CITY OF LAREDO

CITY COUNCIL MEETING

M-2003-R-21

CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS

1110 HOUSTON STREET

LAREDO, TEXAS 78040

NOVEMBER 3, 2003

5:30 P.M.

I.    CALL TO ORDER

 

         With a quorum present, Mayor Elizabeth G. Flores called the meeting to order.

 

II.    PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

 

         Mayor Elizabeth G. Flores led in the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

III.   ROLL CALL

 

In attendance:

 

Elizabeth G. Flores,                                                         Mayor

Hector Garcia,                                                                 Council Member, District II

John C. Galo,                                                                  Mayor Pro Tempore, District III

Johnny Amaya,                                                                Council Member, District IV

Eliseo Valdez, Jr.,                                                            Council Member, District V

Gene Belmares,                                                               Council Member, District VI

Jose A. Valdez, Jr.,                                                         Council Member, District VII

Juan Ramirez,                                                                  Council Member, District VIII

Donna Copeland-Magnón,                                              City Secretary’s Office

Larry Dovalina,                                                                City Manager

Cynthia Collazo,                                                              Assistant City Manager

Anthony McGettrick,                                                       Assistant City Attorney

 

Motion to excuse Cm. Agredano.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. Amaya

For:    5                                                   Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

Cm. Garcia joined the meeting at 6:27 p.m. 

Cm. Ramirez joined the meeting at 6:35 p.m.

 

IV.    MINUTES

 

Approval of the minutes of August 27, 2003 and September 2, 2003.

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Cm. Belmares

Second:  Cm. Amaya

For:         7                                              Against:  0                                            Abstain: 0

 

 V.    COMMUNICATIONS AND RECOGNITIONS

 

Announcements

 

None.

 

Invitations

 

None.

           

Recognitions

 

None.

 

Communiqués

 

a.   Presentation by Robert Summers, WBCA President, regarding WBCA’s third edition of  “By George,” a commemorative magazine.

 

Robert Summers, Washington Birthday Celebration Association President, thanked the Council for their continued support for the event.  He also distributed a copy of their promotional magazine By George which will be distributed throughout Texas to promote the event. 

 

Mayor Pro Tempore Galo thanked Senator Zaffarini for the gavel she presented him for being Mayor Pro Tempore.  He also thanked D. D. Hachar Elementary for asking him to speak to the 3rd Grade Social Studies Class.  He invited the viewing public to attend the Border Trade Alliance Conference to be held November 19th . 

 

Cm.  Amaya encouraged individuals to participate in the steak plate sale to be held on November 15th .  The monies raised by the plate sale will be used to purchase turkeys and toys for the financially challenged families in District IV.     

 

Cm.  E. Valdez thanked the Laredo Police Department, Code Enforcement Department, and the City Manager for responding to a request that was generated by a “letter to the editor”. 

 

Cm.  Belmares thanked the Laredo Police Department for making sure everyone had a safe and Happy Halloween.  He also thanked Terrace Stewart, from United Works, for making a presentation at the District VI Advisory Council Meeting.  Finally, he thanked Public Works for all the work they have done on McPherson. 

 

Cm.  J.  Valdez praised the Parks and Recreation Department for their annual Halloween Parties held at the different Recreation Centers.  He specifically mentioned Joe Ramos, a City employee, for doing an exceptionally great job at the Farias Recreation Center.  He also submitted a smoke free restaurant guide to the City Secretary and asked that it be included on the City’s Web page.

 

Mayor Flores informed the public that Laredo was being honored by a visit from the United States Supreme Court Clerk William Suter.  She added that the Supreme Court Clerk would be administering oaths to 14 lawyers who will be sworn to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.  She noted that the City of Laredo is very fortunate and honored to have him visit Laredo.  She congratulated the International Bank of Commerce employees on their recognition for ranking among nations most efficient banks.  She also congratulated Ramon Diaz-Barroso for being appointed to the Laredo National Bank Board of Directors.  Finally, she informed the public of a two minute feature about the Laredo Police Department which will be aired on CNN Headline News.     

 

VI.       APPOINTMENTS TO COMMISSIONS, BOARDS AND COMMITTEES

 

            None.

           

  VII.    PUBLIC HEARINGS

 

1.      Public hearing and introductory ordinance amending the City of Laredo annual budget by decreasing revenues and expenditures in the amount of $6,300.00 to reflect the actual grant amount of $14,700.00 for Project Alcance.  The Driscoll’s Children’s Health Plans of Corpus Christi has awarded this grant to the City of Laredo Health Department for the period beginning September 1, 2003 through August 31, 2004.

 

Motion to open the public hearing.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. Amaya

For:    6                                             Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0

 

There was no public input.

 

Motion to close the public hearing and introduce.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. Amaya

For:    6                                             Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

Ordinance Introduction:  City Council

 

2.      Public hearing and introductory ordinance amending the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 Airport Construction and Noise Abatement budgets to recognize additional revenues from two grants received from the Federal Aviation Administration Airport Improvement Program being Grant Project No. 3-48-0136-38-2003 in the amount of $1,314,480.00 for improvements to the Airport Rescue & Fire Fighting (ARFF) Station, rehabilitation of taxiways, reconstruction of apron and construction of cargo apron pads; and Grant Project No. 3-48-0136-39-2003 in the amount of $3,000,000.00  and a local match in the amount of $333,334.00 available in the Airport Construction Fund for acquisition of residences and avigation easements and to sound insulate residential structures all in the 65 DNL noise contour of the Laredo International Airport; and authorizing the City Manager to implement said budget amendment; providing for an effective date.

 

 Motion to open the public hearing.

 

 Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

 Second:  Cm. Amaya

 For:    6                                            Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0  

 

 There was no public input.

 

 Motion to close the public hearing and introduce.

 

 Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

 Second:  Cm. Amaya

 For:    6                                            Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

 Ordinance Introduction:  City Council

 

3.      Public hearing and introductory ordinance authorizing the City Manager to accept a reimbursement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the amount of $10,720.00 for overtime expenses and amending the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 annual budget in the amount of $10,720.00 to fund the Laredo Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).  The Laredo Police Department will assign one police investigator to the task force.  Reimbursement of overtime expenses will commence on October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2004.

 

Motion to open the public hearing.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. Amaya

For:    6                                             Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

There was no public input.

 

Motion to close the public hearing and introduce.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. Belmares

For:    6                                             Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

Ordinance Introduction:  City Council

 

4.      Public hearings for the voluntary annexation of four (4) tracts of land (Tract 1: Las Blancas Tract - 419.4591 acres, more or less; Tract 2: Las Misiones Tract - 83.0116 acres, more or less; Tract 3: McNary and Calk Tract - 70.42 acres, more or less; Tract 4: Zachry Tract - 256.66 acres, more or less) totaling 829.55 acres, more or less, and the unilateral annexation of one (1) tract of land (Tract 5: Highway 359 Tract- 622.5 acres, more or less), for a total of 1,452.05 acres, more or less, as described in the attached tract summaries as required by Section 43.063 of the Texas Local Government Code.

 

 Motion to open the public hearing.

 

 Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

 Second:  Cm. Amaya

 For:    6                                            Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

Carol Sherwood, Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity, stated that the ten acre tract mentioned in said hearing will provide fifty families with water.  The families represent people who live in the 25% to 49% of median income.  Habitat for Humanity has invested money in the project which includes a Capacity Building Grant and $400,000 from Housing and Urban Development.  She asked for the Council’s support for the annexation. 

 

Richard Haynes, representing ten different individuals, spoke in favor of the annexation. 

 

Keith Selman, Planning Director, invited the public to view the service plans that were available at the City Council Meeting.    

 

Motion to close the public hearing.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    6                                             Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

VIII.    GENERAL COUNCIL DISCUSSIONS AND PRESENTATIONS

 

5.  A.  Request by Council Member Johnny Amaya

 

1.      Authorization to use District IV discretionary funds in the estimated amount of $27,500.00 for approximately 5 ½ blocks of sidewalks on the west side of Malinche Avenue between Plum and Frost Streets and the east and west sides of Bartlett Avenue between Locust and Lyon Streets.  Construction will be done in-house by the Engineering/Public Works Department.

 

Motion to authorize staff to use District IV discretionary funds in the estimated amount of $27,500.00 for approximately 5 ½ blocks of sidewalks on the west side of Malinche Avenue between Plum and Frost Streets and the east and west sides of Bartlett Avenue between Locust and Lyon Streets.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tempore Galo

Second:  Cm.  Amaya

For:     6                             Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0

 

Cm.  Garcia was not present.

 

B.   Request by Council Member Gene Belmares

 

1.      Discussion with possible action on enforcement efforts to control roadside vendors.

 

Cm.  Belmares expressed his concern for the safety of pedestrians while vehicles are approaching/departing from the vendor’s site.  He also questioned the issue of sales tax for roadside vendors.  Finally, he was concerned about the buyer beware issue.  He noted that the buyer does not have the opportunity to exchange or refund the products. 

 

Officer Enrique Mendoza mentioned two vending characteristics which include the public right-of-way vendor or the private property vendor.  The Laredo Police Department deals with the public right-of-way vendor.  He said that the officers have been issuing many citations to the vendors who set up on the right- of-ways.  He added that the Laredo Police Department has been coordinating with the City of Laredo’s Code Enforcement Team to restrain the vendors; however, many of them are working on private property.  Police officers are not allowed to give citations to vendors who are working on private property.  

 

Cm. Belmares  inquired about the fine for roadside vendors.    

 

Assistant City Attorney Anthony McGettrick noted that the code provision which disallows the commercial use of streets, sidewalks and other public places provides for a very low fine of $200.00. 

 

Keith Selman, City Planner, said the typical violator is cited for conducting their business from an unenclosed structure which is a violation of the Zoning Ordinance.  The fine for the violation has a maximum of $2,000.00.  He added that the violator is issued a warning the first time and is given a citation if they do not desist. 

 

Cm.  Belmares expressed his desire to increase the penalty for street vendors who continue to violate.   

 

Anthony McGettrick, Assistant City Attorney, agreed that the current ordinance does need to be re-evaluated because it is too low for individuals that continue to use city property for their business.  He added the property owners should be cited if vendors use their land to sell their merchandise.

 

Keith Selman, City Planner, said that his staff will issue citations to the vendor and the property owner.    

 

Officer Enrique Mendoza said that property owners can avoid being cited if they send a letter to the Laredo Police Department stating that they are opposed to having vendors sell merchandise on their property.  When a letter is on file, the Laredo Police Department has the authority to arrest the vendors for criminal trespassing. 

 

Cm.  Belmares asked if the City has a policy for seasonal vendors. 

 

Cynthia Collazo, Assistant City Manager, said that the City of Laredo doesn’t have a permit process in place but staff is currently researching data which will be included in a report to be reviewed by Council for recommendations. 

 

Motion to instruct staff to amend the current Ordinance by raising fines for individuals who use the City of Laredo public right-of-ways to sell goods.  In addition, staff should continue to research the permit process which would allow for vendors to sell on private property. 

 

Moved:  Cm.  Belmares

Second:  Mayor Pro Tempore Galo

For:     6                                         Against:  0                                Abstain:  0

 

Cm.  J.  Valdez spoke in favor of a permit system. 

 

2.      Discussion with possible action on creating on aircraft viewing area as recommended by the Airport Advisory Committee.

 

Jose Flores, Airport Director, noted that a status report was provided to City Council in regards to creating an aircraft viewing area.  He continued to say that the Airport Advisory Committee is in favor of constructing an aircraft viewing area.  The Committee recommended for the project to be funded with monies received from airport land sales.  Staff is estimating the cost of the viewing area to be $8,000. 

 

Cm.  Belmares asked staff to place the item back on the agenda with recommendations to the Council.   

 

3.      Discussion with possible action regarding expansion of parking permit pilot program and other traffic control programs in District VI.

 

Roberto Murillo, Traffic Director, gave a presentation on the existing boundaries for the parking project.  He advised that Council would need to amend the ordinance in order to expand the parking permit pilot.   

 

Motion to amend the ordinance to include Longhorn Drive and Alameda. 

 

Moved:  Cm.  Belmares

Second:  Mayor Pro Tempore Galo

For:     7                             Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0

 

Cm.  Belmares asked the City Manager to have the traffic control devices on International and Agusto removed. 

 

Motion to extend the railing at International and St.  John.

 

Moved:  Cm.  Belmares

Second:  Cm.  Galo

For:     7                              Against:                                                Abstain:  0

 

C.              Request by Council Member Jose A. Valdez, Jr.

 

1.      Discussion with possible action to create an International Trade Commission. (Co-sponsored by Council Member Gene Belmares)

 

Cm. J. Valdez asked Council to consider creating a Commission of International Trade Commission.  He recommended that each Council Member should appoint one member from their district. The Mayor should appoint three individuals including a custom house broker, a freight industry person, and an individual from a financing institution.  He instructed the City Manager to come back to Council with a strategic plan for creating an International Trade Commission.

 

Larry Dovalina, City Manager, said that staff would begin the process for writing a detailed ordinance that would allow Council to create the Commission. 

 

Motion to create an International Trade Commission.

 

Moved:  Cm.  J.  Valdez

Second:  Cm.  Ramirez

For:     6                                         Against:  0                                Abstain:  0

 

Cm.  E.  Valdez was not present.

 

2.      Discussion with possible action to authorize the construction of a retaining wall for approximately 400 linear feet at the Bristol Road low water crossing for flood control; and authorization to use District VII discretionary funds in the maximum amount of $5,000.00 to be constructed by the Department of Engineering/Public Works.

 

Motion to authorize the construction of a retaining wall for approximately 400 linear feet at the Bristol Road low water crossing for flood control; and authorization to use District VII discretionary funds in the maximum amount of $5,000.00 to be constructed by the Department of Engineering/Public Works. 

 

Moved:  Cm. J.  Valdez

Second:  Mayor Pro Tempore Galo

For:     6                                         Against:  0                                Abstain:  0

         

   IX.    INTRODUCTORY ORDINANCES

                  

6.  Authorizing the City Manager to grant a Right-of-Entry Permit to the United States of

America in the area encompassed by the following City-owned blocks, for use as a work area for environmental exploration and survey, Southward and Eastward up to Tilden Avenue, including any public right-of-way abutting said blocks and any river vega land. Said blocks being delineated on attached copy of City Plat: all of Blocks 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 57, 68, 414, 415, 416, 425, 450-A 629, 630, 644, 645, 658, 659, 672, 673, 674, 675, 676, 677, 680, 708, 708-B & 724; all being situated in the Western Division, City of Laredo, Webb County, Texas; and providing for an effective date.

 

Ordinance Introduction:  City Council

 

   X.    FINAL READING OF ORDINANCES 

 

Motion to waive final reading of Ordinances # 2003-O-262; # 2003-O-263; # 2003-O-264; # 2003-O-265; # 2003-O-266; # 2003-O-267; # 2003-O-268; # 2003-O-269; # 2003-O-270; # 2003-O-271; # 2003-O-272; # 2003-O-273; # 2003-O-274; # 2003-O-275; # 2003-O-276; # 2003-O-277; # 2003-O-278; # 2003-O-279; # 2003-O-280; and 2003-O-281.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                                                            Against:  0                                     Abstain: 0 

 

            Cm. Garcia and Cm. Amaya were not present. 

 

2003-O-262        Amending the Zoning Ordinance Map of the City of Laredo by rezoning Lots 10 and 11, Block 816, Western Division, located at 3103 San Agustin Avenue, from B-1 (Limited Commercial District) to B-3 (Community Business District); providing for publication and effective date. 

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-262.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                            Against:  0                                  Abstain:  0

 

2003-O-263        Amending the Zoning Ordinance Map of the City of Laredo by rezoning 3.40 acres, as further described by metes and bounds on attached Exhibit “A,” located north of Del Mar Boulevard and east of Burke Drive, from AG (Agricultural District) to B-1 (Limited Commercial District); providing for publication and effective date. 

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-263.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:   Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                              Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-264        Amending the Zoning Ordinance Map of the City of Laredo by rezoning 48.70 acres, as further described by metes and bounds on attached Exhibit “A,” located north of Del Mar Boulevard and east of Burke Drive, from AG (Agricultural District) to R-1 (Single Family Residential District); providing for publication and effective date. 

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-264.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                              Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-265        Amending the Zoning Ordinance Map of the City of Laredo by rezoning 8.34 acres, as further described by metes and bounds on attached Exhibit “A,” located north of Del Mar Boulevard and east of Burke Drive, from AG (Agricultural District) to B-3 (Community Business District); providing for publication and effective date. 

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-265.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                              Against:  0                                Abstain:  0

 

2003-O-266        Amending the Zoning Ordinance Map of the City of Laredo by rezoning Lot 2, Block 1, Ramirez Industrial Subdivision and 0.3625 acres, as further described by metes and bounds on attached Exhibit “A,” located at approximately 3700 Loop 20, from M-1 (Light Manufacturing District) and M-2 (Heavy Manufacturing District) to B-4 (Highway Commercial District); providing for publication and effective date. 

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-266.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                              Against:  0                                Abstain:  0

 

2003-O-267        Amending the Zoning Ordinance Map of the City of Laredo by rezoning Lot 8, Block 1739, Eastern Division, located at 2619 S. Arkansas Avenue from R-3 (Mixed Residential District) to B-1 (Limited Commercial District); providing for publication and effective date. 

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-267.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                              Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-268        Amending the Zoning Ordinance Map of the City of Laredo by rezoning 12.12 acres, as further described by metes and bounds on attached Exhibit “A,” located south of proposed Havana Drive and east of Woodridge Drive, from AG (Agricultural District) to R-1A (Single Family Reduced Area District); providing for publication and effective date. 

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-268.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez,, Jr.

For:    5                              Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-269        Amending the Zoning Ordinance Map of the City of Laredo by rezoning 6.00 acres, as further described by metes and bounds on attached Exhibit “A,” located south of Casa Blanca Road, from R-3 (Mixed Residential District) to B-4 (Highway Commercial District); providing for publication and effective date. 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-269.

 

 

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                              Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-270        Amending the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 parking meter fund budget by appropriating a draw down of $511,566.00 from the opening balance and appropriating it for land acquisition and improvements.  The projects planned projects consists of land acquisition, improvement and construction of surface municipal parking lots in the downtown area.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-270.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                              Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-271        Amending Article I Section 24.1.3.2, Responsibilities of the Board of Adjustment, creating Section 24.1.8, Standard Technical Specification Manual Committee, Creating Article III, Section 24.58, Standard Technical Specification Manual, Creating Article VI Section 24.96, Amendment Procedures for the Standard Technical Specification Manual, of the Laredo Land Development Code of the City of Laredo, providing for publication and effective date.  (As amended)

 

Motion to postpone for 30 days.

 

Moved:  Cm. Belmares

Second:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

For:    5                              Against:  0                                Abstain:  0

 

Cm. Garcia and Cm. Amaya were not present. 

 

2003-O-272        Amending the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 annual budget by appropriating   revenues and expenditures in the amount $8,400.00 in additional funds from Webb County for a total of $158,400.00, for the period beginning October 1, 2003, through September 30, 2004.  The Central Welfare Agency – County Indigent Program is allotted space at the Health Complex at no cost.  Due to the rise in costs of security and maintenance supplies, a prorated cost has been applied to support a .5 Security Guard  (contract) and $600.00 for janitorial supplies.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-272.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                       Against:  0                           Abstain:  0

 

2003-O-273        Authorizing the City Manager to amend the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 annual budget by transferring unexpended funds in the amount of $19,950.00 from FY 2002-2003 from the United Independent School District to FY 2003-2004 for the Immunization Program of the City of Laredo Health Department for the period beginning July 3, 2003, through July 2, 2007, contingent upon availability of funds and yearly contract renewal.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-273.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                       Against:  0                           Abstain:  0

 

2003-O-274        Authorizing the City Manager to enter into a contract with the University of Arizona and amend the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 annual budget by appropriating revenues and expenditures in the amount of $20,000.00.  The University of Arizona will grant the City of Laredo $20,000.00 for the Border Vision Fronteriza (BVF) 2: Community Health Workers for Children’s Health Project of the City of Laredo Health Department, for the period beginning September 14, 2003, through September 13, 2004; and authorizing the City Manager to amend the City’s FY 2003-04 full-time equivalent positions by creating two (2) part-time Community Service Aide positions for a total of  .96 FTE.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-274.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                       Against:  0                                       Abstain:  0

                            

2003-O-275        Amending the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 annual budget by appropriating revenues and expenditures in the amount $15,000.00 in funds from the Texas Department of Health to conduct the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program of the City of Laredo Health Department for the period beginning November 1, 2003, through June 20, 2004; and amending the FY 2003-2004 full-time equivalent positions by creating one (1) part-time Health Educator position for a total of  .48 FTE.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-275.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                       Against:  0                           Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-276        Authorizing the City Manager to amend the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 annual budget by transferring unexpended funds in the amount of $73,500.00 from FY 2002-2003 from the Laredo Independent School District to the Immunization Program of the City of Laredo Health Department for the period beginning April 1, 2003, through August 31, 2003, contingent upon availability of funds and yearly contract renewal.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-276.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                       Against:  0                           Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-277        Amending the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 annual budget by decreasing revenues and expenditures in the amount of $143,387.00 to reflect the actual grant amount from the Texas Department of Health and decrease in-kind funds in the amount of $48,150.00 from the Laredo Independent School District for the Mi Futuro (My Future) Abstinence Education Program of the City of Laredo Health Department from October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2004.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-277.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:     5                      Against:  0               Abstain:  0

 

2003-O-278        Amending the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 annual budget by decreasing revenues and expenditures in the amount of $690.00 to reflect the actual grant amount of $169,293.00 from the Texas Department of Health for the Tuberculosis Prevention/Control Federal Project of the City of Laredo Health Department for the period beginning January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2004.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-278.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:     5                      Against:  0               Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-279        Amending the City of Laredo FY 2003-2004 Airport Construction Fund Budget to appropriate $400,000.00 in additional revenues received through a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the Small Communities Air Service Development Pilot Program and a transfer in from the Convention and Visitors Bureau Fund in the amount of $100,000.00 and appropriating $500,000.00 in expenditures for said pilot program.  The funds will be used to increase the use of services at the airport and to improve airfares available to travelers in our community.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-279.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                       Against:  0               Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-280        Electing for the City of Laredo to make current service and prior service contributions to the City's account in the Municipal Accumulation Fund of the Texas Municipal Retirement System at such rate within legal limits, as the actuary annually determines is required to fund within a period of twenty-five years from the most recent valuation date, the costs of employee benefits payable from, or chargeable to, the City's said account in said fund.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-280.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:   Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                       Against:  0                           Abstain:  0 

 

2003-O-281        Closing as a public easement that section of the 2000 block of Plum Street between Malinche and Urbahn Avenues situated in the Eastern Division, City of Laredo, Webb County, Texas, and providing for an effective date.

 

Motion to adopt Ordinance # 2003-O-281.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:    5                       Against:  0               Abstain:  0 

 

  XI.    RESOLUTIONS

 

8.   2003-R-131  Authorizing the City Manager to submit a grant with the Office of the

   Governor, Criminal Justice Division.  The City Manager is authorized to

   apply for, accept, reject, alter, or terminate a grant.  The Office of the

   Governor, Criminal Justice Division will be funding 90% of the Juvenile

   Accountability Incentive Block Grant and the City of Laredo will be

   designating 10% matching funds.  Funding will be used to pay for the

   salaries and fringe benefits of an Administrative Assistant II and to

   purchase necessary supplies in support of the juvenile program.  Grant

   period is from August 1, 2003 through July 31, 2004.

 

                Motion to approve Resolution # 2003-R-131.

 

   Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

                                       Second:   Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

                                       For:    5                                 Against:  0                                Abstain:  0                   

9.  2003-R-137  Accepting the donation of the “Surface Only” of a 0.003 of an acre

                    (143.574 sq. ft.) parcel of land, as a perpetual easement, from the

  Ike Alexander Estate for the Iturbide Street Urban Mall Project.  Said

  parcel of land being out of the East 35.55 feet of Lot 7, and out of Lot 6,

  Block 35, Western Division, City of Laredo, Webb County, Texas.

 

  Motion to approve Resolution # 2003-R-137.

 

               Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

                                      Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

              For:     5                                 Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

            

10.  2003-R-138  Accepting the donation of the “Surface Only” of a 0.006 of an acre

   (241.791 sq. ft.) parcel of land, as a perpetual

               easement, from the Ike Alexander Estate for the Iturbide Street Urban Mall

               Project.  Said parcel of land being out of the West 27.78 feet of Lot 9, and

               out of Lot 10, Block 35, Western Division, City of Laredo, Webb County,

               Texas.

 

   Motion to approve Resolution # 2003-R-138.

 

   Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

                                       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

               For:     5                                Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

 

11.  2003-R-139  Accepting the donation of the “Surface Only” of a 0.002 of an acre (95.908

  sq. ft.) parcel of land, as a perpetual easement, from Mrs. Raymond  

  Robinson for the Iturbide Street Urban Mall Project.  Said parcel of land

  being out of the East 27.78 feet of Lot 9, and out of the West 31.00 feet of

  Lot 8, Block 35, Western Division, City of Laredo, Webb County, Texas.

 

  Motion to approve Resolution #2003-R-139. 

 

                Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

                                       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

For:     5                             Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

 

 

12.  2003-R-140  Accepting the donation of the “Surface Only” of a 0.001 of an acre (55.077

                            sq. ft.) parcel of land, as a perpetual easement, from Jung Soo Yoon, for the

 Iturbide Street Urban Mall Project.  Said parcel of land being out of the East  

 24.56 feet of Lot 8, and out of the West 20.01 feet of Lot 7, Block 35,

 Western Division, City of Laredo, Webb County, Texas.

 

 Motion to approve Resolution #2003-R-140.

 

 Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

                                     Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

                                     For:     5                                  Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

 

XII.    MOTIONS

           

13.  Consideration to relinquish any interest in acquiring surplus right-of-way located on

the southeast corner of IH 35 frontage road and Shiloh Drive as offered by the Texas Department of Transportation.

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. Ramirez

For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

14.  Consideration for approval to reject the two bids received for the Laredo International

Airport roof repairs for Building No. 132, 134 and 1054, since all bids were over the budget amount, and to authorize staff to re-bid the project.  Funding is available in the Airport Fund.

 

Motion to approve.

 

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. Ramirez

       For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

15.  Consideration for approval of Change Order No. 1 a decrease of $2,806.50 acceptance

of the Lafayette Street Park Project and approval of final payment in the amount of $26,328.20 to Pete Gallegos Paving, Inc., Laredo, Texas.  Final contract amount is $246,002.00.  Funding is available in the Lafayette Street Park Project, CDBG 27th Action Year.

 

Motion to approve.

 

 

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

                   Second:  Cm. Ramirez

       For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

16.  Consideration to award contract number FY04-012 to the low bidder, A-1 Dry

Cleaners, Laredo, Texas, in the estimated annual amount of $27,468.00 for providing laundry services for Police Department uniforms.  The contract pricing is approximately 51% less than the previous contract amount.  The City must provide cleaning service for police uniforms as a condition of the collective bargaining agreement.  Funding is available in the Police Department budget.

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

                   For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

17.  Authorizing the City Manager to accept a Toshiba digital camera as a donation from

Office Communications Systems/Toshiba to be used by City departments.  The camera has a retail value of $290.00. 

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

       For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

                                               

18.  Consideration to award contract number FY04-013 to the low bidder,

AAR Inc., Houston, Texas, in the amount of $117,800.00 for asbestos abatement and demolition of building S-1, the old Customs building, and the SER building at the Laredo International Airport.  These buildings were damaged during the storm of June 2, 2003, and a claim was filed with our insurance carrier, Texas Municipal League (TML).  Funding is available in the Airport Fund with reimbursement by TML for eligible expenses. 

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

       For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0

 

19.  Consideration to award contract number FY04-006 to the low bidder, Clean Harbors

Environmental Services, La Porte, Texas, in the amount of $30,795.00 for conducting two Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection events.  Funding is available in the Environmental Services Department budget. 

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

       For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0

 

20.  Consideration to award software maintenance contract to the sole source provider,

H.T.E., Inc., Lake Mary, Florida, in the amount of $86,705.00.  This maintenance contract will provide customer support and service for the Police Department’s computer aided dispatch system, crime management system, crackdown software, mobile data terminal software and the Fire Department’s fire management system.  Funding is available in the Police and Fire Department budgets.

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

       For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

21.  Consideration to authorize the City Manager to enter into a user agreement between the

Texas Department of Public Safety and the City of Laredo Police Department Criminal Intelligence Acquisition Unit to obtain access of the driver’s license image retrieval system at no cost to the City.

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

       For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0

 

22.  Refund of property tax to the following taxpayers and companies:

 

a.              A refund in the amount of $3,196.18 payable to Wells Fargo Real Estate Tax Services, LLC.  Wells Fargo paid account in error.  Account #968-81001-010.

b.              A refund in the amount of $2,449.37 payable to United Independent School District Tax Office.  American Tower Corporation sent payment over the amount due.  The overage belongs to United Independent School District.  Tax Office as requested by American Tower Corporation.  Account #801-01021-122.

c.              A refund in the amount of $524.98 payable to Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service/Refund Department.  Account was paid by Webb County Title and Abstract and Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #980-70001-200.

d.              A refund in the amount of $999.96 payable to Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service/Refund Department.  Account was paid by Chase Manhattan and Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #989-52002-030.

e.              A refund in the amount of $1,030.42 payable to Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service/Refund Department.  Account was paid by owner and Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #991-00002-150.

f.                A refund in the amount of $671.33 payable to Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service/Refund Department.  Account was paid by Border Title and Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #980-90002-010.

g.              A refund in the amount of $866.10 payable to Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service/Refund Department.  Account was paid by Border Title and Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #990-20001-010.

h.              A refund in the amount of $1,876.78 payable to Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service/Refund Department.  Account was paid by Vaquillas Development and Transamercia Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #900-90311-137.

i.                A refund in the amount of $663.45 payable to Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  This account was paid by Border Title and Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #970-60015-200.

j.                A refund in the amount of $676.18 payable to Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account was paid by Neel Title and Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #965-21001-020.

k.              A refund in the amount of $580.22 payable to Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account was paid by Neel Title and Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #969-00002-170.

l.                A refund in the amount of $940.50 payable to Transamercia Real Estate Tax Service.  Account was paid by Webb County Title and Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #970-60013-040.

m.            A refund in the amount of $14,031.78 payable to Albertsons Inc. due to a double payment.  Albertson’s Inc., and H. E. B. paid the 2002 tax.  Account #801-01095-010.

n.              A refund in the amount of $739.68 payable to Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account was paid by Neel Title and Transamerica Real Estate Tax Service.  Account #983-40001-040.

 

                   Motion to approve.

 

                   Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

                   Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

                   For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

23.  Authorizing the City Manager to enter into contract and award 2003 Emergency

Shelter Grant (ESG) funds made available by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the amount of $23,000.00 to Sacred Heart Children’s Home for the rehabilitation of a residential cottage; $27,000.00 to the Laredo Homeless Coalition (LHC) for operation of the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Resource Center located at 815 Hidalgo; $53,500.00 to Catholic Social Services of Laredo, Inc.(CSS) for operation of La Frontera Halfway House; $22,500.00 to Bethany House for Homeless Prevention assistance; and $22,500.00 to the Laredo Webb-County Community Action Agency (CAA) for Homeless Prevention assistance.

 

       Motion to approve.

 

       Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

                   Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

                   For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

24.  Consideration for approval for approval of the consultant T.N.T. Construction Co.,

Inc., Waco, Texas, for the construction of two water spray parks (design/build project) and authorization to negotiate a professional services contract.  One spray park will be constructed on Farias and Ortiz Streets west of Santa Maria Avenue and directly behind the Farias Recreation Center, and the other will be located on Lafayette Street between Santa Rita and Santa Cleotilde Avenues.  Funding is available from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds 28th Action Year.

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

       For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0

 

25.  Authorizing the City Manager to execute a release and settlement agreement with

Laredo Police Officer Ricardo Reyes, Jr., whereby Officer Ricardo Reyes, Jr., will reimburse the City of Laredo the total sum of $10,614.00 as detailed in the agreement.

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

       For:    5                                         Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0

 

26.  Authorization to use District II discretionary funds in the estimated amount of 

$10,000.00 for sidewalks on the west side of Rancho Grande Drive from Circle Drive to Loop 20.  Construction will be done in-house by Engineering/Public Works Department.

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

       For:   5                                          Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

 

 

 

 

XIII.    STAFF REPORTS

 

27.  Presentation by Roberto Murillo, Traffic Director, regarding findings and

       recommendations on Laredo taxicab industry study with possible action.

 

       Bruce Schaller, from Schaller Consulting, gave the following presentation:

 

       Overview

       Issues

       Methodology

       Findings

       Recommendations

 

       Issues

 

       Number of taxicabs

       Adequacy of current service

       Enforcement

       Taxi stand operation

       Vehicle inspections

       Potential areas for new business

 

       Methodology

 

       Document review

       Site visit in late June

       Sample of taximeter and odometer readings

 

       Taxi Stand/Company Visits

 

       Key Findings

 

       1.  Oversupply of Taxicabs

 

            Taximeter readings show:

            - 4.7 trips per shift

            -  $68 per shift fare revenues (gross)

            $20 – 40 driver take-home income

 

       2.  Cab Dispatch Operations

 

            Return to taxi stand/base after each trip

            Fairness and cost are barriers to using modern dispatch systems and methods.

 

 

 

       3.  Reliance on Tax Stands

 

            Two-thirds of cabs use stand as base of operations

            Pros and cons:

            -  Easy to get cab downtown

            -  Uses more street space than necessary

            -  Remote from outlying calls

            -  Cabs use stands as a substitute for off-street base, accountability

 

       4.  Quality of Service

 

            Drivers very experienced and committed to industry

            Vehicles generally in good shape

            Some problems with:

            -  Some old vehicles not in good condition

            -  Overcharging

            -  Drivers not using meter

            -  Unlicensed operation

 

       5.  Recommendations

 

            1.  Increase market for cab service

            -  Paratransit services/El Lift

            -  Senior transportation programs

            -  New taxi stands

 

            2.  Explore reducing number of cabs

            -  Not re-issue revoked/expired permits

            -  Offer buy-out

            -  Incentives to combine multi-cab operations

           

            Modernize cab industry

                        -  Require off-street premises

                        -  Require dispatch using two-way communications

                        -  Contingent on bringing supply and demand into balance

 

                        Other recommendations

                        -  Devote Taxi Inspectors to enforcement

                        -  Replace older cabs that break down repeatedly

                        -  Post customer information at transportation hubs and inside cabs

                        -  Issue picture IDs to drivers and display in cab

                        -  Consider limousine regulations

 

                        Review of Laredo Taxicab Issue

 

                        Submitted to City of Laredo Traffic Safety Department

 

                        Executive Summary

 

This study was commissioned by the City to review the current number of cabs in the City, evaluate whether service, enforcement and vehicle inspections are adequate, assess how taxi stand should be operated and evaluate opportunities for new business. 

 

Findings and recommendations are based on a 2 ½ day site visit in late June that included interviews with taxi owners, taxi drivers and City staff and visits to taxi stands, taxi company offices, hospitals, hotels and the Laredo Entertainment Arena.

 

The central conclusion of the study if the Laredo currently has more taxicabs than are needed to meet the current demand for taxi service.  The oversupply is readily seen in the many hours that drivers spend each day waiting for their next fares.  Interviews with drivers and analysis of taximeter reading show that drivers average about 5 trips per shift, which is one-half or fewer than in comparable cities.

 

The excess number of cabs profoundly shapes operations of the including the lack of dispatch technology and extensive reliance on taxi stands.  The oversupply of cabs also results in low revenues per cab and thus creates an incentive for drivers to overcharge passengers.

 

The problem of oversupply can be addressed in either or both of two ways; increasing the demand for taxi service and decreasing the number of cabs.  The City should explore the following approaches of correcting the imbalance between taxicab supply and demand:

 

Paratransit service contracts – It might be possible for El Metro’s Para transit program to contract with taxi companies to service paratransit trips.  Taxi contracting has the potential to reduce El Metro paratransit program costs.  Contracting would benefit the taxi industry by increasing demand for service and benefit paratransit users by increasing the flexibility and responsiveness of the service.  Transit agencies in Houston, San Antonio, San Francisco and other cities have had successful experiences with taxi contracts.  A range of operational issues would need to be addressed to set up a taxi contracting program.

 

Senior transportation programs – Another possibility is to use cabs to provide locally funded senior transportation services.  Depending on the type of service needed, taxicabs can reduce costs and provide additional flexibility for patrons. 

 

New taxi stands – Establishment of a new stand at the Laredo Entertainment Center is recommended.

 

Reducing the number of cabs – Tow possible method of reducing the size of industry are a buyout program for taxi owners and (b) incentives for taxi permit holders to combine the operations of several taxibcabs.  Preferably, reducing the number of cabs would be combined with increasing the market for taxi services to bring supply and demand into alignment.

 

Addressing the oversupply problem should be the City’s first priority.  It should be followed by taking steps to modernize the taxi industry:

 

Require modernization of taxi companies’ dispatch systems through use of two-way communications systems (i.e. two-way radios or cell phones.)

 

Require off-street premises for each cab company.  Currently four of the eleven cab companies have off-street premises while seven companies base their operations at on-street taxi stands.

 

Current cab operations that center on taxi stand use inefficient call-assignment procedures in which the driver who has been waiting the longest amount of time gets the next passenger, no matter which cab is closest to the caller.  This approach is understandable given the need to equitably distribute the relatively small number of passengers among drivers.  As the number of trips per cab is increased, equity among drivers will become a less critical concern and the efficiency of call assignment will become more important. the companies will start to need and will benefit form a modern dispatch system which enables them to dispatch trips to the cab nearest to the pickup location.  Passengers will benefit by shorter waits when they call for a cab. 

 

Off- street premises will provide a place for storage of vehicles and records and for dispatch of telephone request for service, and will enable the City to reduce the space allotted for taxi stands.  The number and size of taxi stands should be reduced, but sufficient spots should be maintained to provide and adequate number of cabs for walk-up customers, particularly in the downtown area.

 

Off-street premises combined with dispatch operations will also build a more structured industry with stronger accountability, including means of dealing with customer complaints.

 

Other recommendations are:

 

Increase enforcement, particularly against unlicensed activity.

Mandate replacement of older cabs that experience repeated breakdowns.

Post customer information at transportation hubs and inside cabs.

Issue larger picture ID cards to drivers and display driver IDs in a place visible to passengers.

Consider adopting regulations for limousine services.

 

The overall objectives of our recommendations are to modernize the operations of the taxi industry, improve service and increase accountability of the taxi industry.  Recommendations will benefit all three constituencies – passengers by improving the quality of service, particularly in outlying areas of the city; the taxi industry by raising incomes for drivers and owners; and the City by reducing the use of public street space for taxi stands.

 

Purpose and Methodology

 

Taxicab regulation is the responsibility of the Laredo Traffic Safety division, which licenses taxicab vehicles and drivers, inspects the vehicles and enforces the City Ordinance as it pertains to taxicabs.  The Traffic Safety Division currently licenses 78 taxicabs.  The authorized size of the industry is 79 cabs but one revoked permit has not been re-issued.

 

This study was commissioned by the City to address several issues concerning taxicab regulation and operation:

 

1.  Are there currently enough taxicabs in service?

2.  Is service adequate?

3.  Is there enough enforcement?

4.  How should taxi stand be operated?

5.  Is the City’s inspection program adequate?

6.  What are potential areas for new business?

 

The consultant collected and analyzed a range of information to serve as the basis for analysis of these issues.  Documents reviewed include the current City Ordinance, proposed Ordinance changes, and sample of customer complaints, summonses and staff, interview with taxi divers and owners at each of the major taxi stands and at off-street taxi company offices, a visit at the airport at which we met with the airport director and talked with taxi drivers serving at the airport, a visit to the Laredo Entertainment Center and later telephone interview with the General manager, and brief interviews with front-line staff at major hotels and the two major hospitals, Mercy and Doctors.

 

As described below, City staff collected taximeter and odometer readings in July and August to quantify the number of trips and fare revenues generated by the taxi industry. 

 

This study was carried out by Bruce Schaller, Principal of Schaller Consulting.  Schaller Consulting specializes in taxicab regulatory and operational issues.  Bruce Schaller has extensive experience with taxicab issues in cities ranging from Anaheim, California to New York City.  In New York City, he was Director of Policy Development and Evaluation at the Taxi and Limousine Commission from 1986 to 1994.

 

 

 

Findings

 

Taxicabs are an important means of transportation in Laredo in a variety of ways.  Many trips are related to Laredo’s role as a border town, transporting people who have crossed the border and need to go further into Laredo or taking people into Mexico.  Taxicabs also serve residents making local trips for work, social and recreational purposes and visitors at the airport, hotels and businesses.

 

Taxi ownership and operation

 

Of 78 cabs, 68 are operated through 11 companies, each of which own between two and 11 taxi permits.  The other 10 cabs are owned and operated individually.

 

Four companies operate from off-street premises:  A-1, Red Fox, Red Top, and tops Taxi.  These cabs primarily respond to telephone requests for service and return to the off-street premises after each trip.  There are also some walk-up customers.  Trips are assigned to the driver who has been waiting longest, thus spreading trips evenly among drivers who are on duty.

 

A-1, Red Fox and Red Top drivers do not have two-way radio communications with the base, although some drivers receive calls from customer on their cell phones.  Tops Taxi drivers use two-way radios to coordinate responding to some calls.

 

Cabs for the other companies stage at taxi stands located on city streets, primarily in the downtown area.  Drivers queue at the stand.  Trips are assigned to the driver who is next in line and has been waiting the longest amount of time.  Trips are generated by walk-up customers and, in some cases, through customer telephone calls to a nearby telephone.

 

The taxi stand on the east and north side of Jarvis Plaza is considered to be an “open” stand.  This is the only stand in the city that is used by more than one taxi company.  It is used by drivers from Royal and City Cab and by drivers of several individually owned cabs.  Drivers primarily serve  walk-up passengers.  Some business comes from a phone on wall across the street, estimated at 25% of trips by drivers interviewed.  Checker’s two cabs also used this stand at the time of the visit, but were expecting to move to a newly established stand on Hidalgo Street.

 

Drivers consider all the other stands as belonging exclusively to certain company(ies) and “respect” each other’s turf.  This system of “respect” appears to be a very long standing practice.  One airport driver who has been driving 25 years said the system was in place when he began to drive a cab.

 

Garza uses the taxi stand on Zaragosa Street just north of International Bridge # 1.  Garza drivers serve a large volume of walk-up customers coming over the bridge.  They also answer calls from phone on wall adjacent to stand; drivers estimate 50% of trips are walk-up and 50% by phone requests.

 

Yellow and International stage from stand on the north and west sides of San Agustin Plaza, respectively.  Both serve walk-up passengers, many coming over International Bridge # 1.  Yellow also has a phone adjacent to the stand, but drivers say that most of their passengers are walk-ups coming over the bridge.

 

Aero’s two cabs and about four individually owned cabs operate during the daytime from the airport taxi stand.  These drivers almost exclusively serve the airport.  Two drivers have Nextel phones to coordinate pickups.  The airport is considered to be these drivers “turf” during the daytime, but other drivers pickup at the airport at night.

 

Ace and Flash use a taxi stand on the 1000 block of Farragut Street.  Other individually owned cabs use taxi stands at El Norte mall and at one of the truck stops.

 

Taxi Company

# of Cabs

Off-Street Premises

Use public taxi stands

Garza’s Taxi

11

None

1200 block of Zaragosa St.

Royal Taxi

11

None

Jarvis Plaza

Tops Taxi

11

3019 San Bernardo Ave.

n.a.

A-1 Taxi

6

3805 Convent Ave.

N.a.

City Cab

5

None

Jarvis Plaza

International Taxi

5

None

Flores Ave.

Red Fox Taxi

5

800 San Bernardo Ave.

n.a.

Red Top Taxi

4

810 San Bernardo Ave.

N..a

Laredo Yellow Cab

4

None

Grant St.  ( San Agustin Plaza)

Ace Taxi

2

None

1000 block of Farragut St.

Aero Taxi

2

None

Airport stand

Checker Taxi

2

None

Jarvis Plaza until opening of stand on Farragut Street across from bus station

Cabs operated individually

10

None

Various Stands and airport

Total

78

 

 

Total of 26 cabs based on off-street premises and 52 cabs at taxi stands

 

           

Approximately one-half of the cabs are driven one shift a day and the other half are double-shifted.  A few cabs are double-shifted on some days but not consistently.

 

Whether cabs are single or double-shifted tends varies with the base of operations.  Three-quarters of the taxicabs working out of the Jarvis Plaza taxi stand or the airport stand are single-shifted.  By contrast, about two-thirds of all other cabs are double-shifted.

 

Drivers typically work 10 to 13 hour shifts.  The permit holder or family members drive many of the cabs, while some are leased.

 

Trip volumes and fare revenues

 

For the purposes of this study, the City’s Taxicab Inspector collected taximeter cumulated totals and odometer readings from taxicabs at various locations. Two sets of readings were collected, separated by several weeks.  Subtracting the second set of readings from the first set yields the number of trips, mileage and revenue for the intervening time period.  Drivers were also asked whether the cab is driven by another driver (double-shifted) or only by them and how often they carry passengers across the border.

 

Meter readings were taken from just over one-half of the city’s cabs.  Data were edited for consistency and reasonableness and outlying or inconsistent results were disregarded.  Analysis of valid readings produces the following profile for taxi operations.  (Per shift figures assume that the drivers work 6 days a week):

 

 

4.7  trips per shift

$15.25  average fare for 4.2 mile trip

$410  peer week in fare revenue or $68 per shift

38% of total mileage is with a passenger

50% of cabs are double-shifted

 

It should be noted that the 4.3 mile average trip with a $15.25 average fare implies that about 50% of the trips incur the $9 cross-border surcharge.  Asked during meter readings how often they cross the border, however, all drivers said less than 25% of the time.  This would imply that drivers sometimes charge the $9 cross-border charge when staying in the U. S. , or that there is some other explanation for discrepancy.

 

The taximeter results are consistent with trip volumes reported by drivers.  In interviews, drivers report trip volumes of 3-7 trips per shift – very consistent with the taximeter data average of 4.7 trips per shift.

 

The meter data showing $68 in fares per shift is toward the high end of the range given by drivers, who report grossing $30 - $40 a day on low-revenue days and $70 - $80 a day on good days.  The issue with the $9 surcharge may account for some of this discrepancy.

 

Driver and taximeter trip data are consistent with information reported by airports staff, who estimate that there are 40-40 taxi trips per day from the airport.  Most of these trips are served by six drivers who work daytimes at the airport, which computes to about five airport trips per cab per shift.

 

Driver payments

 

Cabs that are not driven by the permit holder or a relative of the permit holder are generally leased to driver (s).  Drivers pay a daily lease fee to the owner.  Lease fees generally vary between $20 and $30 per shift for cabs that are leased on a shift basis; the amount can vary day-to-day depending on the amount of business.

 

Drivers who own their own permit obviously do not pay lease fees.  Many owner-drivers do pay a fee to the company that has taken control of the taxi stand, however.  These fees range from $5 a month at Jarvis Plaza to $95 a month at the taxi stand on Zaragosa Street that is controlled by Garza Taxi.  The fees reflect three sources of value for drivers.  First, drivers receive some business from customers calling telephones posed near these stands.  Second, drivers receive walk-up business when they are at the stand.  (In this sense, private parties are charging for use of city street space.)  Third, driver’s cars are “branded” with the taxi company name; the name recognition may be of value to drivers as well.

 

Driver incomes

 

Driver take-home income is the sum of fares and tips for the day minus the lease fee and gasoline cost for lease drivers, or minus operating costs (e.g., vehicle, insurance, gasoline and other operating costs) for drivers who won the permit or use permits owned by relatives.

 

Drivers estimate that their take-home income varies from about $20 - $40 a day, although some days they may make very little and other days considerably more.  Although I did not conduct a detailed financial analysis, typically in the taxi industry, operating costs are aobut one-half of fare revenues.  This would imply that drivers’ take-home incomes are about $34 a shift (one-half the $68 daily fare revenue).  This estimate is consistent with lease driver incomes estimated to be $20-$40 a shift.

 

Incomes for all drivers are substantially higher during the Christmas holiday season and other holidays.

 

Complaints and quality of service

 

Information was gathered from several sources to give an indication of the quality of service and customer satisfaction with service.

 

The City records and investigates complaints received about cab service.  The number of complaints is relatively small – one or two per month.  Complaints received are primarily far-related, e.g., overcharging, charging individual fares for groups, etc.  In many cases, persons making a complaint do not follow up with City staff after the initial contact, and thus no enforcement action can be taken.

 

In addition to the formal complaints process, City and airport officials also report hearing of instances of overcharging (often from the airport), airport drivers transferring passengers to unlicensed vehicles after leaving the airport property and inappropriate dress.

 

The City’s Taxicab Inspector regularly checks cabs and issues summonses as appropriate.  Problems found in this process most commonly involve failure to display licenses or lack of a license, use of a non-taxi for taxi service, not charging the correct fare and dress code violations.

 

Interviews with front-line personnel at five hotels uncovered no complaints about cab service.  Hotel personnel reported that cabs arrive in 5 – 10 minutes.  The number of cabs used per day varied from 5 – 10 per day at the Holiday Inn to one per day at the Marriott and only “occasionally” at the Monterrey Inn.

 

Enforcement and vehicle inspections

 

Each taxicab is inspected once per year by the Taxicab Inspector.  The checklist items is used for inspections.  Defects are required to be corrected and the vehicle returned for re-inspection.

 

The Taxicab Inspector also conducts spot-checks on the street and issues summonses as appropriate.  He is often assigned to other duties, however, and currently spends only about on-half of his time on taxicab enforcement and vehicle inspections while the other one-half is spent on non-taxicab related duties. 

 

Conclusions

 

The core conclusion of this study is that Laredo currently has an excess number of taxicabs considering the current demand for service.  This imbalance profoundly shapes operations of the industry, including the extensive reliance on taxi stands and, through low revenues, an incentive to overcharge passengers. 

 

Oversupply of taxicabs

 

Does Laredo have an appropriate number of taxicabs given the level of demand for taxi service?  This issue is central to both customers and the industry.  It governs whether the public is well served and whether taxi drives and owners have sufficient revenue to provide a desired level of service.  The problem with having too few cabs is obvious:  customers are unable to obtain a cab when they need one.  Equally problematic is an oversupply of cabs, however, which limits the amount of revenue available to operate each cab and thus affects the quality of service.

 

Thus, the most important conclusion of the study is that Laredo currently has more taxicabs than are needed to meet the current demand for taxi service.  Oversupply is obvious from seeing drivers spending many hours each day waiting for their next trip.  Visits to taxi stand and the off-street premises repeatedly found a majority of cabs that operate from the location waiting for a fare.

 

Oversupply can be seen quantitatively in the relatively small number of trips provided daily by each cab – an average of about 5 trips per shift.  This is about one-half – or less – than the typical situation.  Cabs in other cities typically provide 10 – 15 trips per shift and major cities 20 -3- trips per shift.  Thus, Laredo’s tax industry could reasonably be expected to serve at least twice as many trips as it currently serves.

 

The current low number of trips has come about as a result of the economic downturn and as other transportation providers have attracted trips previously taken by taxicab.  These include cross-border trips now served by bus carriers, airport trips served by hotel courtesy shuttles and trips from truck stops served by limousines.

 

The problem of oversupply can be addressed in either or both of two ways:  increasing the demand for taxi service or decreasing the number of taxicabs.  Both solutions are discussed in the recommendations section below.

 

Taxi dispatch operations

 

The current call-assignment method for taxicabs is quite primitive.  Drivers wait at tax stand and off-street premises for walk-up passengers and telephone calls for service.  They then drive to the pick-up locations (for telephone calls,) drive passenger (s) to the desired destination, and return to the driver’s base of operations.  Inherent to this mode of operations is that drivers spend the majority of their time in non-revenue service as they wait for the next passenger, drive to the passenger pick-up location and dead-head back to their base of operations. 

 

Roberto Murillo, Traffic Director, advised Council that staff would prepare a workshop for the taxi cab drivers which will explain the report in English and in Spanish.  He went on to say that staff will continue to work diligently with taxi cab drivers. 

 

Cm.  Valdez asked about the permits.

 

Larry Dovalina, City Manager, said that there are too many permits for any one individual to have a thriving business. 

 

Cm. Valdez asked about the sell of their permits. 

 

Larry Dovalina, City Manager, said that one of the issues that we have actively discussed is that staff believes there are people out in the community who would consider buying permits in order to reduce the number of permits.  There is an issue of a prohibition in the selling of permits and we are talking about reducing restrictions to where staff thinks it would create a better industry. 

 

Cm. J.  Valdez suggested creating guidelines that would protect the buyers and the seller.   

 

Robert Murillo, Traffic Director, noted that the item has been discussed at the Transportation Committee.  They were in favor of making changes once the items are more specific and the details are ironed out. 

 

Cm.  Galo noted the importance of each company operating from an enclosed office rather than conducting their business on the City’s property. 

 

XIV.    EXECUTIVE SESSION

 

The City Council hereby reserves the right to go into executive session at any time during this public meeting, if such is requested by the City Attorney or other legal counsel for the City, pursuant to his or her duty under Section 551.071(2) of the Government Code, to consult privately with his or her client on an item on the agenda, or on a matter arising out of such item.

 

28.  Request for Executive Session pursuant to Texas Government Code  Section 551.072

in order to deliberate on the value of, and possible exchange of real property, being Blocks No. 34 and 35 and a portion of Block No. 25 of the Subdivision Plat of Laredo Airport, located in and around the Laredo International Airport because deliberation in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the City Council in negotiations with third persons and return to open session for possible action.

 

Motion to go into Executive Session pursuant to Texas Government Code  Section 551.072 in order to deliberate on the value of, and possible exchange of real property, being Blocks No. 34 and 35 and a portion of Block No. 25 of the Subdivision Plat of Laredo Airport, located in and around the Laredo International Airport because deliberation in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the City Council in negotiations with third persons and return to open session for possible action.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

       Second:  Cm. Amaya

                   For:    5                                         Against:  0                                Abstain:  0 

 

                   After Executive Session, Mayor Flores announced that no formal action was taken.

 

       Assistant City Attorney Anthony McGettrick noted that the word “exchange”

       be replaced with the word “sale”.

 

                   Motion to authorize the City Manager to sell by sealed bids for purchase of:

       1) Blocks 34 and 35, Airport Subdivision Plat; and 2) portion of Block 25,   

       Airport Subdivision Plat, subject to being not less than fair market value.

 

                    Moved:  Cm. E. Valdez, Jr.

                    Second:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

                    For:    5                                        Against:  0                                Abstain:  0

 

                    Cm. Garcia and Cm. Amaya were not present.

 

 

29.  Request for Executive Session pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 551.072 in

order to deliberate on the value of, and the possible purchase of, real property near the Central Business District, because deliberation in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the City Council in negotiations with third persons; and return to open session for possible action.

 

Motion to go into Executive Session pursuant to Texas Government Code Section   

       551.072 in order to deliberate on the value of, and the possible purchase of, real  

       property near the Central Business District, because deliberation in an open  

                   meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the City Council in

                   negotiations with third persons; and return to open session for possible action.

 

       Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

                   Second:   Cm. Amaya

                   For:    5                                                     Against:  0                                Abstain:  0

 

       After Executive Session, Mayor Flores announced that no formal action was taken.

 

Motion that Council authorize the City Manager to acquire the west 30.56 feet of Lot 8 and the east 13.56 feet of Lot 9 on Block 162, Western Division, in the amount not to exceed $355,000.00.

 

Moved:  Cm. Ramirez

      Second:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

      For:    5                                                      Against:  0                                Abstain:  0

 

                  Cm. Garcia and Cm. Amaya were not present.

 

30.  Request for Executive Session pursuant to Texas Government Code  Section 551.072

in order to deliberate on the value of, and the possible purchase of, real property in the   City of Laredo, because deliberation in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the City Council in negotiations with third persons; and return to open session for possible action. 

 

Motion to go into Executive Session pursuant to Texas Government Code  Section 551.072 in order to deliberate on the value of, and the possible purchase of, real property in the City of Laredo, because deliberation in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the position of the City Council in negotiations with third persons; and return to open session for possible action. 

 

 Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

 Second:  Cm. Amaya

 For:    5                                                     Against:  0                                Abstain:  0  

 

 After Executive Session, Mayor Flores announced that no formal action was taken.

 

XV.   ADJOURNMENT

 

SUPPLEMENTAL AGENDA

 

I.          GENERAL COUNCIL DISCUSSIONS AND PRESENTATIONS

           

1.       

A.  Request by Council Member Eliseo Valdez, Jr.

 

1.      Discussion with possible action regarding the drainage issue at Mission Viejo Condominiums located at 5500 McPherson Avenue. (Co-sponsored by Council Member Gene Belmares)

 

Jose Flores, owner and member of the Board for the Mission Viejo Condominiums, said the problem stems from when McPherson Street was widened and raised.  He added that there is a drainage ditch that runs along the street but it is higher than the parking lot itself. 

 

John Orfila, Recycling Program Coordinator, noted that he was approached by the chairman of the condominiums association with the drainage problem.  He said that staff responded immediately.  Staff cleared the entrance to the inlet which is City right-of-way.  The problem is not the grade inlet because it is low enough for the water to flow.  The problem is the parking lot is lower than the grade inlet.  It has deteriorated in time.  He recommended for them to hire a contractor to raise the parking lot so the water can flow to the inlet or run some type of drainage pipes into the grade inlet from their parking lot where the water will drain from the parking lot into the inlet. 

 

Cm.  E.  Valdez asked if staff could assist the owners in any way. 

 

John Orfila responded by noting the parking lot is private property.

 

Gabriel Martinez, Engineering Department, said that staff can meet with the owner to give him some options.  He added that the owners will have to do some reconstruction within their private property.  Staff can also advise him of services to tie into as far as existing storm sewer. 

 

Cm.  E.  Valdez asked City Manager to instruct staff to meet with the residents and owners and offer recommendations. 

 

Larry Dovalina, City Manager, said that there is a word of caution when it comes to certain issues that exist on private properties.  The City is not responsible and does not have adequate resources to resolve all the issues that are presented them by owners of private property.     

 

 

 

B.   Request by Council Member Juan Ramirez

 

1.      Discussion with possible action regarding mosquito problem along Zacate Creek and the railroad tracks in District VIII.  (Co-sponsored by Council Member Jose A. Valdez, Jr.)

 

Hector Gonzalez, Director of the Health Department, advised that staff has been sectioning the entire county for fogging to decrease the growth and the breeding of mosquitoes.  In addition, staff has been using minimal amounts of pesticides.   Our staff has also been applauded for distributing minnows in the lakes and the creeks to eat the mosquito larva.

 

2.      Discussion with possible action regarding the installation of a guard rail on the northwest side of the Sanchez Bridge. (Co-sponsored by Council Member Jose A. Valdez, Jr.)

 

Motion to install a guard rail on the northwest side of the Sanchez Bridge and use the funds from Public Works.  The funds should be taken from the Public Works budget.

 

Moved:  Cm.  Ramirez

Second:  Cm.  J.  Valdez

For:     7                                         Against:  0                                Abstain:  0

 

3.      Discussion with possible action on naming an official mascot for the City of Laredo. (Co-sponsored by Council Member Jose A. Valdez, Jr.)

 

Cm.  Ramirez suggested naming an official mascot for the City of Laredo. 

 

Mayor Flores said that a lot of funds are being spent on the Viva Laredo Campaign. 

 

Cm.  Garcia mentioned that he is happy with the Seven Flags as a mascot.

 

4.      Discussion with possible action on the removal of the Zacate Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. (Co-sponsored by Council Member Jose A. Valdez, Jr.)

 

Beto Ramirez, Utilities Director, explained that the City has several competing projects within the Capital Improvement Plan that are needed to meet the demands of the infrastructure growth. 

 

Cm.  Ramirez stressed his desire to expedite the removal of the sewer plant. 

 

Larry Dovalina, City Manager, assured Council that the engineers are working on a design and solution for Zacate Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.  The plan is currently 95% complete.

 

Motion to instruct staff to research the possibility of removing the Zacate Creek.

 

Moved:  Cm.  Ramirez

Second:  Mayor Pro Tempore Galo

For:     7                             Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

        

II.        MOTIONS

 

2.         Consideration to authorize the City Manager to enter into a contract with the Laredo Chamber of Commerce to share in the cost of operation of the Laredo Trade and Travel Center, located in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, with an October 1, 2003 effective date.  The total cost to the City of Laredo is $50,000.00.

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

Second:  Cm. Amaya

For:    7                                          Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

3.            Consideration to authorize the City Manager to amend the contract with Interlex Advertising, L.L.C., for marketing and promotional efforts, including the development of a media plan to promote the City of Laredo in the major market areas of the United States and Mexico, and to increase the $159,000.00 original contract to $800,000.00.  Amendment includes all expenditures incurred as of July 7, 2003, through the present.

 

Motion to approve.

 

Moved:  Cm. Amaya

Second:  Mayor Pro Tem Galo

For:    7                                          Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0 

 

 

III.       EXECUTIVE SESSION

 

The City Council hereby reserves the right to go into executive session at any time during this public meeting, if such is requested by the City Attorney or other legal counsel for the City, pursuant to his or her duty under Section 551.071(2) of the Government Code, to consult privately with his or her client on an item on the agenda, or on a matter arising out of such item.

 

 

 

 

 

IV.       ADJOURNMENT

 

Motion to adjourn.                                                                                Time:  9:26 p. m.

 

Moved:  Cm. J. Valdez, Jr.

Second:  Cm. Ramirez

For:    7                                                Against:  0                                            Abstain:  0

 

I, Gustavo Guevara, Jr., City Secretary, do hereby certify that the above the foregoing is a true and correct copy of the minutes contained in pages 01 to 38 and they are true, complete, and correct proceedings of the City Council meeting held on November 3, 2003.

 

                                               

                                                                                                                                                           

_________________

                                                                        Gustavo Guevara, Jr.

                                                                        City Secretary