Sometime in the not-too-distant future, Henderson city water consumers will have fluoride added to their drinking water after city council members voted Tuesday night to approve expenditures for the equipment necessary to add the chemical to the city’s water system – but it’s not clear exactly when that equipment will be bought.
Public Utilities Director Mike Barrow estimated it would cost approximately $80,000 for the initial installation of equipment and an additional $5,000 per year thereafter for the fluoride and to replace pumps and lines that would wear out quickly due to the corrosive nature of fluoride.
City Manager Randy Freeman told council members that approving the measure now would not mean it would necessarily be done right away.
“Whatever you do tonight, we do not have the $80,000 in this year’s budget,” Freeman said.
Barrow also said he had incorporated the equipment necessary to add fluoride in his long-term plan for the city’s water system, but beginning in about 2014, when the city will begin installing new transmission mains.
Adding the chemical to city water is not a new idea, but Barrow pointed out the city’s infrastructure has not made it an easy idea to bring to reality.
“The main reason we’ve put it off for years is the complexity of our system,” he said. “They didn’t spend money to put in transmission mains in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. It’s a million dollars to put in those facilities.”
Barrow’s plan separates the new construction into four phases, costing approximately $250,000 per year with completion targeted in the middle of the next decade.
“I’m not one to spend money out of sequence, but I think the benefits of having fluoride will outweigh the costs by a long shot,” said District 4 Council Member Mike Smith. “We have 3,400 kids in our public schools and, from the figures I saw several years ago, 49 percent of them are from economically disadvantaged homes. It is my belief that those students from economically disadvantaged homes do not get adequate dental care. I think this is something we can do that will benefit the public and the families that are working, struggling and trying to make it with several kids.”
Freeman said city staff will review the expected budget surplus at the end of the fiscal year to see if there will be enough funding to move ahead with the project, which is expected to take only three to four months to complete once begun.
In other business, council members:
* TABLED the creation of a Parks and Open Space Plan Steering Committee at the request of District 3 representative Thomas Ward, who said there was no one from his district on the proposed committee.
* APPROVED a zoning change from commercial to residential estates for 300 and 302 Carthage Highway.
* APPROVED Change Order No. 2 to the Phase III and Phase IV Sewer Main Replacement Project, increasing the cost by $5,895. Barrow said the city had, as part of its easement agreement with Fish & Still Equipment on U.S. Highway 79 South, agreed to install the new sewer line by boring under the business’ parking lot rather than by cutting and repaving.
* APPROVED Change Order No. 1 to the Willow Lake Tank Renovation Project, increasing the cost by $7,340 in order to relocate and rehabilitate the existing hatch on top of the tank. Contractors discovered severe corrosion of the metal around the hatch when preparing to repaint. Relocating the hatch will also increase safety when workers have to climb atop the structure, since it is currently located immediately adjacent to the ladder.
* APPROVED Change Order No. 1 to the Industrial Drive Renovation Phase II to remove a culvert originally included in the plans and bid as a lump sum item. Council members decided at a previous meeting that the enlarged culvert was not necessary at this time. Removing the item reduced the contract by $77,000.
* APPROVED Change Order No. 2 to the Industrial Drive Renovation Phase II, increasing the cost by $4,030, which has already been reimbursed by Rusk Energy Management LLC.
* APPROVED an agreement with the Rusk County Emergency Services District for the replacement of a 1996 Freightliner chassis used as a tanker truck by the Henderson Fire Department when responding to fires out in the county. The ESD board will provide a new chassis to be used with the existing tank. The Henderson Fire Department has applied for grants to purchase a new tanker truck. If and when those grants are approved, the replacement chassis and the tank will be given to the ESD for use by one of the rural volunteer fire departments.
* APPROVED the 2007-08 holiday schedule, granting city employees a total of 12 holidays. The schedule is the same as approved the last several years.
* APPOINTED Paul Morris and William Sears as members of the Henderson Economic Development Corp., to replace Joe Sorrells and Malinda Norman, whose terms are expiring. The banking position on the board rotates among Henderson’s banking facilities each year, with Citizens National Bank to appoint someone to replace Bill Redden, representing Texas Bank for the past year.
* APPOINTED Cecilia Johnson, Billy Tribble, Keith Isaac and Alton Pryor to serve on the Zoning Board of Adjustments. All four have been serving on the board and wished to be reappointed to new two-year terms.
* APPROVED an ordinance that will allow parking on the south side of Sunset Street. Previously, both sides had been designated no parking.
* APPROVED an ordinance setting sewer and water rates for the coming year, with base rates remaining the same, excess water rates increasing by 25 cents and excess sewer rates increasing by 50 cents.
* APPROVED an ordinance setting the speed limit of U.S. Highway 79 South between U.S. 259 South and Evenside Street at 40 miles per hour, rather than the existing 50 miles per hour.
* APPROVED an ordinance allowing updated service credits to the Texas Municipal Retirement System. City employees may now contribute up to 7 percent of salary to the retirement account.
* APPROVED an ordinance setting the property tax rate for the year at 52.17 cents per $100 valuation, the same rate that has been in effect for the past eight years.
* RATIFIED the increase in city revenues due to increased property tax appraisals within the city. The state legislature mandated that if cities receive more revenue, even if they do not increase the tax rate, they must have a separate vote to ratify that increase.