Thursday, June 24, 2010




  Destiny swamped?
TCEQ testimony, engineer’s water cost estimates dampen hopes; GBC mayor says numbers are ‘worst-case scenario’
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–Gun Barrel City’s 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 city’s 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 city’s 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 won’t proceed unless they are convinced it will be beneficial for the current and future water customer.
“I don’t 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) isn’t 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.
“Denny’s is having to pay $12,000 for water and sewer hookup,” Wood said.
ECCFWSD manager Bill Goheen said to his knowledge, the Denny’s restaurant now under construction hasn’t 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 haven’t 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 couldn’t 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 doesn’t 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.

Kemp resident’s drive reveals city’s welcome
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

KEMP–Motorists from Dallas now have more than a road sign alerting them to their proximity to Kemp – they have a genuine welcome sign.
Inspired by a community leadership class, Kemp resident and Genesis Center pastor Nancy Schoenle decided her hometown needed some improvements, and started with some welcome signs. KempWelcome.jpg (437022 bytes)
“That leadership class really got me motivated to do something positive for Kemp,” she said. “God just put it in my heart to do something.”
With the help of Mary Hallmark, Schoenle started a door-to-door campaign, talking to her neighbors about sprucing up their properties along the main thoroughfares and collecting money to erect two signs.
Though some folks told her it couldn’t be done, that the people of Kemp weren’t interested, Schoenle continued her efforts and found most of her fellow residents felt the same way she did.
“The mayor and the city council were very supportive,” she said.
The Economic Development Corporation donated $800 toward the $2,000 sign and the First State Bank of Kemp donated another $500, she said.
The rest was collected from citizens.
Mabank sign-maker Bob Coffee created the tall sign for her.
Several donation boxes were set up around town. “Every little bit helps,” she pointed out.
Schoenle began her efforts last spring after completing the 2008-09 Kaufman Chamber of Commerce Leadership course.
“It really inspired me,” she said. “I thought, I’ve lived here for 25 years, and the city still doesn’t have a welcome sign. I knew I could do something about that. I have other ideas, too.”
The course taught her to “put feet to it,” and results would follow. Her efforts have generated multiple results.
Though the first sign is up against the treeline at U.S. Highway 175 and the north end of Business 175, TxDOT has agreed to move it into their right-of-way, so it is closer to the highway.
Another sign is planned to go up on the other side of the highway to greet westbound motorists coming from Mabank at the Kemp exit. However, more funds are needed before it can be ordered.
TxDOT has also agreed to provide landscaping and lighting as part of a grant for both sign locations, and it will beautify the entrance to Kemp proper at the SH 274/US 175 interchange, Schoenle said.
“What started out as something small to help beautify the city has turned into something big,” she said. “It’s very encouraging.
“Now, we just need the rest of the people, who didn’t donate for the sign, to donate, and we can get it finished,” she said.
Her husband, who has been a tremendous help on this project, is now really sick – fighting cancer – and Schoenle won’t be able to continue her door-to-door campaign.
Fund-raising for the second sign lacks $1,200 more to complete the project, she said.
An account has been set up at First National Bank of Kemp.
“Just say, ‘this is for the sign account.’ They’ll know what you’re talking about,” Schoenle said.
Her example of leadership has also influenced her son, who has taken on beautifying the town square in Kaufman.





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