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Mayor raises objections to portable food sales within the city

Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas questioned rules regarding food trucks in Mission at Monday’s meeting as the city council considered approving a conditional use permit to a portable food vendor outside Panaderia Nuevo Leon, 4009 N. Inspiration Road.

Because the unit has been in that location for two years, and there have been no complaints, the Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended a three-year permit over a one-year permit.

City-of-Mission-logoBut Salinas objected, asking if the vendor paid sales tax, and said he did not pay property taxes like other food vendors in the city. He also questioned whether the vendor had proper sanitary conditions like hot running water, refrigeration for uncooked foods, and the ability to keep his facility as clean as it would be if it were located in a building.

Salinas said vendors who owned or rented buildings had higher overhead and could not sell their wares at as low of prices as those who had portable units. Some merchants were complaining to him about being unable to compete at a fair price.

He also contended some merchants were not paying any sales tax on their revenues. He said he knew this was a fact because he had checked on a particular unit after he received a telephone call complaining about it.

If a vendor is paying sales tax, he or she should have a license from the state comptroller on the wall in visible sight of customers. Salinas did not feel it was fair to give a permit to a vendor who was not paying sales tax or property tax, giving him an edge over competition that does pay taxes.

After the meeting, Salinas said a woman had called him and complained her son had gotten food poisoning after buying food at a portable unit similar to the one in question because the food had not been kept at the right temperature. They also need adequate trash receptacles for disposal of uneaten food and supplies, he said.

“We need to rework the portable food ordinance to see that vendors must have units providing hot water for cleaning and refrigeration to assure the food is kept cool until it is cooked,” Salinas said. “They must also be checked to see if they have a license to sell food from the State Comptroller’s Office because they will have to pay taxes like other food vendors if they do. I am going to see that city staff reworks the ordinances governing portable food sales before I allow another permit to be granted.”

Virginia Townsend, of Objective Watchers of the Legal System, was at the meeting and backed up the Salinas’ proposal. Townsend said it is a growing trend in the Austin area to eat lunch provided by portable vendors near the workplace. She added there was a manufacturer on Shary Road who was outfitting portable food units and selling them.

“The time to make sure these units are safe to prepare food for consumption is now,” she said, “Before the matter gets out of hand.”

In other action, the city heard its annual audit report prepared by Long Chilton, LLP. The council was told the city had received a certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting and auditors had rendered an unmodified report as a result of the audit.

The 2014 audit report showed the city’s net position as $168,806,278. The net investment in capital assets amounted to $145,779,585. There were unrestricted funds of $11,231,693 and a restricted net position of $11,795.000.

Mission Economic Development Corporation had a net position of a negative $10,175,421. Salinas said it was the duty of MEDC to borrow money and to incur debt on behalf of the city.

Total revenues for 2014 were $50,974,633 while program revenues generated amounted to $13,566.968, which was added to other revenues of a negative $37,407,665. General revenues and transfers amounted to $39,432,296 for a total change in position of $2,024,631. The city’s total fund balance stood at $8,397,372.

Under proprietary funds, the utility department had operating revenue of $19,271,444 and expenditures of $15,106,327. It had a positive position of $64,854,267.

The solid waste department had operating revenue of $6,351,523 and expenses of $7,257,689. There was a net change in revenue of a negative $995,978 leaving a positive balance of $937,971.

Of major concern was the golf course budget, which has shown expenditures over revenues for the past several years. Revenues for 2014 were $910,677 while expenditures were $1,346,891, a loss of $436,214. Salinas was concerned over the negative long-term receivable/payable of $1,575,520. He said something would have to be done about the golf course to correct the trend of losing money.

Under police matters, Chief Robert Dominguez was authorized to accept a grant of $57,488 to keep a fulltime police officer to track youth going through the juvenile justice system and to make sure they were doing what the court ordered.

The police department was authorized to accept a Texas Department of Homeland Security State Administrative Agency Local Border Security Program for $175,000 to be used for overtime.

Purchase of a security system for city hall that will monitor all doors to make sure no one in going in through doors that they should not be entering was approved. Doors not open to the public will have key codes that employees will use to open doors. The cost of the system is $19,927.

Approval to write off uncollected utility debt in the amount of $19,974 was approved. This included $18,575.93 for residential usage, $1,354.92 for commercial usage and $28.20 for inactive accounts.

Caroline Mendiola of Sharyland ISD and Guadalupe Garcia of Mission Parks and Recreation were nominated to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Advisory Board.

Carl Davis was nominated to the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame by Mayor Beto Salinas.

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