The Killeen City Council took tentative steps toward a citywide insurance policy for sewer service line repairs by asking for more information at its workshop session Tuesday.
The council reached a 5-1 consensus vote to ask for a presentation from Utility Service Partners on a warranty program for sewer service line repairs that would potentially require a 50-cent rate increase for all water ratepayers.
Councilman Gregory Johnson voted against the motion, and Councilwoman Shirley Fleming was not in attendance
To enter into the program, the council would be required to change a city policy requiring homeowners to pay for repairs to private lines that cross over private property to connect to public sewer mains under city streets.
On Aug. 7, the council directed the city to draft an ordinance to formalize its longstanding policy, but the council has flirted with expanding the city’s responsibility for those repairs, which can reach as high as $25,000, according to some homeowners.
Director of Public Works David Olson on Oct. 23 laid out three options the council considered to help aid homeowners, including entering into warranty programs for homeowners to help pay for emergency repairs and accepting some or all of the maintenance and repair of service lines.
Among the options considered:
The city would set up an optional or mandatory warranty program through a private provider that could cost residents anywhere in the range of $7.75 to 50 cents per month, depending on the option. A mandatory program would require the city to formally accept responsibility for all repairs in the public right-of-way.
The city would accept responsibility for repairs up to the public property line. Olson said this would likely cause a necessary sewer rate increase citywide of between 75 cents and $1.80, regardless of whether you have the problem.
The city would accept responsibility for the entire sewer service line, likely resulting in a mandatory sewer rate increase of $4.70.
While the council’s decision Tuesday is not binding, Utility Service Providers will be asked to provide more information on its program, which could take a five-year commitment from the city, according to City Manager Ron Olson.
The date for the presentation has not been set.
In other business, the council took no action on a street maintenance fee that would be assessed on commercial and residential water bills to pay for the city’s backlog of road repair needs.
On July 17, the council voted to delay discussion on the controversial fee, which the city estimates would add more than $6 to a single-family home’s water bill each month, at the highest estimate.
By establishing a separate fund for street maintenance, the city said an overburdened operational fund would receive some breathing room as property tax revenues remain constrained each year.
If the city does not institute the fee, the other options are attempting to raise property taxes by around 2 cents or cutting expenditures in the general fund, which could mean the elimination of city positions, David Olson said.
The street fee, which has been voted down twice by the council in recent years, would help counteract ballooning deferred maintenance costs that have been woefully underfunded in years of past city budgets.
The council is expected to make a motion of direction at its next workshop session.