Geren introduces bill to let Blue Mound take over water service

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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After years of complaints about high rates and poor service, Blue Mound might be closer to owning the private water system that serves the small city.

State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, has introduced legislation that would allow Blue Mound to take possession of the "certificate of convenience and necessity" that allows a utility to provide water service in a specified geographic area.

The proposed legislation -- written specifically for Blue Mound -- states that the city must start condemnation proceedings and that court has to award the Monarch Utilities property to Blue Mound before the city could get the certificate needed to operate the water company.

Blue Mound filed eminent domain proceedings against Monarch Utilities last year.

Geren said he is "fed up" with Monarch Utilities charging high rates and providing poor service to Blue Mound.

"[Monarch Utilities] always tell me the same thing: There are problems with the water system," Geren said. "They haven't done a darn thing to fix them."

Monarch officials have said that when the company bought small water systems, such as the one in Blue Mound, they were poorly maintained and didn't meet current environmental standards.

Chuck Profilet, vice president of Texas utilities for Southwest Water, Monarch's parent company, said every year the company spends $2 million statewide on improvements.

Profilet didn't have figures on how much it would cost to repair Blue Mound's water system, but said it is in "good shape."

When asked why Monarch's rates are higher than those in surrounding areas, Profilet said that investor-owned utilities have one source of revenue, which is utility rates, while municipal water systems have many revenue sources, including taxes.

Mayor Allen Hooks said he met with Geren several times to discuss the legislative option.

"I'm really pleased that he's working with us," Hooks said.

Hooks said he is preparing for a public hearing Wednesday in front of the State Affairs legislative committee.

He is scurrying to get signatures in support of Blue Mound taking over the Monarch water system.

At a town hall meeting Monday night, Blue Mound residents got information about Geren's legislation.

Dan Barrett, an attorney representing Blue Mound in its condemnation action against Monarch, said the proposed legislation is a step in the right direction.

"I believe the legislation would be important to the litigation because it would be recognition by legislators that we have the power to condemn," Barrett said.

State district Judge Dana Womack has written a letter requesting more information on the certificates needed to provide water service, Barrett said.

Officials with the city of Saginaw and the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school district wrote letters supporting Geren's bill, he said.

Saginaw's letter pointed out that the city charges about $45 a month for 5,000 gallons of water and sewer use while across the highway in Blue Mound, residents using 5,000 gallons pay $141 a month.

"We have to illustrate what is going on and why this is important. Citizens can't afford this," Barrett said.

Elizabeth Campbell


Twitter: @fwstliz

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