Council says no to joining electrical power aggregate, approves HOT funds request
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove City Council voted 6-1 against entering into an agreement to join a residential electric power aggregate during its regular meeting held Tuesday evening.
Council members heard a presentation from Daniel Wilkinson, of iChoosr LLC, where he discussed what iChoosr does and how they can help residents bring down the cost of their energy bill.
iChoosr organizes an energy auction among electric providers through The Texas Power Switch, a residential electric power aggregate to get a one-year fixed rate for the consumer. The contract for the city would be for three years. The city’s commitment would be to allow its logo and name be used on correspondence from iChoosr and to host a link to the iChoosr webpage from the city’s website for residents to sign up and register. The city would also repost and push out information through social media regarding the sign up periods for residents to join every so many months.
Founded in 2008, iChoosr currently partners with 200 municipalities across the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and Texas, according to their presentation.
The Texas cities of Fate, Waco, Eagle Pass, Wilmer, Seadrift, Dickinson, Richland Hills, Webster, Farmers Branch, Lake Dallas and Tomball have teamed up with iChoosr LLC since they began operations in Texas in 2017, with Fate being the pilot city.
iChoosr organizes an energy auction among electric providers to get a one-year fixed rate, which consistently comes in at 20 percent below the standard cost, according to Wilkinson.
iChoosr promises to handle all aspects including marketing, education, registration, transition and customer service, with a 24/7 support team located in Houston. The city is asked to lend its support by providing the use of the name and city logo to give credibility, Wilkinson said.
Interim city manager Ryan Haverlah said he had staff contact the staff of other cities currently utilizing iChoosr and the Texas Power Switch to get feedback. The biggest problem reported was in regards to the city staff receiving phone calls from residents about the program instead of the residents utilizing iChoosr’s customer service line, Haverlah said.
“I have delayed bringing this to you until I felt comfortable that the program itself would benefit our residents, and the biggest benefit in my opinion is it is an opt in program,” Haverlah said. “There’s no requirement to participate even after you ask to receive the offering or the auctions that are done.”
Council member Fred Chavez made a motion to approve the agreement, with council member Joann Courtland seconding. During discussion, council member Jay Manning shared that he thought the program read as if “residents are not smart enough or don’t have control over their own facilities enough to run their own business.”
“And I have a problem with that but the real kicker that I have is lending the city’s logo and credibility to anyone,” Manning said. “We have enough trouble destroying our own credibility without anybody else’s help.”
Council member Marc Payne said he was still “gun-shy” due to the previous experience of FATHOM and asked to see more history and the percentage of people who resign through iChoosr.
Council members Kirby Lack and Charlie Youngs expressed that they would be interested in talking to all of the 12 cities who have used iChoosr and getting feedback from them.
Council members voted 6-1 against entering into an agreement with iChoosr, with Chavez voting in favor. Mayor pro tem Dan Yancey said this vote meant a “no, at this point and time” but suggested iChoosr to come back and present at a later time with more information.
The city council approved Ordinance No. 2019-10 to rezone property locally known as 3011 Grimes Crossing Rd from Agricultural District to Single Family Residential District. The 14.97 acres will be developed in a single family residential subdivision consisting of four lots, known as Foothills Ranch Estates, Phase Two.
The council also approved Ordinance No. 2019-8, which continues establishing a curfew for minors, after holding the second public hearing, during which no one spoke. By Section 370.002 of the Texas Local Government Code, the city is required every three years to review the ordinance, conduct public hearings and abolish, continue or modify the ordinance. The city last renewed the ordinance on March 1, 2016, with it set to expire on February 28, 2019 unless continued by city council. Under the ordinance, a minor is any person under the age of 17, and the hours of curfew are 11:00 p.m.-6:00 a.m. on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and 12:01 a.m. - 6:00 a.m. on Saturday or Sunday; as well as between 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday- Friday while school is in session.
The city council approved a hotel occupancy tax funding request for $3,691.50 to be paid to the Lady Dawg Tip-Off Club expenses related to its basketball tournament held last November. The funds reimburse the club, which paid for hotel rooms at Best Western Inn & Suites for the tournament’s out-of-town teams, which came from as far as El Paso, Fort Worth, San Angelo, and San Antonio, according to the club’s report. The club is a band booster for the CCHS Lady Bulldawgs.
The city council directed interim city manager Ryan Haverlah to continue negotiations with the Kempner Water Supply Company regarding the purchase the certificates of convenience and necessity (CCN) for the Clayton Ranch subdivision located near Big Divide Rd, at a rate of $732.32 per acre, with the city’s portion being $173 and the balance coming from the developer.
The city council also approved an Interlocal Agreement with Bell County, Coryell County, Killeen, Harker Heights, Belton and Temple, formerly named the Centex Fire & Arson Task Force, to provide fire, arson and explosive detection, investigative and prosecutorial capabilities, personnel and resources.
During their workshop meeting held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, city council members heard an update from Haverlah regarding the city’s Capital Improvement Plan for 2019-2023, for which a town hall meeting was held on February 11. Haverlah shared a brief overview of each project, beginning with the redesign and expansion of Fire Station #3. Also included were TxDOT projects, city street projects and Parks and Recreation projects.
During the update on the Parks and Recreation projects, Youngs said he applauded Parks and Recreation Director Joe Brown for his effort in upgrading the city’s parks over the last couple of years but that he had concerns over the amount of money budgeted for park improvements from 2021-2023, with not enough going towards street projects.
“I feel that maybe we’ve put enough money into our parks,” Youngs said. “Maybe we need to relook some of the out years for streets, for water projects, for things that keep the lights going in the city.”
In the 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Plan Projects Update presented to the city council, the total cost of Parks and Recreation improvements is $3.86 million and includes projects that have already been started such as the paved parking lots and sidewalks of Phase 1 of Parks Improvements. The 2019-2023 CIP has planned for $1.5 million worth of city street projects and more than $14 million worth of water projects, many of which are scheduled to be completed in 2019 and 2020.
Chavez said that he thought it was important to move forward with the Parks projects after “so many years of neglect.”
“I don’t want to do a half-baked job and then let it drop and neglect it for another few years,” Chavez said. “So we can look at things, but by no means are we going to surrender working on our parks which is a direct benefit and gives value to our citizens. That ain’t gonna happen.”