NEWS HEADLINES

Pipeline plan gets pared down

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, October 20, 2012

In response to complaints several years ago to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the City of Newark is moving its treated wastewater discharge pipe from Derrick Creek to another, unnamed tributary of Eagle Mountain Lake.

The good news is, the city got a Texas Community Development Block Grant to pay the lion’s share of the costs for the three-plus miles of pipeline. But instead of building it in two phases as originally planned, they have to do it all at once.

Engineer Gary Burton of Burton Engineering in Weatherford spoke to the City Council Thursday night and outlined cutbacks he has made in the project in order to get it done in one project.

“They won’t fund this thing in two phases,” he said. “If we’re going to move the discharge with this grant money, it’s going to have to all be done at once.”

Burton said he had gone back through the project and cut back in every area possible, reducing the cost from $22 a foot to $18 a foot. He reduced the thickness of the pipe to the minimum allowable, and he left out some of the valves, cleanouts and pumps that will be required along the way.

Doing it all at once, however, increases the city’s match from $28,500 to $49,610.

“If we get good bids, I feel like there’s a good likelihood we can get the pipeline in for that,” he said. “When we get the bids in, we may do even better than this, but I hate to cut it any further. If we get better bids, it will reduce that match.”

Brainstorming after Burton revealed his list of cutbacks, Mayor Matt Newby said he thinks the city can come up with the money for the pumps if they sell off some old electrical pumps they are not using. And City Administrator Diane Rasor said the city’s reserves, after the annual audit is completed, will likely go from $125,000 to $175,000.

“We knew we were gambling anyway, trying to get it in two phases,” Newby said.

Councilman Bob Wells urged Burton to study the bids carefully.

“We have to be doggone careful to get the best price we can,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of wiggle room here.”

CODE ENFORCEMENT A HOT TOPIC

In a nearly two-hour meeting, the council also spent a substantial amount of time discussing code enforcement and the city’s sign ordinance.

After contracting with Code Enforcement Officer Don Strange for a couple of years, the city was notified recently that he will not be able to continue that five-hour-a-week effort. Since then, Rasor said she, Councilwoman Linda Anderson and city staff have been working to find code violations and send out letters – and have gotten some significant results.

But, she noted, the amount of time involved makes it unlikely that level of effort can continue.

“It’s something I love to do, but I don’t know if I have time to do it,” she said. “We’ve been doing all the administration on it, even with the outside person.”

Currently, when a violation is spotted – like a yard that needs mowing, junk cars, etc. – a certified letter is mailed to the homeowner. Often they respond and the problem is taken care of. If there’s no response, the city can address the problem itself and bill the homeowner, and if the bill isn’t paid the city can file a lien on the property.

Rasor suggested that two city employees had expressed an interest in attending code enforcement class and working in that area for a few hours a week. But councilmembers said if something else came up, the code enforcement duties would be the first thing to fall by the wayside.

“I’d rather see that effort be consistent, because if it’s not, people will get complacent,” said Councilmember Chana Massey. It was also pointed out that with the administrative duties added in, it’s already much more than a five-hour-a-week job.

And violations are rampant, throughout the city.

Massey finally recommended the council look at the resume of Strange’s recommended replacement and look at hiring him for eight to 12 hours. Rasor will bring something back to the council at its next meeting.

OTHER ACTION

After considerable discussion, the city council amended Newark’s sign ordinance to require that signs be no more than 17 feet high, with a pole height of 12 feet for pole signs, and a total square footage not to exceed 25 square feet.

They also:

  • appointed Bandy Hicks to serve on the board of the Newark Cultural Education Facility Finance Corp.;
  • heard a presentation from Dennis McCreary, assistant superintendent for facilities, planning and construction on the proposed Northwest Independent School District $255 million bond issue that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot;
  • heard a staff report on accounts payable, budget and financials, and various city projects that are underway;
  • approved a resolution for the Newark Cultural Education Facility Finance Corp. to benefit Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, presented by Ted Christensen of Government Capital. The resolutions bring a net profit of $10,000 to the city as the sponsoring entity. Newark has done six so far this year, and Christensen said he hopes to bring two more before the end of the year;
  • approved an agreement with accountant William C. Spore to do the city’s annual audit, at a fee not to exceed $7,500;
  • approved an agreement with Jim Delashaw for planning and design service for the city’s Texas Community Block Grant;
  • agreed not to pay an additional bill for $4,000 to Lone Star Sandblasting for a cost overrun for sandblasting and painting the city’s water tower. The company did not notify the city in advance that the work might cost more than the original price of $11,500;
  • amended the city’s employee handbook as presented by Councilwoman Linda Anderson to update several policies;
  • discussed amending the current budget for accuracy, with the changes not impacting the bottom line;
  • agreed not to respond to a request from Skyway Towers to buy the city’s tower for a lump sum rather than pay a monthly lease rate, and
  • hired Michelle Potala as the city’s new library assistant, replacing Pat Winn.

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