Marble Falls Mayor Dave Rhodes (left) and Finance Director Jeff Lazenby were part of a delegation that met with residents of Capstone Ranch on Sept. 13 to discuss the city’s purchase of the neighborhood’s groundwater system. Staff photo by Nathan Bush
Rate increases and a lack of communication topped a list of issues for Capstone Ranch residents when they met with Marble Falls officials on Sept. 13 to discuss the city’s $7 million purchase of the neighborhood’s groundwater system.
Seventeen of the 27 households in Capstone Ranch attended the informal meeting with a city delegation made up Mayor Dave Rhodes, Finance Director Jeff Lazenby, and Assistant City Manager Russell Sander.
The city set up the event despite an earlier public statement by Rhodes that nothing said would change the the Sept. 5 decision to buy the system.
The mayor was just as straightforward on Sept. 13.
“I think we can satisfactorily answer every one of your questions, but your water rates are going to change,” Rhodes said. “I’m not going to fib about that. It’s just the way it is.”
Lazenby handed out rate sheets to residents to show how much rates will increase over time.
“Setting a premium for outside city customers is an industry standard,” he said. “You see that across the nation.”
Water rates for Capstone Ranch residents, who reside outside of Marble Falls city limits, will increase from 1.15 times the inside-the-city rate in 2023 to 1.35 times the inside-the-city rate by 2025. Residents will begin paying the new rate once the sale of the system is complete, Assistant City Manager Sander told the group.
“We’re not just going to change (the rates) right away,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s fair and that it’s something you have notice of.”
Residents were also concerned by what they saw as a lack of communication from the city.
“We feel like something was trying to slip through without people knowing about it,” resident Cindy Keschinger said during the meeting. “That’s the feeling. Nobody came to the residents and asked us anything.”
When another resident inquired if the city had ever notified households of the purchase, the city’s response was succinct.
“Not directly,” Rhodes and Sander said in unison.
Residents also wanted to know why the city opted to purchase the system as opposed to drilling its own well.
“It’s just pure economics,” Rhodes replied. “It’s there. It’s proven.”
Other questions, including the well’s planned capacity and potential infrastructure upgrades, could not be answered, residents were told, but details would be available once an engineering firm is hired.
“We’re probably at least a year in discussions and preliminary engineering to decide what the heck we’re going to do with it,” Rhodes said. “That’s probably ambitious.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Keschinger requested an apology from Rhodes regarding comments he made at the Sept. 5 meeting in which the mayor said he was “disappointed” with the residents’ decision to protest the sale of the water system.
“You really kind of villainized the residents,” she said. “We were disappointed in that.”
Rhodes explained his reasoning for the comments and demonstrated regret for his depiction.
“My hope and desire would be that you would have made a phone call to the city saying, ‘We need to have this meeting now,’” he said. “That didn’t happen. … My intention was never to offend. I appreciate you bringing it up.”
The Capstone Ranch system could increase the city’s water capacity by about 720,000 gallons a day, which is half of what the city treats out of Lake Marble Falls.