City Council hires development company; discusses utilities

by Charles Gerian

The Blackwell City Council met Tuesday, July 2 to enter into an economic development retail agreement with the Woodmont Land Company in order to develop business in Blackwell. 
Based out of Fort Worth, Texas, Woodmont owns over 105 economic real estate plots in central Texas.

It also owns 10 plots between Stillwater, OK, Ponca City, OK, and the surrounding areas. 
The meeting began shortly after 6 p.m. It started with the approval of Ordinance 2019-13, which will increase rates for solid waste collection and disposal by 4.1 percent. It includes a 2 percent pass-through increase from the waste collection and disposal contractor, Davis Sanitation.

The item had been discussed at the last Council meeting. City Attorney Bryce Kennedy said there was “nothing different” about the ordinance, saying that it officially adds the increase to the municipal codes so that the public can easily view the rate increases. 
It is estimated the increases will boost city revenue by $234,000 according to Mayor T.J. Greenfield.

Similarly, the Council approved the 2.1 percent rate increases for wastewater, electrical, and water services. 
Like the previous ordinance, this ordinance does not change the increases from last month; it merely adds them to the city's publicly-available codes adjustments directory.

Moving onto the next agenda item, the Council debated Ordinance 2019-17, which would make “all municipal utility rates annually subject to increase or decrease in the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers, providing for an automatic increase or decrease in all municipal utility rates, to become effective on each successive July 1, based on the increase or decrease in the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers in the south region for March 1.”
Kennedy said, “In an effort to be transparent, in the future, if you pass this [ordinance], the rates will go up or down based on the Consumer Price Index.”

The CPI is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market “basket” of consumer goods and services.
“It's a way to let the administration know of what they're going to have to work with,” said Kennedy. 
Council members discussed the measure, but they remained cautious of the “automatic” adjustments.

Councilman Jon Webb said he would rather discuss rate increases instead of having them automatically adjusted. 
The matter was ultimately tabled, and it will be reconsidered at the next meeting. 
Next, the Council approved a contract with Downey Contracting, LLC for emergency sewer-line realignment. 
The next item was the approval of a request for funding from the Blackwell Chamber of Commerce.

The request was for $4,150 to be paid from the Community Enhancement Fund.

The money would go to: the Fourth of July Parade, Leadership Blackwell, the Christmas parade, the Children's Christmas Store, the Blackwell High School Homecoming reception and parade, the Farmer's Appreciation Banquet, the Blackwell High School Student of the Month Scholarship, the Teacher Appreciation Breakfast, and the Kay County Free Fair. 

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Robertson took the stand to speak to the Council about the request.
Greenfield commented before the Council moved to approve the item that he had additional information.

“These are all great projects that the Chamber does … but a couple of these actually don't cost anything. There's only one on here that truly costs, and that would be the scholarships for high school students. The rest of these are mostly donations and funds coming in from members of the Chamber and community. A majority of this doesn't actually cost the Chamber,” said Greenfield. 
Robertson disagreed. 

“That comes directly out of our budget. Every one of these items, we spend money on,” Robertson said. 
“I have the budget that you prepared right here,” Greenfield replied.

“We can go item-by-item if you want.” 

Robertson said that they were “benevolent” projects that came with expenses. Greenfield replied that the budget which was prepared “says otherwise.”

Robertson fielded more questions from the Council, and the item was ultimately approved. 
Item G, which was the purchase of a “Community Events” electronic billboard for $12,500 for the Chamber of Commerce, was tabled. The Council then went into executive session for under an hour. After reconvening in open session, the Woodmont Land Company was approved to develop in Blackwell.