2018-06-13 / News

Lyford commissioners blast mayor, reporters for negative news about city


A proposal to muzzle Lyford Mayor Jose G. “Wally” Solis on Monday by two city commissioners, preventing him from speaking to news reporters about city issues fizzled after a heated debate.

Commissioner Rick Salinas and Mayor Pro Tem Tony Chavez lectured the mayor about commenting to newspapers about the lack of restrooms in the city’s new central park, and about the refusal of Police Chief Andy Maldonado to share in patrolling duties, extended into a general criticism of all Rio Grande Valley news media as being only interested in negative stories about Lyford and other small towns.

Agenda item No. 24, “Approve to appoint a spokesperson to disclose any public information” (Rick Salinas) died for lack of a motion.

Salinas criticized the mayor for commenting about the lack of restrooms to a local newspaper when he knew the restrooms will be built during the second phase of the park construction, when funds are available.

“I really don’t know why you brought up the restrooms unless you’re not well-read on that issue,” Salinas said. “You knew, we all knew, the restrooms are down for the second phase? You don’t know that? Why do you want to tarnish something that was good on the day that we’re doing a grand opening? Why? We already have what it costs and we already have a plan for the second phase, where the pavement’s going to go, where the soccer field is going to go.”

The issue of paving walking paths in the new park to accommodate disabled people with walkers, wheelchairs and mobility scooters also came up. An agenda item listing a cost of $8,000 also died because the city does not yet have the funding.

However, during the meeting commissioners accepted a $1,000 ceremonial check from American Electric Power to be used for beautification work in the new park.

On the issue of the mayor’s statements to media, Solis said he is just doing his job, answering questions from reporters, as well as trying to get favorable price quotes from contractors to get work done in the new park such as paving work.

Salinas and Chavez said news media are only interested in negative reports about what they see as shortcomings in small communities.

Salinas continued to lecture Solis. “Let me tell you what your job is, your job is to see how many businesses you can bring into the city.”

The commissioner outlined his expectations of positive publicity for Lyford.

“What we’re doing here is a positive thing. I don’t want any negative things. That’s all they’re (media) looking for,” he said. ìYou know, we were at the (Texas Municipal League meeting) on the Island. The media was there. They were consistent, looking at every small town there. If there isn’t any controversy, the media’s not going to be there. The media is always your friend, if it’s something they can sell. I have seen it, I have been misquoted.”

But, after the heated discussion, Salinas’ motion died for lack of a second.

Commissioners clashed over several other items, but came to consensus on some proposals:

Salinas quizzed consultant Sunny Philip on several major projects he has contracts with Lyford to accomplish, such as updating the City Hall computer system, consolidation of the Subdivision Ordinance and Model Subdivision Rules, a water and sewer project and his plan to bring a low-income apartment complex named Bamboo Estates to the city.

During a discussion of the computer project, Philip said most of the work has already been done. Salinas and other commissioners questioned why it took 1 1/2 years to determine the city only needs to update its current software. But the mayor defended Philip, stating he has not yet billed the city for that work.

Salinas asked Philip if were willing to relinquish any of the projects because he has too many jobs pending. “I don’t question your ability,” Salinas told the former longtime city manager of La Feria. Philip said he is confident he can complete the projects in a timely fashion.

Commissioners agreed to promote Police Chief Andy Maldonado to Public Safety director, which involves more responsibilities but does not include a pay raise. At a previous meeting, Salinas said a job description for the title included too many duties so the description was revised.

A retired Texas Department of Public Safety trooper, Maldonado’s salary is $36,720, city records show. He will now have overall responsibility for the fire department and emergency management coordinator.

Maldonado explained why, with only two full-time officers besides himself, as well as a reserve officer, it is not possible to have officers on patrol full time.

A proposal to offer the former police station for use by the Willacy County Sheriff’s Department was tabled after another heated discussion in which some commissioners suggested the mayor made the proposal to make the police chief look bad.

Solis has repeatedly suggested that having a place for sheriff’s deputies and constables to make reports, use computer wifi service and take rest stops, would only increase police presence in Lyford.

Maldonado said it might be cheaper to just give the sheriff a key to the police department to avoid running air conditioning and lights in another building. The sheriff’s computer software is not compatible with Lyford’s so that cost would be another expense for the sheriff, the chief said.

Sheriff Larry Spence said on Tuesday his department doesnít really need a substation in Lyford but might use it on occasion. His department does patrol in Lyford. His computers are not compatible with Lyford Police Department computers and the county can’t pay the $3,000 to $5,000 that would be needed to install the correct software to do so.

There may be occasions when sheriff’s deputies might need to work at the Lyford police station, Spence said.

Commissioner Albert Cavazos said commissioners have already promised him the old police station could be used for a social service agency he works with to assist senior citizens.

In other business, commissioners voted to reappoint Chavez as mayor pro-tem.

Chavez reviewed his study of the animal control situation in Lyford, Noise from the animal shelter, smells, costs of euthanizing and disposal and lack of space at the shelter are all concerns. It may be wise to limit the number of pets at each home, as Raymondville does, he said. Animals must be protected from extreme cold in winter. Salinas agreed that too many animals at each home are a problem and the city should consider stricter control of animals known to be vicious such as pit bulldogs, he said.

Commissioners agreed to work with other cities served by AEP to review AEP Texas’ requested approval of an adjustment to it energy efficiency cost recover factor. Lyford will share in costs of legal counsel and consultants.

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