Expenses related to replacing a fleet of city electric utility trucks is forcing the City of Gonzales to solicit proposals to provide for the day to day operation and maintenance of the City electric utility.
The Gonzales City Council discussed the matter at length on Tuesday night at its regularly scheduled meeting, and it was apparent city leadership is concerned and uncertain about how to handle its utility after it discovered it might have to replace the electric utilities fleet of vehicles. The projected cost of bringing the vehicle fleet up to applicable safety standards is estimated at $700,000, money the city does not have. Discussion between the council members and employees of the electric utility was honest, open and civil with both the city and the employees trying to figure out a way to keep the employees on the payroll without having to go to contractors or some other alternative.
“This is a real issue confronting us,” said Mayor Connie Kacir. “There are some real financial issues involved here, and we have to do what is right for the taxpayers of Gonzales.
“But I can assure you we will do everything we can to look into all options to protect your jobs in one form or another,” Kacir told four of the seven utility employees in attendance. “We just don’t know what our options are at this time so we are exploring what those options might be, but we will definitely make sure you are kept in mind.”
“Please be careful and look at the numbers of what it would cost to run the department,” advised an employee of the electric utility. “We are here 24/7 to take care of the city, and we are there when contractors won’t be or will charge a high rate to take care of problems after hours. It’s a money-making venture for GVEC if you contract with them, and I ask that we be consulted on issues and the financial numbers. If the numbers don’t add up, I can accept that.”
Interim City Manager Tim Patek agreed to do just that.
“I have and I will keep this transparent with everyone as we get further into this,” Patek said. “I have communicated with everyone involved, and I will continue to do so as we move forward.”
Councilman Tommy Schurig praised the employees in a tribute to their work ethic.
“I have personal experience with these employees,” Schurig said. “During Hurricane Harvey our employees were out in the storm restoring power and keeping the power on in Gonzales, and I commend them for it.”
While the council voted to authorize Patek to look into proposals on how to operate the electric utility on a day to day basis, the financial issues confronting the city didn’t get any brighter when Patek informed the council that one of the water tanks the city has needs to be refurbished or replaced at a cost of $480,000 to $600,000.
“We need to do this in the next year or so, but it needs to be on your radar as this is an unbudgeted item,” Patek said.
Earlier in the night the city also had to consider the possibility of either buying a new sludge slinger truck at a cost of $160,000, or contract with Texas Disposal Systems for municipal solid waste collection, disposal and recycling for the wastewater treatment plant. After much discussion, council decided to contract with TDS for $1,900 per month to haul the sludge away up on an interim basis while the city and council mulls the long-term ramifications and numbers.
Recognizing some of the financial problems facing the city with regard to the electric utility, waste water treatment and water tank, the council unanimously passed a resolution authorizing Patek to solicit proposals from qualified firms or individuals to provide grant writing services.
“Hopefully, this will help us resolve some of our major issues talked about tonight—let’s get some grants!” stated councilman Schurig.