The City of Mason has been functioning on a very even keel for the past several weeks, so I have not felt a need to write a column for the paper just to say that everything is going good. Of course there is the constant pressure to meet all of the regulatory issues that running the various departments of the city create. It seems that each week I get some letter from TCEQ about another problem to be resolved, and I will probably write about some of those in the next couple of weeks. Things are going well, and with the summer heat upon us it is nice to stay inside or go by the city pool to cool off. The city pool has been open since the first of this month, and is crowded every afternoon with kids wanting a place to play and stay wet.
There are a few problems that we need to face and adjust to as the heat continues and we move into July and August and the dryness that comes every year. The city water system has already experienced some problems in keeping up with the demands for water in the evenings when everyone gets home and turns on the sprinklers, so we have started asking our citizens to voluntarily comply with our first stages of water conservation and wise usage. Our wells are all operating and the system is working well, but because of the increasing demands, we are asking everyone to be considerate and limit or restrict your outdoor sprinkling and watering of lawns and landscapes. We ask that if your house faces north or east you water on odd calendar days, and if your house faces south or west you water on even calendar days. Also, please consider watering between the hours of 7:00 pm and 10:00 am so that you allow our water system to “recharge” during the day and not affect the daytime activities that require water usage. We are only at a moderate stage of water problems, and do not anticipate experiencing a critical stage during the summer, and your help and contribution to water conservation will help to maintain the water resources for all of our citizens. During the next year we will also complete the new elevated water storage tower which will dramatically help to provide a sufficient water supply in the future.
The other system that is experiencing additional load requirements with the prolonged heat is the electrical system as we all use to keep our homes cool. At this time we have no concerns about having enough power available since LCRA is capable of providing plenty for the current year and is even making plans for additional power plants for coming years. However, because of the extra demands we are all placing on the electric service, we can expect that the bills we receive in the coming months will be larger and we will all have to work a little harder to pay for the cool we enjoy now. The City of Mason has a certain portion of the computation of every electric bill that pays for the electric department and other city services, and that portion of your electric bill has not changed for the past two years. The increases in electric rates have been driven by the cost of fuel that is used to generate your power, and that fuel factor has continued to rise particularly with the increase in natural gas prices. The market trends for natural gas prices show continued increases in that commodity, and during the summer most all of the additional electric load is from the burning of natural gas to generate electricity. LCRA has informed us that they will be going up on the wholesale price of electricity this week to pay for the increases in natural gas costs, and thus your electric bill will be higher in the coming months, so now is the time to consider how you can conserve and reduce your use of electricity. We will continue to keep our city expenses down so that no change will come from our local portion of the rates, but the best thing you can do is to individually monitor and control any waste or excess usage at your home to keep your bills from being too high.
As you can see, two of the resources we all take for granted need to be seriously thought about in the coming weeks. Water and electricity are important to each of us as we deal with this hot summer, but we need to each and every one take a serious look at how we use these resources and conserve every way we can. I would strongly encourage you reduce your water usage and alternate your water schedule to fit our model so that we do not have to take more difficult measures in the coming weeks. And it is only smart to think about how you use electricity and try to reduce every little bit so that the bills you get in the next couple of months are not too shocking. If you have any questions or concerns about either of these issues, please contact me or any of the city staff at 347-6449 and we will try to address your problems and provide you answers. We are all affected by the heat that is all around us, but it is up to us individually to make changes so that the effects are not too great and our community continues to thrive and improve in the challenging times ahead.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley