Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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May 3, 2014

Contractor resigns, Chandler seeks to create four city staff positions

Athens — The City of Chandler is growing and with growth comes the need for change.

Chandler City Council approved adding a utilities director position to its city staff during a called meeting Thursday at city hall.

“Stanley McCurley with Stan’s Backhoe Service submitted his 60-day notice to terminate his existing water and wastewater operation contract with the city effective May 1,” City Administrator John Taylor said. “This notice is required in that contract. The last day that he will be fulfilling his job as operator with the City of Chandler for water and sewer will be June 30. This notice will effectively cancel the contract with have with him.”

After more than 30 minutes of discussion, city leaders felt it would be best to bring the water and sewer operations in-house instead of using a third-party contractor as they currently are.

One of the major topics of conversation was cost and what would be in the city’s best interest as it continues to grow.

Currently, the city pays $11.50 per meter, per month to McCurley for service. Taylor said there are 1,322 meters in the city resulting in an annual fee of $182,436 paid to McCurley.

“This fee we pay to him is based on meters. As we grow as a city, that fee goes up. Projected for 2015 would be $187,956 and if projected out to 2020 using 40 meters a year it gets up to $215,556,” Taylor said.

As a third-party contractor, the fees cover McCurley’s staff and his equipment. Any supplies needed in repairs, chemicals or other water and sewer operations already come out of the city water budget.

“The $11.50 is not likely to be what a new third-party vendor would charge us. Back in 2002, we did bid out operations and we received two bids. We got McCurley’s at $11.50 a meter and another from U.S. Filter for $14.75 a meter. It is a safe assumption that $11.50 is a low number for third-party operations so we are using that as a comparison to what bringing it in-house might be.”

Taylor, Mayor Ann Hall and City Secretary Shirley Parmer contacted various cities throughout Texas that were similar size to Chandler to see how they handle operations.

Based on their findings, Taylor said the city will need a utility director and two water/wastewater operators who are licensed by the state. A maintenance person would also be hired but not required to have a license.

Taylor said the city could bring the operations in-house for about the same cost as it is currently paying McCurley.

While the annual operating cost would be about the same, there would be an initial start-up cost associated with the transition.

It is estimated the initial start-up cost would be in excess of $100,000 to provide the city with needed equipment, vehicles and office space.

“It is easy to see annual operating expenses of bringing it in house is a cost savings realizing the cost for a third-party operator would get bigger over time,” Taylor said. “The total expenses (for start-up) we are proposing can come from the utilities money market account, which has basically $117,000 in it. There are some other accounts that have money from previous accounts, at least three that we have that are not designated for any particular project we might be able to use. They are basically sitting there for reserve.”

The city has started the process of looking for a utilities director who will then help in hiring the staff needed to run the department.

Location of the department has not been determined, but city officials are considering options that include locating the department at Winchester Park where several maintenance operation items are currently stored.

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