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Water district’s procedures questioned

by | Jul 22, 2015 | Latest

By Joe Reavis

Staff Writer

[email protected]

The city of Plano came under fire from Wylie city council members during a workshop last week dealing with requests to change a pair of operating procedures of North Texas Municipal Water District.

The workshop was conducted Monday, July 13, as part of the regular council meeting.

NTMWD outlined the requested changes in late June in an announcement of a plan to develop a forum to address matters of concern to the 13 district member cities represented on the board of directors. Member cities are Allen, Farmersville, Forney, Frisco, Garland, McKinney, Mesquite, Plano, Princeton, Richardson, Rockwall, Royse City and Wylie.

Issues are the ability of a city to replace at-will a member of the board of directors instead of waiting for a 2-year term to expire and to re-evaluate the methodology used to charge cities for water use.

The district, formed in 1951 and with headquarters in Wylie, provides water and wastewater services to communities in the area.

NTMWD Executive Director Tom Kula reviewed the history of the district for the council, pointing out that the board was created in enabling legislation passed by the Texas Legislature in 1951 to be apolitical.

Kula explained that the non political nature of the board is necessary because the district provides basic services, primarily water, and that continuity on the board is desirable because projects often take decades to complete.

Each of the member cities appoints two members to the board of directors, for terms of two years each, and city officials and council members are prohibited from serving.

The district executive explained that the forum will provide a way for representatives of cities to air their concerns and differences, and to develop solutions.

“Our board cannot change the enabling act,” Kula said. In response to a question from Mayor Eric Hogue, the district executive reported that Plano asked for the authority to replace directors at-will and that other cities have questioned their lack of ability to replace directors in the middle of their board terms.

“This is not political and they shouldn’t be playing politics,” Hogue said. “This is because one city, who happens to be the biggest city, wants to shove this down our throats.”

The issue, which may be bigger than the makeup of the board of directors, is the take-or-pay policy of water sales under which cities must pay for an established amount of water, whether or not that amount is actually taken. Those amounts of water are determined based on the highest annual demand a city has placed on the NTMWD water system historically. During times of drought and heavy rainfall a city’s water use may not meet the minimum.

“It has been a pretty dad-gummed good way to finance the district,” Kula said, pointing out that a steady income has enabled the district to earn a top bond rating.

The NTMWD reported that 3-4 cities have questioned the financing mechanism and noted that Wylie could have had the cheapest water rate of any of the member cities due to proximity to the water treatment facility, but agreed to a higher water rate to benefit the district as a whole.

“We get some politicians elected who don’t know the history, and they want to change the rules. That’s irritating,” Hogue said.

Kula stressed that he supports the member cities forum as a way for cities to better understand each other’s issues. Forum representatives will consist of the city manager from each member city and either the mayor or a city council member.

City Manager Mindy Manson reported that city mangers meet monthly to discuss water district issues, but noted that not all communications are passed around to all the cities.

“There is an attempt by some of the larger cities to be a 900-pound gorilla,” she declared.

Whatever the outcome of the forum, Kula reported that all the member cities will have an equal vote if changes are recommended.

The Wylie council meeting started with presentations to recognize individuals for their contributions to the community.

Eight elementary and junior high school students received medals for exemplifying good citizenship traits, “Shining the Wylie Way.” Honored were Carla Canales, Sydney Bradford, Ian LaBree, Caleb Smith, Caitlin Foisset, Taylor Kelly, Joseph Chesler and Sabrina Mendez.

Presented with a Blue Star Banner were David and Jennifer Brokaw, whose son, Joshua, is stationed in Korea with the U.S. Army.

American Legion Post 315 recognized three emergency personnel for their contributions over the past year. Honored were Michael Towne, EMT/Paramedic of the Year; John Hunt, Firefighter of the Year; and Angela M. McIntosh, Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

City Councilman David Dahl was named as a member of the Parks and Recreational Facilities Development Corporation 4B Board, replacing Bennie Jones who no longer is a member of the city council.

The council approved an ordinance that corrects an ordinance from 2000, giving the fire department authority to recover some costs by billing for emergency call responses. The 2000 ordinance did not legally allow the city to bill for the services, although it has been doing so.

Fire Chief Brent Parker pointed out that insurance companies are routinely billed for emergency call responses but that individuals are not charged.

No action was taken after an executive session on Wylie Economic Development Corporation matters.

 

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