Just as Gerry reported in last week’s paper, The City Commission met on September 13 and dealt with several important issues. We approved two applications for special uses under the Zoning Ordinance, and we approved some regular business as well as the annual budget for the coming year and the tax rate for the city portion of the property taxes. However, probably the most important and of most immediate impact to our residents was approval of some changes to the rate and fee schedule that will be reflected in your utility bills in the coming months. For the past three years the City has not increased the rates we charge for the regular services of providing water, electricity, garbage pickup and other activities, but I am afraid that now the cash flow is suffering from that conservatism and we are having to make changes. The City Commission has been working on this for several months and last week approved the increases that are necessary to meet the needs of continuing to provide good services and look forward to the improvements you expect of us.
The electric rates were adjusted to make the City portion for distribution more equal and direct, but I believe that there will be very little change in the actual bill you receive each month. We are committed to working diligently to provide excellent electrical service and system upgrades, and still provide the lowest cost power we can and I do not anticipate that you will see any immediate increase in the unit cost of electric power provided in Mason. The rate for water, sewer service and garbage pickup were increased to meet the growing expenses and to continue to deliver and improve the service you receive in each of these areas, and these increases will show up on your next billing. There will be a greater increase for those who use more water since this is fast becoming a very precious resource, but our average household will see only a minor increase in each of these areas. Also, a few other fees were increased that will not impact most individuals, but do be aware that rates at the landfill, the dog pound and some of the permits in the City office will be higher when you use these services.
I realize that most of us are not pleased with the inflationary costs we see every day, and I am not enthusiastic about having to announce these increases in City rates and fees, but we are working to find ways to help our residents and avoid some of the pain of higher bills. Next week the City Commission will be meeting on Tuesday evening in a special called meeting, and one of the items to be discussed is a "voucher program" to be instituted to give those older residents on fixed incomes a helping hand to offset the extra costs of utilities. I will let you know the details of these vouchers as soon as they are finalized. We are also working out how our generous residents can donate a dollar with each utility bill payment to a fund to help offset the costs for our less fortunate residents that need assistance to maintain their needed utilities. It will be a special monthly "passing the plate" to fund a special account that the City Administrator can use for some of the special needs we keep seeing in the City offices. Another special service that I am working to coordinate with the staff is a Free Dump Weekend this fall during the next couple of months to allow some extra cleanup around town without the extra costs of the increased landfill rates; I will give more details about this program also as soon as we work them out.
As you can tell there is much going on around the City offices. I was not anticipating the rate changes to be approved as quickly as has occurred, although I had made them available in the City offices along with the annual budget for the past month. We are trying to work to lessen the sting of increased costs, and I appreciate your understanding of the need and value of paying for the services we each use. We are also working toward approving the contracts for the construction of the restroom and reverse osmosis building at the Richard Eckert Civic Center, and the construction on the water distribution lines on the north side of town along Pontotoc St should begin in the next few weeks. We have installed improvements in the waste water ponds at the sewer plant and are monitoring them to improve that facility, and the electric crews are virtually complete with the upgrades to the distribution and high voltage system. With the coming of fall there are many more activities going on around town, and we at the City are working hard to keep up with all of the demands on our attentions to meet our citizens expectations. I continue to be diligent to do all that is practical to thwart the possibility of transmission lines in Mason. I will do all I can to keep making Mason a little better each week, and together we will make this the very best hometown in Texas. Let me know how I can help, and if you have any concerns or new ideas please stop me any time and let me know.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley