City council passes rezoning request, residents speak up about FATHOM

Cove Leader-Press 

A rezoning request and an amendment to the future land use plan for the City of Copperas Cove were both approved by the Copperas Cove city council at its Tuesday night meeting, but not after a lineup of residents spoke out against the amendment and rezoning. 
The rezoning and the future land use plan amendment concerned 54.41 acres of property, part of phase 4 of Heartwood Park, being developed by WBW Land Investments, LP. 
The property’s designation in the plan was amended to change from Medium Density Residential, High Density Residential and Retail to Low Density Residential, with the zoning change from AG-1 Agricultural and R-1 Single Family Residential District to PDD, or Planned Development District.
Several residents spoke out against the increased traffic on Courtney Lane, opposite S.C. Lee Junior High School and Williams/Ledger Elementary School. Others lamented the loss of green space, while at least one resident said there were enough vacant homes in Copperas Cove and that they moved to Copperas Cove because it was a “small town” and not a “city” and the building of more homes was not needed.
Josh Welch, with WBW Land Investments, told the council that the green space in the plans for the property would remain just that – green space. According to the documentation with the rezoning, the green space makes up 29.164 acres out of the entire 54.14-acre parcel of property. The planned homes for that section are on Courtney Lane, with the lots also having access via North 23rd Street and Dryden Avenue. 
However, the rezoning request was not approved as-is, with five-foot side yards in the planned development. Rather, 7.5-foot side yards were approved by the council for this development. 
During citizens’ forum, a lineup of residents spoke out against the billing and disconnection practices of city utility accounts where FATHOM Water Systems is concerned.
Theresa Deans again came to speak out against FATHOM and minced no words.
“Rolling out a fancy new portal doesn’t do anything to solve the problems that we are still facing. I don’t know why we’re paying these people the amount of money they’re being paid to do nothing. I also suspect that the number of complaints that we, the citizens, call in to the city when we have a problem, are not all going to FATHOM because I don’t think FATHOM can handle the influx of complaints we have,” Deans said. “We have people who have left Copperas Cove and have moved to other states and had a closeout bill. We all have closeout bills when we move, you have to settle your utilities. This person was billed $800 by FATHOM, claiming he had used 100,000 gallons of water prior to him moving. Hogwash! 
“Other people who are living in rental homes, you may have just rented that home a few months ago. They are receiving bills and paying for tenants who lived there prior…but new people who are moving into these homes should not be paying anything on a water bill that was created by a former tenant.
“The citizens are fed up. We’re not seeing anything positive come out of this and a portal does not solve the issues. We are fed up to the point that we are looking at a class action lawsuit because we’ve had enough.”
She also inquired about the status of a proposed ordinance that would prohibit city utilities being turned off on a Friday, something that was discussed at a prior council meeting.
Former city councilman Matthew Russell addressed the council during citizens’ forum, suggesting that the city send representatives to the town of Hillsborough and find out how that city was able to get out of the agreement it had with FATHOM. It was later confirmed that that particular city was in North Carolina, not Hillsboro, Texas.
Also related to FATHOM, during the meeting interim city manager Ryan Haverlah told the council that the cost for an independent audit of a sampling of the utility accounts would cost $16,000 and will be paid for out of the city’s water and sewer fund. The outside audit had been requested by the council and the firm is the same firm which the city uses for its annual audit.
“The audit itself, which is an audit standard, will take 1 percent of the accounts and audit them in detail, from all the billing aspects, from billing to meter reading, and any adjustments and corrections and any payments that are made and applied, and provide those results to staff and city council to determine if a more in-depth audit is required and pursue that,” Haverlah explained. “As part of that audit process, we as staff are also looking into a few items, and one is the consistency of solid waste accounts and water accounts, because it’s not just water that this applies to, but ensuring that all customers are also billed from a solid waste perspective at the rate that they should be, and not an increase or additional rate, and also to ensure that they are able to be billed for the appropriate services for solid waste.”
Haverlah also addressed an issue brought up by resident Joey Acfalle during citizens forum, that of the portal not reporting water usage on September 4, and then more usage the following days.  
“On September 5, we received notice from FATHOM that our water meter and meter reading collection system, which is a Neptune system, not proprietary to FATHOM or the city, upgraded their system on September 4,” Haverlah said. “When they upgraded their system on September 4, it caused all of the meter reading antennas installed throughout the community to stop receiving meter readings. It doesn’t mean the meters stopped registering consumption, but on September 7, all but one of the meter reading nodes were corrected to begin receiving those readings, all the readings then came into the new system at one time.”
Haverlah added that the subsequent days included an average reading for the days that it didn’t receive a reading. 
The topic of the planned Business 190 median project was also part of citizen comments during citizens forum, with resident Heather Copeland stating she and others were not in favor of it, especially looking at the Avenue D and Constitution Avenue intersections, that the median would be a hazard with drivers trying to turn around at those intersections. 
Interim city manager Ryan Haverlah gave the council an update on the status of the city’s request to KTMPO to alter the median project. KTMPO’s technical advisory committee gave their support for the proposed changes to the project, but the group’s policy board still needed to weigh in on the changes. 
He also said that KTMPO is holding a public comment period on Monday, October 1 at noon, at the Copperas Cove Police Department Community Room, and at 5 p.m. the same day at the Central Texas Council of Governments office in Belton. The comment period is for all KMTPO planned projects. 
The Copperas Cove city council is slated to take a vote on whether to continue with the median project at its Tuesday, October 2 meeting. 

Copperas Cove Leader Press

2210 U.S. 190
Copperas Cove, TX 76522
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