NEWS HEADLINES

Rate decrease disappoints

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, February 22, 2014

Electric rates for Bridgeport residents will drop – just not as low as officials expected.

By a vote of 3-1-1, the Bridgeport City Council approved an ordinance amending the city’s wholesale power contract reflecting an extension through 2018 and the slight reduction.

According to the revision, the rate drops from 13.35 cents to 12.91 cents – a 4-percent drop. However, officials were expecting a 7- to 10-percent decrease.

At its Jan. 21 meeting, the council unanimously approved extending the wholesale power contract with AEP through 2018.

“We took figures that we took to be true figures, and that’s what we voted on and what we thought we were going to get,” said councilwoman Kathy Kennedy, who cast the dissenting vote. ” … It was presented as a higher reduction that we would be able to pass on to the citizens … This is not at all what we were shown. This is disgusting.”

City Administrator Brandon Emmons took part of the blame saying some of the numbers used were “premature.”

“If they were premature, then we shouldn’t have voted on them and took those numbers to the paper,” Mayor Keith McComis said. “It’s a big difference, and it’s hard to explain to the citizens … It’s like thinking you’re getting a bicycle for Christmas, but you get a scooter. There’s a lot of difference. People expect us to take care of business, and I feel like we tried to, but we didn’t accomplish as much as we thought we were.”

However, Councilman A.Z. Smith found the silver lining.

“At least we now know what the rates are; they are getting a little bit lower, and in the future, they’ll get even lower,” he said. “At least we’re seeing now what we’re doing.”

Councilman Jimmy Meyers agreed.

“This is the first little bit of sunshine we’ve seen in a while,” he said. “It’s not a great deal, but it’s better than what we’ve been seeing.”

“It doesn’t hit as quickly as we thought, but the realized savings are still there,” Emmons added. “It’s still well over $1 million over the life of the contract that we’re going to be saving, had we not made the change.”

Smith made the motion to amend the ordinance, seconded by Meyers. Councilman Billy Fred Walker voted for it while Councilman Bobby Brazier abstained.

POSTPONED

The council opted to delay several matters presented to them Tuesday.

At the recommendation of city staff, the council took no action on a construction contract with Driver Pipeline Co. for the U.S. Ply gas line project.

In October 2012, the city entered into a Texas Capital Fund grant contract with the Texas Department of Agriculture to construct a natural gas pipeline to the site of the future U.S. Ply plant.

The city will receive a $328,765 grant – $293,765 for construction and $35,000 for grant management services.

In November, the council awarded a $258,447 bid to Driver Pipeline to construct the pipeline, with work slated to begin in January.

Before work commenced, Union Pacific Railroad notified U.S. Ply that the necessary permit had not been issued.

The original application submitted by Atmos did not comply with railroad regulations regarding the angle in which the railroad could be crossed.

In order to comply with the requirements, the contractor would have to alter the angle of the bore. However, this would limit the amount of workspace in the right-of-way. So another option is to relocate the railroad crossing.

Following a meeting Jan. 21, it was determined that relocating the bore would be the most cost effective option. On Jan. 24, the city received a revised bid from Driver Pipeline incorporating the changes and increasing the bid to $58,787.30 – $23,305.36 over the project budget.

Officials tried to negotiate with Driver Pipeline and Atmos Energy to no avail. Earlier this month, the city received a request from Driver Pipeline to terminate the contract.

“From what we see, it looks like Atmos caused this problem,” said McComis. “Plus, we have to use a vendor approved by them. So they’re basically telling us they didn’t do their job, and we’re going to have to pay more money. I think they ought to fork some of that money up. Not all of it, but at least some … It’s their negligence, but the city of Bridgeport pays for it. We’ve seen that plenty of times.”

Officials will attempt to negotiate again before terminating the contract.

AIRPORT SEPTIC SYSTEM

The council also voted to postpone installing an on-site septic system at Bridgeport Municipal Airport until the expense could be budgeted.

In December 2010, the city entered into an Airport Project Participation Agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to extend and widen a runway and relocate the parallel taxiway.

During the preliminary engineering review, officials said the existing septic system needed to be moved due to a conflict with relocating the taxiway.

Staff bid the project and received three proposals for $13,200, $15,600 and $21,250.

Although 50 percent of the cost will be covered by a Routine Airport Maintenance Program grant, the city will have to match the other half.

“It’s $6,600, and that’s a large amount for the airport fund, which is pretty tight,” McComis said. “I think we ought to postpone this until we budget for it.”

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