developer or engineer about the Buie project then the precedent is already set to nullify the agreement ?

  15. No Ted. I don’t live in San Marcos. But then, I don’t recall any rule on Newstreamz that limits one’s opinion geographically to their place of residence. Maybe if you moved outside your immediate environs and learned more about our area, your own opinion might open up a bit.

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