The city of Burnet is offering a little relief to residents facing high February water bills due to the winter storm.
The extreme weather last month forced residents to drip faucets over several days and caused pipe breaks and leaks, leading to an increased water use.
After a presentation by Assistant City Manager Habib Erkan Jr. at a March 9 meeting, the City Council approved a resolution that will:
- adjust the sewer re-average to drop February 2021
- issue credits to offset impact from leaks
- waive late penalties for the February 2021 billing cycle
Habib explained that the city uses the months of December, January, and February to calculate the sewer average. Water use is typically at its lowest during those months. Dropping February 2021 from the average will eliminate the higher use caused by residents dripping faucets to prevent freezing and water leaks from broken pipes, he said.
City Manager David Vaughn told the council that the city has been receiving calls from residents on how water leaks would raise their utility bills. He pointed out that the assistance the city is offering would have little impact on its budget.
“We fully believe it’s the right thing to do,” Vaughn said during the meeting.
With the passage of the resolution, the city will begin adjusting bills if there are abnormal discrepancies. If residents still receive a bill that has risen significantly, they should contact the Utility Department at 512-756-6093 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vaughn said residents won’t likely see higher-than-normal electric bills. He told the council that overall average electricity use only went up 14 percent in February.
Vaughn added that if a resident gets a high electric bill, the city could work out a payment plan to cover the overage.
Following the February storm, the city conducted a survey of staff and residents to see what it could do better. One of the biggest areas for improvement, Vaughn said, is road maintenance during severe storms.
He said the city will look into purchasing special equipment for vehicles to better spread sand on icy and snow-covered roads as well as other treatments for similar to what the Texas Department of Transportation uses.
The city could also improve its after-hours phone service. Vaughn noted that city crews were taking so many phone calls about power outages, it sometimes kept them from working on the actual problem.
Communication is another area that could use fine tuning, Vaughn said. Burnet uses a Code Red system to send alerts to residents. During the storm, residents were inundated with alerts, many of which did not affect them. Vaughn said the system could be tweaked to better target affected areas.
All in all, Vaughn said, city crews did an outstanding job responding to the winter storm, but “we can always do better.”