Council approves new water meters, utility management company
By LYNETTE SOWELL
At Tuesday night's Copperas Cove city council meeting, the council voted to approve some changes that will directly affect city utility customers, come October 1.
The city manager was approved to enter into an agreement with Fathom, a company which administers utilities for other municipalities. Residential and commercial utility customers will receive new “smart” meters which are intended to streamline the meter reading process. While the downtown utilities administration building won't close, there will also be 24-7 customer service access with Fathom, along with a smartphone app which customers can use for monitoring of their water consumption and can also use to pay their bill.
The cost for the meters along with accompanying software and implementation adds up to a little more than $7 million, financed through certificates of obligation by the city.
The council also approved the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation's agreement with the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, with a vote of 5-2, with councilmen George Duncan and Matthew Russell casting the two nay votes.
Duncan and Russell weren't satisfied with areas of the contract, with Russell questioning again whether the city was getting its “bang for the buck” from HOTDA. This contract is for $17,000 annually, where in past years the EDC has spent as much as $50,000 annually on its contract on behalf of Copperas Cove.
Councilwoman Marty Smith spoke up in favor of the HOTDA contract and said the EDC has been satisfied with what they've received from the entity.
One area of the HOTDA contract which councilman Kirby Lack spoke up about was the 60 days' notice required to terminate the contract, with EDC board chair Bradi Diaz stating the 60 days was in place so there would be time to resolve any issue between the city and HOTDA. Lack was in favor of two weeks' notice, but said he would be in favor of compromising with 30 days' notice to HOTDA.
City Manager Andrea Gardner stepped in and suggested a future contract could have a dispute resolution section for any problems that give a certain number of days for notice and resolution. She said she would send that wording to the EDC to use for next year's contract.
HOTDA is a nonprofit with which Copperas Cove and other cities in the Fort Hood area contract to corporation that promotes the importance and sustainability of Fort Hood and all defense-related industries, organizations and institutions in the Central Texas area, defined as being Bell, Coryell and Lampasas counties.
HOTDA will soon be meeting with area city representatives, including Copperas Cove, to assist them with applications for Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grants from the state of Texas. The city of Killeen recently received $3.47 million grant from this program to update the Killeen-Fort Hood regional airport.
In report items Tuesday night, the council received a new March 2016 financial report for the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau from Joe Newman, interim president.
Newman also presented a sample of the visitors' bureau expenditures for the council's information, separate from the monthly report. He also voiced some changes which he's already implemented during his time at the visitors' bureau.
“One of the things I found out, the HOT funds you provide, we have to keep them in a separate account. It's not just in a separate account, it's in a separate bank,” Newman told the council. “The thing that I know the auditor is going to say to us when they get here is, 'You're really not supposed to comingle the money.' What we do is, we need some tourism money, we go to the bank and get a cashier's check, and we go over and put it into the tourism account for the chamber.”
Newman said he has made changes to stop the process of “comingling” by the chamber and visitors' bureau. For example, when the chamber pays its utility bill to the city, Newman said the city will receive a check for half the amount from the chamber of commerce and half from the visitors' bureau HOT funds account.
“The auditor is not looking for the amount of money, but do we have eligible uses of hot funds?” he told the council. “Registration fees, t-shirt sales, it's all put in to the tourism account, and so are the HOT funds.”
Newman presented a corrected March financial report, explaining the discrepancies from last meeting's report of March financials occurred due to a number being transposed and also an incorrect percentage and formula used in calculations. He also said he'd received a call from Lampasas, asking if Copperas Cove was going to give up the big bicycle race it hosts every year, that Lampasas would like to take it. He told the council he informed Lampasas that “someone” in Copperas Cove would be holding that race.
The council also approved:
Emergency purchase of repairs for a sewer line located between Robert Griffin III Drive and Constitution Drive.
Emergency purchase of repairs at the Northwest Wastewater Treatment Plant lift station.
Including a drainage project in the Capital Improvements Plan, to fund the Avenue D drainage project in the current fiscal year 2016 budget through a budget amendment and authorize the execution of a Professional Services Agreement with BSP Engineers.
A sanitary sewer easement and temporary construction easement from Lehmann Heritage Corporation.