KEMP — The City of Kemp, plagued by huge infrastructure expenses, mainly crumbling water pipes, disbanded it's police department, as of 7 a.m., Tuesday, and is set to begin negotiations with a nearby municipal utility company to take over its water services.
Police Department equipment, including the town's patrol cars, bullet-proof vests, ammunitions, and other items will be auctioned off soon, according to Mayor Donald Kile.
The city council voted 4-0 Tuesday night for Kile to enter into negotiations with West Cedar Creek Municipal Utilities District, located in Tool, to take over day-to-day operations of the Kemp Municipal Water System.
An official with WCCMUD, however, told the Review Wednesday afternoon, that nothing has been established between the city and the MUD.
Office Manager Wanda Sanders said negotiations between engineers, the legal departments and the board of directors still need to be worked out.
Kile said that if such an agreement can be worked out, West Cedar Creek MUD would take over Kemp's water-deteriorating water lines.
“It's not done yet,” Sanders said. “There's lots to be done before that happens.”
Kile spent Wednesday communicating with the media, as well as local officials and others during yet another hectic day for the City of Kemp.
Kile took over as mayor not quite a year ago, just months before the decaying pipes began altering the city's lifestyle in sometimes-dramatic fashion.
Last summer, the city was without water for several days, when record-hot temperatures, combined with the drought, caused cracks in the earth, and shift in the land. This reportedly caused a huge number of water lines to crack.
Citizens had to boil water, and emergency supplies and drinking water from surrounding cities had to be brought in for the citizens’ safety.
More recently, the city lost much of its water power, and citizens again had to boil and ration water for a couple of days. The school district had to be shut down for two days when restroom facilities could not take care of the students’ needs.
But it wasn’t until Tuesday night's action that jobs were affected.
“It's heartbreaking, that we have to do this,” said Kile. “We affected people's livelihood. But it's what we had to do.”
Kile said the following in a prepared statement Wednesday: “We know this is a very tough situation for several of our city employees, and we terribly regret that these actions had to be taken. But the City's financial situation has deteriorated to such an extent that immediate measures were necessary.”
By early afternoon, Kaufman County Sheriff David Byrnes had issued a news release intended to reassure apprehensive Kemp citizens about the law protection of their community:
“Sheriff David Byrnes would like the citizens of Kemp, Texas to know that the Sheriff's Office will continue to answer calls in the City of Kemp. As of 7 a.m. on May 9, the City of Kemp disbanded the police department due to budget issues,” Byrnes said. “We will continue to serve the citizens of Kemp, just like we always have.”
Citizens who have emergencies in Kemp are being told to dial 911, and their calls will be handled “in a timely manner.”
Kemp citizens who have a non-emergency call to the Sheriff's office will need to call 972-932-4337.
To help beef-up patrols in the city, Kile said he was told that constables would also be helping in the coverage.
Any problems, the release says, will be routed to the appropriate departments.
City officials said they realize many questions still need to be answered.
As for the current water situation, there is no immediate loss of services, but negotiations with West Cedar Creek MUD have yet to begin.
“While we understand that the lawyers and financial specialists will have to get together to hammer out the details that mutually protect and benefit the parties, I am confident that an agreement will be ready in the very near future — an agreement that is acceptable both to the City of Kemp and the board of directors of WCCMUD,” Kile said.
The decision was made at Tuesday night's council meeting following a motion by Councilman Tommy McSpadden, and seconded by Councilman Leotis Buckley.
Kile said he wouldn't have financial numbers for citizens for a few more days, with the mayor spending his time putting out fires.
“I got people who love me and people who hate me,” he said.
He admitted the reaction has been mixed. The city had already raised water rates back in December to deal with a crisis that current members say should have been handled years ago.
Some people believe some past councils just punted the problem down the road.
The kids, said one person, are having to deal with it now.