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Houston County Courier - Local News

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Grapeland Bracing For Sharp Increase In Utility Rates


By Alton Porter
Courier Reporter

Grapeland city officials are bracing for a sharp increase in the amount they expect the city will have to pay for utilities in the coming year, according to Mayor Balis Dailey, who reported on anticipated increases in public utility rates to the city council at a regular meeting on Tuesday, April 11. The increase in utilities expenses will have a considerable impact on the city's finances, in light of a projected decrease in revenue, the mayor said during the new business part of the meeting. "I am saddened to tell you tonight that every single public utility is going before the Public Utility Commission (of Texas) and the Railroad Commission (of Texas) for an increase," said Dailey. "Those increases that primarily are going to impact on us look like they are going to be somewhere between seven and 12 percent. It's a killer. "I'll tell you now the electric utility alone is going to be, at the minimum if we hit the seven percent mark, an additional $7,350 estimated that we're going to have to find somewhere out of a budget with a reduction in sales tax, and also a reduction in franchise fees that we're getting." Dailey added, "So, there are reductions everywhere in the amount of revenue (the city projects). And there are increases everywhere in the amount of expenditures. "Roughly speaking, we're going to go from about $98,000 up to about $112,000 or $115,000 just on lights – utilities. "Also, for our computers and land lines and all, there's a .055-something – six percent or whatever. The sad thing about it is, they send us the letters out.... They tell you it is not appropriate and you don't have any say just because of the way it is set up. "So, we've got significant problems. That's something we need to be thinking about – put our minds around – just as soon as we start the budget process. We're going to have to somehow adjust, take (funds) away from some place or do something else to meet this increase (in utility costs), unless we get really lucky and the commission tells them (utility companies), 'No'. But, it doesn't look like they are." Dailey said the expected increases in rates for utilities also would apply to customers in the general public. "All of the residents are going to get one (rate increase), too...," Dailey said. "And that includes the gas. CenterPoint (Energy) is in there. Oncor is in there. You're probably going to hear from your provider, which is going to be Direct or TPX or somebody else. All of those you'll probably hear from, there are probably going to be some increases. You'll probably see some in Windstream." In other business, the council: • unanimously voted following an executive session to pass a motion offered by Councilmember Michael Chapman and seconded by Councilmember Wanda Nichols, acknowledging the successful completion of the required probationary period by new Police Chief Don Myers and the approval of Myers' outright placement in the position; • received from Hollister – for review and approval by the council at a future meeting – copies of a sixpage preliminary draft of a revised ordinance (No. 20021112-B) that would allow city workers to have junked and abandoned motor vehicles and watercraft that have become a nuisance removed from private and public property in accordance with Texas Transportation Code Chapter 683 and Texas Parks and Wildlife Code Chapter 31; • agreed to allow Dailey to approve the Grapeland Economic Development Corporation's $63,000- plus budget for next year and to make it part of the city's budget; • waived the park use fee for First United Methodist Church (FUMC), whose members will hold their annual Church in the Park service celebration – which is open to everyone – there on Sunday, April 30, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., according to FUMC member Vicki Braun; • referred new community resident David Shepherd – who would like to put on a Know Your Rights forum featuring law enforcement representatives who would instruct youth on how to properly conduct themselves – to Grapeland Independent School District Superintendent Gregg Spivey; • received a lengthy update on the status of the city's budget and other matters during fiscal year 2016-2017 from Dailey; and, • heard monthly reports


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