• August 20, 2014

Bell Co. opposes Georgetown water plan

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Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 4:30 am

BELTON — Bell County Commissioners Court on Monday approved a resolution opposing the city of Georgetown’s proposed merger of its utilities department with the Chisholm Trail Special Utility District.

The resolution will be sent to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, along with protest letters from state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, and other stakeholder groups.

According to the timetable laid out by the commission, members of the public have until the end of the month to send written notice to the commission requesting a public hearing on the proposal.

The 377-square-mile district provides water services primarily to homes in northwestern Williamson County; however, it also includes areas of Bell and Burnet counties. The fact that two-thirds of the district’s 6,300 customers are in or near Georgetown’s jurisdiction concerns some Bell County elected officials.

“I’m worried that if they absorb the territory into the city, rural users won’t be represented,” Aycock said. He added he is afraid that a lack of interest from the Georgetown utilities department will lead to residents along the Bell and Williamson counties line having “an over-reliance on groundwater.”

“This could lead to new wells being dug,” Aycock said. “And the water table has been dropping along the county line for years.”

In his letter dated Jan. 30, Aycock claims that transferring control of Chisholm Trail to Georgetown “will further isolate the region and effectively limit all future and current development in these non-served areas due to reliance on groundwater.”

Georgetown doesn’t see it in quite the same way.

A consolidation feasibility study, commissioned by Georgetown and Chisholm Trail and released in June, found that if the city were to regionalize its water service, it would save $27.5 million over a 15-year period.

The study also claims the merger would allow Georgetown to stabilize current water rates, as well as give the city time to secure future water contracts.

Georgetown’s 2030 master plan points to utilities as a key focus area for the city as it prepares for anticipated growth.

City planners expect the Georgetown-area population to almost double, to about 240,000, in the next 15 years. All of which is of little comfort to Bell County Precinct 4 Commissioner John Fisher, whose district covers the affected portion of the county. Fisher said many area residents are afraid Georgetown is “just buying Chisholm Trail for the water.”

Keith Walker, Chisholm Trail’s transition manager, said the district has claim to 11,100 acre-feet of surface water in Stillhouse Hollow Lake. He added the district has about $15 million in cash, and almost as much in debt, on its books.

Walker said under the terms of the contract put before the TCEQ, while Georgetown will issue bonds to pay off Chisholm Trail’s debt, the city can’t “divest any part of the district for five years.”

In the world of municipal planning and real-estate development, five years is a fairly short time, Aycock said.

“What if someone wants to subdivide their land?” Aycock said. “They can’t sell it if they know they are only going to have water for five years.”

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2 comments:

  • donscott4 posted at 11:09 am on Wed, Feb 5, 2014.

    donscott4 Posts: 8

    In the last CTSUD election in November, a right Commissioner Fisher values so much, less than 100 Bell County citizens voted. Winning candidates had nearly 1000 votes each. maybe that is because there are actually relatively few Bell County voters in the CTSUD territory. Maybe it is because these rural rate payers know that the G'town rates they will be paying after the merger are actually less than they are paying CTSUD now.

    So the elected elite continue to play on the mistrust of big bad G'town when this is all about development by large land owners. See, they could develop their land now but they would have to pay for that additional infrastructure cost bringing more water that far and they want the rest of us to pay for that through our water bills. Say what you want and believe what you want but that is all this is about.

     
  • tomintexas posted at 11:27 am on Tue, Feb 4, 2014.

    tomintexas Posts: 34

    The fears that the Chisholm Trail/Georgetown merger will disenfranchise rural citizens is too little too late. Chisholm Trail and others of its ilk were established under a federal program to provide water to underserved rural areas - at least 40 years ago. Its service area extended from west of Florence eastward to Interstate 35 and north to Stillhouse Hollow Lake and south to God knows where.

    Because of that territory, early on several of my neighbors and I who lived along and adjacent to FM2843 in Bell County purchased meter rights - at that time at least 20 meters. We never got water or even smelled the possibility, but like me, I am sure that many still have their certificates. All inquiries were met with lies and stonewalling, but it was obvious that the district's funds were being spent in the immediate Florence area. Now they are progressing even further away from the areas for which the services were intended. Good luck, Jimmy Don, even if your efforts are truly in the interest of rural citizens.