Copperas Cove city council approves utility assistance program, establishes 2021 population to be 36,615
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove City Council approved the implementation of a Utility Assistance Donation Program with a vote of 6 to 1 during its regular meeting Tuesday evening.
The council had previously discussed the utility rates from May 2020 to September 2020 before voting to remove the 20 percent senior discount for utility accounts, after discussions with the city attorney revealed the discount was considered illegal based on Texas Government Code Section 1502.057(b) and corresponding case law.
The council also revised the utility rates, increasing the base rates for water and sewer but decreasing the volumetric rates, which went into effect on Oct. 1, 2020.
After residents spoke out objecting to the rate increase along with the removal of the discount, the city council directed city staff to create a donation assistance program for all utility customers. The donations will be received and will be accounted within the city’s Donation Fund, separate from the General Fund and Water and Sewer Fund.
Eligible participants will be all active residential utility customers in good standing, including those accounts with an active payment plan and residential utility customers with monthly billed consumption of less than 8,000 gallons.
Eligible customers must request assistance by coming into the Utility Administration office or by phone call, but no documentation is required at this time.
The amount of assistance available is based off the increases to the base rate, solid waste rate and the drainage rate which together total $13.83 monthly. The term for this first run of the program will be six months, with an evaluation at the end of the six months to determine any changes to be made. There will also be a quarterly report around the three-month mark.
After some discussion, the council approved the program with a vote of 6 to 1, with council member Joann Courtland voting against.
"I just worry that we're doing this for six months, and we're going to have people are having those catastrophic difficulties, and that $13.83, ain't going to touch it, and they're going to be in a bigger deficit at that point."
The city council approved a resolution establishing the Jan. 1, 2021 population of the city to be 36,615 persons. The city received the 2019 Final Population Estimates from the Texas Demographic Center, which reported that the city’s population as of Jan. 1, 2020 was estimated at 35,781. This number reflects an increase of 11.7 percent from the 2010 U.S. Census.
To determine increases in total population from the previous year, city staff reviewed new single-family, duplex and multi-family residential building permits, newly annexed areas, and evaluated rental occupancy rates. In 2020, there were 247 new single-family and 32 duplex building permits (64 dwelling units) issued, which combined, totals 311. The U.S. Census household size multiplier of 2.68 persons per household is used for the new single-family and duplex housing units and calculated 834 persons being added to the city’s population.
The council also approved an ordinance amending the city’s Fee Schedule, which includes included increasing the fingerprinting fee from $6 to $15 and adding a $6 fee for accident reports for the Police Department and several fee changes at the Animal Shelter.
The adoption fee for dogs changes from $20 to $30 for non-vetted dogs; $50 for dogs with shots or who are spayed/neutered; or $75 for dogs who are fully vetted. The adoption fee for cats changes from $15 to $25 for non-vetted cats; $45 for cats with shots or who are spayed/neutered; or $70 for fully-vetted cats.
A fully-vetted animal is one that is both spayed/neutered and up to date on required shots.
Other city fee changes include the addition of fees for the use of the City Park Trail for 5K run/walk events. The fee will be $100 for four-hour use and $25 per additional hour, with a $10 restoration fee. There is also a $10 restoration fee for the South Park Walking Trail.
For the Golf Course, the changes include adding a rider’s fee of $7.50 and a $10 fee for rental clubs. There is also a deposit fee for a tournament in the amount of $100.