We are all suffering from the very hot temperatures and the lengthy dry spell, and as I noted last week our residents are responding very positively to conserving water in this drought. However, with the extreme heat during the past couple of weeks and the expectation that it will continue for the next several weeks, we are seeing very high usage of electric power in Mason and the surrounding area. The public’s use of air conditioning to counter the high temperatures is nearly overwhelming the entire Texas electric grid, and we are being advised that there is a real possibility of rolling black outs to allow the electric generation facilities to keep up with the high demand. At the City we have already received several notifications that the electric grid is at level 1 and if additional load is noted then the decision for the rolling black outs is made. We have been told that if a rolling black out is called for in our area, the power will be effectively shut off for one hour, then restored for three hours and if necessary then shut off for another hour. We in the City will have no control over when this might occur since it is a State agency named ERCOT that makes those decisions, but we will be given a thirty minute warning notification. With no changes expected in the heat index, it is very possible that there will be rolling black outs within the next week and our citizens need to be aware of this. If we received a thirty minute notification at the City, we will then call businesses and people where there might be a critical concern such as the Clinic or the School. However, we know that there might be individuals in our community that because of age or medical conditions might be negatively impacted if the power is out for an hour or more and we would like to be able to notify them as well. If you or someone you know would have particular problems if the power is going to be out and would like a short advance notice, please call the City office at 325-347-6449 and we will add your name and number to our notification list. We cannot generate our own electricity nor can we change it if ERCOT calls for load to be shed in the Hill Country, but we can let those who are most affected by this situation know as soon as possible if we have the right contact numbers to call.As we look to the future, the City Staff and I have been working for the past couple of months to complete the budget for the next fiscal year that starts on November 1. We will be discussing this with the City Commission at our next regular meeting on August 22, and the departmental budgets and general government budgets are looking very positive. We are also proposing some Capital improvements that will provide better services for all of our residents, and yet we are being very conservative and watching the expenses carefully so that we do not spend more than we bring in. By the end of this week, a copy of the proposed budget will be filed with the City Secretary, and will then be available at the City offices for any member of the public to examine and bring up any concerns or suggestions. If you want to know just how your hometown operates and spends the money collected for City services and taxes, just stop by City Hall or ask one of your municipal officials.One other issue that has caused some concern in the past week or so, is the fact that we had to close the City swimming pool at the first of August. As I mentioned in an earlier column, the reason was not that we do not want to provide this type of recreation and exercise in this heat, it is just that most of our lifeguards are involved in football and once the practices start are not available for regularly scheduled swim times. The only answer that we have found is to get some adult lifeguards trained and available for this late summer “season”, but the training is only available in May each year in this area. Because the state monitors municipal swimming pools, we have to have at least two certified lifeguards on duty, and we cannot operate the pool without meeting this and other regulations. If this is a problem you would like to resolve and you consider that you might be able to complete the training and tests to be certified, next spring when we advertise for lifeguards please come and talk to the City staff about the possibility of becoming an “as needed” adult lifeguard. Working together we can find solutions to most every problem we encounter, and together we will continue to make Mason the very best hometown in Texas.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley