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White Oak ponders future water needs

By Jimmy Isaac
Jan. 10, 2017 at 11:16 p.m.

White Oak City Council welcomed more jobs, a new fire chief, land donated for a mountain bike park and a way to save stray cats' lives.

A discussion with no vote, however, might affect the city's water needs for several decades.

At a council meeting Tuesday at City Hall, City Coordinator Charlie Smith said he will apply for a Texas Water Development Board loan. If approved, the city could borrow as much as $5.2 million to relocate its raw water intake lines.

Smith's idea — replacing White Oak's 15-mile connection to Big Sandy Creek for raw water with a new connection to the Sabine River 2 miles away — also could affect the city's future water needs and its water agreement with neighboring Longview.

If White Oak received a loan, the city would have 18 months until the deadline to spend it, Smith said. That would give the city time to study its water needs and options. The options include switching to the nearby Sabine or contracting with the city of Longview to buy its water.

White Oak has connections with Longview's system, but it buys Longview's water when needed at 13.5 cents per 1,000 gallons. White Oak water usage reaches 3 million gallons a day during peak summer months, and, as it tries to meet a growing population, Smith said wells won't solve the city's needs, especially when the creek's water levels are low.

"If things really got bad at Big Sandy Creek, we would be at Longview's mercy," Smith said.

Council members OK'd Smith's loan application. Place 4 Alderman Greg Hulett, who OK'd the application, also told Smith he believes Big Sandy Creek water quality is better than the Sabine River.

"I just think we have really good quality water right now, and I attribute that to where we get it from," Hulett said. "I think that will all change if you start pumping it out of the Sabine."

Jobs, tax revenue

The city approved White Oak Economic Development Corp.'s incentive agreement with Dallas-based Pinnacle Coatings Group.

Under the terms, Pinnacle agreed to maintain a plant on U.S. 80 in White Oak with three jobs this year, four jobs next year and five jobs in 2019 and 2020. It also will locate $100,000 more taxable equipment at the plant. In exchange, the economic development agency will reimburse $50,000 of the equipment purchase.

"They're a really good company, and they're going to bring a lot of taxable inventory into the city of White Oak and jobs," said Hulett, who abstained from the vote because he does business with Pinnacle.

City Hall welcomed and applauded Bill McBride, who on Monday was picked as White Oak Volunteer Fire Department's new chief.

McBride worked 33 years in firefighting for the community, serving as interim chief in 2012. He said there are no plans for changes, but with 26 volunteers, he wants to boost membership to the maximum 30 firefighters.

The city accepted about five acres of land donated from resident Pat Davis, and Smith said the property's terrain appears ideal for mountain biking.

The land isn't developable because of oilfield equipment and abandoned wells, Smith said. He's talked with bike enthusiasts who could be interested in providing youth mountain bike training.

White Oak also implanted a trap, neuter and release program into its animal ordinance.

The city can capture feral cats, have them neutered, then released into the community, rather than take them to Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center.

With fees of between $45 and $55 for neutering, Mayor Kyle Kutch said that's less expensive than paying the city of Longview $114 to drop off a cat.

Hulett said the trap and release program also gives feral cats greater survival chances than the Longview animal shelter, whether euthanasia is possible during animal overcrowding.



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