I try very hard to point out the positive things going on around Mason and not dwell on any "bad news" that comes along. However, sometimes it is important to be sure everyone is aware of even some of the unpleasant things that are coming up, and I am afraid that the coming rate increases are in that category. As I wrote last week, with the October billing which will come out late this week, the City utility rates will increase for the first time in the past three years. We are able to adjust the electric rates by monitoring the loss factor so that this month’s bill will actually be a very slight less per kilowatt hour than last month’s, and so you should not see a particular increase in that portion of the bill. And the garbage pickup charge is only increased a set amount for each household, however the utility where you might see the most impact will be larger users of water. That is the place we have noticed in previewing the billings that will affect most people, and the new rate is structured so that the more water you use the greater will be the charges for water, as well as sewer.
I have been encouraging our residents for the past couple of years, through this column and other comments, to conserve our precious water resources. During the previous two years with the higher than average temperatures and the lack of rainfall and drought conditions it was very obvious to anyone who has lived in the Hill Country for many years that it was important to conserve water. However this year with the blessings of abundant rainfall and the cooler summer, most of us have quickly forgotten the lessons of conservation and have gone back to using water without much thought to the difficulty of providing enough for our entire town. It has been shown over and over again that the best way to encourage and remind citizens of the need to watch their water use has been increasing rates, rather than all the talk or writing possible. That is one of the reasons the City Commission chose to raise the rates, but there are other significant reasons as well.
During the past couple of years, with very little increase in revenues, the City has proceeded with some significant improvements to the utility infrastructure around town. Some of those projects are very visible, such as the new water tower on the west side of town, and some are less visible especially after they are in place like the significant lengths of underground water pipes that connect the wells on the south side of town with that new water tower. We are continuing to upgrade our systems, and expect to see construction starting on the north side of town along Pontotoc Street in the next few weeks. Some of the projects our utility departments work on are virtually unseen by the public, such as the new aerators for the waste water treatment ponds, or the very old lift station at the sewer plant, which was being worked on to keep it functioning this past weekend and this morning as I started this column. All together we have, during the past three years, improved the utility systems in Mason at a cost of well over a $1,000,000, and we have incurred NO debt and are just now increasing rates!!
If you are concerned about the increased utility rates, the first step you can take is to be sure that you are doing everything reasonable to conserve water and power in your household. If you have a leaky faucet or toilet, now would be a good time to get that fixed, and now is a very good time with the cooler weather to readjust your schedule for watering your yard and landscape, particularly if you have an automatic watering system. Enjoy the cooler weather and open the windows, and if you need other ideas just let me know and I will address more specifics again in this column. Also, on Tuesday the City Commission will meet in a special meeting to discuss a voucher program that will provide a little help to our older citizens that are on fixed income so that their increases will not impact their monthly living expenses as much. If you would like more details about that program and see if you qualify, please contact our City Administrator, John Palacio, and he can explain what was approved by the Commission.
Our goal around the City office is to work with our customers to try to solve some of the variety of problems that come up around any community. We know that no one wants to pay more than necessary for monthly bills, but I hope that you appreciate the need at this time to raise rates, and I hope you will work with us to minimize the negative impact of that on you and all of our residents. If you have a problem, please contact me or any of your elected officials or talk with the City staff about how we can work out a good solution. Together we are continuing to work to make Mason the best hometown in Texas, and every day seems to be better and better living in this special corner of the Hill Country.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley