Consultant prioritizes sewer issue

By Erika Pedroza | Published Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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After months of deliberating both water line extensions and a sewer system, the Paradise city council finally got some direction Monday.

Pat Dillon with Southwest Consultants advised the council that the sewer system – which would benefit all of the city – might be a better use of city funds than connecting a handful of residents to the water system.

“You want to bring other people on (to the water system) – that’s been the desire from the beginning,” he said. “But you’re going to be transferring the cost of it to current customers,and I don’t know that necessarily is what you want to do, particularly when you have a septic system problem in the community.

“On the other hand, a good part of the town could be served by a sewer system, and those people would be the only people paying back to that because they would be the only ones connected to the system,” he continued. “Also, on a sewer system a mandatory-use ordinance is allowed and can be enforced. Sewer is different because it is a health and safety issue, where water is not.”

Dillon provided maps showing the city’s water line segments and illustrating that the demand for water service simply isn’t there.

“You can spend the money … but unless there is an overwhelming desire from people asking to get tied on to the system … the cost benefit doesn’t hold up,” Dillon said. “If you were getting these kind of requests, then maybe you could consider it. But you’re going to transfer the cost onto your current customers.”

Whichever direction the council chooses to go, there are several financing options.

According to Dillon, the city’s current debt represents 2 percent of the tax base – well under the maximum 10 percent. But it’s actually even less because it does not reflect the recent payoff of the mortgage on City Hall.

“That makes all of these numbers even better,” Dillon said when he was informed of the City Hall payoff. “You’re in good shape.”

If the city borrowed $1 million for this project, its indebtedness would increase to around 7 percent of the tax base. And interest rates are currently “very, very low,” he added.

Before proceeding, city officials will meet with Dillon and a utility attorney in a closed-door session to determine if the city wishes to pursue a sewer system – a matter the school district must also soon address. Last December, Paradise ISD officials asked the city to consider addressing the issue jointly.

“We’d brainstorm how you all could get into the sewer business to provide that service,” Dillon said. “We encourage a closed-door session because we want to preserve the city’s rights and we don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings or prejudice our ability to negotiate with the school district. We want them to be able to do their thing, and the city should do theirs and get something together if everybody agrees.”

In other news, the council:

  • scheduled a budget workshop for 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 9, at City Hall.
  • approved installing a blow-off valve at the end of the water line that runs behind City Hall to flush the lines out. “Right now there are no other businesses using water and pulling it through to keep a clean sample,” City Secretary Teresa Moody said. “(The water operator) is having a really hard time getting (a sample with) residual levels up because there is not enough water going through the system and all the sediment is settling in there and causing problems.”
  • approved by a vote of 3-1 hiring the city’s former water operator, Johnny Murrillo, to install water taps in the city “for as long as he is able.” Councilman Brad Largent cast the dissenting vote.
  • heard from the city’s building inspector, Jerald Stinnett, that a mill shop is slated to open in the town’s old feed store, pending electrical rewiring.
  • tabled revising water tap fees until officials researched prices for different size water lines.
  • opted not to hire a part-time city clerk.
  • approved the May meeting minutes and financial reports.

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