Breckenridge Texan

Breckenridge City Commission swears in new members, decides on plan for new water rates

Breckenridge City Commission swears in new members, decides on plan for new water rates
May 06
11:00 2021

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

It was a busy night at the Breckenridge City Commission meeting Tuesday, May 4, with new commissioners being sworn in, local students making a presentation, and actions being taken on topics including the water/sewer rates and the swimming pool operations.

New Commissioners

The meeting started off with newly elected commissioners Vince Moore and Gary Mercer being sworn in by Breckenridge Municipal Judge Kim Baggett.

Moore and Mercer ran unopposed for the positions held by Tom Cyprian and David Wimberley, who chose not to run for re-election. Since there were no opposed races, the two candidates were automatically elected and the City was not required to hold a formal election.

Additionally, Moore was selected by the other commissioners to serve as the Mayor Pro Tem. The mayor pro tem performs all duties of the mayor in his absence.

Breckenridge Municipal Judge Kim Baggett swears in new city commissioner Gary Mercer at Tuesday night’s meeting. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

New Breckenridge City Commissioner Vince Moore is sworn in by Municipal Judge Kim Baggett at Tuesday night’s meeting. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Water/Sewer Rates

The commissioners discussed and then made a decision to go forward with a plan to raise water and sewer rates for local residents, a move they say will improve city services and that supports several of the City’s stated Strategic Goals.

The City of Breckenridge’s Strategic Goals include:

  • Safety and Security: Ensure public safety and public health in the community
  • Leadership and Financial: Adopt and follow sound business practices and financial policies
  • Capital Improvements and Economic Development: Maintain the city’s infrastructure and strengthen economic development in the city
  • Quality of Life: Enhance the quality of life in Breckenridge
  • Forward Planning: We will develop sustainable multi-year plans for present and future generations.

In considering the rates for water and sewer services offered by the City, the commissioners, along with Interim City Manager Heather Robertson-Caraway and Public Works Director Houston Satterwhite, discussed five different options that were presented to the commission at the regular April meeting by NewGen Strategies and Solutions, a firm hired by former interim City Manager Scott Dixon.

The five scenarios suggest different levels of rate increases and explain what could be funded with the income generated. The main expenses that need to be funded include paying off debt for state-mandated upgrades to the water plant, increased salaries for some City employees to reduce turnover and ensure quality employees, replacing water meters, hiring additional employees, replacing old, worn-out equipment, and transfer to the City’s general fund to help pay off debt and pay for other expenses.

The commissioners and Mayor Bob Sims agreed with Robertson-Caraway and Satterwhite, who suggested Scenario Five, which begins with an increase of $15.65 per month in 2022 and includes additional increase of lesser amounts each year for the next four years. For a detailed look at the different scenarios, click here to see the report that NewGen Strategies and Solutions presented to the commission in April.

“Our recommendation would be Scenario Five, because that’s the one that’s going to cover absolutely everything we need to cover,” Robertson-Caraway said, speaking for the City staff.

Sims and some of the commissioners voiced their support for the suggestion and said that the rate increase should have been done years ago.

“My recommendation would be Scenario Five, also,” said Commissioner Russell Blue. “It’s more expensive, but we have to make money as a city somewhere, if we want better workers, better equipment. And this will possibly lower property taxes. Then everybody should be on board, lower property taxes and get a higher water rate.”

Robertson-Caraway and Satterwhite explained that if the water and sewer utility services department can cover its own expenses through the rates, the property tax could possibly be lowered.

“What Scenario Five will do is it won’t lower the property tax the first year, but the next year is definitely should,” Robertson-Caraway said. “And the main objective of Scenario Five is to make the water fund and the wastewater fund self-supporting to where they’re covering their own debt, instead of the debt being cross-pledged with the property tax. Those funds, as the money comes in for the sewer and the water rates, will cover their own debt. And that will help us lower that cost of the property taxes.”

One of the biggest issues the City faces regarding the water service is making repairs to the lines and meters. Satterwhite said 24 percent of the water that the City uses is lost to leaks in the system. The increase could help pay for the repairs and could also be used to increase salaries so that the City can keep trained employees on the staff.

Two local residents attended the meeting to talk to the commissioners and get some questions answered about the water/sewer rates. Some of their concerns were regarding additional fees, such as administrative fees, that have been added in recent years to the utility bills and whether or not the rate increases would be long term.

Robertson-Caraway and Satterwhite said that the situation will be reviewed regularly, including the the annual budget process, and will be able to be adjusted as necessary. Robertson-Caraway also said that the increase will not apply to water department customers who use less than 5,000 gallons of water per month, a request she said she made specifically to protect local residents who live on fixed incomes and who do not use much water.

After discussing the issue and listening to the comments from the those attending the meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to go with Scenario Five, which will raise the rates by about $32 per month over the next four years, beginning with an increase of $15.65 per month in 2022. However, the increase isn’t official yet. The vote was only “for budget purposes” so that the City staff can begin working on the budget for the next fiscal year. Any increase to the utility rates will not become official until the budget is approved later this year.

The City staff will begin working on the 2021-2022 budget later this month, and the budget workshop with the city commissioners is scheduled for July 22 and will be open to the public. Additionally, there will be two public hearings on a tax increase and a public hearing on the budget; those are scheduled for August and September.

Aquatic Center

Although the City had considered leasing the Aquatic Center to someone to run for the summer, that deal didn’t work out and the City will be operating the swimming pool as usual this summer.

The pool will be open from June 1 through August 8, Tuesdays through Sundays. On Tuesdays through Saturdays, there will be two sessions, from 1 to 4 p.m. and from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. On Sundays, there will be one session from 2 to 6 p.m.

Additionally, on Tuesdays through Fridays, the pool will be open from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. for adults only and water aerobics. The pool will be reserved in two sessions for daycare centers on Wednesdays from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

The pool will be closed for maintenance on Mondays.

The fee for everyone age 4 and older will be $3 per session. Children age 3 and younger will be admitted at no charge. All children under the age of 10 must be accompanied and supervised by a responsible adult.

The City will offer swimming lessons for a fee of $50 per person. Lessons will begin be offered in two sessions, June 8 through July 1 and July 13 through August 5. Lessons held on Tuesdays and Thursdays only.

As in past years, the pool will be available for rental for events on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8 to 10 p.m. at a fee of $100 per hour, for up to 90 people. (That will include three certified lifeguards who are employees of the City only.) There will be a minimum one-hour charge. The pool may be rented in half-hour increments after the initial hour rental. Rental times will be adjacent to opening and closing hours. For parties that have more than 90 people, there will be an additional charge of $20 per hour for increments of 1 through 30 people. (For example, for 1 to 90 people, the cost will be $100 per hour; for 91 to 120 people, the cost will be $120 per hour; for 121 to 150 people, the cost will be $140 per hour; for 151 to 180 people, the cost will be $160 per hour, etc.)

There are a variety of other rules and regulations regarding the use of the swimming pool. For more information, call the City offices at 254-559-8287.

TMCN Project

Breckenridge students Aimee Toliver, Rylan Sims, Kason Knight and Liberty Vandergriff present their plan to renovate the community garden. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Each year, a group of Breckenridge High School students are selected to participate in the Texas Midwest Community Network’s Leadership TMCN community project program. The team develops a plan for a local project that will benefit the community and then spends the next few months raising funds for the project and completing it. They compete against other student teams in the area for a scholarship from TMCN, an organization of regional business and community leaders.

This year’s team includes Kason Knight, Rylan Sims, Aimee Toliver and Liberty Vandergriff, and their plan is to revitalize the community garden on North Smith Street. They presented their plan to the City Commission, which gave the students permission to raise funds for the garden and then to work on revamping and refurbishing it.

Specifically, they want to build additional raised beds, add picnic tables and places to enjoy the scenery, add more vegetable and flower plants to the garden, and more.

Other business

  • Oncor rates for electricity service — The City of Breckenridge is a member of the Steering Committee of Cities Served by Oncor, which has encouraged its members to deny a request by Oncor to take actions that will allow it to increase the rates it charges customers for electricity service. The Breckenridge City Commissioners voted to take the steering committee’s advice and deny the Oncor request.
  • City manager search — The list of applicants for the Breckenridge City Manager position has been narrowed to four candidates that the hiring committee will interview in the upcoming weeks.
  • Professional Municipal Clerks Week — Mayor Sims read a proclamation declaring May 2-8 as Professional Municipal Clerks Week in Breckenridge, recognizing Robertson-Caraway for her work in the position.

Heather Robertson-Caraway, who serves the City of Breckenridge as the interim city manager and the city secretary, was honored with a potted plant and certificate for Professional Municipal Clerks Week. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Outgoing City Commissioners Tom Cyprian and David Wimberley were honored with plaques for their service. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: The Breckenridge City Commission has a slightly different look after the two new members were sworn in Tuesday night. The commissioners, from left, are Rob Durham, Vince Moore, Gary Mercer, Mayor Bob Sims and Russell Blue. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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