Council announces intention to terminate Hawaiian Falls lease

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by A.C. Hall

At the April White Settlement Council meeting Mayor Ronald A. White made a major announcement regarding the Hawaiian Falls water park.
“There’s been some issues with Hawaiian Falls with payments,” Mayor White said.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Mayor White was revealing new payment issues or was instead referencing past payment issues when Hawaiian Falls got behind on their lease payments to the City.  Either way, Mayor White said the council has discussed this issue with the Economic Development board as well as the City Attorney and have come to a decision.
“We’ve instructed the attorney to proceed with the requirements to … terminate the lease with the group that operates Hawaiian Falls,” Mayor White said.
The break in the Mayor’s quote represents a momentary pause during which Mayor White leaned away from his microphone to discuss something with the City Attorney.
No further discussion on this matter was held and no further details were given.  Mayor White indicated that the City will be releasing more information at some point in the near future.
The City funded the construction of the $12 million Hawaiian Falls water park and entered into a lease agreement that would see Hawaiian Falls pay that money back to the city over the course of several decades.  The first time the issue of nonpayment of those lease payments came up several city officials spoke about the fact that the water park would come under the ownership and operation of the City if Hawaiian Falls failed to live up to the lease agreement.
Stay tuned to the Grizzly Detail in the coming weeks as we will continue to gather information about this issue.
New wells approved amidst water rate hikes
Public Works Director Robert Smith presented the next item to the council as he presented plans for drilling two new water wells.  Originally discussed last year at budget time, Smith said that evaluations and studies have revealed that the City can drill two new water wells into the Paluxy aquifer.  The new wells would be drilled at existing well sites.  Smith also revealed improvements and upgrades to things like storage tanks and pumps that can help existing water wells function more effectively.
The estimated cost of the new wells and the upgrades to existing wells is $1.5 million.  That falls within what was budgeted for this item.
“By drilling these wells we could possibly, hopefully, reduce our dependence upon Fort Worth water and the next time a water rate study is done hopefully we’ll see a positive difference,” City Manager Jim Ryan said.
A motion was made to approve the plan for new water wells and upgrades to existing wells.  That motion passed unanimously.
Council then moved on to a proposed increase in the water and sewer rates.  This comes as Fort Worth once again raised the amount it charges the City for water and sewer.  The entire council appeared unhappy with this issue, with several voicing their displeasure.  Council member Dave Mann has spoken several times on his desire to see White Settlement water rates go down and he didn’t hide his feelings about being stuck paying Fort Worth’s ever steeper prices for water.
“I wish we could find a way to get away from them completely.  We need to find a way to get our rates down,” Mann said.
The rate increase to the water was unanimously approved.
Moving on to the sewer rate increase, Mayor White addressed the situation.
“We don’t want to have to do this but we have to do it,” Mayor White said.
The Mayor spoke about work that was done by council and city staff to adopt a rate increase structure that had the least amount of impact on citizens.
A motion was made to approve the sewer rate increase.
“I’m voting but it’s under duress big time,” Mann said.
The motion passed unanimously.