NEWS HEADLINES

City’s raw water costs going up

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The cost of water is going up – and it’s guaranteed to trickle down to Decatur homeowners over the next few months.

The Decatur City Council Monday evening approved an additional $32,000 for the Wise County Water Supply District to cover a raw water price increase from Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) for the last four months of this fiscal year.

The city pays the water supply district – an entity it created, headed by City Manager Brett Shannon – and the district in turn pays TRWD, which operates the chain of lakes that supplies water to Fort Worth and neighboring cities.

TRWD sets rates for raw water each year, based on its year-end audit. Once they do that, they send their member cities a letter notifying them of the new rate. Aside from finding a new water source, there’s nothing the cities can do but pay it.

“We are charged an out-of-district rate because we don’t live in the portion of the TRWD’s boundaries that have to pay tax,” Shannon told the council. “Each year they look at what it’s going to take to operate their system, and they assign a rate for in-district and out-of-district and their board approves it.

“Once they do that, there’s not just a super amount of latitude we have…”

Mayor Martin Woodruff put it more succinctly.

“We have two options,” he said. “Take it…” leaving the sentence unfinished. Shannon finally jumped in.

“That’s correct. But the good side is, we’ve got water. As time goes on it’s going to be a more precious commodity.”

The city currently pays just over 97 cents per thousand gallons for raw water out of Lake Bridgeport. That has been running about $45,000 month – but with the new rate that will go up to around $53,000 the last four months of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 31.

Shannon said the increase was expected after TRWD launched a huge pipeline project.

“TRWD is undertaking a somewhat controversial project to bring water from East Texas to the metroplex, in conjunction and collaboration with the Dallas Water Utility,” he said. “Cost of this project is about $19 billion – with a B. They have so far issued about $5 billion in contracts so that leaves us another $13-$14 billion over the next few years.

“When it’s all said and done, it will greatly enhance the metroplex’s ability to get water out of these East Texas reservoirs,” he added. “It’s a massive project.”

Shannon said it’s a given that TRWD and Dallas will be looking to the entities they supply with water to help provide funding for the project.

“I anxiously await to see what the raw water rate is going to be the next fiscal year,” he said.

“So what you’re saying is, this may be the first of several [rate increases]?” Woodruff asked.

“Yes,” Shannon replied. “Hopefully this will be the biggest one, but my guess is, it may be the smallest.”

The city is expected to cover its costs by adjusting water rates to its customers when they create next year’s budget, which takes effect Oct. 1.

In fact, another item on Monday’s agenda was to name a budget committee to begin working on next year’s spending program.

Three council members – Cary Bohn, Jay Davidson and Susan Cocanougher – volunteered to serve on that group along with city department heads and Finance Director Brad Burnett, to begin putting together next year’s budget.

OTHER BUSINESS

The council also approved on second and final reading the zoning change and re-plat for just over 4 acres belonging to LaAnna Wagonseller on North U.S. Hwy. 81-287. The item was unanimously approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission, and by the council on first reading April 28.

“The previous plat was for an apartment building,” Planning Director Dedra Ragland told the council. “It doesn’t fit with what she’s proposing now, which is an office.”

They gave their OK to the Steak Break 5K run, to be held Oct. 25 beginning at 8 a.m. at the Reunion Grounds and crossing Farm Road 51 on Preskitt, South Murvil and Lipsey streets in the southwest portion of the city. The run is sponsored by the Decatur Lions Club during the Chisholm Trail Steak Challenge.

It was also agreed that the council will meet May 19 at 4:30 p.m. and skip its regularly-scheduled May 26 meeting, which would fall on Memorial Day.

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