We just received the following correspondence from Mineola Mayor Ken Pearce.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I were returning from vacation and we stopped at the Czech Bakery in West, Texas. As we were munching our kolaches, we drove through the devastated neighborhoods and by what was left of the fertilizer plant that exploded in April of this year. All of the debris has been cleaned up, and what remains are a lot of empty foundations where homes and the plant once stood. Several homes have been or are nearly rebuilt, but I estimate only one in five. When the explosion occurred, I paid close attention to West Mayor Tommy Muska as he gave information to the public, some incomplete or incorrect, but I assume the best information he had at that moment. I paid such close attention because I was considering running for mayor of Mineola, and it became very clear to me that being mayor (or any elected official) is a huge responsibility. A couple of year ago, a fire at a fuel wholesaler in Mineola was an inch away from blowing up fuel storage tanks.
If that had occurred, it would have wiped out our downtown, and killed our fire fighters and many citizens who were watching. In addition to the homes, West has an estimated $17 million of infrastructure to replace, including a water storage tank that I saw that was badly damaged. I am concerned about West, because I see exactly what could have been Mineola.
While Mineola is not in the same situation as West, in recent meetings with our engineering firm, we have identified $4.2 million of water and sewer infrastructure needs. These needs are fairly immediate and must be addressed within the next two years. They are as follows:
1. Taylor Lift Station Replacement, $720,000. This is sewer lift station on the west side, and it moves sewer from that side of town to the water treatment plant that is near the nature preserve. This lift station was built in the 1970’s, is on its last legs, and is beyond further repair.
2. Wastewater Plant Pond Closure, $1,000,000. Several decades ago, waste water was treated by settling in sediment ponds. This practice was stopped many years ago, but we have two ponds that the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) is requiring us to fill in by August 2015. The good news here is that we have been doing some work here using city public works staff that may reduce this cost by $300,000.
3. Water Well Test Hole and Pump Station and Storage Tank on a completed well, $1,900,000. While not there yet, we are getting closer to maximizing our ability to meet the city’s water needs from our existing wells, and in order to meet future needs will need another water well.
4. Radio Read Water Meters, $580,000. Water meters throughout the city are up to 30+ years old and no longer accurate. We have replaced quite a few over the last several years, but lack of efficiency requires us to make an effort to replace them all at once. In addition to increasing the accuracy, it will allow us to read the meters faster by having an employee drive through the streets to gather the information via radio controlled computer, as opposed to manually reading each meter.
The city does not have $4.2 million dollars in cash reserves available to fund these projects. For that reason, we will most likely have to issue debt. This would be similar to individuals taking a loan to purchase a home or home improvements. To do this, the city has to have the ability to pay the debt back. To make sure we will be able to do that, the council has approved having a rate study of our water revenues and expenses over the life of the proposed debt. One good thing is that some current debt will be completely paid off at the end of 2014, at about the time the new debt would be issued. The city also has a very good debt rating, which will mean a lower interest rate and cost of borrowing.
In summary, city staff and the city council will evaluate all of this information to determine exactly how much we can afford to borrow, and once we know that, exactly how much we may or may not have to fund from other sources.
To this we add the question below. Please answer the poll with your opinion on this.
Since the city council cannot agree to combine their funds to fix Commerce St., should the city borrow the estimated $150k needed to fix Commerce Street when/if the money for the other infrastructure improvements is borrowed?
Should we borrow the money to fix Commerce Street?
- Yes (63%, 10 Votes)
- No (38%, 6 Votes)
You Have Voted in this Poll. Thanks!
Total Voters: 16