There are several places around town that you can see the results of the work and activities of the city crews over the past few weeks. Comanche Creek is much cleaner and the creek bed is cleared so that the next rain will have a clear path through town, and in the future we will work to get all of the debris removed or burned and out of the way. The work crew is in town and beginning to work on correcting and rebuilding the water tank on the west side of town, and you will see significant work done at that site in the next couple of weeks. The electric department is continuing to replace the low voltage system and in the process they have removed and replaced several bad poles and cross arms. They are also replacing some of the street lights with an improved style that casts more of the light directly on the street and reducing the glare in the surrounding neighborhood. And down at the Ft. Mason Park the playground is being improved with a new post and cable “fencing” that will replace the old railroad ties and large rocks and give a clearer definition to the boundaries for children to play.
One of the issues that several citizens have come to me questioning is the “increases” in the utility bills this past month. Since I have seven individual utility bills myself, I certainly noticed that they were larger this month and we have tried to sort out the reasons. Several factors seemed to have come into play, but the first thing we should remember is that the utility bill you get at the first of February is for services from early or mid-December when your meters are read until mid-January when they are read again. It takes about three weeks to read all of the meters in Mason, and because of the holidays in late December, the city meter reader started earlier in December so as to be finished before Christmas. Thus for most of us we had a few extra days of usage on this recent bill. For some it may have been as much as a full week extra, and thus your bill may have reflected five weeks of usage instead of the regular four weeks. In addition, the weather was colder in the couple of weeks prior to Christmas and most of us ran the heater more than usual as well as the extra power needed for Christmas lights and holiday gatherings. Another major factor was the rate increase that the City Commission enacted in balancing the budget for this year. This is the first month in which we reflect the 10% increase in the base rates for utilities, and although that does affect all of us it is the first rate increase in three years and is certainly less than the combined inflation rate for those same three years. It is not a pleasant problem to have higher utility bills to pay, but it is the only way we can continue to provide the service you expect from our town. One bright spot for the future utility bills, LCRA informed us this past week that they would be reducing the fuel factor portion of our electric bill by at least a penny per kwh due to the lower market price of natural gas. This is one of the portions factored into each electric bill the city sends out and we expect the price of natural gas to stay relatively low and thus our power should cost a little less and we will each have a slight reduction in our utility bills.
There are always a few problems to work out around any community of people living together. I feel sure that even with the minor issues we face in Mason, this is a wonderful hometown and a great place to live. We continue to work to make our town better and hope that you see some of the improvements that have come about in the past couple of years. Together we can work to make our town the best in the Hill Country, and if you have suggestions or ideas that would improve our community please let me or your City Commissioner know and we will try to improve Mason together.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley