Thursday, June 24, 2010
TCEQ testimony, engineers water cost estimates dampen hopes; GBC mayor says numbers are worst-case scenario
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
GUN BARREL CITYGun Barrel Citys effort to own and operate its own water company received dual blows this week testimony from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on a pending water meter purchase and high estimated customer costs from the citys hired engineering firm.
TCEQ testimony favors the transfer of some 868 active water meters in Gun Barrel City from the Mabank water system to that of East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District (ECCFWSD). (See sidebar, page 4A.)
The pending water meter sale between the two water providers is being challenged by the Gun Barrel City Council, who hopes to purchase those meters and become a water supplier.
The State Office of Administrative Hearings in Austin is expected to either approve or disapprove the sale July 14-15.
The city maintains it can provide water service to those meters through a raw water purchase from Mabank or Kemp, and that being a utility provider is key to the city controlling its own destiny.
Gun Barrel City founders chartered ECCFWSD to provide water and wastewater services to its citizens in 1977. The charter lasts for 40 years.
June 17, city policy makers met in a workshop. The citys expert, Gary Burton Engineering, presented scenarios for the city operating its own water company in 2012 and again what those numbers might look like in 2050 for water customers. The projections are based on water service to 1,250 customers in 2012 and 3,222 customers 40 years later.
However, councilman Marty Goss and mayor Dennis Wood said the projected numbers reflected a worst-case scenario, and not actual costs.
Those projections precluded a $67 base monthly charge with $7/1,000 gallons in 2012, and decreased in 2050 to $24 monthly charge and $3/1,000 gallons usage for 3,552 customers.
The application of grant money offers a slight reduction, Burton Engineering supplied, bringing the base charge down to $53 a month and $6/1000 gallons and $19 base charge and $2/1,000 gallons in 40 years for the build-out of a $12 million plant in Gun Barrel City.
However, city manager Gerry Boren says those numbers would be closer to a $34 monthly base rate with $3.50/1,000 gallons under a phased-in system and 6,000 customers. With grant funding, that cost could be decreased to $25 base monthly rate and $2.50/1,000 gallons, he said.
ECCFWSD currently charges a $29 a month and $3.25/1,000 gallons and Mabank charges the same base rate and $3.75/1,000 gallons of usage, according to TCEQ.
Goss said the council wont proceed unless they are convinced it will be beneficial for the current and future water customer.
I dont know what he (Burton) based his numbers on, Wood told The Monitor.
Wood has been doing his own research and sees the city financing $4 million over 40 years for Phase I, with $1.1 million (the price quoted to ECCFWSD) to purchase the meters from Mabank and another $3 million to lay the piping and purchase wholesale water from either Kemp or Mabank.
Mabank could then use the money to build a larger water plant, he said.
Phase II would develop wastewater service, and Phase III would buy them (ECCFWSD) out, Wood explained.
The city also has the financial muscle to get low-interest financing in large amounts, he said.
Gun Barrel City is responding to the bullying East Cedar Creek is doing in the form of new water and sewer tap fees, he said. It (ECCFWSD) isnt leaving us much choice, other than form our own water supply service, so we can control our own destiny.
As an example, Wood said the $3 Car Wash was being asked to pay $100,000 to be hooked up to ECCFWSD, he said. Mabank hooked them up for $800, he said.
A 2-inch commercial water meter was already on the property, which they are using for irrigation, Mabank city administrator Louann Confer told The Monitor.
Dennys is having to pay $12,000 for water and sewer hookup, Wood said.
ECCFWSD manager Bill Goheen said to his knowledge, the Dennys restaurant now under construction hasnt paid for anything yet.
He quoted costs for 1.5-inch meter and comparable sewer line at $5,100 and $3,900 meter unit equivalent to factor in for plant capacities. The restaurant also asked about a second meter for irrigation purposes.
A one-inch meter would cost $2,550, Goheen said. However, a smarter way to do it would be to install a 3/4-inch meter in a utility room with branching valves, and run those through a pressure tank to increase capacity according to actual usage by the restaurant.
These people need to get smart about designing this stuff to make best use of their water needs, Goheen said. There are no tap fees, as the contractor is going to install the meters, Goheen added.
I havent been able to find another (comparable) city who charges as much for tap fees than East Cedar Creek, except for West Cedar Creek MUD, Wood said.
He added that because the Holiday Inn Express couldnt get water service from Mabank and refused to pay the fees charged by East Cedar Creek, that they chose not to open.
And we lost another hotel, he said.
Economic factors may also have played a part.
Councilman Curtis Webster told The Monitor he does not favor a substantial raise in water rates so the city can have a water department.
It doesnt seem cost-effective to me, he said.
Goss said more realistic numbers are expected toward the end of July. By then, however, a final judgment is expected on the proposed meter purchase by ECCFWSD.
residents drive reveals citys welcome
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