COPPERAS COVE — The city of Copperas Cove started 2019 in mourning and ended it celebrating the end of a controversial water billing agreement with Fathom.
In January, citizens honored the late Mayor Frank Seffrood, with hundreds turning out for his Jan. 7 funeral service at Holy Family Catholic Church and his burial at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. Seffrood died unexpectedly on Dec. 28, 2018, from cancer. He was 79.
Seffrood had just been reelected as mayor in a runoff election in December. His death made it necessary for a special election to be held to fill his unexpired term. Former Mayor Bradi Diaz, former mayoral candidate Joey Acfalle, and newcomers Ron Nelson and Brandi Weiand all filed to run in the April 27 special election. Diaz won the election without a runoff, gaining 62% of the votes cast. Diaz was sworn in as mayor on May 21.
Diaz’s election marked the third shift in leadership for a major organization in Cove during the first half of the year. Alicia Menard was selected to become the president of the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce in February. Jonas Titas became executive director of the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation at the beginning of April.
On June 9, a tornado touched down west of Copperas Cove in the area of Grimes Crossing and Big Divide Road. Dozens of homes were damaged but there were no deaths or injuries reported.
The National Weather Service said the tornado was an EF-2 with a maximum wind speed of 115 mph. A damage assessment done by a disaster response team from the Texas Association of Builders estimated the property damage done by the tornado at over $2.6 million.
Despite a sense of relief in the community because of the lack of injuries, questions were raised about whether residents received enough warning about the tornado.
City officials stressed that sirens would not be a cost-effective way to provide early warning in the event of future emergencies. Residents were encouraged to sign up for the CodeRED warning system that public safety officials use to send phone, email and text alerts in the event of an emergency.
On June 25, the City Council announced that Ryan Haverlah would become city manager. Haverlah had been interim city manager for nearly a year and half while the city searched for a permanent replacement for former City Manager Andrea Gardner.
The City Council approved Haverlah’s contract in late July, agreeing to pay him $155,000 a year plus benefits.
In late August, City Councilman Charlie Youngs submitted his resignation to the city manager. Youngs had made a rude gesture during a special city council meeting Aug. 13, though he denied the gesture was aimed at City Councilman Kirby Lack, who was speaking at the time.
The resignation triggered the second special election of the year in Cove. In addition to the Place 3, 4 and 5 council seats that were already scheduled for a vote on Nov. 5, the council added a special election for the Place 7 seat that had been held by Youngs.
Ten candidates ran for the four seats available on the council. Place 3 City Councilman Dan Yancey and Place 4 City Councilman Jay Manning won reelection to the council, while first-time candidates Dianne Campbell and Jack Smith were elected to the Place 5 and Place 7 council seats, respectively.
On Nov. 9, Copperas Cove officials were notified by Fathom that the third-party water billing company would be going out of business. The news led to a series of regular and special meetings to determine how the city would handle water billing going forward.
The City Council decided that the best course would be to bring water billing back under city oversight, and told the city manager to pursue steps toward making that happen.
The city is in the process of completing agreements for software support that should allow water bills to be issued to customers early next year.