Council forgoes outsourcing Solid Waste
Fri, 2015-05-22 05:00 News Staff
A number of key agenda items draws a crowd
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation's meeting room was packed Tuesday night, as many showed up to voice their opinions as well as listen to the outcomes of a busy agenda for the city council meeting.
Kempner Water Supply reps show up for hearing
In front of a packed house Tuesday night, the Copperas Cove city council voted to amend the city's 2015 budget by $872,822 to purchase certificates of convenience and necessity from Kempner Water Supply Corporation. These certificates, or CCNs, would give the city the right to provide water service to future customers in the potentially developed areas to the west of the city, an area of 2,037 acres.
This decision came immediately after a second hearing, during which Delores Goode, general manager of Kempner Water Supply Corporation, spoke out against the city's proposed action.
Goode read a statement in which she told the council that the $357 per acre would only partially fund the acquisition, and that the cost could end up as much as $1 million instead of the budgeted $872,822. She also said that acreage includes approximately 115 Kempner Water Supply customers. Goode also begged to differ with the city manager's remarks at the last city council meeting about the financial stability of the KWSC.
“She told you in public session Kempner was basically judgment proof,” Good told the council. “Kempner is not judgment proof.” She went on to say that the KWSC has never requested more than the contract amount, and that it looks toward expanding its service area.
Also speaking up was Rex Hooten, who is on the KWSC board. He asked that the council take Goode's information to heart and he also wanted to provide more information.
“Several years ago Kempner Water Supply saw the future need for a reliable water supply system to meet the needs of our rural customers,” Hooten said. In addition to having one of the newest and most modern water operations, Hooten said the facility produces 4-5 million gallons of water per day, with a current capability of as much as 21 million gallons per day. If the plant expands, it could produce up to 50 million gallons a day, he added.
He concluded by saying, “I would think that Kempner Water Supply and Copperas Cove can find a way to work together so the area in question can be guaranteed fresh dependable water for the future.”
Cove selected as pilot city for regional recycling program
Up for discussion and direction by the council was the city's possible outsourcing of solid waste services. During the city council's retreat in February, the council heard from the CEO of Inland Waste Solutions and directed Gardner to enter into further discussions with the company, which provides solid waste, recycling and landfill services for Fort Hood, along with a number of cities throughout the country.
Due to a recent development within the last few weeks, Gardner said the city is not inclined to go forward with outsourcing at this time.
She said Fort Hood has invited Copperas Cove to be its pilot city to develop a regional recycling program, which Gardner called an honor. With this invitation, Gardner said she began to think about the impacts of that potential cost savings on council's ability to make a good decision on whether to outsource solid waste.
“What you would be doing is making a decision without all of the financial information. We have no way of knowing what that regional recycling program is going to save the city. But I can sit here and tell you tonight that I think it will be tremendous. But I can't give you a dollar figure,” she told the council.
“My plea to you, and I’m sure that all the solid waste employees will stand up and applaud after I say this, is that we do not move forward with outsourcing or move forward with a request for proposals for outsourcing solid waste services until that item is brought back from staff.”
The council agreed with Gardner.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable losing control in that support mechanism for our employees and their our city, so I was hesitant through the whole process,” said councilman George Duncan, referring to the discussion during the February retreat.
In the pilot program still under development with Fort Hood, residents will be able to include glass in recycling instead of throwing glass items into the regular garbage to be put into a landfill.
Gardner said the city would still continue with single stream recycling, and she believes it is the reason Copperas Cove was selected, and because it has been the most successful city in the area with implementing the program. The city is preparing to enter further discussions about the pilot program and more information will come as that develops.
Developer seeking 5-foot interior setbacks for future planned development district
Additionally at the meeting, the council was asked to give direction to the city staff about a request from WB Development to have a five-foot interior side yard building setback in its future development along Lutheran Church Road. This property of nearly 300 acres was recently annexed in February and was zoned as a planned development district on March 17.
Current code requires that the interior side yards must have a minimum of 7.5-foot setbacks.
Josh Welch with WB Development was present at the meeting and told the council the 5-foot setbacks will provide a savings for home buyers and could enable future home buyers to include features for their home's interior like granite countertops. He also said the structures would be constructed with non-combustible materials for those sections of the homes, and he had discussed that with the fire chief.
Welch pointed out that the council had approved the same 5-foot setbacks for phase 1 of Heartwood Park, another project of WB Development, back in 2012.
However, council was reluctant to direct the council to discuss the narrower setbacks this time around, both for safety and aesthetic reasons, and recommended that the city staff follow the original agreement for this PDD to have 7.5-foot setbacks.
Groups using hotel-motel tax funds to be under the magnifying glass
The council decided to postpone discussions about one agenda item, that of forming a Publicity and Tourism Review board to ensure that hotel occupancy tax funds paid to the chamber of commerce are used in accordance with the state tax code.
“I'm not really a proponent of another board. I think we have plenty of boards and committees now,” said councilman George Duncan. “I do think it's a necessity to have an in-depth conversation and discussion about how we separate the two entities, because as they sit now, it's virtually impossible not to co-mingle or confuse what the entities do and are responsible for.” Duncan was referring to the two arms of the chamber, business promotion and tourism.
“I think what I'm looking for a way to treat all these entities that use the hotel-motel tax exactly the same way, as we do the HOT Bowl. We hold them to task.”
Both council members Mark Peterson and Marty Smith agreed that there needs to be a way to separate the two entities.
Smith made a motion that the council wait until the second meeting in June to discuss this further, after the Texas Hotel Lodging Association lawyers come to brief the council on the use of hotel-motel tax funds.
Duncan expressed concern that as of Tuesday the council had not received the financial report for 2013 that was requested of the chamber back in March, and asked for a future agenda item to review the existing agreement, which he said as a contractor they have “already breached.”
Peterson said the agreement could be reviewed during budget season this summer.
Using EDC funds to help fund City Park improvements?
During the city council's February retreat, the council directed Joseph Pace of the Parks and Recreation Department to put together a parks improvement committee to find and prioritize park projects. The group would then make a recommendation to use what are called “4A” funds from the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation to fund a project at the park, classified as a “4B” project. For funds to be used in this manner, the city is required to put this decision on the November ballot for voters to decide.
If approved, the economic development corporation could then go forward with that project.
“It's a fairly simple process,” said Habib Erkan, the city's attorney. “The project must be described on the ballot so the voter is able to discern the limits of the project and category of the project described in the proposition.”
Erkan said there would be only one required public hearing for the project, but the hearing must be publicized in the newspaper for 30 days before the date of the hearing.
Also during the discussion, Andrea Gardner reminded the council of the tight timetable for this to happen in 2015 if it were to be undertaken by the committee. She anticipated the parks improvement committee would not be formally set up until July, and a hearing would have to take place after a project would be selected by the committee. Also, the last day to get this on the November ballot is August 24, 2015.
“They aren't going to make a decision at their first meeting,” Gardner said “They're probably not done until December. You have just passed by the election. You may want to rethink having that board do that. It wasn't set up for that sole purpose but to look at the whole park system.”
The council decided to have the city come back with a list of City Park projects with probable cost estimates, after which the council would include the EDC board in a meeting to discuss which project to propose for November's election. Funding for the project would affect the EDC's upcoming budget. Out of the two cents of every local sales tax dollar, the city receives one cent, with the county and EDC receiving a half-cent apiece.