Olney enters agreement to assist in Megargel water plant
Both Megargel and Olney city councils agreed to an Interlocal Agreement this week for Olney to assist with water and wastewater operations in Megargel.
The agreement will restore a portion of Megargel’s water operations while they continue to purchase water from Baylor Water Supply Corporation (BWSC).
Like many in the region, Megargel was heavily affected by the recent drought and since has continued to struggle.
Water rates have increased throughout the region, and Megargel City Council was left with no choice but to follow suit. To keep Megargel afloat, the base water rate was increased from $29 to $49 and the base sewer rate increased from $26 to $46. Both base rates no longer include the first 2,000 gallons.
Water and sewer rates in Megargel have been slow to change with only two increases in the last decade. The most recent increase was in June 2014, with a $5 raise to base rates for both water and sewer—which still included the first 2,000 gallons.
In July 2012, Megargel saw a $4 increase in base water, a $3 increase to the base sewer and $1 increases in the per-thousand rates.
The average customer purchasing 6,000 gallons of water in 2007 paid $71 including sewer and until this summer, the same customer was paying $94. Under the new rate, the same customer now pays $164.
The rate increase hit the citizens of Megargel hard and community complaints put enormous pressure on Megargel City Council.
In September, due to the response, two council members, the city secretary/administrator and all three employees in the water and wastewater department resigned.
During that time, then-Mayor Zach Baker was unavailable much of the time due to his work commitment. He returned to Megargel in the middle of September to address the resignations and two new members were appointed to the council.
U.S. Water Services Corporation (USW) was hired as a temporary emergency fix for running operations at the water and wastewater plant until a more permanent solution could be found. The council members continued to work to find a more affordable contract and worked with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. On October 26, USW was released from their emergency contract and Megargel switched to BWSC.
At the November 14 council meeting, Baker submitted his resignation via email and informed the community that he was moving to Oklahoma to continue his work. The council chose not to appoint a new mayor at that time, and two days later the Mayor Pro Tem submitted his resignation.
The Megargel City Office contacted Olney City Hall to ask for assistance and was met with a quick response by Olney City Secretary, Tim Houston and Public Works Director, K.C. Blassingame, who quickly met with newly appointed City Secretary for Megargel, Anne McQueen, to discuss a possible interlocal agreement to provide manpower for the Megargel water plant.
The agreement between the two cities is for 30 days with two optional 30-day extensions and a 10-day notice for terminating the agreement. According to Olney Mayor Pro Tem, Tom Parker, the work performed in Megargel will be done after hours and will not take employees away or hinder work done in Olney.
Olney’s employees will travel to Megargel daily to perform chlorine blending, monitor the water and wastewater systems and take required samples. According to the agreement, Megargel will bear the full burden of cost associated with the agreement including drive-time pay, mileage, supplies and equipment, and overtime pay for Olney employees while they are maintaining the Megargel plant.
According to Houston, the Texas Municipal League, an organization that provides legal representation and insurance for municipalities, acknowledged the agreement and stated that Olney’s employees and the work they perform would continue to be covered while working in Megargel.