Members of the Sonora City Council met on Monday, December 20, 2021 and discussed a number of items.

Starting the meeting, Interim Chief of Police Art Fuentes said that they will soon be posting job position for chief of police. Fuentes said that he is hoping to have applications to bring before the council at the January meeting.

Charlotte McElwain informed the council that the water department has replaced over 1,400 meters throughout the city. They will be looking into starting replacement of some sewer lines, and not just the meters.
McElwain announced that Haley Guerra has obtained her Class D license and that two additional employees are studying for future testing.

Councilmen Darrell Barker asked Fuentes on the status of the impound process at the police department. Fuentes stated that they have already collected over $9,000 in charges. Looking toward the future, hopefully they will be able to hold auctions for the vehicles left impounded for over 30 days.

During the municipal court report, Judge Jerry Kemp notified the council that due to House Bill 569, that went into effect September 1, 2021, the court will see a decline in income.

Simply put, HB 569 relates to credit toward payment of a fine and costs for certain misdemeanors confined in jail or prison before sentencing. Kemp stated that the jailhouse lawyers are busy. Since going into effect, the city has received nine letters requesting consideration for time served. These letters have resulted in a loss of $4,728.37 as of December 20, 2021. Ending his report, Kemp reminded the council that the court system should not be considered a source of revenue.

Wastewater Manager Don Barker started his report by asking everyone to spread the word to refrain from dumping grease down the drains. They have had numerous calls about clogged drains. When looking into these calls, they find grease built up in the sewer lines. Please be mindful when disposing of grease.

Barker also informed the council that due to Tim Martinez moving on to a higher position and leaving Sonora, they will be advertising for an open position at the wastewater plant. Mayor Juanita Gomez asked Fuentes if he might consider sending out a Nixel to get the word out about the grease dumping.

Fuentes brought up the discussion of providing paid sick leave related to COVID-19 for city employees. City Attorney Clint Griffin said that there would need to be some sort of a retroactive written policy in place. There are so many uncertainties and unknowns that this may take some time to get everything together.

Mayor Gomez added that the city needs a way to keep up with documentation of those who have been out due to COVID. On the subject of changes Barker asked Griffin how often the employee handbook was updated. Griffin responded with saying that changes are made as needed. “Maybe now is a good time to look it over,” Barker added.

Rounding out the meeting, Fuentes updated the council by saying that they have received the preliminary cost figures for the Tres Amigos Lift Station. Currently the plan is to use about $700,000 of the rescue plan funds to go toward the station.

The lift station is a top priority for the city. According to Fuentes the engineer is recommending moving the lift station out of the flood plane. The engineers will also be sending out a survey team to look at the sewer lines running from the station. The hope is to still be able to use the gravity fed sewer lines.

Mayor Juanita Gomez presided over the meeting with councilmen Mike Sanchez, Lionel Cervantez, Jr., Harold Martinez and Darrell Barker were in attendance. The city council meets the 3rd Monday of the month at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.