LAMPASAS — After discussing specific details behind closed doors, the City Council on Tuesday voted to take preliminary steps to invoke the power of eminent domain to acquire a piece of property for the Hoffpauir subdivision municipal sewer service project.

The city has not been able to reach an agreement with the property owner to use the land to install sewer lines.

The council’s action sets the legal wheels in motion to acquire right-of-way access to provide sewer service to residents who say they’ve been overlooked for decades.

Currently, Hoffpauir residents are using individual septic systems, but some homeowners claim their systems are defective and feel their taxes should support a city-owned and -operated infrastructure.

Council members began working on the project in March, voting to waive tap fees of about $800 and reimburse homeowners up to 50 percent of installation costs for sewer lines connected to the city’s existing lift station.

“This is the most cost-effective route for this project,” City Manager Finley deGraffenried said. “The acquisition is now in motion, and we still feel like this is for public necessity, which is one requirement of eminent domain. We’ll have to have that public purpose validated, if we get that far. The question comes down to, what the use of that property is worth.”

The city budgeted about $610,000 for the project, with another $40,000 in reserve funds to be used if necessary. If the city and property owner are unable to reach an agreement, engineers estimate it could increase the costs by $130,000.

During the council’s workshop session Tuesday, the council discussed freezing the ad valorem tax rate for homestead property owners age 65 and older.

“We currently provide a $15,000 tax reduction for residents 65 years old and older with a homestead exemption,” deGraffenried said. “The council discussed whether they want to pursue freezing the taxes for residents over 65, and their direction was to gather more information and consider the impacts and benefits of that action.”

The council also voted to replace Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harrison with City Council newcomer Christian Toups on the Economic Development Corporation board at Harrison’s request.

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