The standing room only crowd at the Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, city commission meeting brought several Tenaska opposers in regards to an agenda item in which city commissioners were to consider potential water supply agreements. The agenda item stated that city commission was to consider potential water supply agreements.
After a closed Executive Session meeting ended and the commissioners came back into regular session, citizens were informed of the decision that there would be "no action at this time."
Before entering the closed meeting, however, residents were offered the opportunity to speak by the commissioners, in which several comments were made.
"I will note that there are a number people are here for an item that is not on the agenda, so if you want to speak, that's fine. We've been hearing a number of misleading radio ads and media reports about an agenda item that is not on the agenda...we've heard most of your positions for the past four years. If there is something new that you want to tell us we invite you to speak," said Sweetwater Mayor Greg Wortham.
Local attorney, Lance Hall was the first to speak at the meeting, stating, "It is well known that I oppose the water sale and the building of Tenaska, but that is not what I am here about. I want to talk about the contract. Some things that are in the proposed contract -- that the Sierra Club received from the City of Sweetwater that has been negotiated over a period of months -- I think are very important. This is a proposed contract for 88 years. The amounts that are being talked about in that contract are extremely small. For instance, it said that the price for acre foot will be $175. That is approximately 14 times less than what each resident of Sweetwater pays for their water. For 1,000 gallons of water they are paying about $0.5369. If my minimum for the first 2,000 gallons of water is $15.47, I'm paying $7.73 per thousand gallons more than Tenaska, along with everyone else, and I think that price is woefully inadequate. Another thing, Tenaska can step out of this contract at any time. All they have to do is pay one more year of $100,000. The city has no option to end the contract. Another thing, the drought contingency that every person in this room is going to be subject to is waived for Tenaska. I ask that you please consider these things as you enter into this 88 year contract."
Jim Boston spoke about his concerns over water, air quality and "Tenaska plant taking precedence over wind power."
Jimmy Headstream commended the staff for taking a proactive approach on ensuring Sweetwater a clean, sufficient source of water for the citizens. "I encourage you to look at a different possibility for an energy source other that the proposed diesel plant by using natural gas from local producers in this area. I would also like to discuss the potential proposed water agreement that the city is currently negotiating with Tenaska. The first thing I want to make very clear is all of the paperwork keeps coming back saying that Tenaska is looking for an effluent source of water. That was what they discussed with Abilene, it was promoted in Stamford and it is how it is being discussed at the city level here. If you look at the current level of negotiations, it does say that they are willing to accept effluent water at 560 acre feet per year. But then the very next item on there says that the city will backstop the excess of treated effluent water with other available supplies. To call this an effluent water contract is a lie to all of the citizens that depend on you to make those decisions. This is not an effluent contract, it's a water contract and if you can't supply the effluent, you're going to be supplying it out of the lake , you're going to be supplying it out of the treated water system. This is made very clear in a couple of different areas in the current negotiations."
(To see a copy of the documents obtained by the Sierra Club, click on the attachment to this story at www.sweetwaterreporter.com.)
The minutes for the meeting held on Oct. 11 were approved by the commissioners. In addition, several action items were presented and approved during the meeting.
The Sweetwater City Commission recognized Future Sweetwater participants to the meeting. Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, the program is designed for students to learn in a hands-on, interactive environment which allows them to have fun and bond while they learn and problem solve. The Future Sweetwater program follows the same basic setup and curriculum as Leadership Sweetwater, but is geared towards the youth. Future Sweetwater will get first hand knowledge of city/county issues, quality of life, the economy, health issues, education, local and state government and the military as they progress through their program. They were allowed to tour the fire station and water treatment facility, as well as sit it on the city commission meeting. Members will also be heading to Austin and Dyess Air Force Base to get more hands-on experience with state government and the military.
The city commissioners heard a report from Enprotech/Hibbs & Todd, Inc. regarding recent power outages and the impact on the water treatment plant and possible solutions for mitigating such events. In August of this year, high winds caused power outages in Sweetwater that included a power outage at the water treatment plant, leaving residents with a limited use of water until power was restored. Several options were presented to the commissioners including self contained pumps underground as well as obtaining a small generator.
An item which required no action was a presentation by Becky Brock of the County-City Library on the PEARL (Promoting and Enhancing the Advancement of Rural Libraries) project, which helps small-town public libraries through a $1 million grant received by the University of North Texas, which is dispersed among the state.
The County-City Library's participation in the PEARL project will include creating a Community Outreach Plan. One part consists of community surveys to be given to a number of groups: the general community; board members, staff and volunteers of the library; and governing officials.
Since the library is jointly owned by the city and the county, the commissioners were asked to complete and submit a survey. A plan will be devised following all the survey results which will create a website to be used as a resource.
The County-City Library, as a result, will gain $1,000 which will be used to offset the cost to attend a library conference for two years, among other uses. The state recently cut funding for public libraries by 64%, which has affected the local library.
Another item on the agenda was a public hearing to consider the Planning and Zoning Commission recommendation concerning a request for an editorial amendment to the City of Sweetwater Zoning Ordinance to include "rental storage units" in the "G" Local Business District. Kirk Harris, Sweetwater Code Enforcement Director, spoke to the city commissioners about a request taken Nov. 3, 2011. Currently storage warehouse units are listed in the "H" District with no definition. "The Planning and Zoning Commission board voted in favor to approve the request at their last meeting and recommended that the city commission also approve the change," said Harris.
Commissioners accepted the staff recommendation after closing the public hearing and entering back into regular session.
City Commissioners also adopted a resolution of the Sweetwater City Commission, authorizing Eddie Brown, Carolyn Lawrence, Kirk Harris and Patty Torres to sign the State of Texas purchase voucher and the request for advance or reimbursement, financial forms for processing request for contract funds under the Texas Community Development Block Grant Program, administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Items presented in the City Manager's report were that the 45th annual meeting of West Central Texas Council of Governments (WCTCOG) is scheduled for noon on Nov. 17, 2011, at the Civic Center in Abilene. Officers will be elected at this annual meeting. City Manager Eddie Brown also stated that sales tax collections were up once again. October payments were 103 percent or $160,036 higher than the previous year. He also stated that city staff is preparing for the fiscal year end on Sept. 30, 2011 financial statement audit. The published budgets for fiscal 2012 are available for commissioners and staff has submitted the budget to the GFOA for the Distinguished Budget Award, which the city has won for many years. Brown also let commissioners know that on Oct. 27, 2011, the Texas Transportation Commission approved $1,878,000 for Avenger Field Airport pavement and drainage improvements. The City has already set their 10 percent to TxDOT, according to Brown. Work is expected to begin in 2012.