Tuesday, September 27, 2016 Login
City of Mason, Texas Mason, Texas - Gem of the Hill Country Lone Star Cut Topaz - Official Gemstone of Texas!
 

City Hall 

P.O. Box 68
Mason, TX  76856

124 Moody Street
Phone: 325-347-6449
Fax: 325-347-5955

Emergency, Weekend and
After Hours Telephone Numbers

       Electric           
347-2247

Water & Wastewater
347-2245

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For RV & Tent Camping  Reservations

Fort Mason City Park

1015 San Antonio Hwy (Hwy 87 N)

Mason, TX 76856

             325-347-2064            

   
Electric Crew on the job.

CITY COMMISSION REGULAR MEETING

Monday October 17th , 2016 @ 5:30

Richard P. Eckert Civic Center

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The City of Mason is an Equal Opportunity Employer; 

Supporter of Equal Housing Opportunity; Citizen Participation; the Fair Housing Policy; and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

 The City of Mason has established MANDATORY water restrictions for the remainder of the hot dry weather we are experiencing.  It is in everyone’s best interest if you can limit outdoor watering, and follow the procedures of all even numbered houses watering either on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday and all odd numbered houses watering either on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday.  In addition we ask each water customer to water no more than twice a week, and only before the hour of 9:00am in the morning and after the hour of 6:00 pm in the evening, or limiting to hand watering at other times. 

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 ~ CITY OF MASON PUBLIC INFORMATION~

 City Corner

CITY CORNER by Mayor Brent Hinckley

 

     Many of the City projects continue to move ahead as we work to improve and serve our community.  We have received the mosquito insecticide and started some spraying last week and will continue this week to reduce that pesky population in our neighborhoods.  Look for another article in this paper that will state the exact schedule and pattern of our mosquito spraying.  We are also working with the contractors to complete the water line construction on Spring St and that new addition to our water system is now on-line.  The Bridge construction is nearing completion and we have been told that it should be finished and ready for traffic in mid-October, and now we are looking at the City streets in that area and making plans for improvements and repaving to integrate that addition into our traffic system.  There are other water line and electric system improvements that are under way and the City crews continue to work daily to keep clean water flowing to your homes, pick up the regular trash and keep the landfill functioning, manage the constant stream of recycling that is collected, and tend to the less obvious services that we provide such as parks, sewer water treatment, power transmission and animal control. 

      On the other hand, there is some distinct concerns about the near future and the ability of the City to continue moving forward and provide the continual progress that you have come to expect.  During the past few months there has been a renewal of questions regarding the legality and appropriateness of the relationship of our Engineering consultant and the City.  This has been a valid and important consideration since 2009 when Daniel Hinckley joined Blackwell Environmental who then supplied most of the engineering consulting, since Daniel is my son.  The City has repeatedly asked for legal clarification to assure ourselves and everyone involved that we are staying clear of the nepotism prohibition, and since that time all discussion and contract approvals have been handled with care and within the law.  I have always abstained from any City Commission discussion or voting on engineering services from that time through the change when Daniel bought out his boss and renamed the firm Blue Oak Engineering and acquired  a new partner, and up to the present.  Every  lawyer with experience in municipal government who we have asked concerning this situation, has agreed that while there are some issues, as long as we follow the regulations in the same manner we have all along there is no reason to be concerned about breaking the law, or creating a situation that does not occasionally arise in many smaller communities.  

      Some have questioned whether the City actually needs constant engineering services, and although I have never participating in making decisions regarding the contracts, I am constantly involved in the day to day activities of the City and I can assure you that many of them require engineering considerations and approval.  Several times every week there is a question or a problem that needs a very experienced and professional engineering response, and the City crews and staff depend on the advice of our consultant.  In addition there are weekly, monthly and quarterly reports that are required by various state agencies that need an engineer’s response or stamp, and any larger project over $50,000 (which is effectively every project of the City) requires engineering plans and approval stamps.  Currently the City is working to (a) permit a new landfill, (b) maintain and expand the waste water treatment to provide for irrigation water from this source,  (c) replace some vehicular creek crossings in town that are failing, (d) permit and provide a treatment of the drinking water to remove excess radionuclide contamination that has been in our water for generations, and (e) provide an approved entrance lane for the new landfill property and other Industrial Park properties.  Each of these five projects, as well as others such as the recent water line improvement, require careful engineering planning often over a couple of years’ time frame to meet the requirements and are beyond and outside of the regular daily engineering consultations the City relies on.  Undoubtedly the City needs and must have professional engineering services, and the current resources and contracts have been providing those engineering services to everyone’s great satisfaction for many years.  There has never been any question whether Blue Oak Engineering has provided prompt, accurate and very satisfactory engineering

      There have been other questions of whether the City is paying too much for engineering services.  Most of the daily engineering services are provided under a contracted monthly payment, and other special services are generally billed at $100 to $140 per hour depending on the complexity of the issue.  Last year the City paid Blue Oak Engineering a total of $80,158 and this year, up until today, we have paid Blue Oak Engineering $62,220 however we are aware that from these payments there are other services such as surveying, geotech consulting, hydraulic engineering consulting, and other services that must be paid, so the actual payment to Daniel is considerably less.  John Palacio has estimated that using a different engineering service for our daily operations and questions would cost the City at least $45,000 to $50,000 per year, which would translate to each utility customer paying $3.00 extra each month.  In addition, if a change would be forced upon us now, several of our major projects would be delayed and because of the oversight of the regulatory agencies, one of our City Commissioners who has direct experience with TCEQ has estimated that fines for noncompliance in a timely manner would cost not thousands of dollars, but HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of dollars!   If the landfill permitting were to be delayed for any significant time, there is a distinct possibility that the existing landfill would reach its capacity and if that occurs before we are ready with the new one, then all of our daily trash would have to be trucked to another landfill, possibly a hundred miles away.  Other neighboring towns that are in this situation pay about three to four times the monthly trash collection fees that we currently have, and this type of increase would severely impact most of our residents. 

       Those are some of the projected costs that might impact our future, but the repeated questions regarding a legal issue that has been addressed several previous times are costing the City in time and money right now.  This summer we have paid our City Attorney several thousand dollars to provide legal advice on this issue, and when he presented his complete report at our last called City Commission meeting on August 29 his conclusion was that “I firmly believe that the existing contract with Blue Oak, entered into in March 2015, was valid when entered into and thus can be continued.”  He also commented, “I have also stated my opinion that if Blue Oak is restructured, perhaps with one or more additional owners, I would be very comfortable with the Commission contracting with Blue Oak on future contracts.”  Blue Oak has been restructured, but there are still members of the public and individual Commissioners who are raising questions or indicating an unwillingness to move forward with the current situation.  In the past week it became evident that we would not have the support to move forward immediately with an application for a $845,000 loan from the Texas Water Development Board to address the water treatment requirements, and by not meeting the initial deadline we have lost the possibility of about $300,000 of principal forgiveness, basically a grant, on that loan.  If we proceed with this financing source, which is still perhaps the best alternative, the City will now have to repay the entire principal.  There are other concerns that will need to be addressed in the coming months, and without a reasonable consensus on the City Commission we will be stalled with making decisions and perhaps lose time and valuable funding to provide improvements to our hometown. 

      For the past several years I have tried to be completely transparent and have consistently asked the public to contact me if they have questions or concerns, but currently most of what I hear regarding the issues of Blue Oak Engineering serving our community come from rumors and inconsistent comments that most often come from incorrect deduction or total misinformation.   Beyond the potential costs that this lingering questions might create, it seems highly concerning that even after our City Attorney, who has 37 years of experience, has indicated that with care we can and have met all of the expectations of the law, and yet some of the Commissioners and a few members of the public continue to create an atmosphere of question and concern.  We have tried to be open and provide full explanations, but if you have concerns or would like to express your opinions or support I would encourage you to come to our next City Commission meeting on Monday, September 19 at 5:30 at the Civic Center or contact me directly at and let me know what you think.  It also might be a good idea to contact your City Commissioner directly so that they know whether you have an issue about any possible appearance of concern, or perhaps you are more interested in moving forward to improve and meet the future needs of our community and not waste considerable money in the process.  The final question is what is in the best interest of our residents and our hometown.   I have tried to communicate how I believe we can best meet the requirements of state agencies and law while working together to make this the best hometown we can, and we need to know your thoughts or opinions.

       
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