Residents to vote on community center, partial closing of Main Street in May

The crowd shows its displeasure with the majority vote of the Pleasanton City Council. A special election will decide the fate of the Community Center/Library plans and partial closure of Main Street.Lisa Luna|Pleasanton Express

The crowd shows its displeasure with the majority vote of the Pleasanton City Council. A special election will decide the fate of the Community Center/Library plans and partial closure of Main Street.Lisa Luna|Pleasanton Express

It was September of 1994 when Pleasanton voters first approved the $800,000 bond issue for the purchase of land and construction of a sports complex, municipal pool and community center. On May 28, 1998, the community celebrated the grand opening of the sports complex and junior Olympic-size swimming pool.

Seventeen years later, the fate of the Pleasanton Community Center and Library remains up in the air.

Pleasanton residents will have the chance in May to vote on adopting the community center/ library plans, that were previously approved on July 28, 2011. They will also vote on the question of adopting or rejecting an ordinance on the closing, vacating and abandoning of a portion of the 100 block of North Main Street. A special election for these two items was approved unanimously at the Jan. 19 Pleasanton City Council meeting.

Comprising the council are Mayor Clinton J. Powell, Jimmy Magel (Dist. 1), Abraham Saenz (Dist. 2), Janet M. Jackson (Dist. 3), J.R. Gallegos (Dist. 4), Roger G. Garza (Dist. 5) and Jeanne B. Israel (Dist. 6).

The special election is the result of council’s decision (3-4) to not adopt a resolution and ordinance consistent with voter initiatives #1 and #2, adopting the center and library plans from July and closing a portion of North Main Street. Making the motion to adopt these two items was Israel. Also voting in favor of adopting these two items were Councilmembers Jackson and Mayor Powell. Voting against were Councilmembers Magel, Saenz, Garza and Gallegos.

Before council voted on the items, Mayor Powell stated, “This has been debated in these chambers almost to death. It has been deliberated outside chambers. The council will come to a decision tonight on one of these items– we have to.”

Powell also asked for a smooth transition and for comments only if they pertained to the discussion and had not been made previously.

Before council voted on calling a special election for closing part of Main Street, Gallegos said, “I just feel very strongly that the council voted twice on leaving Main Street open. Then the people did their petition drive and they brought more than enough to call for a special election. So, we’ve heard from the council, we’ve heard from the people who would like to close the street and yet, we’ve not heard from the citizens of Pleasanton and given them a chance to vote to keep the street open. They are the only ones we have not heard from. I think it’s only fair at the time of our election in May to give those people an opportunity to see if we can continue to keep Main Street open. That is their chance to voice their opinion and their hopes.”

Israel wanted to verify with City Attorney Bobby Maldonado if they needed to read the caption for the ordinance as part of the motion. Maldonado answered that with respect to the vote taken, the agenda item itself would suffice.

Then Israel said, “I certainly agree with Mr. Gallegos that this has been discussed, voted on twice by councilmembers, but I must also say that I support the citizens who did speak in the petitions. Had a majority been for keeping the street open then I would be standing on that as well.”

Powell asked that they make sure they stick to the motion of calling a special election.

“That would certainly be the reason why we are here and why it is right to go ahead with the election,” said Israel.

Garza then said in his district there were less than 20 people who signed the petition. Powell said they needed to stay on the topic of the special election.

Magel’s concern regarding the special election was, what if one item passes, but not the other? In other words, where does the city stand if, for example, voters approve the previously approved community center plans, but they do not approve to close the street?

Maldonado said that does pose an interesting question.

“I don’t know how likely that is. I think both issues will be resolved at the time of the election,” said Maldonado.

However, he noted that if one passes and not the other, further action from the council would still be required.

“For example if the resolution passes that calls for continuing with the plans as previously adopted, however, council would have to take certain action to close the street, if required by the plans and vice versa. If the voters approve closing the street, then the street will be closed. But you still have the issue of which plans are going to be proceeded with. So unless they are both resolved finally and completely, there will still be remaining issues to be taken by the council afterwards.”

Redistricting workshop

A workshop was held with attorney Rolando Rios to discuss the city redistricting plans. Rios explained that after the Census was taken, every elected official and councilmen must examine their districts, using the new Census data, to see if their districts are equally populated.

“The Supreme Court has said that the population in each district must be approximately the same, with a deviation of 10 percent,” said Rios.

He asked council to look at the handouts he presented, which reflects the analysis he has done, through all the districts, using the 2010 Census. It also shows the racial makeup and the deviation. The deviation shows the difference between the population in each district and what it should be. The ideal is 1,489, because the total population of 8,934 divided by 6 is 1,489. Rios said the deviation in this community is 42 percent.

Rios said District 2, Saenz’s district, was closest to the ideal, as the deviation was less than 5 percent. District 5, Garza’s district, was also less than 5 percent deviation. The other districts will have to make changes, said Rios. The most dramatic will probably be District 6.

“So when we redraw these lines to equalize the population,” said Rios, “we have to do two things: balance the population and then comply with the Voting Rights Act. You have three Anglo districts and three minority districts, so when we do the redistricting we have to make sure we don’t dilute the voting strength of minorities.”

Once a plan is in place, said Rios, he will take it to Washington and then get it approved. Rios would like to set up a time to meet with City Secretary Cindy Urrabazo and then meet with members of council. He would like to have a plan approved by February. Gallegos asked how they would come to an agreement on which way to go. Rios can make recommendations, but he would rather the councilmembers work it out. For example, said Rios, Gallegos could meet with Israel and ask, “What areas are you willing to give up and what area are you willing to take?”

Saenz’s district has remained stable, said Rios. So his district could remain the same, or he could make some changes.

During Citizen’s Comments, Norman Porter of the Atascosa County Historical Commission spoke on the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. A re-enactment is set for March 24 (close to when the actual event was in 1862), at the Atascosa River Park pavilion. It is slated to begin about 10 a.m. and will last about two hours. It will honor Company E, 32nd Texas Volunteer Calvary and events that took place right here in Pleasanton.

Porter asked that the pavilion fees be waived. Mayor Powell said council could not take any action, since it was Citizen’s Comments, but that they would list it as an upcoming agenda item for action. Those interested in helping with the project can call Barbara at 769-4333 or Norman at 569-2680.

Mayor Powell then introduced the Honorable Ciro Rodriguez.

Rodriguez thanked everyone for their public service. He has served on the school board for 12 years and in the Texas House for 11. Rodriguez wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge Councilman Saenz for his 28 years of service to the council and for also serving our country. Rodriguez said he was here recently when Saenz’s brother passed away. At that time, Saenz mentioned that his brother received a U.S. flag, as veterans have flags draped over their caskets. Rodriguez said he joked that he would like to make sure Saenz got one before he passed. So at the meeting, Rodriguez presented Saenz with a flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol, in honor of his public service. Several loud rounds of applause followed.

Saenz thanked Rodriguez for his generosity and said he felt like a newborn baby again. Rodriguez said he hopes to continue working with him in the future.

Added Saenz, “I will never give up. I’m not the type of person to fall on my knees. I will continue doing whatever is best for the community.”

He also said, “I appreciate what has been done for me and I know a lot of people have appreciated what I have done for them also, as a representative of Pleasanton, which is my hometown.”

During the City Manager’s Report, new City Manager Bruce Pearson thanked City Manager Kathy Coronado for her service to the city. He said he only hopes he can fill her shoes. Pearson has met with about 98 percent of the city employees and has visited each department.

“Monday when I walked in a week ago, I was welcomed with open arms,” said Pearson. “Mrs. Urrabazo was standing at the front door and Nancy was right behind her, as well as a number of employees.”

He added he was surprised at the amount of institutional knowledge among the city employees. Having so many people with so much tenure makes his job easier. Pearson is currently looking at the financial situation and was scheduled to meet with the auditor the following day and with the financial advisor soon after that. As he moves forward he will be able to later provide a more in-depth report.

Also close to his heart, are water resources and infrastructure. Pearson said City Engineer John Metting and Public Works Director Johnny Martinez have been gracious enough to meet with him several times.

“I think we do have some challenges there, after scratching the surface a little bit, but I don’t think it’s anything we can’t accomplish together, under the wisdom and direction of this council,” said Pearson.

There is also a lot of tenure in public safety–– the fire and police departments, noted Pearson. He thanked everyone for welcoming he and his wife and he also thanked his wife. He looked forward to setting meetings with council and he wants to know what is important to them. Pearson also recognized Bob Hicks, who he said was one of his harshest critics and strongest supporters in Cibolo. Hicks served his country for 35 years and was up for nomination into the Office of Special Investigations in the Air Force Hall of Fame. Pearson worked for and with him.

“My pledge to you is I will never do anything that I don’t think is absolutely right for the City of Pleasanton. No one is here to build a career. We’re here to make good decisions for the city,” said Pearson.

Sidewalk from Pleasanton to Jourdanton

Council voted 6-1, to approve the commitment of $44,500 (Texas Department of Transportation to fund $300,000), by the City of Pleasantontobuilda5foot sidewalk along South Highway 97 from Medical Center to Wheeler Boulevard. Voting against was Saenz.

Metting has attended several meetings with the Texas Department of Transportation, which were also attended by representatives from Jourdanton, Atascosa County and Atascosa County Judge Diana Bautista. They have been discussing a sidewalk from Jourdanton to Pleasanton.

“It’s a need that is pretty big in our city, which is for sidewalks,” said Metting. “We have a lot of streets that are existing that do not have sidewalks for folks to walk on, and for pedestrians to get from one place to another. The city and county are growing and transitioning from what many folks remember as a rural-type setting, from many years ago.”

We are changing into a more urban-type of setting, explained Metting. Of special concern are the elderly and motorized wheelchairs. This project will give them somewhere other than the edge of the road to travel on.

“TXDOT has been very gracious and they have programmed this project that is outlined in aerial photos,” said Metting.

It goes from Airport Road, said Metting, in an easterly direction down Highway 97 to Wheeler Boulevard. The sidewalk would be on the southside of Highway 97. When you switch to the northside of Highway 97, at the Airport Road intersection, this will be accomplished with a light and a crosswalk. This will allow people to move from one side of the highway to the other, said Metting.

From there it continues towards Jourdanton, all the way to the Medical Center ( by South Texas Regional Medical Center).

“The project will relieve future costs to the cities and/ or the county, which would have to be passed on to the developers and the citizens, as structure costs continue to elevate as time goes by and the area becomes more congested,” said Metting.

The project will result in a good step towards getting sidewalks that can be extended further into the entire city. TXDOT will fund $300,000 of the project costs. They estimate the total cost to be $433,400, noted Metting. The difference is $133,500 and there are three contributing agencies: City of Jourdanton, City of Pleasanton and Atascosa County. Each entity’s portion is $44,500.

Carl Friesenhahn of TXDOT said that Metting had pretty much covered everything.

“We actually looked at going all the way to Highway 281 in Pleasanton and Highway 16 in Jourdanton. Unfortunately, the cost is several million dollars,” said Friesenhahn.

This final plan was chosen as the consensus among the two cities and county. If they can get the agreement worked up and the entities to agree to fund each of their portions, construction could begin in the early part of next year.

Garza asked if he had understood correctly, that Atascosa County was committed to their part.

Friesenhahn answered that yes, they had met at Commissioners Court and are supportive of it, on their end. However, he did not believe the same was true with the City of Jourdanton.

Magel asked if the $300,000 had been budgeted by the state for the funding and Friesenhahn said, not exactly. The funding comes from TXDOT’s maintenance program.

“The way it works is it is handled from year to year,” said Friesenhahn. “There is a certain amount of money available in the budget. You all go through this all the time. The money has to be spent by the end of the fiscal year and 2012 ends in August. So we will have to budget $300,000 for the fiscal year 2013 then, going from September back around.”

More discussion took place on when the money would have to be received and the fiscal year. Saenz said he would like for more time to digest the information. He said he did not have enough knowledge on the project to make a decision.

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