New Braunfels City Council members on Monday unanimously approved New Braunfels Utilities’ request for a three-year plan of water, wastewater and electric rate increases.
NBU Chief Executive Officer Ian Taylor told council members that the rate increase plan is essential to meet the capital improvement requirements to make significant upgrades to the city’s aging water and wastewater infrastructure, add capacity to meet growth requirements and secure new water sources.
Council members took separate votes on the water, wastewater and electric rate requests.
For those of us who call New Braunfels home, we have seen tremendous change in recent years.…
Taylor added that the three-year rate plan would allow NBU to return to regulatory compliance with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality by meeting the physical infrastructure requirements to deliver safe and reliable water.
“Growth has consumed capacity in our infrastructure and causes the compliance issue that we’re in right now,” Taylor said. “The compliance issue is something that we have no choice for. These rates are driven in large part by the capital program, whether it be in compliance with regulations or replacing aging infrastructure. These are for things that we have no choice. We’re not building these projects because we want to. We’re building these projects because we must.”
The NBU board of trustees approved the three-year rate plan to help fund the costs of 122 capital improvement projects currently in design or are in progress for fiscal years 2021 – 2025.
NBU has committed to more than $563 million in capital improvement projects in its five-year operating plan.
Tayor has also told council members that the proposed rate increases would help protect NBU’s bond rating, which is important when securing capital at the lowest interest rate, while at the same time maintain compliance with the utility’s financial policy and meet the major credit rating agencies criteria for affordable cost and recovery.
During a city council workshop last week, Taylor told council members the three-year water rate plan would increase water rates by 7% in fiscal year 2021, effective Nov. 1, 8% in fiscal year 2022, and 8% in fiscal year 2023.
The water supply fee charged per thousand gallons of usage will increase to $1.05 in 2021, $2.49 in 2022 and $2.79 in 2023. Residential customers using 7,500 gallons or less water each month will have the water supply fee removed from their bills.
New Braunfels Utilities’ wastewater capital plan adds pipeline capacity to prevent sewers from overflowing and treatment capacity to ensure water discharged to the Guadalupe River will protect water quality. Proposed wastewater rate increases will align with the water rate increase three-year schedule. In fiscal year 2021, customers would see a 16.5% increase, a 13% increase in fiscal year 2022 and a 13% increase in fiscal year 2023.
The last component of the proposed three-year rate plan includes electric rates. The average electric bill comprises generation, transmission, delivery, power cost recovery factor and customer charge costs. Only the delivery and customer charges will see rate increases.
Proposed electric delivery and customer charge increases would take effect in fiscal year 2022 and increase by 5% and increase 10% in fiscal year 2023. However, the overall impact on a customer’s electric bill for fiscal year 2022 would be 1.3 percent and 2.6 percent in 2023.
In addition to the NBU Utility Bill Assistance Program, a discount program was developed to help qualified low-income customers who need help managing their utility bills.
Also, NBU plans to roll out a comprehensive utility management plan in March with a specific focus on high use customers and conservation strategies for all users.
“We don’t take rate increases lightly,” Councilmember Harry Bowers. “But we’ve got to provide the infrastructure, be in TECQ compliance and plan for the future.”
Council members also emphasized the need to conserve resources as much as possible.
A second and final reading of the proposal will go before the council on Oct. 26.
Interim police chief appointed
Council members unanimously voted to confirm City Manager Robert Camareno’s choice of Keith Lane as interim police chief for the New Braunfels Police Department.
“State statute in our city charter authorizes me to appoint an interim police chief,” Camareno said. “However, that appointment does need to be confirmed by the city council.”
Lane recently retired as city manager in Haltom City, a suburb of Fort Worth.
Prior to that, Lane was a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, starting in Keller and ending up as police chief in Haltom City before the city manager appointment.
He is a graduate of Texas State University.
Camareno added that Lane maintains ties with New Braunfels as family members were part of the settlers that came from Germany to the city in 1845.
In making a selection for interim police chief, Camareno said he had conducted interviews with multiple candidates provided by Strategic Government Resources, a recruitment firm.
Mayor Rusty Brockman swore Lane into office immediately following the council vote.
Also, council members issued proclamations recognizing Living Legends, Chamber Week, Chiropractic Health Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
In other action
During Monday’s meeting, council members:
• Approved a resolution recommended by the New Braunfels Economic Development Corporation, approving a project expenditure of up to $1.5 million for the construction and realignment of Elizabeth Avenue from Landa Park Drive to Hinman Island Drive in Landa Park, and approving the issuance of an invitation for competitive sealed proposals.
• Approved a $2 million contract with Dean Word Company, Ltd for construction of the Lakeview Boulevard Street and Sidewalk Project, a $155,900 contract amendment with HMT Engineering for additional services, including construction administration, and a purchase order with Terracon to provide materials testing services, as part of the 2019 Bond Citywide Street Project.
• Approved an amendment to the purchasing policy allowing for the receipt of bids and proposal through electronic transmission, and to adopt rules to ensure the identification, security, and confidentiality of such bids and proposals and to ensure that such bids and proposals remain effectively unopened until the proper time.
• Approved the issuance of an invitation for competitive sealed proposals on the Westside Library Project as part of the 2019 Bond Program.
• Authorized the city manager to negotiate and execute an agreement with the McKenna Foundation for the administration of the COVID-19 Nonprofit Business Interruption Grant Program.
• Authorized the city manager to execute an interlocal agreement with the cities of San Marcos and Seguin and Texas State University for mutual aid with information technology service in response to emergencies.
• Approved the first reading of an ordinance amending the existing freight loading zone on West San Antonio Street near the Brauntex Theatre to reclassify it as a passenger loading zone.
• Approved the first reading of an ordinance to combine a portion of Parking by Permit Area J with Parking by Permit Area B and combine Parking by Permit Area F and a portion of Parking by Permit Area J into existing Parking by Permit Area C.
• Approved the second and final reading of an amended ordinance in Ch. 2, Sections 2-1 to 2-4, removing references relating to employees.
• Approved the appointment of Mary Ann Carter, Andres Campos-Delgado and April Rodgers to the Building Standards Commission for terms ending Oct. 26, 2022.
• Approved 6-1, with Councilmember Matthew Hoyt in opposition, the second and final reading of an ordinance regarding a proposed rezoning to apply a special use permit to allow the short term rental of a single-family dwelling in the “C-1” Local Business District addressed at 430 Landa St.
• Approved 6-1, with Hoyt in opposition, the second and final reading of an ordinance regarding a proposed rezoning to apply a special use permit to allow the short term rental of a single-family dwelling in the C-2 Central Business District, addressed at 212 E. Zink St.
• Approved 6-1, with Hoyt in opposition, the second and final reading of an ordinance regarding a proposed rezoning to apply a special use permit to allow an existing residence to operate as a bed and breakfast in the R-2 single and two-family district addressed at 522 Cross River St.
Editor's note: A paragraph on the water supply fee was changed to reflect the increase would rise to $1.05 in 2021, instead of by $1.05.