To Splash or Not to Splash
June 5, 2018 - Elections to council leadership positions were held, a scholarship was presented, budgets amended and extensions provided. The last agenda item was a discussion on water.
During public comments, Bob Mortenson expressed his wishes for Council-member Betty Spraggins’ recovery from health issues and praised the fire department’s performance in a recent house fire response.
City Manager Castro informed Council that the pond entrance to city hall will be closed on July 9th for two weeks for maintenance.
Presentation of the 2018 Sergeant Kyle Kucauskas Foundation Scholarship to Molly Sarles, Jacob Martin, and Ingrid Ochoa was made by John Daugherty, former Council member and Adana Barber, Police Lieutenant. Daugherty introduced Sergeant Kucauskas’s parents, Clint and Vicki Averitte. While with the Murphy police department, Kyle served as a patrolman, a detective and a sergeant. Started in 2014, the scholarship is for students pursuing a career in law enforcement or other related field. To date, the foundation has given out eight scholarships in honor of Sergeant Kucauskas.
The developer for Anderson Medical Offices was granted an extension to file building plans, for property located at 213 N. Murphy Road.
Council-member Jennifer Berthiaume was re-elected Mayor Pro Tem 4 to 2 over Council-member Sarah Fincanon who was voted unanimously to return as Deputy Mayor Pro Tem for another term.
Ordinance Number 18-06-1088 amending the FY18 revenue, expenditures and fund balance of the General Fund, Utility Fund and Capital Projects Fund for prior year (FY17) purchase orders was passed.
Ordinance Number 18-06-1089 amended the FY18 Murphy Community Development Corporation (MCDC) fund for design costs associated with the Governors Community Achievement Award (GCAA) was passed. In June 2017, the City of Murphy received first place for the Governors Community Achievement Award (GCAA) for cities of comparable size. The award was for $2 million, $180,000 of which was earmarked for the City of Murphy to be used for a landscape project along Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) right of way within the city limits. Funds were appropriated in the amount of $15,000 from the MCDC fund balance to cover the design fee cost. Design fees are not allowed to be allocated from the grant award necessitating the transfer.
Better water conservation measures were discussed to avoid exceeding the water usage cap (1,404,755,000 gallons) as established by the North Texas Municipal Water District. Tim Rogers, Public Services Director, and City Manager Castro conveyed a heightened attention to meter maintenance and replacement of “zero read” meters, by servicing them within two weeks of identification. Murphy has also been bedeviled by elusive “leakage” in the distribution system or a virtual “leakage” in the billing data. The “leakage” is currently 25% of Murphy’s total consumption. In addition to hiring a consultant to get a clearer picture of water losses in the system via data analytics, public services is going main line to main line testing for leaks. Data suggest that Murphy will be 60 million gallons over the cap at July 31st. Administrative measures were discussed. Moving the city into stage one or two drought status was found to be unlawful based on the financial considerations for the residents. The law could be changed but not in time to prevent the cap breech. A volunteer effort by citizens was discussed but faces a hurdle of interest by the residents whom previously have shown a willingness to pay more money opposed to a change in consumption behavior.
A hot issue on social media, the splash pad, seems to be the intersection point of governance and the public in the water conservation issue. In a textbook display of sausage making in governance, the discussion was robust and convictions fluid. The splash pad is being used, according to Councilman Siddiqui, in “behavior modification” efforts by the government. Councilman George also believes it would be hypocritical, as the governing body, to let the splash pad “run wild” while asking residents to conserve water. Mayor Pro Tem Berthiaume suggested a responsive government approach, changing to afternoon hours to service families at PSA activities city events being in the evening and test public reaction. Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Fincanon was in favor of morning hours and requiring a reservation, effectively adding a fee for the service. Councilman Reilly was in favor of unrestricted use, explaining that restriction of the Splash Pad was unrelated to the underlying problem. Mayor Bradley wanted a compromise position acknowledging that the message of conservation was a component of the restrictions after initially waving a flag of surrender to the cap busting trajectory the city was on.
No action was reached by way of a failed vote on a motion by Councilman Fincanon to keep the morning hours and require reservations of the pavilion for usage outside of the morning hours. The vote was 3-3 with Mayor Bradly, Council-members George and Fincanon voted in favor. Council-members Berthiaume, Siddiqui and Reilly voted against. Mayor Bradley will keep the issue on the agenda indefinitely to allow for public reaction. The Splash Pad will operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Tuesdays through Sundays. The exceptions to this schedule include city-sponsored events and activities at the park such as Moonlight Movies and Sounds at Sundown. In a city news release, Parks Superintendent Matt Foster said, “We, of course, will honor all existing reservations that fall outside of the new hours that were made prior to the implementation of this directive,” he said. “But we will not be taking new reservations to utilize the splash pad.”