By Janet Jacobs
For lack of a second, the Corsicana city council did not vote to raise water rates Tuesday.
George Walker, precinct 4, made the motion, but the other council members sat with their heads down, offering no second to support the motion.
The city manager, on the advice of a hired analyst, had proposed an 8 percent increase on residents, and a slight increase on people outside the city, with a heftier increase on industries and large water users, but none of that mattered when it came down to the lack of a vote.
Prior to the motion, the council got an earful from residents who came to protest the rate increase. One of the most vocal was Diana Rawlins, who said the council needed to get down to the real world and reconsider what it was doing, a speech which inspired applause from the audience. One of her chief objections was the $1.2 million transfer from the utility fund to the general fund, an annual exchange of money that helps pay for repairing streets following water leaks, and for office costs at city hall.
“Moving money into the general fund is reprehensible,” Rawlins said. “It’s a bad practice.”
Rawlins recommended cutting salaries, ending the fund transfer, ending the use of city vehicles for employees to take home, and fixing leaks in the water lines.
“You need to figure out how to live within your budget like the rest of us have to live within ours,” she said.
“Think about the old people,” said Jody Rogers, who was pushed to the podium in a wheelchair. He said he and his wife live on a fixed income of $1,552 a month. His neighbors have a hard time affording their prescriptions, he said.
“To people on low income, $6 or $7 means a whole lot when you’re struggling just to get by,” Rogers said.
Vicky Prater pointed out that times are hard, and the city needs to realize that companies and individuals are cutting costs, and can’t afford increases in their water rates.
“If we need a new city manager to turn things around, so be it,” Prater said. “Something is going to have to change here at city hall.”
City Manager Connie Standridge said she understands times are hard, and the fee schedule was structured to hit low-income individuals the least, and big companies the hardest.
The fund, which comes from water and sewer payments, is nearly in the red for this year, which is why the city manager urged the council to pass the fee increase as quickly as possible. After the failed motion to raise fees, Standridge asked the council what they wanted to do.
“I need some direction,” she said. “Obviously, I’m going in the wrong direction.”
Councilman Stephen Andrews said he would ask the city manager to consider cutting overtime, car allowances and other perks, while Walker said the only easy solution would be a half-cent increase in property taxes.
“If this (water fee increase) were a one-time deal, that would be one thing, but our consultant is telling us we need to raise them again next year,” Walker said. He said the city could consider raising property taxes half a cent and leaving the utility fund alone.
Cutting salaries, which was another of Rawlins’ suggestions, shifts the burden of increasing costs onto “maybe 55 or 60 people” of the city employees, those who are above the new minimum wage. Although the suggestion also garnered applause from the audience, Walker said he didn’t support it.
Prior to the regular city council meeting, during a council work session, a representative of the Trinity River Authority came to inform the council that the city could be liable for $2.6 million, the city’s portion of a large maintenance project on Navarro Mills Reservoir, the majority of which is being paid for with federal stimulus money. The city’s 50-year contract on the lake’s water expired in March, he pointed out.
Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
CORSICANA CITY COUNCIL MEETING BRIEFS
By Janet Jacobs/Daily Sun Staff Writer
Film guidelines tabled
The Corsicana City Council did not take action on new film ordinance Tuesday. Movie makers objected to the recommended fee structure. The mayor asked that a new ordinance be prepared.
Ice cream vendor set to sell
Alandus Weaver was granted a solicitor’s permit to sell ice cream and snow cones.
Halbert House change OK’d
A pergola was approved for the Halbert House.
City projects approved
The rehabilitation of sewer line under E. 13th Ave., and a sidewalk reconstruction on W. Sixth Ave. were both approved.
Atmos tariffs approved
Following a legal settlement with the various cities involved, Atmos Energy was granted a new tariff deal with the city. It should mean a very slight increase in user fees.
By Janet Jacobs
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