BEEVILLE – City Council members voted last week to approve the process of beginning a service agreement between the city and Performance Services.
The vote was not without opposition.
Councilman Ford Patton cast the only nay vote on a motion made by Councilman Eric Holland and seconded by Councilman Brian Watson.
“I think we’ve got enough on our plate right now,” Patton said just before casting a vote against the motion.
He mentioned the sale of $10 million in bonds that voters had approved for the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Cook Road and the Beeville Water Supply District’s George P. Morrill, I Water Treatment Plant at Swinney Switch.
Of that $10 million, $7 million is to be spent on upgrading the wastewater plant, and the remaining $3 million will be used to upgrade the water treatment facility.
Company representatives supported the agreement, saying that the project would pay for itself by saving the city money on utility bills and by allowing the city to recover revenue it currently is losing through aging, mechanical water meters.
They had recommended replacement of the heating and air conditioning system at City Hall, saying the system is approaching the end of its useful life.
The company also proposed that the city replace all its fluorescent lighting fixtures at all its facilities with the new LED equipment.
LED lighting systems use less electricity and provide much brighter lighting. The two company representatives said the savings on electric bills would help pay for those improvements.
In addition, the Performance Services representatives recommended replacing the city’s mechanical water meters with electronic meters that will allow city employees to read the more accurate meters without ever having to leave a vehicle.
The council was told that the city could see its revenue increase by $445,000 annually by installing the new meters.
The company spokesmen said the electronic meters are guaranteed to last 20 years.
When Patton asked the two men how the city was going to recover what they had said was $445,000 in lost revenue, he was told that the meters in the ground now are mechanical and measure water usage by parts that are turned with the flow of water through the meter to the customer.
The meters slow down with age and no longer provide an accurate reading of the amount of water used.
Patton said the city could prevent that loss of revenue by initiating an annual meter replacement program. He said the city used to replace water meters regularly.
“I feel that’s gone by the wayside,” Patton said.
Patton defended the current practice of having a city employee remove the cover of each meter to check the reading.
“If no one looks at the meters they get filled up with crud,” Patton said.
The electronic meters would allow that to happen because employees would no longer be opening the meter enclosures.
Patton mentioned the cost of replacing the meters would be $2.8 million.
The Performance Services representatives reminded Patton that the city would receive more revenue because the new meters would be providing the city with more accurate reading of how much water residents and businesses were using.
The meter replacement would be self funding, Patton was told.
The council also was told that the new metering system would give the city the ability to pinpoint water leaks throughout the city and take care of those problems.
“Cities are racing to get them,” one of the representatives told the council. “The meter itself has no moving parts.”
“If we’re paying for the water, we need to see more revenue from the other side,” Holland said.
Watson said he has heard a lot of comments from residents complaining about their water bills.
“I like this idea,” the councilman said.
The company representatives said there would be some ongoing costs associated with changing the water meters. They would require some updating of the software.
The council was assured that the electronic meters are guaranteed to be 98.5 percent accurate for 20 years and 99.2 percent accurate for 10 years.
The representatives assured that the meter replacement program would be developed with the city, not for the city. Also, the program of replacing the equipment would take 60-90 days.
The council was told that the city would be required to hire a certified engineer to assure that the calculations were correct, and they said they work with the city’s current engineers at LNV Engineering often.
When Montez asked about how the city’s current debt would affect the project he was assured that the entire program would be self funded.
The representatives recommended a number of ways to finance the project including a tax-exempt bond sale. Holland then made the motion to begin the process, and Watson seconded it.
When Mayor Frank Dominguez Jr. called for a vote, only Patton voted against it.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.