McCuistion: Water rates could close Walker-Sayle Unit
The Walker-Sayle Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice could close if the Breckenridge City Commission does not take action in reducing its water rates.
Breckenridge City Manager Andy McCuistion said the standing sewer rate for the Walker-Sayle Unit may cause the facility to be shut down by the state before the Breckenridge City Commission can revisit the issue.
Knowing of other cities comparable to Breckenridge with similar experiences on the issue, city commissioners discussed lowering the price to $8.50 per 1,000 gallons from $10 during their meeting last Tuesday.
“I believe that the consensus of thought in the council meeting was that we may not get an opportunity to revisit this before they make a decision to shut down this unit,” McCuistion said “We may have to go ahead and make a decision on our own without being able to negotiate with those folks again. We’re trying to work with the prison here. We’re trying to look and analyze to see if we can justify coming down some.”
Although located 5 miles outside of city limits, McCuistion said the Breckenridge City Commission must take action because the city provides water service to the facility.
“The commissioners want me to give them some numbers so we can analyze it and see what it costs us to produce water, how we compare to other cities, how it would impact our bottom line if we worked to reduce the rates and how that would affect our operations here by losing that revenue,” McCuistion said. “Our financial director, Heather Calloway, has had surgery and should be out for another month so it’s all on me mostly.”
McCuistion said during the meeting if they reduced the rate by five percent, then their annual revenue would decrease by $4,100. If reduced by 10 percent, then it would decrease by $8,200.
The Dick Ware Transfer Facility, located in Colorado City, was mentioned as an example of one of four units recently closed down by the state in April.
“If the state continues to cut back, and because our rates are some of the highest rates, that we will not be looked at favorably,” said McCuistion, during last Tuesday’s meeting. “They look at a lot more things than just the water rates, but it’s something that was brought to our attention this last year.”
McCuistion later estimated the prison uses about 14,000,000 gallons of water per year, roughly 1,300,000 gallons of water per month. He said he didn’t have a set goal for what the rate should be because he needs look at financial statistics first.
“A lot of those other cities’ rates are lower than ours,” he said. “I don’t know why they are, but when the state looks at it they are probably not going to ask those questions. They are just going to look at the numbers.”
During the commission meeting, Executive Director of the Breckenridge Economic Development Corporation Virgil Moore spoke on the issue.
“I personally would like to see the water rates reduced to somewhere around $6.50 per 1,000 gallons, $6.50 would put us up close to the top of the list, but not where we stand out so bad,” Moore said. “I know what I’m asking in reduction of income, too. I know it’s not a good time, but they are our largest employer, other than the school system, in the county. They’re one that we have very little control over. All we can do is take care of them. They do a lot for the community, not counting the jobs and the payroll.”
Walker-Sayle currently provides 150 positions for the city, and ranks second in terms of employment opportunity.
Commissioners seemed to agree lowering the rate is necessary in order to show the state that efforts are being made.
“There are a lot of communities in West Texas that would love to have something like Walker-Sayle,” City Commissioner Tom Cyprian said. “That would be one resource that we definitely won’t want to see go anywhere else.”