A lot has happened over the past year and a half that has made it necessary to increase revenue at the Flying L PUD. The PUD has not raised usage rates or tax rates in over 3 years. The water rates are some of the lowest in the Hill Country and although we have resisted raising anything in the past, it is now necessary. Beginning March 1st, there will be an increase of $10 per connection on your bill.
The expenses at the PUD can be classified in three categories. Costs associated with an aging system, getting caught up on overdue maintenance and compliance issues with the state.
Our Aging System
Seems like there is always something that needs repair but recently we have had several costly failures. A check valve controlling flow to residents failed. Two electronic components or the brains behind water distribution to our homes failed. Luckily, there are back ups in place while repairs are being made. In December we discovered a sewer line between Oak Hills and Bottle Springs Road has collapsed and needs to be replaced. Then at our sewer plant last week we had a fire in the main electrical high voltage panel as well as one of the two effluent pump motors failed, along with other smaller things. Repairs for the above have been in excess of $70,000.
During 2021 a major expense was incurred to bring all fire hydrants up to compliance, replacing or rebuilding 9 and inspecting the others. This alone was $63,000. There were multiple valve replacements done throughout the ranch, because they had not been exercised or maintained. Some of these were in the ground to manage the water distribution but several were needed at the sewer and water plant. In March of 21, a TCEQ investigation of our sewer facility pointed out many deficiencies. The entire plant had to be vacuumed out and hauled off. 8 vales were replaced, a blower motor and electric panel repairs were done. This work from last year was in excess of $100,000 on top of the expense of the hydrants mentioned above.
Although not a major expense, much has been done to improve the quality of water. A significant improvement was achieved when we started flushing dead-end lines. However, when we disturbed the water flow during valve replacements, we realized just how much sediment was in the lines. Starting in December, we began a program to flush all 40 hydrants every month. Milky water is a consistent problem in some areas of the ranch, and we have bought air relief valves to install.
As a condition of our permits, we are required to have back up power throughout our system. Even though it had been mentioned on previous investigations, I am not sure why they were never installed. We committed for 3 generators last year before the big price increases took place and installation began last week. The total cost after installation will be close to $200,000 and we have signed a lease agreement to pay for it over 10 years. Also, during the investigation, the state has told us we need to build an all-weather road off Bottle Springs Rd. to a lift station we have near the 3rd hole. It was during the prep work for this we found a collapsed sewer line. In October we installed auto-dialers at all our facilities to alert us of a problem before it affects the community. Do you remember how often the water would be turned off with no warning?
This has not happened since the storm of last year.
The PUD is required by the state to have a reserve for catastrophic failures. We are very close to the minimum allowed. With everything we have been working on, the reserves have gone down by $175,000 over the past 14 months. The needed repairs from just the past 30 days will be about $50,000. The $10 fee per connection being added to your bill was originally designed to pay for the generator installation and was going to be postponed for a year because of the the Dollar General special connection fee we received. However, in a review of other expenses, we need to start now because of the number of issues that have recently arisen.