Council votes to raise city water and sewer rates, Central Park loan forgiven

Mayor Ronald A. White made a presentation to the White Settlement Fire Department, thanking them for the work they did during all the winter weather the City has faced over the past month including rescuing stranded motorists and dealing with a gas leak.
Mayor Ronald A. White made a presentation to the White Settlement Fire Department, thanking them for the work they did during all the winter weather the City has faced over the past month including rescuing stranded motorists and dealing with a gas leak.

by A.C. Hall

Following up on a previously discussed issue, the White Settlement City Council voted last week to raise water and sewer rates.  This action was described as a necessary response to the nearly 14% rate increase that Fort Worth gave to White Settlement several months ago.

After the water rate increase, residential customers using the minimum amount of water will see an increase of around $2.68.  Residential customers who use the average amount of water each month will see an increase of around $5.00.  The sewer rate increase for minimum users is around $.70 cents and average users will see an increase of around $1.52.  The motions to approve these rate increases passed unanimously.

Council member Elzie Clements spoke about the necessity for the rate increases.

“I think we just have to understand that the City can’t keep operating in the red.  If things are going up to the City then we’re gonna have to continue to increase things to the citizens, as much as all of us don’t like it.  Nobody likes an increase, but the city can’t keep absorbing all that,” Clements said.

Central Park loan from City to EDC forgiven

The $3 million renovation of Central Park in 2012 was discussed next as Finance Director Phil Bray spoke about the loan the City’s general fund gave to the EDC to help pay for the project.  That loan was for $1.4 million and Bray explained that repaying it is stretching EDC funds thin now that EDC is also having to hold $1 million in escrow each year as part of the Hawaiian Falls agreement.

“Consequently the EDC has little to no financial ability to encourage or assist in economic development,” Bray said.

Bray said that there’s been interest expressed to him about trying to find a way to forgive the loan.  The annual payment EDC makes to the general fund for this loan is $280,000.  They have already made this payment twice, sending $560,000 to the general fund.

City Manager Jim Ryan spoke about this item.  He spoke about the many ways the EDC board can use funds to help improve businesses that are currently here and offer incentives for other businesses to move here.

“We have an opportunity here to spend money to make money,” Ryan said.

As the discussion continued, the amount of money EDC spends on parks was discussed by both Mayor White and Ryan.  Council member Danny Anderson also sounded off on the subject, expressing his desire to see the EDC work to help bring businesses into the city, something Ryan agreed with.

“The EDC was really formed to put bait on the hook to throw it out and bring businesses in,” Ryan said.  “If you don’t have any bait out there, you’re not bringing the businesses in.”

Clements had comments of his own about this item as he spoke about the EDC’s use of their funds and the success of spending money to bring in businesses so far.

“With the money that we’ve spent so far, we really haven’t seen what I think is a big return on our investment.  I mean I may be wrong, but I can’t see that return,” Clements said.  “We need to be really careful what we use that money for.”

As the loan forgiveness was discussed, two options were presented.  One would see the remainder of the loan forgiven, while the other would see the remainder of the loan forgiven and the $560,000 already paid on it returned to the EDC.  Council member Steve Ott spoke up about this option, saying he knew it was all city money in the end but that he had some hesitation over the options.

“I don’t know a banker in the world that would forgive a $1.4 million dollar loan,” Ott said.

He suggested giving back the $560,000 to EDC and then resetting the loan and allowing them to start payments again next year.  That suggestion was not followed up on, however, as a motion was made to forgive the loan and return the $560,000 already paid back to the EDC.  That motion passed 4 – 1 with Ott against.

Other Business

Council unanimously approved a gift certificate of $200 for former City Manager Linda Ryan.  Ryan recently donated her services to the city and helped complete a water rate study that would’ve cost between $10,000 and $15,000 had they hired someone to do it.

“She took a big job upon herself and you know you don’t get to use the word free very often, but she took on this job of the water and sewer plan and she took it on for free and she didn’t even charge the city one penny for it,” Clements said.  “I just think it’s very admirable of Linda to come and do for the City what she’s done.”

Linda was not present at the meeting therefore council will present the gift certificate to her at a later meeting.

Council unanimously passed a motion to allow $1,100 worth of gift cards that were donated to the City by the former Neighbor Helping Neighbor program to be used by the Pride Commission.  These gift cards will be used to help organizations purchase paint and repair supplies if the organizations will then use those supplies to help do minor repairs on homes around the City.

Winter weather forced the cancellation of a council work session to discuss their code of ethics and a discussion was held on when to reschedule.  A moratorium on the code of ethics is currently in place and council tentatively agreed to meet sometime in early June to discuss this issue again.

Board appointments

Council unanimously voted to reappoint Pamela Kenney, Mike Chandler, and Dusty Pulliam to their places on the Parks and Recreation board.  Aaron James was appointed to a vacant seat on that board while Marshall DeThample was appointed as an alternate for that board.

Council also unanimously reappointed Benjamin Spurr, Robert “Craig” Spencer, Debra Cook, Marolee Lunsford, and Victor Corralejo to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Public comments

A citizen spoke and expressed concerns regarding the streets that are now closed off and controlled by Weir SPM.  This citizen said that they believe all White Settlement residents should have had a vote in that matter.  They also addressed the changes to the traffic flow these road closures have had, saying that it’s increased through traffic on surrounding streets and have made them much more dangerous than they used to be.

Council also heard from an individual about the possibility of bringing a new skate park to Central Park.  This new skate park complex would be much larger than the current one at Central Park and in conceptual designs shown would be located directly in front of the amphitheater at the park.  The individual spoke confidently about how much of an attraction the new skate park would be and spoke about hopes to further discuss this issue with the City soon.



Photo: Mayor Ronald A. White made a presentation to the White Settlement Fire Department, thanking them for the work they did during all the winter weather the City has faced over the past month. White spoke highly of the work done by the WSFD as they rescued stranded motorists as well as dealt with a gas leak.