Pantego — Heated discussions over a gas company building a compressor site near homes and concerns about a fee to replace aging water lines are the major issues in the race for Place 5 between Councilman Don Surratt and challenger Bill Holland.The race between Surratt and Holland is the only contested race on the May 11 ballot. Mayor Melody Paradise and Place 4 Councilman Russell Brewster are unopposed. Early voting began Monday and continues until May 7.Holland, 40, a political newcomer who owns Alyssiam Inc., a roofing and construction company, said he decided to run for the council because he was concerned that not enough is being done by the city to communicate with residents.“I don’t take a combative approach or attitude that you have to earn my favor to do business in this community,” Holland said.He was also critical of the council’s handling of a request from Carrizo Oil and Gas to build a “lift compressor” to boost the drilling capacity of the wells.Holland, who currently serves on the Planning and Zoning board, said he and others were concerned that Carrizo would pull out of Pantego because of the strict restrictions for the drilling site and the compressor.Surratt, 50, who is seeking his third council term, said when the company submitted its original request, there were legitmated concerns about the well sites impact on the nearby neighborhoods.Some of the homes are 250 feet from the wells, and residents were worried about noise, vibration and the environmental impact of the compressor, he said. Also, the building was designed to look like a “big barn” and the original height was 24 feet, but the council negotiated it down to 14 feet.Eventually the well site won unanimous approval from the council.“My responsibility is to oversee safety and welfare for our citizens,” Surratt said. “Some citizens wanted to see the council rubber-stamp the proposal so that they could get an increase in royalties.”The lease agreement allows all property owners to receive royalty payments based on the amount of land they own.Surratt, who is an aerospace manufacturing engineer, said he wants another term on the council so that he can continue working on projects such as the Park Row improvement plan.Before he was elected, Surratt served on several boards including the Economic Development Corporation and the Board of Adjustment.When asked about the water infrastructure fee, Surratt said there were public hearings to inform residents, and information was included with water bills.Previous councils did not plan ahead for replacing water lines that are over 50 years old, he said.“All of a sudden, you see a $45 water bill turning in to a $55 water bill and some had sticker shock. They don’t like the fee, but they understand replacing the pipes is very expensive,” he said.Holland said he felt like the city didn’t do enough to communicate with people about the need for the additional fee.Both candidates also want to see improvements in the business corridor, and Holland said he favors more private development in the Park Row improvement project.“I believe I’ve seen where there is not enough attention paid to the needs of the citizens,” Holland said.
Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz