By Devin Corbitt, The Belton Journal
In a divided vote, the Belton City Council approved the City Manager to enter into a contract with Siemens Industry, Inc. to begin installing automated water meter infrastructure throughout the city.
The city began looking at installing new water meters in April of 2014, when they hired Siemens to develop recommendations for performance improvements in multiple departments. Water meters were identified as the most cost effective way of improving the city.
The council conducted a workshop with city staff and Siemens representative Chad Nobles just before the regularly scheduled city council meeting to discuss the contract before voting on it. During the workshop, Belton’s Finance Director Brandon Bozon and City Attorney John Messer took councilmembers through the projected costs and revenues of the project, as well as the finalized version of the contract.
“We are very pleased with the contract,” City Manager Sam Listi said. “It does appear to be very much in our interest after quite a bit of negotiation back and forth.”
Councilmember Jerri Gauntt, however, still had reservations on the project itself.
“This is a lot of money, but I feel like it’s a necessary expense because we’ve not kept up with our regular schedule to replace meters for a long time, a really long time,” Councilmember Jerri Gauntt said. “So now we have to pay the price at once. I’d like to make sure we don’t get in this bind again, and so I would like to see a resolution at a future meeting that sets aside money on a regular basis and a maintenance schedule to replace these meters.”
After the discussion, councilmembers David K. Leigh and Craig Pearson were not satisfied with the agreement. According to Leigh, although he saw the project as the highest quality solution to replacing Belton’s water meters, the plan was not the most sensible and practical.
“I believe we could have the same solution by doing a different approach,” Leigh said. “Their solution is the highest and best solution; I don’t necessarily know that it’s the most pragmatic solution, and total debt to the city is around $6 million, for nothing more than some savings. It’s a lot of debt to go into for new water meters.”
The item passed 5-2.
The council also hosted multiple public hearings on Tuesday. The first was the second public hearing for the bond issuance, which consists of a maximum principal amount of $9,995,000. The bond issue will pay, in part, a host of infrastructure needs funded by the Captial Improvements fund. These were presented by Public Works Director Mike Huber and include the water meter project, the expansion of the Temple-Belton Wastewater Treatment Plant, the construction of a South Belton sewer service and the Nolan Creek trunk sewer line improvements.
Two other public hearings went smoothly, not drawing any comments from the community. The first authorized a zoning change from agricultural to Commercial-1 Zoning District on a tract of land on Simmons Road. When the land was annexed into the city, it was automatically zoned agricultural. The applicant hopes to use the building on the property as a convenient store and sandwich shop. The second public hearing would replat a tract of land from one lot into two. Both items were passed unanimously.
One public hearing, however, drew many community members to the council meeting to voice their opinions. The council considered a zoning change of a recently annexed 133.421-acre tract of land from Agricultural to Single Family-3, which would allow for the construction of the Hibbard Branch subdivision. The land is located on Loop 121 along the north side of FM 436. Three locals opposed the zoning change, citing multiple concerns, including increased traffic, water and sewer lines, and pollution from construction.
“I want to thank those that came and spoke their mind about the development,” Leigh said. I think that’s a great thing. A lot of times, we don’t get that, and we appreciate your comments.”
City staff were able to alleviate most concerns by explaining plans to connect the subdivision to the city by extending the hike and bike trail, creating sidewalks to keep residents from walking on the highway or in the grass; conducting a traffic flow analysis to explore options of alleviating traffic; connecting the subdivision to city water and sewer lines; and enforcing state laws that prevent chemical and pollution runoff.
“I would also like to thank those that made comments,” Councilmember Craig Pearson said. “You put some things on our radar that will not be forgotten, and I hope we can make some progress in those areas.”
The item was approved 6-1 with Jerri Gauntt opposing.
The Belton City Council will reconvene April 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the Harris Community Center, 401 N. Alexander in Belton.