By RUSSELL HUFFMAN
Atmos Energy customers in Stephenville are going to see slightly higher bills next year, but not without protest by some members of the city council.
Jerry Warren motioned to table the matter when he admitted he was confused after reviewing 30 pages of information which explained in detailed fashion why the increase was needed.
It was easy to be confused as Atmos public affairs manager Shelly Burnett went over items such as customer service charges and energy delivery fees while attempting to explain there was no “markup” on natural gas.
Meanwhile, council members were looking at a math formula straight out of a high school algebra exam where the “computation of weather normalization adjustment” was computed by the nearest one-hundredth cent per Ccf factor. If that wasn’t confusing there was also the NDD (billing cycle normal heating degree days calculated as the simple 10-year average of actual heating degree days).
Sherry Zachery and the about to be newly re-elected Mayor Pro Tem Russ McDanel both quizzed about infrastructure repairs and whether Stephenville had a deadline for the acceptance of the rate increase.
Burnett explained the rates before the board went into effect Monday and the deadline for acceptance was July 1, 2015. She went on to further explain Stephenville was part of a “steering committee” made up of more than 100 towns and had negotiated the best possible rate.
Not accepting the new rates could mean Atmos setting higher rates and in the event of a court case legal fees Stephenville could end up paying for both sides of those costs.
The council eventually voted to approve the higher rates, but not before Mayor Kenny Weldon asked Burnett to return with more information that was specific to Stephenville. Weldon wants information about the replacement of pipes and infrastructure and how that process is determined.
The bottom line for Stephenville residents is homeowners will be paying about $1 more per month, the average commercial customer will see a $3 increase and industrial customers about $78.
The next item of business was to decide if Stephenville would stay in the “Atmos Cities Steering Committee,” and Mayor Kenny Weldon turned to city administrator Pat Bridges and asked his thoughts.
Bridges pointed out the committee had negotiated a $29 Million dollar increase to under $22 Million. That figure carried some weight with the council, which voted to continue as a member.
The council spent several minutes discussing a recommendation from Bridges for Stephenville to take part in the North Central Texas Labor Study being conducted for Work Force Solutions of North Central Texas by TIP Strategies, an Austin-based firm.
The organization was suggesting the financial assistance of $10,000-$15,000 and Bridges said his suggestion of $5,000 would still get Stephenville valuable information about maintaining and validating workforce data. Newly elected councilman Rhett Harrison was the lone “no” vote as he said he did not see how the study would be relevant to Stephenville.
In other business, McDanel was re-elected as mayor pro tem in a unanimous vote and Waggoner as a voting representative to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Mayor Weldon and all Council members complimented the Stephenville city staff, police department and fire department for their work during the recent weather events.
Stephenville resident and past councilman Dr. Joe Cude spoke during the citizen’s budget request portion of the meeting. Cude requested the city look at bringing back an electronics recycling event, spend money on streets like Harbin and Frey and begin addressing Stephenville’s aging sewer system.