Mission grants extensions on utility bills for federal employees

Aiming to ensure federal employees don’t go without necessary services, Mission city council has granted extensions for all federal employees living in the city.

The item was brought up during last week’s regular called meeting, and Mayor Armando O’caña said the city wanted to ensure those affected by the recent government shutdown, which has been ongoing for 28 days as of press day, do not go without utilities as they wait to be paid. As of Jan. 12, it is the longest federal shutdown to occur in United States history.

City of Mission logo“We understand that this has been an additional hardship for families, and we want to make sure that we do our part,” Aida Lerma, Deputy City Manager, said.

According to the council, “satisfactory” proof of employment with the federal government needs to be presented in order for the extension to be granted. When the shutdown ends, customers will have 30 days to bring their utility accounts to current standing.

“We support all our federal employees in the United States of America, especially those that live here in Mission, Texas,” O’caña said. “We did not want to have the issue of turning off water and sewer systems for these individuals based on what’s happening in Washington, D.C.”

During the city manager’s comments, acting City Manager Randy Perez spoke about the improvements that the drainage district is working toward in light of the flooding that occurred in Mission last summer. Perez said the most crucial points will be worked on.

“They’re expanding our Mission lateral for one of their bond issue projects, and so they’ve selected an engineering firm to start on the design,” Perez said. “They’re expecting construction designs in 60 to 90 days. They’re going to take on this project in phases.”

City council authorized the purchase of commercial dumpsters via BuyBoard contract no. 516-16 for the sanitation department. According to Sanitation Director Cesar Gutierrez, the dumpsters will be used for commercial accounts, and will cost about $720,000.

The police department got approved to make their first purchase of the year, which includes a Netmotion Wireless Service and support agreement for the PD’s mobile field reporting devices, various office supplies and equipment needed to upgrade the Information Technology department’s current systems.

The agenda and Chief Robert Dominguez stated that the “purchase of these items will exceed the $10,000 threshold allowed to be purchased per vendor, outside of a contract or awarded bid, per fiscal year.” The vendor will continue to be used in this capacity “as needed” for the rest of the fiscal year.

Mayor Pro-Tem Norie Gonzalez Garza and council member Gus Martinez moved to approve the item, but Martinez asked if they had an estimate on how much additional costs will be over the $10,000. Dominguez said the company is one they tend to use for the majority of their purchases.

“Usually, on a yearly, basis, I can tell you we spend $30,000 to $40,000,” Dominguez said, adding that they need the updated equipment. “We usually use this company because of the U.S. Communities contract, the lower pricing.”

Council member Ruben Plata asked if it would be possible to put a maximum on the spending amount, and Dominguez said they could.

“The [police department] budget is not a big budget,” Dominguez added, saying they needed the equipment to ensure that officers can communicate and check their laptops while in their cars, on duty.

Council approved a professional services contract with Mark Sossi, Professional Corporations, in order to continue his representation of the city in all matters regarding civil service (fire and police departments) for one year. The contract will keep Sossi on retainer with Mission for $2,500 per month.

Martinez said that for next year, since the city will have a permanent city attorney and deputy city attorney, representation for civil service may be able to fall under their duties as well. Council member Jessica Ortega-Ochoa asked if it would be possible to outsource these services in the future and ascertain if a cheaper rate could be found elsewhere.

“I just think, to keep with transparency, I would like to see more of these types of contracts be outsourced, so that way we can see what’s out there,” Ortega-Ochoa said. “Maybe he does a lot of work, and this amount has been there for a while. It’s just for transparency purposes, I know he’s doing an excellent job.”

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