Hinojosa named city's new finance director

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

In its first meeting since the May 12 general election, the new Alice City Council on Monday took action to more clearly define the duties, responsibilities and authority of the interim city manager.

Under the guidelines defined by the council Monday, the interim city manager is to direct the work of the assistant city manager and all department directors, sustain and administer the existing city policies and execute existing contracts for services.

The interim city manager is also to have prior approval of the city council before offering employment, hiring, promoting, terminating or offering financial incentives to any employees or directors; implement new policies at the direction of the council; monitor the budget and limit expenditures to meet day-to-day operations and budgeted capital improvements of a routine nature; enter into new contracts at the direction of the council; and attend training that "meets the professional development for the interim's permanent position with the city, not training normally intended for professional development of the city manager."

The new guidelines also state the interim city manager is to "at no time exercise authorities normally found in the scope of the permanent city manager without the prior approval from council."

Following the meeting, new council member Shane Valverde, who requested the item be placed on the agenda, said the rules were not a reflection of interim city manager Ruben Maldonado's work.

"We're very happy with the work that he is doing as of current," Valverde said. "This is just being prudent and responsible, and just making sure there are checks and balances in place until the position is filled permanently."

In an additional personnel-related matter, the council also approved the appointment of Hector Hinojosa as the new finance director for the city.

Hinojosa, who is currently the finance director for the city of Driscoll, is a past finance director and city manager for the city of Kingsville.

In other business, the council heard a presentation from Bob Yancy, a representative of Casco Industries, regarding the replacement of self-contained breather apparatuses for the Alice Fire Department.

The total cost of the 31 proposed new units would be $31,766 a year over 10 years, with no interest charged to the city. That cost, Yancy said, would also include several scheduled upgrades to the equipment over the next five years. The council authorized the department to issue a request for bids on the proposed new units following the presentation.

The council also authorized the acceptance of a new brush fire fighting truck, funded primarily through a grant received by the fire department.

The council also approved the final plat of the new William Adams Middle School, giving the Alice Independent School District authority to begin construction on that project.

Another item approved by the council Monday was the renewal of a resolution authorizing the South Texas Aggregation Project, Inc. to negotiate an electric supply agreement for delivery of electricity to the city for 2008 and 2009.

After several years of discussion, the council also moved one step closer to building new restrooms at P.S. Anderson Park Monday. The council examined three bids for the construction of the new restrooms, and awarded the bid to Barcom Commercial, Inc., a Corpus Christi company. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $136,016.

The council also tabled a number of items on Monday's agenda.

The council tabled an item to authorize the city manager to contract for a comprehensive study of salaries and wages, professional and technical services, and personnel policies in the city. The council also tabled a related item to contract with Gonzalo Chapa Jr., former city manager, to revise the organizational structure of the city. Under the terms of the proposed contract, in return for $4,000, Chapa presented a revised organizational structure that would result in a reduction of at least $100,000 in cost to the city. That contract was tabled when several council members questioned the wording of the contract.

The council also tabled a request from Weems Geophysical to conduct exclusive vibroseis seismic surveys within the city. Representatives from the company told the council Monday the seismic testing would be intended to locate oil and gas in and around the city, primarily on the northwest side of town. The council tabled the item to allow city staff to further investigate the potential hazards of that testing, and is expected to address the issue again at the next council meeting.

The council also heard a presentation by Alice/Jim Wells County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Dean Kruckenberg regarding a financial incentive the EDC is recommending the City of Alice and Jim Wells County provide to a company seeking to expand into Alice. The company, Carbo Ceramics, is reportedly considering investing nearly $2.5 million in an Alice facility. Kruckenberg recommended to the council Monday that the city and county provide a $6,300 cash incentive to the business, with each entity paying half of that amount. The proposal is expected to be brought back to the council as an action item at a future meeting.