A Letter from Stephenville City Councilman Doug Svien

Dear Stephenville Residents,

Two years ago I wrote to you saying we are facing the need to spend millions of dollars to repair and replace water and sewer infrastructure, streets, and water wells and transmission lines.

Past councils have faced these challenges based on their political will instead of the realities of what needs to be done. We addressed big issues by putting off basic infrastructure repairs for years at a time. Problems became so large we couldn’t address them through operations budgets without going to the bank to borrow money. Then the cycle would start over. Our debt service on those bonds was so high that for the next 4-10 years we would avoid on-going repairs which would put us in the same predicament as before. So we did repairs not being directed at a “worst first” or even “best bang for the buck” strategy. Often they were based on political will … “how much do we think the citizens will stand?”

Please ponder the following:

In October 2015, Stephenville owed $25,131,658. Annual debt service was $3,402,904. So we did minimal infrastructure repairs and maintenance. The first numbers below are what we budgeted and second are what we should spend (FY 2015-2016).

  • Street Repairs $200,000 – $2,100,000
  • Sewer Transmission Lines $100,000 – $894,000
  • Water Transmission lines $115,000 – $760,000

Where do we start? Go to the bank and borrow more money? Not unless there is no other way to do it! We can’t get in the starting blocks until identifying what we need, create a plan to start a long-range process to “right the ship” and then to be able to sail the ship for many years to come (being able to pay for it). I am proud of all the current city council members and city management staff because that’s what we’re doing right now.

I’ve heard quite a bit lately about spending money on “studies.” Some staff and council members call me a “tightwad.” But don’t spend a dime unless you understand why we need to spend it and see how it fits into the longer-range needs of this community (that’s called prioritizing). These studies have been a tremendous help in deciding what we need to do, where to start, and some cost estimates of how much the plan will cost. A business without a plan is adrift in the middle of the sea. Dwight Eisenhower said “plans are nothing; planning is everything.” I am proud to say we are beginning to see a plan come together. I want to say that our mayor, Kenny Weldon, has been the champion in this area. His decades of experience in municipal management have given us the path to get it done. We should all say “thank you.”

These challenges and others are looming over us. I know change is painful. Few people have the courage to seek out change. Most people won’t change until the pain of where they are exceeds the pain of change.” (Dave Ramsey) How much pain will we have to endure before we create a well thought out plan that will anchor our children’s future?

I ask that when you go to the polls, please consider the candidate that will help create a plan we can execute. Promises are easy to make. But execution is how champions are made.

Thank you,

Doug Svien

Stephenville City Council, Place 3

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