The Harker Heights City Council unanimously approved the city’s first water theft ordinance Tuesday, making it illegal to tamper with in-home city water equipment and fining first-time offenders up to $500.
The Public Works Department will inspect properties for rigging and tampering within two weeks of removal of meters due to nonpayment, said Public Works Director Mark Hyde.
“What has happened in the past is people would go in and put a section of pipe in there to restore the capability of that property to receive water service, but that water service is not being metered, hence, the theft,” Councilman Hal Schiffman said Wednesday.
Previously, residents whose service was disconnected for nonpayment were required to pay $50 to turn water back on, city documents stated. Thieves could steal for weeks before officials discovered water loss from theft.
Under the new law, service will resume after all prior bills, fines and a $15 administrative charge are paid.
Convicted second-time offenders will face $500 to $1,000 fines, while third timers will face $1,000 to $2,000 fines, the documents stated. Each day constitutes a separate offense and a Class C misdemeanor.
The council held a public hearing, but no one spoke for or against the amendment.
In other business, as the city’s fiscal year 2014 budget proposal looms three weeks away, HOP Director of Urban Operations Robert Ator requested more than $25,200 for bus operation and maintenance, Friends of Texas A&M University-Central Texas Chairman Bobby Hoxworth requested $50,000 for scholarships and Clements Boys & Girls Club Resource Development Director Francie Charles asked for $50,000 to continue programs. Additionally, Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce President John Crutchfield asked the city to fund a solar energy test project at the A&M-Central Texas campus.
The council is tentatively scheduled to review the proposed fiscal 2014 budget on July 30.