Thursday, April 1, 2010

 

 

 

 

Protested meter sale adds up to higher water bills
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
GUN BARREL CITY–After a slight revision of the budget numbers, East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District directors agreed a rate hike would not have been necessary, had there been no protest against the district’s purchase of about 700 water meters from the City of Mabank.
Earlier this month, ECCFWSD directors approved a $1 increase for most residential water customers and a $1.10 increase for sewer service customers. The new rates are set to begin May 1.
“If not for the delay caused by Gun Barrel City, we would not have had to increase our rates to accomplish our (2010) goals,” director Jim Boyle said during a workshop Monday.
“And, we would have been able to reduce the rates those Mabank customers (switched over to ECCFWSD) to the standard rate paid throughout the district,” director Harry McCune added.
Those water customers include residents of Loon Bay, Pleasureland, Thunderbird Shores and Timber Trails, plus some commercial accounts along state highways 198 and 334.
As these customers were disconnected from Mabank and connected to the ECCFWSD, they could have begun paying the district’s standard rate, which is significantly lower than the out-of-city rate they are paying now to Mabank, general manager Bill Goheen said.
“But, when will we be able to do this project? If we were on target, we could have been turning dirt now,” he said. “The longer this purchase is stretched out, the greater the risk higher costs will be involved.”
This is the second time Gun Barrel City has attempted to start its own water utility. Three years ago, the city heard from several experts and what it would cost to hire their expertise, and subsequently abandoned those efforts.
When a chance opened for the city to intervene in a proposed sale of Mabank’s water meters to East Cedar Creek, the city decided to protest the sale, and so far, has been accepted as a party to the case, with the next hearing set for July 14-18 in Austin.
Mabank and ECCFWSD came to an agreement in June, 2009, for the $1 million-plus purchase, but news of the pending sale hit the newspapers in April, 2009.
During Monday’s workshop, directors reviewed budget projections for fiscal year (FY) 2011 at 2009 rates, with and without the addition of the 700 Mabank water customers.
Revised projections show the new meters would bring in an additional $291,300 in revenue, while causing additional expenses of about $75,338, Goheen explained.
That would leave a net income of $215,962 – more than enough to cover the $47,623 shortfall without the rate increase to “accomplish the very important projects needed this year,” Boyle said.
“This is fairly accurate data,” Goheen pointed out.
The additional customers would also add $168,339 to operational reserves, improving the district’s cash flow and debt service ratio. This funding could go to capitol improvements and project upgrades, or greater grant-match amounts to enable to district to attract more grant funding for infrastructure upgrades, Goheen said.
An example is the one recently completed in the Tamarack subdivision, where a brand-new lift station was installed, and many hundreds of feet of aged terra-cotta pipe were replaced with PVC.
“That was a very successful project, in which the district provided the $116,000 match to Gun Barrel City’s infrastructure improvement grant application to leverage $250,000 in grant funding,” Goheen pointed out.
Boyle described the Mabank water meter purchase as a “win-win” situation:
• for the 700 customers in question in terms of lower rates,
• the Mabank water system in increase of its water capacity without significant cash outlay and
• ECCFWSD customers in cost-savings, as expenses are spread out among a greater number of rate payers.
“It’s to everyone’s benefit to move forward. We would want Gun Barrel City to drop its protest, and let’s move forward,” Boyle summarized.
“We’ve always said if it’s not feasible, we won’t go forward,” Gun Barrel City manager Gerry Boren told The Monitor.
Boren expects to have hard numbers in about 30 days, which will tell him and the council whether it is feasible for the city to continue its efforts to become a water service provider.
In the meantime, any additional costs to complete the purchase (legal fees, higher interest rates, higher costs to physically do the switch) will have to be passed on to those Gun Barrel City customers, Goheen said.
This is also costing Gun Barrel City in sales tax revenues, he added.
“The only ones coming out ahead right now are the lawyers,” Goheen pointed out. “We’re doing the best we can to keep rates from increasing.”

2nd intersection collision in a week

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Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
The second collision in a week at the intersection in Seven Points Friday resulted in no serious injuries. A blue Toyota Celica traveling east on Farm-to-Market 85 was struck by a Chevy Aveo trying to squeeze through a changing traffic light to make a left turn onto State Highway 274. Though each car carried four people, only one was transported for the treatment of minor injuries, according to Seven Points police officer James “Roscoe” Thompson.

Burglars steal ATM from M&M store
Monitor Staff Reports
SEVEN POINTS–An ATM machine was removed in a break-in of a local convenience store Sunday night, part of a busy weekend for the Seven Points Police Department.
Officer Brian Huckabee responded to an alarm at the M&M Chevron station, located at State Highway 274 and Jess Hinton Road, police chief Brad McConahay reported in a prepared news release issued Tuesday.
Huckabee found the rear door of the convenience store open, and on entering the store, discovered an ATM machine had been removed. It is not known how much money was in the ATM.
The manager of the business promised to make the store’s surveillance videotape available for review, and investigation is continuing, McConahay reported.
Saturday night, Huckabee was in a minor accident while responding to a call to assist a Tool police officer involved in a domestic disturbance situation.
Huckabee lost control of his patrol unit while rounding a curve on Will White Road and struck a fence, damaging the windshield.
The patrol car has been repaired, and is back in service, McConahay reported. Huckabee was not injured, he added.
Earlier Sunday, Huckabee initiated a traffic stop on a silver Pontiac Grand Am, which pulled into the El Jacalito restaurant parking lot.
A white male passenger exited the vehicle and fled on foot, with Huckabee in pursuit, but the suspect eluded the officer in a wooded area behind the Brookshire’s grocery store.
Upon returning to the car, Huckabee found the white female driver had also fled on foot.
Monday morning, the car’s owner reported the Grand Am had been stolen from a Flag Lake Road address. The car was subsequently returned to the owner.
Both the male and female occupants of the vehicle have not been identified at this time, McConahay reported.
McConahay also noted officer Darrell Dean was reassigned Monday from the patrol division to the newly created traffic division.
Dean will be patrolling in the department’s new 2010 Camaro police interceptor.
“This reassignment will hopefully help cut down on accidents and traffic violations on State Highways 274 and 334 during the busy summer months,” McConahay said.


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