LOCAL GOVERNMENT

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.

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

(1) comment

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

This city has been dancing around with a condition of being over extended for years now and I my opinion this condition should cease. The case of the sewer lines, the city has a traditional method of laying the sewer pipe up to and including the lateral which in my case at least terminates approximately 6 to 8 inches beyond the curb. The city traditionally maintains the sewer and lateral and the home owner accepts the rest.
But with the over extension of the city, it is now asking for the citizens to pick up that portion of the cost that would allow the city to discontinue the city responsibility at a cost of $0.50 to $7.75 per month which would be added to the home owners water/sewer bill.
Now here is where it gets dicey:
Copy: '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.' End of copy.
Now this provision, which is traditional and customary, does not indicate where the change to the sewer from city responsibility to home owner responsibility would be, at the first lateral or all the way to the sewer which would encroach on public property by extending to the sewer main line itself
But further on down it says:
Copy: '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.' End of copy.
This provision says and I copy: 'A mandatory program would require the city to formally accept responsibility for all repairs in the public right-of-way.' End of copy.
They already have the responsibility to repair and maintain all city sewer mains and the laterals up to the point of city/home owner responsibility which is public right of way land.
Then it goes on to say:
Copy: 'The city would accept responsibility for the entire sewer service line, likely resulting in a mandatory sewer rate increase of $4.70.' End of copy.
In my estimation, they already have the responsibility to maintain and repair all of the public lands so why this statement?
Copy: '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.'
Continuation of copy: 'The date for the presentation has not been set.' End of copy.
To accept the city's program or plan locks the home owner in for life as once you relinquish to the city that part of sewer maintenance and repair plus the city has control of what you must pay for the sewer line maintenance and repair. It can go up and up and up.
It seems to me that this is double talk brought on by the city to cover some the over-extension by the city fathers. I also think that this is a matter to be brought about publicly by having the city bring it to a vote. I think that this a terrible approach and would vote no to a program of this nature. This is something that the city council should not be deciding on.
Copy: '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.'
Continuation of copy: '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.'
Continuation of copy: '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.' End of copy.
There again, it is because of the city father's not restricting the odious continuance of new road construction that has placed this city in the position that it now finds itself in. To eliminate a portion of new road and a bridge construction wold free up at least $8 to $12 million dollars and this would be used for roadway maintenance and repair. If not, if this proposal goes further, you can be assured that a fee of this nature will continue to rise as you will have no control over it once the city gets control. A proposal like this will get the program back in control or at least make a considerable dent in it.
Again, I think this proposal should be brought forward as a measure to be voted on.
This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.28 % who voted.

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