Council raises water, wastewater rates

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By SHELLY WILKISON

The Liberty Hill City Council voted 4-1 Monday to increase rates for water and wastewater service effective Dec. 1.

With Councilmember Liz Rundzieher voting no, the panel responded to a rate study that showed water rates should be increased by 5 percent and wastewater rates should increase 7 percent. Water and wastewater customers outside the city limits will pay an average 25 percent more than in-city customers.

“Why would we have to raise water and sewer (rates) inside to such a degree?” asked Mrs. Rundzieher. “I understand the need, but a lot of people can’t afford it. They are on fixed income.”

According to the ordinance adopted Monday, the minimum charge for water for residential customers will increase from $29.75 per month to $31.24. The volume rate for usage up to 10,000 gallons increases from $3.90 to $4.10. Additional rates apply for larger water meters and higher monthly usage, and customers outside the city limits will pay more.

For wastewater service, the monthly minimum charge increases from $28.25 to $44.35 for residential customers and increases to $54.35 for commercial customers. Under the new structure, wastewater service is paid at a flat rate with no usage charges. Currently, residential and commercial customers are paying $3.30 and $4 respectively per 1,000 gallons usage.

Councilmember Wendell McLeod said he was opposed to charging a flat rate for wastewater service. He suggested that a one-person household should pay less than a big company with multiple employees.

“Is it fair for people with all the (sewer) equipment in their yard yet they are not hooked up? That’s not fair. The others have been paying for them. We can’t force people to hook up, and our ratepayers are subsidizing theose people,” said City Manager Greg Boatright.

“Because of city charity, we didn’t require everyone to hook up, which got us in the situation we’re in now,” said Mayor Connie Fuller. “But, we do have a responsibility to run the city’s business effectively and look at the big picture.”

Boatright said with a flat rate for sewer, the City can still “break even.”

Councilmember Elizabeth Branigan said many residents who depend on social security income saw a slight cost of living increase this year, which would help pay for the utility increase.

In other business Monday, the Council voted unanimously following a 35-minute closed session to authorize staff to submit a bid for the purchase of the Liberty Hill ISD Administration Building on State Highway 29.

District administrative offices will move to the former Liberty Hill Intermediate School campus on Forrest Street in early 2015 after the building has been remodeled. The current administration building is for sale and sealed bids are being accepted until Nov. 10.

Boatright told The Independent Tuesday that if the City’s bid is approved by school trustees, funds for the purchase could be available fromt he sale of the City’s current City Hall and Municipal Court building. Additionally, some operating capital would be available for the purchase. All city departments would relocate to the two-story building.

Also Monday, the Council voted to:

– Approve a bid in the amount of $93,472 from Ramming Paving for the paving of several city streets damaged by construction during the implementation of sewer lines.

– Join the Scenic Cities Texas program, the Texas Downtown Association and the Keep Texas Beautiful program for combined annual membership dues of $765. Membership in the organizations allows the city to network with other municipalities and improves access to grants.

– Adopt a resolution requesting the Legislature increase funding for local grants through the Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife.

– Authorize city staff to set a date in November for a Fall Cleanup Day for city residents.

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