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City Transparency Questioned
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 • Posted January 2, 2013

On Monday night, the City Council voted to approve a motion which allows Hejl, Lee & Associates to begin what has been described as a lengthy process to obtain an amendment of the City’s permit from TCEQ, which would allow the City to treat and release effluent, or wastewater. Primarily, the City is seeking to determine if they would be able to release treated effluent back into the Llano River.

A secondary result of receiving the okay on the permit would be that the City would be able to use the treated effluent on athletic fields and other irrigating needs the City may have.

Currently, the City dumps effluent into lagoons, which has been the industry standard for handling effluent for many years. About four years ago, the City was told by TCEQ that the lagoons needed to be repaired or replaced by 2014, or face severe fines. The City explored repairing or replacing the lagoons, but at a cost of over $3 million, decided to seek other solutions.

In June of this year, Hejl, Lee & Associates outlined the necessary steps to apply for an amended wastewater permit, and presented the Council with an estimated cost for the application process, to be done by that firm, at $23,750. The contract includes the research and gathering of information required by TCEQ, attending meetings with TCEQ, and following through on the application process. At that time, Council voted to not approve the contract, citing the need to host a workshop to gather further information.

On November 29, the City Council hosted a Water Workshop, and according to the minutes, heard from Chen Lee regarding the specifics of obtaining the permit.

Llano citizen Ron Anderson told Council that he was concerned by what he’s hearing – and says that the City lacks transparency. He implored the City to ‘put the brakes’ on the project until the citizens of Llano could be given information regarding the situation. Anderson stated that information regarding the activities of the City is not readily available, and that he would like to see the City try to get citizen input about this subject before making any decisions. “You, as our elected officials, have a responsibility to educate us,” Anderson said.

Marc Sewell addressed the Council, recommending that they seek new engineers, saying that Hejl, Lee and Associates were the engineers who recommended the current lagoons. Binky Morgan expressed concern that discharging effluent into the Llano River could ruin what she described as the ‘jewel of Llano’, and said that she believes that the City should figure out a different way to use the water.

The project will be funded by the restricted sinking fund.

Council also approved an increase to the budget of $20,000 for repairs at the Main Lift Station as well as the replacement of Water Plant Valves; the project will be funded from utility reserves, and debt service will be budgeted so that the City will repay the reserves over the course of the next five years.

Ordinance 1234 was approved, which will raise the rates for water meter customers whose water meters are more than 1". The amendment to the current ordinance comes in light of a $20,000 budget shortfall for the coming year. The majority of water customers will not be affected by the increase.

In addition to the raise in rates for water, Council also voted to increase the monthly fee for security lights. Currently, the City charges $4.50 per month for customers requesting security lights on their property. The cost per month for electricity per light exceeds that amount by around $4, at a cost of about $8.50. The cost to replace bulbs is over $100, and they usually last about 3-5 years. The approval of Ordinance 1235 also sets utility tap rates for Customers requesting service outside the city limits. The approval of such taps will be on a case-by-case basis.

Council considered terminating the Llano River RV Park lease with the American Legion Post 370, which expires January 8, 2013. Either party can terminate the lease, which was entered into ten years ago, once the original agreement expires. In the lease, the American Legion provides management for the RV Park, and in return the American Legion receives half of all profits, after 35% is taken for utilities.

Interim City Manager Lynda Kuder told Council that over the course of the last ten years, the City had paid the American Legion $41, 352 for management fees, and believes that the City has paid their debt.

Kenneth Poe, representing the post, told Council that no one told them that the issue would be on the agenda and said that they were not aware that the lease was set to expire. He said he was unsure if the American Legion had received all the revenue due to them.

Council opted to pass on the item so that the American Legion could have time to respond.

A conflict between the Ordinances that govern the Planning and Zoning Board and the bylaws halted the approval of three appointments to the Board. Alderwoman Jeanne Puryear asked that the Council refrain from making the appointments until the process could be straightened out.

Ervin Light volunteered, and was appointed, to serve on the Llano Central Appraisal Board.

The next meeting will be January 7. To receive updates from the City of Llano, go to their website and subscribe to the email notification system.

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