Members of the Houston City Council on Monday approved the purchase of specialized water meters to allow for automatic utility readings, decided to continue discussions on grass mowing in the community and received its first look at electrical charges from extreme temperatures in February.
The meters — the last to be required — totaled more than $143,000 — and are part of a multi-phase project that eventually will send readings directly to city hall. The first area targeted is in and around Oak Hill Drive. The system includes both water and electricity. It has the capability of connecting and disconnecting customers directly from city hall.
An ongoing discussion about the appearance of the community and who is responsible for mowing rights-of-way will continue. Members are to submit their comments to the city administrator and a meeting of the council’s public grounds committee also is planned. Any changes enacted will likely take place for the next growing season, said alderman Ross Richardson, who has taken the lead to address the issue. Several policies from other communities were collected earlier and a review of the current ordinance is being reviewed.
The board also got its first look at the final wholesale electrical bill from a harsh few days in February that set electrical meters spinning. Earlier, the council approved participating in a state program that lends municipalities funds at zero percent interest over no longer than 60 months. City Administrator Scott Avery said the availability for those funds cushioned the blow for 841 residential customers and the town’s 386 commercial/industrial customers.
Under discussions Monday, the city would shoulder 50 percent of the remaining $713,142 burden not already paid — rather than an earlier 20 percent. About one-third of consumption comes from residential users and the remainder from business and large commercial customers. If all goes as planned, residential customers would pay $5.90 a month for 24 months — rather than an earlier estimated $9.64 per month.
Businesses and commercial customers will pay an amount based on their consumption during the deep freeze. Customers aren’t expected to see an increase until fall. The monthly cost to the city’s coffers on the no-interest loan is about $12,000, which would be manageable, Avery told the six-member council.
In other matters, members:
•Heard from Ron Reed, a Houston resident who previously was the city’s economic development director. He called for the city — through its industrial development authority — to maintain property at its Houston Industrial Park on West Highway 17 and another undeveloped industrial park east of the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce Fairgrounds. A consultant, Reed said he previously gave a tour to business prospects and found both areas required attention.
•Honored three people who were instrumental in saving a child in June after a near drowning at the Houston Municipal Swimming Pool. Plaques and gifts were represented by Mayor Willy Walker to Alexis Kelly, a child who alerted of the trouble; Sheldon Starr, a lifeguard; and Veronica Douglas, the victim’s aunt. An investigation report is expected to be released soon about the incident that was conducted by Lt. Mathew Woodmansee of the Houston Police Department.
•Will transfer expiring CD funds to West Plains Bank’s Houston branch after a solicitation of rates. The total is $300,000 — three CDs totaling $100,000 each. Moving forward the city will adopt a policy of staggered expirations for the CDs. The plan calls for the creation of 33 that would expire at different periods and gives the city access to capital, if required.
•Heard that a public meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Aug. 2 to receive input into a revamped planning and zoning document for the city. The project has included the Houston Planning and Zoning Commission. Final adoption is tentatively set for Aug. 16.
•Heard a request for the council to submit road repair priorities. The city earlier acquired its own paving equipment. The first targeted area is Rutherford Park.
•Learned that a mayor’s weekend golf tournament raised nearly $3,000 for Fostering by Faith, a charity that benefits foster children that is situated on Walnut Street across from the rural fire station. It is a boutique that allows foster children access to free clothing and other household items.
•Heard that downtown Houston is targeted for new paint for parking spaces and curbs and that hookups in and around Oak Hill Drive continue for the city’s new broadband internet system.