City Council hears property owner’s utilities concerns

By Chris Edwards

The Groveton City Council heard concerns about a piece of property and fielded questions regarding the city's responsibilities pertaining to the property at its meeting on Monday, July 27.
Susie Hammonds was on hand to ask the councilmembers and Mayor Byron Richards about the possibility of the city providing water and sewer to her property, which is located at the corner of Fifth and Pecan streets. Hammond provided city officials with documents that included a map of the property, which she and her husband Glenn, purchased from a tax sale. Hammond said a prospective buyer for the property had spoken to an employee of Severn-Trent Services about the matter. The person interested in the property was told that sewer would not be provided to the property and that an aerobic sewage treatment system would have to be installed. "My deal fell through," Hammond said.

She told the council that a city worker should not be making decisions without consulting councilmembers beforehand.

Mayor Richards responded to Hammond's remarks by stating that no one had approached the city about the issue prior to the meeting. Hammond said that she had gone through the routine procedure of applying for the utilities on the property, but the frustration came from the Severn-Trent employee's recommendation. Allen Jenkins of Severn-Trent told Hammond that his employee "just did his job". Mayor Richards cited an ordinance, which states that the city is obligated to provide a line to hook up water and sewage to, but the property owner must procure any equipment needed to connect to the lines. "We can handle running a line, but it is up to the property owner to provide a pump," Mayor Richard said.

Hammond then asked the councilmembers for their opinions on the issue. Councilmen Ralph Bennett and Tommy Walton both agreed that more time was needed to look into the matter before coming to a decision. Councilman Steve Casper said "If people are going to move in there, then we're under obligation to provide services," however Casper later said that if the property were to remain undeveloped, it would be superfluous to provide utilities.

Councilman Glen Ward said that the best thing to do when considering the issue would be to see what the property is worth. After a lengthy discussion later in the meeting, Mayor Richards said he would investigate options and see how feasible Hammond's request was.

In other business, the council reviewed Groveton Police Chief John Raiford's monthly report in his absence. Mayor Richards said the department is down on its number of stops.

Jenkins gave his report from Severn-Trent's invoice to the city. The company billed the city for $4,631.70 for the month of June. Jenkins said there was "not a whole lot going on" during the month except for a water leak on Victory that he noted. He said the well is finished and tests have revealed the system is working fine and pending TCEQ approval, the well will be turned on. Councilman Walton motioned to pay the bill to Severn-Trent and Councilman Casper seconded his motion.

Also on the agenda was a resolution for council to consider a Block Grant Disaster Relief Program to the Texas Department of Agriculture. Mayor Richards said that the amount of available funds from the grant will be $350,000, which are to be applied toward road, bridge and/or drainage improvement projects. A motion was made by Councilman Bennett to approve the resolution, and Councilman Casper seconded the motion, which went approved.

The renewal for the city employees' health insurance was addressed. Currently, the city provides its employees coverage through Blue Cross, Blue Shield. Mayor Richards said that the premium had risen 10.3%. Council voted to approve the renewal of the policy, but Councilman Joe Kennedy suggested it would be wise to look around for other providers who offer better rates.

An item was brought before council as an amendment to the budget. Mayor Richards said that a booster pump at the water plant needs to be replaced at a cost of $8,189.65. A motion was made to approve the amendment by Councilman Bennett and seconded by Councilman Casper.

Mayor Richards entertained a motion to adjourn the meeting, which Councilman Walton motioned to do with a second from Councilman Ward.