Residents who own water wells showed up at the meeting Monday to voice their disapproval of an ordinance passed last August that requires them to connect to city water and use their water wells for irrigation only. A letter was sent April 30, requiring compliance by June 1 or be subject to a fine of $2,000. The city plans to amend the ordinance at the next meeting May 28. (Photo by Pam Hudson)
Tuesday's City Council meeting was charged with energy, mostly anger, as residents attended to speak out about the water well letters sent to residents April 30, demanding they connect to city water by June 1 or be fined $2,000.
Rosalie Pavlat spoke first, explaining that she had attended two school board meetings and only two city meetings in 49 years, but she was angry about the letter telling her she couldn't use her well for house supply.
"This issue has come up before. My sewer bill is $57.76 with no water and my rent house is about $25 more with water. There are five water wells on Lacewell Street. My well was hit 25 years ago at 180' and it runs strong with 25 gallons per minute. I have no water meter or water lines. I don't see how it affects city water for me to have a well that is not connected to the city water lines at all. I don't believe this is fair. We are saving water from the lake. I also do not think I should have to pay for a plumber to come check my well to make sure it is not contaminating the lines when I'm not even connected to the city water."
The second speaker, Paula Harley, spoke of her mother Margaret Ross, who dug her wells on West College and Fox Hollow in 1980 because the lake was drying up.
"The city water is not affected by our wells. Ya'll are wrong. You will not turn off my wells and I will not pay the $2,000. We don't have a meter and I'm not paying for one. It isn't fair. Our bills are higher now."
Recently re-elected mayor, Lewis James, spoke up, "We are dealing with the complaints, but this council did not make the original ordinances requiring you to hook up to sewer (in 2008). We can change the ordinance passed last year.
A third resident spoke about the elderly who cannot afford to hook up to the city water.
When the water well agenda item came up later for discussion, the residents again spoke, this time outside of public forum.
City Manager Mike Smith explained about Chapter 51, which required residents to hook up to the sewer and Chapter 52, which required water hookup, and amendments to the ordinances in 1984 and 1996, with the more recent passed last August about residents who live within 150 feet of the city water lines being required to hook up to city water, even if you have a water well.
He explained that there were two options for the city: amend the ordinance or enforce the ordinance. He recommended an amendment which would allow anyone with a water well now to keep their water well and anyone drilling for a well from this day forward use the well for irrigation only.
He also recommended a stipulation that current water well owners hire a licensed plumber to check for cross-contamination and submit that inspection report to the city. If the well did not have a backflow preventer valve, it should be installed.
When asked by council to explain cross-contamination, Smith explained that it was when a non-treated source mixed with a treated water supply. He said the most common occurrence was when pressure is lost in the city water tower, causing a "back siphon" pulling water from the homes into the city water supply.
At this point, Councilman Ken Joslin asked for specific examples of how the wells could contaminate city water if water well owners were not even hooked up to a water meter or water lines belonging to the city. Smith insisted it could happen, but did not provide a specific example.
Resident Karen Mask asked who would pay for the inspection and how plumbers would be chosen. Smith explained that a list would be provided to the residents and the owner of the water well had the responsibility to have the well inspected to prove that it would not contaminate city water at their cost. Mask said since the city was requiring it, shouldn't they share the cost of ensuring the well passed inspection.
Councilwoman Faye Lewis explained that their objective in all this was to make the water safe for all residents and the well owner should pay the cost.
Joslin asked if they were planning to require an inspection from all water well owners or only those who were also connected to city water. Smith said they should require all water well owners to have their wells inspected. Some council members disagreed.
After quite a bit of discussion, and a failed motion due to it not being on the agenda, all agreed that Smith would compose an amended ordinance and present it to the council at the next meeting May 28. It was agreed that all current well owners be "grandfathered" and not required to hook up to city water in this amended ordinance and Joslin recommended that if they were not connected to the city water lines, they not be required to have an inspection.
Mask asked if the city would notify the public when an ordinance would be amended that would affect residents like this. Smith answered that there were agendas of all city meetings posted on their board in the front of the building 72 hours in advance of all meetings.
Alton Morris, recently elected Councilman for Place 2, who ran uncontested, stood and explained that a state-approved backflow preventer is required on any water wells dug. He said that he had also seen wells contaminate the city water when residents had both.
Resident Juan Salazar, Sr. stood and said the back flow valves ran about $75 - $145, if they were not on the wells. He asked if the council wanted to make it where new residents could not drill a water well. Smith said they could drill a new water well, but it would be for irrigation only.
In other business, the council talked about making the part of Jasper Street in front of the Jacksboro Health Care Center a handicapped parking on the north side and a no parking zone on the south side between North Church Street and Jack Street. This would allow emergency vehicles better access to the nursing home, which had become a problem with increased traffic on Jasper and congestion with parking allowed on both sides.
The ordinance was approved, but council asked Smith to erect adequate signage, paint curbs and send a notice to all home owners affected. Parking is available on the east and west sides of the nursing home for those not handicapped.
Juan Salazar was allowed the opportunity to address the council about hiring an in-house city building inspector. He explained that permits were being granted by out-of-town inspectors that shouldn't be, and he showed pictures of inadequate drainage under water lines and green tickets of passing inspections. He said an in-house inspector would save the city a lot of money.
Lewis said they would look at his report and discuss the hiring of an in-house inspector, but she was concerned about whether they could afford it and would like to hear from other concerned contractors about this.
Salazar said, "I'm not going away. Make a good decision. We need a self-contained in-house inspector. Spend some money and get this done."
Smith also reported that the sales tax was not currently aligning with the city's projected revenue to date, but he thought it would by the end of September. He said it was $850,000 and that they had raised 71 percent of their expected revenue and needed another $245,000 to meet budget.
The votes from Saturday's general election had not been canvassed at the time of the meeting, so the swearing in of council members on the agenda was tabled. City Secretary Shirley Grantham explained they were required to have that completed five days from the election, which would be Friday, and would require the presence of three council members in a special called meeting.
Outgoing Place 2 Councilwoman Keri Lane expressed her thanks to residents, fellow council members and her family after six years of service. She chose not to run in this election because of the sacrifice to her family, with one son graduating this year and having to miss some of his senior activities. She challenged the Jacksboro High School government students present at the meeting to vote. She addressed the houseful of residents that she wished they would come to more of the meetings.
Lane said she enjoyed the job, closing with, "If someone is mad at me, I must have been doing my job. You haven't heard the last of me. I will stay involved and I can still speak for you."
Outgoing Place 4 Councilman Ken Joslin also expressed the same sentiments regarding his service for the last two years. Joe Mitchell won the election for this place in the recent election.
Joslin said, "I know Joe Mitchell will do a good job. We work for the residents. I'm also still around. Thanks a lot."
Lewis addressed both outgoing council members and said, "We thank both of you. We might not have always seen eye to eye, but we agreed to disagree and that is what makes a good council. There seems to be a big crowd when people are angry, but I'm disappointed in the low voter turnout in the recent election."