By Dennis Thompson
ANNETTA — Most people in the United States take water for granted. But for those of us who have lived in Texas longer than a year or two, we know that water is a precious commodity. We’ve been through the years of drought, and we know that we are likely to face another hot, dry summer.
One of the main reasons we moved to Parker County was the wide-open spaces and the beautiful trees. We wanted a home in an established neighborhood with mature trees and a big yard.But in the past two years, we’ve lost a number of trees, and we’ve had to learn about drought-resistant plants just to keep something growing in our front flower bed.
It was my growing concern over our water that compelled me to volunteer for the Water Advisory Committee. My experience in that process only reinforced how very important Water really is to all of us.
The Annetta Water Advisory Committee was created to advise the council on “all areas and issues surrounding water and water rights” according to the ordinance adopted by the council in March 2012. During the nine months I chaired the Water Advisory Committee, the members and I looked at every aspect of the water system, carefully analyzed historical data regarding water usage, revenue and expenses, studied the operation of the system and worked to develop a set of comprehensive recommendations for the city council.
We were fortunate to have folks on the Advisory Committee with expertise in engineering, accounting, finance, legal and regulatory matters. The professional staff at Hudson Oaks, who have managed the system since it was purchased from Willow Park in 2010, also provided invaluable assistance in helping the committee understand the operation of the system. Annetta’s water engineer, Victoria Harkins, also provided a great deal of assistance.
During that same time period, a number of families who are customers of the water system, but not residents of the city, stepped forward to ask to be annexed into the city, so that they would have more input into how their water system is managed. As has been reported, the petition signed by more than 500 local residents was presented to the city council two times, but the motion to move forward with public hearings on the issue died twice for lack of a second.
The Water Advisory Committee presented its recommendations to the council on Jan. 17. The most significant aspect of that report was the committee’s unanimous recommendation that the current contract with Hudson Oaks remain in place, and a new contract be negotiated for two more years.
This was because our conservative projections showed that staying with Hudson Oaks would likely result in a surplus of $70,000 to the water system this year, versus a $4,000 loss in just the first year if Annetta had to hire personnel and manage the system in-house.
As is fairly well known, Councilman Larry Wood moved that night to remove me and another member, Traci Fambrough, from the committee. This decision seemed to be largely motivated over unhappiness regarding the annexation issue. With the objection of Councilman Chuck Sheridan, Wood’s motion was approved.
Whether we all have water – and whether we have a say in how our water system is managed – doesn’t just determine whether our trees will live or die. It directly impacts the value of our homes, the quality of our lives and the future of our community.
If we manage our water well, our property values will increase, we will be able to water our lawns and take care of our landscaping. Our community will thrive. If we do a poor job with our water resources, we will see many more years of water restrictions, an inability to pay off the debt associated with our water system and eventually the need for taxes as a result of poorly managed public resources.
Unfortunately, the majority of current council members have done nothing to secure an extended contract with Hudson Oaks and they seem to be working quickly toward moving the operation of the system in-house. Clearly, Annetta is not in a position to take over the operation of the system at this time.
Needless to say, this deeply concerns me, and it concerns many of my friends and neighbors. As I’ve said, our water is a precious commodity. We cannot afford to mismanage it or play politics with it. Time is of the essence. I hope people are paying attention, or there will be a big price to pay. A vote for Mayor Bruce Pinckard, Councilman Chuck Sheridan, Kent Stacey and George Ripley will keep us on the right track.