Perry’s veto of Blue Mound water bill angers sponsoring lawmaker

Posted Monday, Jun. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Blue Mound officials have been defeated for now in their attempt to take over a privately owned water system because Gov. Rick Perry vetoed legislation that would allow them to take control of the utility.

State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, one of the chief sponsors of the bill, said that he is disappointed and that Perry’s office misunderstood why the legislation was needed and the conditions Blue Mound residents are living under.

“The governor was either misinformed, or his people were too stupid to read the bill,” Geren said. Although the bill is now “dead,” he said, he plans to file it in the next legislative session.

The bill would have allowed Blue Mound to take control of a “certificate of convenience and necessity” required by the state to operate the water system if a district court approved condemnation proceedings against Monarch Utilities.

“The people of Blue Mound are just getting run over by a privately run utility,” Geren said. “I think Blue Mound will win its condemnation proceedings.”

Perry’s office couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. A statement released by his office said the legislation “allows a city to condemn the real property of a water or sewer utility, making no provision for the value of lost business.”

“At a time when infrastructure is a focus for our growing state, this bill would provide a disincentive for development by private utilities. Additionally, there is pending litigation directly related to this issue.”

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, sponsored the legislation in the Senate. In an emailed statement, Nelson said she, too, was disappointed in the governor’s decision.

“It is disappointing a monopoly will be able to continue to gouge consumers with exorbitant prices when they have no freedom to shop for other providers. These Texans deserve a choice, and I am stunned that this bill was vetoed,” she said.

Chuck Profilet, vice president of Southwest Water Co., the parent company of Monarch Utilities, declined to comment Monday.

“Monarch remains committed to providing clean, safe, reliable water to our customers in Blue Mound, but we can’t comment beyond that due to pending litigation,” he said.

Mayor Alan Hooks, who has opposed the high water rates in the blue-collar community north of Fort Worth, said he was disappointed but intends to continue to try to take over the water system.

“We intend to go forward with our eminent domain proceedings no matter what,” he said.

Blue Mound, with a population of 2,400, has spent about $170,000 on legal expenses in its condemnation case against Monarch Utilities, Hooks said.

Blue Mound residents pay much higher rates for water than nearby Fort Worth and Saginaw. A customer using 5,000 gallons in Blue Mound pays about $141 per month compared with a Saginaw water used who would pay about $45 a month for the same amount.

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

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