Natural gas contract will cause higher monthly bill

City of Brady utility customers who use high volumes of natural gas could be in for quite a shock when they get their next monthly bill. With the approval of a new contract with West Texas Gas (WTG) Wednesday, Brady residents will now be paying nearly one third more for the cost for each unit of natural gas used. The Brady City Council voted Wednesday to enter into a two-year contract with West Texas Gas Marketing Company basing their purchase price of natural gas on an industry standard index price plus $2.49 per unit. An additional $2 surcharge will be added on to cover overhead for the City of Brady. With current index pricing set at approximately $5.36, the cost Brady customers will realize beginning next month will be approximately $9.85 per billing unit. The City of Brady had a seven-year contract with WTG that expired July 31. That contract provided gas to the city of Brady at a cost of $5.13 per unit. Customers were being charged one additional dollar for overhead. When the end of the contract was near, city officials sent out bid requests for new contracts. WTG submitted the only bid. In that bid, several options were given as requested in the bid specifications. Those bids as submitted included a fixed price for one, two and three year terms and a price based upon an industry standard index price for terms of one, two and three years. Syd Falk, a consulting attorney from Bickerstaff-Heath and Associates in Austin spoke with the council during a one-hour executive session. After returning to open session, he explained to the audience the options the city was faced with in regards to the available contracts and the council made a recommendation. “With the information presented to us and the options we have, I recommend the council sign a two-year contract with WTG based upon the index price system,” said Councilman Donald Barley. Some discussion was brought up by Councilman Richard Webb as to which utility customers would have to pay the price difference if the projected monthly gas totals were exceeded. As the contract reads, any amount used above the projected demand will be charged at a different index rate that will reflect the costs more closely associated with daily distribution costs of WTG. “I don’t feel I as a gas customer should have to pay more for the gas if I only use a small amount,” said Webb. “If my neighbor is the one using a high volume, then they should be responsible for the extra charges.” Barley also asked of the city’s capabilities to ensure correct and fair billing based upon usage. According to City Manager Merle Taylor, the city’s billing software is capable of distributing any cost overruns to applicable customers as a percentage of usage. “If you use more, you will pay more. If you use less, you will pay less,” said Taylor. Webb and Councilman Rey Garza each voiced their opposition to the decision but the vote on Barley’s motion carried 3-2. Kirk Roddie and Rodney Behrens of Roddie Wool Scouring Co. were on hand to hear the decision. The wool scouring plant is the highest volume commercial customer in the city. “Our gas costs alone over the past year have increased from $14,000 to more than $40,000,” said Roddie. “If the costs go even higher, it is going to make staying in business very difficult.” In other business conducted during Wednesday’s meeting, the council set the tax rate at 2.49 cents per $100 valuation. The adopted rate is lower than the previous year’s rate of 2.89 cents. “The homes in Brady were appraised at a higher rate this year, so it does not require as high a rate to raise the budgeted amount,” said Mayor Clarence Friar. “I believe the budget that was adopted can be met without adding any additional money that would be brought in by keeping the taxes at the old rate.” A project four years in the planning got the go-ahead from the council Wednesday with the awarding of a $1.89 million bid to Allen Keller Construction of Fredericksburg to add an additional 400 feet to the existing runway at Curtis Field Airport. The project will also add a parallel taxiway and will also resurface the entire runway to accommodate heavier aircraft. Chris Whitfield with KSA Engineering in Longview, attended Wednesday’s meeting and gave the council the recommendation of which bid to accept. “Based upon our specifications as written in the bid requests and after reviewing all of the bids submitted, KSA recommends that the council accept the bid from Allen Keller, which happens to be the lowest bid submitted.” Initially projected to be a $2.6 million project, the 90/10 Texas Department of Transportation project grant will be completed for $1,897,759 reducing the city’s cost by more than $70,000. “Everything this project will do is designed to increase the airport’s safety,” said Joe Mosier, Curtis Field manager. “This project will allow heavier planes to use our runway and it will eliminate having to backtaxi prior to takeoff.” The length of the new runway will be 4,600 feet. The project is estimated to begin within the next two months and once started has a completion deadline of 180 days or six months. The council also voted during Wednesday’s meeting to postpone the Sept. 13 special election concerning the no-smoking ordinance. The election was postponed based upon the recommendation of the city attorney due to not having all of the required paperwork submitted in time. The election will be rescheduled in November. The council approved a request made by the Brady Volunteer Fire Department to modify two of its trucks as part of an effort to revamp and improve the reliability and usefulness of their fleet. VFD President Roy Horne addressed the council and updated them on why the request was being made and also that the department was in the process of raising funds to pay for its share of a $108,000 90/10 Texas Forest Service grant for a new fire truck. “This is just part of the department’s efforts to maximize the effectiveness and capabilities of the trucks we have,” said Horne. The council approved the request and voiced their support of the VFD members and their efforts to improve the quality and capabilities of the fleet. In his summary of the activities going on around the city, the city manager stated that work was being done on several well sites in preparation for the water treatment plant. He also stated that cleanup efforts are being made in preparation for the Labor Day weekend and that the public pool will be closing Sunday with the exception of several private parties.

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