In response to petitions reititerated during the public forum of its meeting last Thursday, the Paradise City Council named a committee to guide its research into a sewer system and water line extension.
Preston Lowery and Robert Burns suggested a questionnaire be sent out so that city residents have the opportunity to voice their opinions on costly decisions such as implementing a new sewer system.
“Let the people report back to y’all about what they want,” Lowery said.
Burns added: “I would like to concur with the idea of an open mailing … Outline different options for people to check off so there’s some kind of understanding as to what’s happening.”
Mayor Sam Starr explained that the sewage system was considered several months ago, but all of these efforts remain in their infancy.
“You don’t know where we are at all because right now we’re not anywhere … We found some land that was available – but we haven’t purchased the land,” he said. “In the process of doing all of this the USDA changed its parameters and the city of Paradise didn’t fit the parameters anymore so we didn’t qualify for a grant we were looking at (for a new sewer system) … Not too long after that, we got a call from the USDA saying they’d changed the parameters and now we do qualify.”
At that point, he said, the city was looking at extending water lines to residents who aren’t on the system instead of implementing the sewer system. However, the council will research both options to see which would be best for the city.
“We’re not even in the starting block of doing anything,” Starr said. “We’re looking at this from several different angles to be sure what’s done is done right. That’s pretty much where we are.”
So the process could “move along quicker,” the council appointed the committee, led by councilman Brad Largent, to research the cost effectiveness, maintenance, required land and other factors of various sewer systems; to look into extending the water lines; and to see what grants are available – which ones the city qualifies for and the amounts.
The committee also includes former councilman Chris Harris, Burns and two school board president-appointed representatives of the district. With its sewer system at more than 70 percent capacity, the district must have a plan in place for the future.
Paradise ISD Superintendent Monty Chapman explained the school district’s dilemma.
“Our concern is, if we’re both looking at a project in the future, because ours has to be done within a certain timeline, we don’t want to handcuff the city and tax the citizens twice if we go out there and do a bond,” he said. “Then at a later date y’all come in and do a city system, and they’re being charged fees and charged from the school side on the bond note on two different facilities doing the same thing – one for the kids, one for the citizens.
“Basically it would be the citizens of the city doing double duty … We are willing to be in a joint context with the city … We want to do whatever we can do to be good stewards for our citizens.”
The findings will be presented to the citizens to vote on. City Secretary Teresa Moody was to check with the city’s attorney to see if it would be possible to put the sewer system on the ballot. If not, the city would hold some kind of straw vote to “have a better idea of what the citizens want.”
“When the city of Paradise did the water lines, if it would’ve been put on a ballot, it would’ve been turned down,” Harris said. “But it wasn’t done that way. It was done because a few people voted for it.”
Burns added: “Even if we take that referendum vote under advisement as to this is maybe the direction we’re leaning, it may not be binding or mandatory, but we at least know what the public wants.
“I think it’s only fair,” he continued. “We prayed as we started that this be a democratic process … Let’s get the democratic process going forward. Do the referendum vote. Find out what Paradise wants.”
“I definitely think we need feedback of the citizens on any of the water, septic issues,” he said. “When we’re talking millions of dollars, we definitely need to know what the citizens think.”
Councilman Roy Steel added: “I agree with it 100 percent. We work for the people. We don’t work for ourselves.”