This week marks the start of school and is a busy time for most of our town. Parents have to finish getting school supplies together, football has started for a new year and everyone is out in support of the team, and we all need to be alert for the kids as we drive around town and in particular in the school zones. On the square, the construction on the Courthouse has begun and some of the elected officials have started meeting with highway department officials to work out solutions to speed limits and better signage for our highways through town. There are a couple of other issues that I need to write about concerning City issues and changes, so I will limit my column this week to them.
As you may have heard on the radio or around town in the past week, the City of Mason is beginning to spray for mosquitoes to help prevent any further spread of West Nile Virus. We have now had cases of this disease in the area, and the City of Mason is responding to the concerns and the many mosquitoes swarming locally by starting an insecticide spraying immediately. The chemical being used is a newer insecticide that does a very good job of killing the flying insects without the strong smell and other possible effects of the chemicals we have used in the past. City crews will be spraying various neighborhoods on a rotating schedule in the late evening, after 8:30 p.m., during the next few days to kill as many mosquitoes as possible and reduce the potential exposure to the Virus. Residents with breathing problems should stay indoors when spraying is occurring in your neighborhood and avoid direct contact with the spray. All residents are encouraged to drain any standing water, such as buckets, tires or yard toys, and if possible wear long sleeved shirts and long pants when outside in the early mornings or late evenings when mosquitoes primarily feed. There are other articles in this paper with more information and spraying schedules, but if you have any questions please call the City office and we will try to get you an answer.
The other issue I need to inform our residents about is some changes in the rates and fees the City charges for a few services. These were approved by the City Commission recently to support the city budget for the coming year, and while most of them may not affect most of our residents, I wanted you to be aware of some of the more basic changes. These include, increasing the permit fee for signs, fences and demolition to $25 to cover the costs of City staff visits to most sites requesting a permit and we often spend time explaining regulations and options to most customers. Water rates are recommended to be increased for high volume usage for both residential and commercial customers as an encouragement to conserve our water supplies. Only users who use more than 50,000 gallons a month will be affected by this change. Also, sewer rates are to be slightly increased for usage above the base rate of 3000 gallons a month, to aid that department’s cash flow a little bit as we begin to make major improvements at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. The Sewer rates are capped at a maximum for all customers and so there can only be a maximum increase for a residential bill of $2.10 per month and most customers will see even less.
The City Commission also decided to add a charge at the landfill for the disposal of brush and tree limbs to offset the cost of grinding the brush pile when it accumulates. We can no longer burn the brush and yard debris, and past two years we have had to pay a contractor from out of town to come in and set up to grind all the brush that has been brought into the landfill. So we are starting a one cent per pound charge for loads of just tree limbs and brush, with a $5.00 minimum for a load, to pay for the grinding, but all other landfill and garbage rates will remain the same. We tried to make as few rate increases as possible, and only those that reflect areas where there have been increased costs in the past couple of years since the last rate changes. These rate changes will take effect on September 1, but will not affect your utility bill until the following month since that bill covers usage during September.
We continue to do all we can to make Mason a great hometown. There are always additional costs, and some of the issues we face have more than one good solution and our goal is to work for the greatest good of our entire community. If you have ideas or concerns, please let the City administration, your City Commissioner or me know and we will be glad to address it as soon as possible. Together we will continue to make Mason the best town to live and work anywhere in the Hill Country.
Your friend and neighbor, Brent Hinckley