Presidio City Hall reopens and other updates from last week’s city council meeting

PRESIDIO – Last Wednesday the Presidio City Council unanimously voted to reopen City Hall, capping the number of occupants within the building at five –– excepting city staff. The decision comes as the state reports 72.3 percent of Presidio County’s 12 and up population is vaccinated, the highest rate out of any Texas county. Interim City Administrator Brad Newton told the council he would put up a sign recommending residents wear a mask while in the building.

At the beginning of the meeting, Presidio Municipal Judge Viviana Catano swore in the members of city council and the mayor after certifying the results of the recent election. Mayor John Ferguson also welcomed Billy Hernandez, who replaced Trisha Runyan, to the council. Rogelio Zubia was then re-appointed mayor pro tem.

Wednesday’s meeting was also the first time since the pandemic that members of the public were invited to participate in person. During public comments, Presidio resident Jovita Galindo voiced her concerns about the ongoing increase in property valuations and property taxes. While she attended the meeting to bring attention to her 2020 property values, appraisal hikes are happening again throughout the county for the second year in a row, as The Big Bend Sentinel previously reported.

Galindo went from paying under $100 per year in property taxes in 2019 to being charged around $3000 per year in 2020, according to her tax statements. Her property, which is a grouping of vacant lots, was appraised at $109,000 in 2020 –– a sharp increase from 2019 when it was valued at $3,200. In the meeting, City Attorney Rod Ponton agreed that Galindo’s property valuations were way off the mark.

“This is a poor town,” Galindo said, adding that not all residents –– particularly elderly residents ––  are in a position to be able to protest their appraisal rates. While the city council offered to help Galindo, it is up to the county appraisal district to determine property values.

Galindo went to the appraisal district on Thursday to contest the property’s 2020 valuation. After her hearing, she said she still wasn’t able to resolve the issue.

At the meeting, the council also unanimously approved to increase the tourism board’s annual Fourth of July fireworks budget from $1500 to $2500 after Ferguson noted how short the fireworks show had been last year.

Although no action was taken on the matter, the council discussed the $849,000 that’s on the table from the American Rescue Plan Act. The funds are aimed at helping state and local governments recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Ferguson said while it’s not entirely clear how the city will be able to spend the money, he wanted to put it on the agenda to alert the council to the potential funds.

Toward the end of the meeting, the council also decided to shift its regular meeting day from Wednesday to Monday. The council will now meet every first and third Monday of the month at 6 p.m. Ferguson put the item on the agenda at the request of The International’s editor-in-chief, Maisie Crow, who suggested that the meetings shift to Monday evenings so that the paper could provide better coverage, as Wednesday was the same day the paper went to print. Even though Ponton suggested –– perhaps in jest –– The International change its day of publication, the council unanimously voted to make the change.