Sunday, January 14, 2007

     

 

  Mabank okays vacancy water rate for apartments
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–Mabank apartment-complex owners with three or more units on a master water meter may now get due consideration for vacancies on their minimum water bills.
Following lengthy negotiations between the city and apartment complex owners Ray Weems, Robin Neighbors and Wayne Anthony, the city council adopted an ordinance to begin counting vacancy rates into the billing on minimum water usage.
“This ordinance modifies the rate structure to equalize it with those of single-family homes,” City Administrator Louann Confer explained Tuesday.
Apartment owners had submitted data from Dallas and other parts of the country to illustrate average vacancy rates in one- and two-bedroom apartments, citing a 10 percent minimum-rate discount as being an acceptable average on annual vacancies.
However, Confer recommended the council approve no more than a 5 percent vacancy rate per master meter to begin with, and stipulate owners accurately report their occupancy rates monthly, in order to get a true average by the end of the year, which could be applied property-by-property the following year.
The ordinance allows apartment complexes to apply for the program to reduce the number of minimum water capacity fees the applicant pays for the complex.
It also allots 1,000 gallons per unit as a minimum usage charge.
Units which are occupied, whether or not the tenant is paying rent, are to be counted as occupied.
Reapplication is to be made annually.
The city administrator may still deny the request for a reduced minimum, in which case, the applicant may appeal the decision to the council.
The city may want to entertain an ordinance that requires all new apartment complex construction to install a water meter in each unit, making the occupants responsible for their own water usage, Confer suggested.
“It’s being done at other water districts in the area,” she said.

King property remains thorn in EDC’s side
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–Three unfinished buildings located at State Highway 274 and Old Highway 40 Road are still vacant and definitely a thorn in the Kemp Economic Development Corporation’s side.
In 2002, the EDC made a $5,000 loan to John King for 180 days at no interest.
“As of this date, the note remains unpaid, and no attempt to pay has been made,” Jody Deller, president of the EDC, told the Kemp City Council Tuesday.
In March, 2006, a judgement was placed on the $5,000 in Justice of the Peace Court, but there has still not been any action by King, she added.
Other EDC accomplishments in 2006 included:
• placing EDC funds with Edward Jones in April. To date, the funds have earned $2,980.
• approved by-laws for the corporation in February.
• approved bonding insurance in April.
• approved a three- to five-year comprehensive plan in November.
• looked at future marketing goals for the area.
“We need to prepare to be aggressive in marketing Kemp,” Deller said, adding a workshop with area business leaders would be helpful.
• training for board members. Two members attended a grant-writing and resource seminar, and two members attended another seminar on EDC procedures.
In other business, council members:
• watched a slide presentation by Mayor Billy Teel regarding the new wastewater treatment plant.
The facility will be completed in another few weeks, maintenance director Tony Jenkins said.
• reviewed and discussed the proposed subdivision ordinance.
During the past summer, a draft was presented to council members for their review and suggestions, City Administrator James Stroman said.
Afterwards, the document, about 72 pages, was sent to the city attorney.
“It will be brought back to the council for approval next month,” Stroman said.

Terrell hospital slated to close
By Timna Rutledge
Monitor Staff Writer

WILLS POINT–Terrell Healthcare has announced the Medical Center at Terrell, the city’s only general-care hospital, along with its affiliate, Wills Point Rural Health Clinic, are scheduled to close in 60 days, and no later than March 9.
That leaves Kaufman Presbyterian Hospital in Kaufman, 10 miles south of Terrell, as the nearest hospital.
Despite multiple owners over the years, the hospital has continued to sustain losses, due to the unexpected departure of physicians and unpaid patient debt.
City officials are scrambling to have another healthcare corporation take it over, or build a new hospital for Terrell’s 15,500 residents.
“It’s a sad day for the Medical Center at Terrell,” hospital CEO Ken Pittman said. “But in today’s healthcare environment, we can no longer subsidize uncompensated care without governmental support.”
Though the hospital finances hit the break-even point in 2005, last year’s numbers show a $2 million loss, Pittman said.
Roughly 30 percent of current bills have not been paid, and since Terrell Healthcare LP took over operations in 2004, the hospital has provided $4.7 million in unpaid health care services, Pittman told The Dallas Morning News.
Kaufman County Auditor Hal Jones reports the county spent $234,258 on health care for the poor in the last fiscal year, and has budgeted $300,000 this year.
However, Pittman argues the county’s criteria are so strict, few patients qualify for aid.
Staff at the Wills Point Rural Health Clinic are also sad to see their offices close.
Licensed Vocational Nurse Gwen Anthony, the last of the original employees from the clinic’s opening in February, 1997, was tearful at the news.
“I’m really very sad. I think about our community and the patients we’ve served through the years, and we have a lot of loyal patients,” Anthony said.
Nurse Practitioner Delayne Boyd saw the need for the clinic when she first arrived in October, 2006.
“I think it’s (closing) not going to be good for the community. The clinic is needed, and the people are going to miss it a lot. It’ll be a big loss,” Boyd said.
“I just hope somewhere, somehow, there’s someone out there who will buy the clinic,” Boyd added.
Aside from her concern for the needs of the community, Boyd confided she has other reasons for wanting the clinic to remain open.
“I really like it here. I’d like to stay,” Boyd said.
Though Boyd and clinic physician Dr. Benjamin Brashear are concerned about the county being medically under-served, patients are being referred to other local doctors and clinics, such as Dr. Carlos Reyes of Wills Point Medical Center (Baker Clinic), and Nurse Practitioner Debra Rossell of Countryside Clinic.
A spokeswoman for Kaufman Presbyterian Hospital said though uncompensated care is a problem statewide, Presbyterian can handle all Kaufman County care.
Wills Point Rural Health Clinic patients who would like a copy of their medical records before the office closes should contact medical assistant Melanie Malcolm at (903) 873-6161.