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City discusses resuming utility disconnections

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The San Marcos City Council discussed whether to resume disconnections and late fees for utilities, which have been suspended until the end of March due to the pandemic. Staff recommended resuming on July 1, 2021.

Councilmember Mark Gleason suggested resuming on Aug. 1, 2021 so that an estimated $2.5 million in Coronavirus Relief Funding might have enough time to become available to the city to assist customers with payments. 

“There is a large amount of money to help people,” Gleason said. “I want to have that program implemented and in place before we start these disconnects.”

Staff has been working with residents to provide 30, 60 and 90-day payment plans. They also plan on conducting robo calls and sending letters to alert residents of their options to enroll in payment plans before disconnects and late fees resume. 

Staff shared that there is an estimated $9.7 million outstanding in utility bills, however, only $4.2 million of that was accrued between January of 2020 to January of 2021. It was difficult to distinguish what portion of the outstanding bills was due to COVID-19 non payments. 

Councilmembers requested the exact cost of the delinquent payments to determine whether the CRF funds will be sufficient, before providing further direction.

There was a public hearing to consider adopting the Youth Program Standards of Care for 2021 which has to be approved annually prior to summer programming.

The city currently provides meals through San Marcos Consolidated ISD, and the councilmembers requested more information on the ways that the school district provides healthy choices.

“We could do better to exceed the state’s minimum expectations,” Councilmember Maxfield Baker said. “We all know the food pyramid is outdated.”

The city serves 325 children each week of the summer fun program, and utilizes SMCISD’s food program to help keep costs low.

Councilmembers indicated they did not want to pass along any increased costs of food options to families, and will instead wait to hear more about any options to allocate more funding and research ways they could provide higher quality meals with organic options, while keeping costs low.

“The school district does a great job on this,” said Gleason, who was not the only councilmember in that opinion.

There was also a staff presentation and public hearing during Tuesday's meeting for a zoning case to designate 200 West MLK Drive, the location of the Calaboose African American History Museum as a historical landmark.

“I don’t know why this wasn’t done sooner,” Mayor Jane Hughson said. 

The designation doesn’t change the zoning, and both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission recommended its approval unanimously. 

“We are delighted to know that the city is taking action to recognize the historical significance of this building,” Calaboose African American History Museum Board Member Ginger Salone said. “We are working hard to make sure we reach out into the community and recognize the legacy and contributions of this important part of San Marcos.”

In other business, on the second of two readings, city council approved the amendment to the City’s 2019-2020 Fiscal Year budget to allocate an additional $8.4 million from the general fund for economic development incentive payments. 

They also amended section 86.003 of the San Marcos City Code to require that both connections and extensions for City Water and Wastewater Service outside the City Limits be subject to approval by city council.

San Marcos Record

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