Perry quick on the draw with veto pen in Blue Mound water case

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Once again, Gov. Rick Perry has used his veto power to strike a blow for free enterprise and business, this time to strike down a bill that would have made it easier for tiny Blue Mound to one day manage its own water needs.

Blue Mound, a town of about 2,400 just north of Fort Worth, is served by a private water company based in Sugar Land, Monarch Utilities. Rates have risen 62 percent since 2005 and average about three times more than nearby cities.

The town wants to take over the water system from Monarch, a subsidiary of California-based SouthWest Water Co., and has filed a condemnation petition in district court.

House Bill 1160, filed by Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, mandated that the “certificate of convenience and necessity” — the legal authority to run a water system — be transferred from the public utility (Monarch) to the municipality of the utility’s service area. It passed unanimously in the Senate and with only one “nay” in the House.

The bill clearly stated that the transfer would become effective on the date the court hearing the case issued an order transferring the property of the utility to the city.

In other words, the legislation was not taking private property from an owner and giving it to Blue Mound; that case still must be decided by the court.

Perry’s office, in a statement explaining his veto, said that the bill “would provide a disincentive for development by private utilities” and that it “allows a city to condemn the real property of a water or sewer utility, making no provision for the value of lost business.”

Actually, the legal proceedings in the 348th District Court have been going on for about 18 months and already have named three commissioners to help determine the “fair market value” of the utility company if, in fact, condemnation is approved.

The commissioners have suggested that the property would be worth $2.74 million, an amount the town would have no problem raising through certificates of obligation, Mayor Alan Hooks said. The company, he said, puts the value at around $3.8 million, plus lost revenue over the next 10 years.

This was special legislation that a local community wanted and the Legislature overwhelmingly backed.

The governor should not have interfered.

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