Council removes Business 190 median project from agenda

By LYNETTE SOWELL
Cove Leader-Press 

An agenda item that would have decided the fate of the Business 190 median project was pulled from the agenda during Tuesday night’s meeting of the Copperas Cove city council. 
Place 7 councilman Charlie Youngs, who had requested the action item be on the agenda, was the one to move to pull the item. 
“As I was the one that pushed to have this on there, at the time I was pushing it I did not realize we would be having a public hearing on the 31st of May,” Youngs explained “I think it would be prudent at this time, considering the amount of interest we had yesterday, I think it would be counterintuitive to vote on this item until we get through the 31st of May public hearing, and now that I know a bit more about.”
One concern Youngs had before making a vote on the project was receiving the cost estimate from the engineer on the project. Youngs said he thought it would be better to have those estimates as part of the decision-making process. The council voted to remove it from the agenda, with interim city manager Ryan Haverlah calling the project “fluid” and that the agenda item could be brought back after the engineer’s estimate was received.  
The process of hiring a new city manager is also off the table, for now. During the city council’s workshop, it heard presentations from two recruiting firms during its workshop. The firms, Springsted Waters and CPS HR Consulting, both made pitches and offered their plans to assemble of list of quality candidates for a new city manager. 
However, during the meeting following the workshop, instead of taking a vote was on the agenda, councilman Jay Manning called for an executive session to consult with the city attorney. The council emerged, with Manning moving to postpone a decision on the two firms until the next meeting, which was seconded by councilman Marc Payne. 
“I think we have two very highly qualified firms here, to move this process along and discuss that what we have here in front of us,” said councilman David Morris. 
Morris wasn’t the only councilman to disagree with postponing the decision, with councilman James Pierce Jr. crediting the two firms with having the initiative to apply and wanting to do business with Copperas Cove.
“We’ve been 90 days without a city manager and we need to get the process going,” Pierce added. 
Manning said he was concerned, having sent 19 requests out to firms and only receiving two responses back. 
Council Payne said that the fact there were only two proposals received is there’s something that needs to be addressed in the request for qualifications to begin with. 
Councilmen Morris and Pierce voted against postponing the decision, with the other five councilmen voting in favor of it.
For $24,500 in addition to any costs for any finalists to travel for interviews, Springsted Waters would conduct a search and have a lineup of candidates within 90-100 days. CPS HR had a similar cost of $22,000, and both firms had a two-year guarantee.
Also on Tuesday night, the council directed the city staff to prepare an amendment to a recent ordinance that affects the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce. This amendment would remove both the Rabbit Fest and Krist Kindl Markt parades from the list of events on that ordinance. As it stands now, due to the ordinance the city expenses connected to the parades must be reimbursed by the chamber of commerce. However, for the annual Veterans’ Day parade, the VFW post does not have to reimburse the city as that parade has been deemed a “public purpose.” Deeming the two parades a public purpose, that would not have to fall under the ordinance and also save the city paperwork. 
The topic of an external audit of the city’s water meter functionality and utility billing services with FATHOM Water Systems was discussed Tuesday evening, with that item requested by place 1 councilman David Morris. Morris said he requested the discussion due to the fact that some customers are still complaining about the amount of water their meters say they are consuming. Morris asked if there was some sort of discrepancy between the water that the city was purchasing and the amount of water it was billing its customers.
Councilman Marc Payne said there are still billing problems that continue for which residents are being charged late fees on their water bills.  
“Someone will transpose a number during a phone conversation and the customer will get a late fee,” Payne said. “People are dropping off bills at the drop-off box that are being mailed by the city and getting late fees…We have some other issues going on and I think it’s time we address the citizens’ concerns about the problems they’ve been having.” 
Interim City Manager Ryan Haverlah said that every month, save for one, the city has had water loss compared to the amount it purchased. “There is going to be some water loss because the system is so huge, there are not resources to track down every single leak and repair those leaks…when we first went live in April 2017, there was one month we actually sold more water than we purchased, because of the amount billed for the first month we went live with FATHOM, billing for 60 days of consumption.” 
Haverlah did say he could send the council that monthly report, about the amount of water sold versus the amount of water purchased by city utility customers. 
As far as high consumption being noted by customers, FATHOM does have measures in place to alert customers when their consumption goes higher than normal, Haverlah said. He also said that the city’s public works director is also working to set a limit that if it is exceeded, can trigger an alarm with the city to visit that address. 
Haverlah gave the example of one customer’s account being billed for more than 1,000,000 gallons over a six-month time period due to a leak and them not being at the property. 
As far as the customer service and other billing issues, Haverlah acknowledged things have improved, but not to the point prior to the transition to FATHOM.
“I will say there are a couple of things that staff is working on with utilities. One is customer service with the city’s office and with the FATHOM offices,” Haverlah said. “FATHOM has to improve their customer service. I’ve been talking with FATHOM president Jason Bethke, and every time we talk, I tell him it needs to improve.”
Haverlah did tell the council that he hopes to have a training event with city utility staff and FATHOM staff, to help improve customer service between them and the utility customers. 

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