Italy City Council raises water rates for rural customers

In a called City Council meeting on September 1, 2016, Dustie Jones addressed the council.

General Fund Revenues 2016-17
General Fund Expenditures 2016-17
Water Sewer Revenues 2016-17
Water Sewer Expenditures 2016-17
Special Use Funds 2016-17

“My name is Dustie Jones. My husband and I are building a home on Stafford Road that is outside the City Limits. We purchased our property 2 years ago with the intent of building our home and did our best at obtaining permits with the state and county. Before we could install our entry way for our driveway, we had to obtain dig tests for utilities, obtain permits from the state due to a right-of-way, give ONCOR an easement and consulted the City of Italy to verify if they had any requirements.”

“Fast forward to June of this year. What should have been a normal process to get water service from South Ellis County Water Supply quickly turned very abnormal. It was discovered that the City of Italy had a water line that crossed the front of our property and a state right-of-way preventing them from providing water service to us. After much research, records showed there wasn’t any documentation from the previous property owner, the State of Texas or the required dig test we ordered that the line even existed until now. By the direction from the Public Utility Commission in Austin, we had 2 choices for the service.”

“One, the City of Italy provide us water service by tapping into the existing line that crossed our property and would be added to our utility permit provided by the State. Or two the City remove their existing water line out of the way in order for South Ellis County Water Supply to provide our water service.”

“After several conversations with Mr. Holden and SECWSC, we applied for water only service from the City of Italy and were approved. We were then notified since we were outside the normal service area we would have to pay a tap fee and a deposit. We were told we would also have to pay a higher base rate, higher usage rate and water debt service obligation. We paid and agreed to these terms.”

“Per Ordinance 12-0611-02 we weren’t liable for all of these fees we have already paid. Per Ordinance 2016-0901-01 we still aren’t liable for the fees we agreed to and paid. Now per that ordinance you are doubling my base and usage rate.”

I’m here to ask when you discuss and consider taking action of this item you understand not all circumstances outside the city limits are cut and dry as they are within them. Our personal situation is not normal and I feel it is not our responsibility to pay these additional fees and increased usage rates based on a mistake that was made before we were out of high school. I also ask that you consider amending the ordinance for fees and increased usage rates outside the city limits on a case by case basis."

Mayor Steven Farmer explained that he had been contacted the previous day regarding errors such as typos and wording in the ordinance. He told the council that he had spoken to the attorney and was told that a “scrivener” allowed the council to vote on the ordinance and correct typographical errors after the fact without bringing the ordinance to the council again. If wording changes need to be made, the ordinance would be presented to council at a later date.

The council passed Ordinance No. 2016-0901-01 to increase the water rates for customers outside of the city limits and Commercial II unit. Under the old ordinance, the minimum for the first 2,000 gallons a month was $23.50. The new rate will be $35.00. The ordinance passed 4-1 with Carl Cash the only “no” vote.

Ordinance 2016-0901-01

The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the creation of the North Central Texas Regional 9-1-1 Emergency Communications District. If every city in Ellis County approve this, monies that normally go to the state will come to our area to be used here.

On behalf of Italy ISD, Superintendent Lee Joffre requested permit waivers for construction of Agriculture Science Building, additions at Stafford Elementary and the Italy High School football stadium.

“We have furnished everything that was requested,” Joffre said. “The Board and I are requesting that the fees be waived.”

Joffre was told that if the city waived the permit fees, the school would still be responsible to pay the inspection fees. He said they had been negotiating with the inspector to possibly be able to pay a monthly fee instead of a per inspection fee which would be a significant saving for the district. Joffre said the district has a concern for how high the inspector’s fees are.

Paul Shearin eplained that the permit fees depend on the square footage of the buildings. He said the permit fees are 6 cents per trade per square foot. Joffre said the contractors did not figure in permit costs.

Mayor Farmer said the city did not want to make any money off of the school. The council unanimously voted to enter into an agreement with Italy ISD to waive the permit fees.

“Italy ISD is appreciative that the city waived the permit fees. This allows us to focus these funds are making our facilities better for our students.”

In June the EDC voted to rent the community center to the city for 6 months for $1 per month. The council unanimously voted to rent the community center for 6 months for $1 per month.

The council discussed putting Old City Hall, located at 101 W. Main, on the market to sell.

“We have 3 estimates of $350,000 for the work to bring the building up to code,” said Farmer. We have been denied by our insurance company twice because they said the damage was due to lack of maintenance and negligence by the city. I understand the Cornerstone is about to be sold so that may be an option for us.”

The council voted to postpone a vote until their September regular meeting.

They also voted to postpone a vote retaining Misty Culpepper for Audit Services for the 2015-2016 audit. Steven Farmer said the city should change auditors every 3 years. Troy Kowalsky stated he would rather go ahead and hire her for one more year to give time to find another auditor.

The council voted to accept the resignation of Council member Henry Wortman.

The council also held a budget workshop. Kowalsky requested the total of the water and sewer debt and when it would be paid. Ronda Cockerham explained the water debt is $190,613.20 and the sewer debt is $180,655.00. She said it will take 25 to 26 years to be paid. The water customers pay $22 water debt and $16 sewer debt each month.

The next regular council meeting will be held on September 12, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. Citizens are invited and encouraged to attend.