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Four places are up for election on the Granite Shoals City Council, but only one drew an opponent. Place 6 incumbent Phil Ort will face Catherine Bell on the May 4 ballot. Early voting runs April 22-30.

Unopposed incumbents who will serve another two years are Place 1 Councilor Brian Edwards, Place 2 Councilor Mike Pfister, and Place 4 Councilor Steve Hougen. asked each of the Place 6 candidates four questions, which were compiled by the editorial staff. Their written responses are below, grouped by question. Each also spoke to KBEY 103.9 FM Operations Manager Ben Shields. Their interviews will air at noon on Friday, April 19.


The city of Granite Shoals has generated a lot of negative headlines in the past two to three years, including city manager, mayoral, and council member turnovers and problems balancing the city budget in time for tax levies. What can you, as a member of the council, do to turn that around?

Phil Ort
Phil Ort

PHIL ORT: I believe the current council has the interests of our residents at heart and this should end the turmoil. Leaders, by definition, are type A personalities and when you get a group of type A’s together sometimes conflict arises. I and three other council members have backgrounds in business. This should help as the city needs to be run like a business. 

Catherine Bell
Catherine Bell

CATHERINE BELL: I will work with other council members and the city manager to ensure that the city’s business is handled professionally and positively. Morale in the city has changed for the better over the past several months. I believe the City has the right people in the right places to continue to move the City in a positive direction. My professional public service background has prepared me to understand budgets, planning, and finances. These are important skills for a member of the city council, which sets the city’s policies to be implemented by the city manager and city staff.  


How can the council rebuild confidence with residents who question the ability of city leadership to adequately manage the city’s finances?

ORT: Financially, the city is in dire straits. For years the city leaders have ignored the financial issues the city is facing. During last year’s budget meeting, Councilman Flack stated that the city’s finances are “unsustainable.” This is a point I’ve made for years and yet, every year the council kicks the can down the road and avoids making the hard choices required to put the city on a sustainable path. 

Every year, the city takes 90 percent of the money that the residents have paid for upgrades and repairs to our water system to pay for the massive costs of salaries, benefits, and equipment. The total costs of the city’s personnel, benefits, and equipment exceed the amount of tax dollars that the city receives so the city neglects the water system to pay the difference. 

If you’ve ever wondered why our water is the way it is, now you know. The money that the city takes from the water department should be going to improve our water system. Now, to do that, we have to get bonds for any major repairs. This is essentially charging the residents twice for any water system upgrades or repairs. I am devoted toward treating the city’s financials as a business rather than the current spending.

BELL: I believe it will take time with the changes that have been made so far and the citizens will see this and begin to feel the change. It is important that city council members act with transparency and professionalism rather than grandstanding.  


What can the city do immediately to improve the condition of the roadways and the water system? What does the future hold in terms of a wastewater system?

ORT: To “immediately,” improve the roads and water would require trimming the huge financial burden the city has due to our massive personnel expenditures. This pipe dream of attracting businesses to Granite Shoals is a fantasy that might make a difference in 10 years but it will not happen soon enough to save the city’s eroding infrastructure. 

As for the water system, if the city didn’t take 90 percent of the money from the water system, the water system could be “immediately” repaired. Unfortunately, that would require trimming our departments to the average amount of employees for a city our size and no one seems to have the courage to do this. 

If the city allocated $1 million a year for the roads it would take 22 years to pave them all and obviously, we need more than that each year to make a difference. Last budget cycle, the council had to raise the tax rate to the upper limit that we could and still avoid a mandatory vote just so we could pay the remaining $500,000 to pave Kings Circle. This spending must end and the city must live within its means in order for our city to stop the rapid decline of our infrastructure. 

BELL: Economic development is the answer to improving the city’s road and water infrastructure, but the city should look at financing options to determine if shorter-term solutions are available. We also need to continue to increase the road paving budget.   

All reports indicate that the city’s water system produces safe drinking water for its citizens. My understanding is that the city’s staff is currently taking steps to further improve the drinking water testing protocols. These steps will allow the city to test water weekly instead of just the quarterly tests currently required by TCEQ. As a council member, I will make it a priority to stay on top of this. The city needs to continue to seek grants to improve water distribution lines.

I support efforts to provide sewer service in the 1431 corridor which will drive business and economic development to the city. This is an expensive endeavor that will likely require partnering with other public entities, and private partners, and seeking grants to help move this project forward.  


What will be your top priority as a member of the City Council? 

ORT: My “Top Priority,” is to protect the property rights of our residents from any draconian or HOA-style restrictions or ordinances. There are many who want to turn Granite Shoals into another Austin or pass HOA-style rules to mold our city into their vision. This is not what the majority of the people in Granite Shoals want. Property rights are absolute in my opinion and they are not open for negotiation. I view it as my duty to protect those rights.

BELL: To listen to the citizens and their concerns. Further, I want to bring economic development to the city, which will help fund the roads, water, and other infrastructure needs.