Bill to allow Blue Mound to take control of troubled system moves forward

Posted Tuesday, May. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A bill that would allow the city of Blue Mound to take over a troubled, privately-owned water system cleared a major hurdle Tuesday during the final days of the legislative session.

A Senate-House conference committee agreed Tuesday to allow a provision permitting the city of Tyler to take over another privately-owned water system in an area south of the city.

The last minute negotiations saved a bill that the Senate unanimously approved but amended last week. The bill was sponsored in the House by state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth. State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, was the co-sponsor in the Senate.

If both houses now agree to the bill, and it is signed by Gov. Rick Perry, the legislation would allow Blue Mound in northwest Tarrant County to take over the certificate of convenience and necessity from Monarch Utilities to operate the water system.

The certificate is required by the state. But a court must rule in Blue Mound’s favor to condemn the Monarch Utilities system, a procedure that was started last year.

Blue Mound residents have protested water rates that were much higher than those in nearby cities. A Blue Mound customer using 5,000 gallons pays around $141 per month whereas someone living in Saginaw pays around $45 for similar usage.

Officials from Southwest Water, Monarch’s parent company, declined to comment because the legislation is stilll pending.

“It gives me level ground to fight on,” Blue Mound Mayor Alan Hooks said of the legislation. “I didn’t have that before. It seemed like I was always fighting an uphill battle against Monarch.”

Late last week, Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, added the amendment to allow Tyler to take over a private utility - Tall Timbers Utility Company - in an area that was annexed south of the city.

The House initially rejected including Tyler in the bill, but the commitee included language that only allows Blue Mound and Tyler to take over the water systems in question, limiting the bill’s reach.

Greg Morgan, Tyler’s director of utilities and public works, said Tyler hasn’t initiated condemnation procedures against Tall Timbers, however.

“It was determined that a better way to approach this might be to dovetail in to Geren’s legislation,” Morgan said. “If the city determined that it was in its best interest to provide service, this bill would give us the ability to do so.”

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz

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