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Kilgore council postpones water deal

By Richard Yeakley
June 10, 2014 at 10 p.m.

KILGORE - Concern from the body's two newest members prompted the Kilgore City Council to postpone a vote Tuesday to buy water from Longview and provide water to an I-20 industrial park.

At the recommendation of Councilman Harvey McClendon, the council agreed to meet June 19 for a workshop on the proposal and then vote again at the next council meeting June 24.

"Could we not come back … and meet again for a workshop on this alone with information from Longview and KEDC? ... I am for it, but at this point after working on it for 2 or 2 years, I don't see the ultimate urgency in doing it today as opposed to doing it two weeks from today if there is some hesitancy," McClendon said after a lengthy discussion about the proposal.

Councilwomen Lori Weatherford and Merlyn Holmes said they had too many questions to allow them to vote for the wide-reaching proposal. The plan would include Longview giving up land south of the Sabine River, making Kilgore a customer of Longview water and allowing Kilgore to serve the River Bend Business Center and Industrial Park at Texas 31 and Interstate 20.

The women were elected in May.

"If I vote on it tonight, I am going to vote no, just because I don't have all these things answered, and I don't want to vote no," Weatherford said.

After a Kilgore resident was not allowed to speak on the issue during the meeting, Weatherford said it is important that the workshop scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on June 19 let residents voice their opinions on the deal.

"If we are going to do the workshop, make sure that people know about it and make sure that people know they can actually come and actually converse with us," Weatherford said.

She said she supports the measure but needs more information for herself and Kilgore residents.

Holmes voiced the greatest caution about the project.

"Because we are new, we are not privy to all this past information … and I am not seeing it on paper, and I do not have the warm and fuzzies. I want to see it … I need to know that I feel good about it, and right now I am not feeling good about it. I just have too many questions," Holmes said.

She added during discussion that she felt she was getting the proposal "piecemeal" and was concerned the about $7.4 million project, which may be paid for without raising taxes, could lead to other expenditures, including revamping the wastewater treatment facility.

Councilman Neil Barr and Mayor Ronnie Spradlin voiced their support of the measure and warned that they did not want to be a City Council that let the opportunity pass them by.

The plan, in addition to providing developable land and more property taxes, could help protect Kilgore's water interests. About 6 million gallons of Kilgore's 10 million gallons per day capacity come from the Sabine River, and another 4 million come from a water well field several miles outside the city.

A water model done by the city showed the 13,000-resident town could run out of water when the population reached 25,000.

The city would have to purchase a certificate of convenience and necessity - which allows a municipality to provide water - from the Liberty City Water Supply Corporation. The city would then lay a pipe to transport water from the city of Longview into its own system.

The proposed contract calls for Kilgore to be able to purchase up to 2 million gallons per day; however, City Manager Scott Sellers, who presented the plan Tuesday, said the city was planning to begin by drawing about 100,000 gallons a day.

The Longview City Council will consider the proposal when it meets Thursday, and the Kilgore Economic Development Corp. will consider helping to fund the project Tuesday.

In other business, Weatherford was chosen as the council representative to the Hotel Occupancy Tax Advisory Board, and Holmes was named to the Main Street Advisory Board.

The City Council also interviewed seven candidates for two seats on the Planning and Zoning Board.



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