By Cristin Ross

cross@jacksonvilleprogress.com

It was a year of big decisions for the city of New Summerfield in 2008.

New Summerfield Mayor Dan Stallings reported the city managed to get its biggest projects — mandated upgrades to the water, sewer and natural gas systems — completed and laid a little groundwork to benefit the city’s future endeavors, too.

Upgrades to the city’s water and natural gas systems were finished last year after both systems received unfavorable audits from Texas Commission on Environment Quality and the Texas Railroad Commission.

“Our new gas equipment is functioning properly,” Stallings said. “We’re very pleased with the accuracy of it. We had to replace a large number of residential meters, because they were old and outdated. That cost us a lot.

“The new water systems are functioning properly and more efficiently. The upgrades there are also working well.”

In July city workers began laying new 6-inch water line along U.S. Highway 79, from Marigold Street near Davis Plant Farm, east for one-and-a-half miles to the Hall property.

“We’re replacing the existing 2-inch line with 6-inch,” Stallings said. “That will enhance the water pressure to all the residences on that side of town.

“We’re still working on getting the newest line tied into the system. Everything has to work like an orchestra, when we tie all the lines in, so nobody loses water service. Then we’ll have to flush the line and test the water to make sure it’s safe for consumption.

“I expect we’ll issue a boil water notice while we do that, to make sure there’s no risk to anyone’s health,” Stallings said.

Stallings said the entire upgrade cost the city an estimated $400,000.

Council members also made a decision in 2008 that will help the city plan for the future. New Summerfield City Council unanimously approved a 40-cent property tax rate in August, to be implemented for the 2009 tax year. The tax is the first of its kind imposed by the city on residents living inside the city limits.

“It’s got to be done,” Councilwoman Karie Bolton said in August. “We don’t want to, but we really don’t have much of a choice.”

Council members also approved allowing certain exemptions for disabled people and people 65 years of age or older.

Stallings cited the city’s utility systems projects, population growth, various state requirements pertaining to employee training, licensing and certifications and future state-mandated projects the city will have to fund as some of the reasons the city has implemented a property tax.

“We’re starting to look OK financially,” Stallings said. “We made a few adjustments in our utility rates that started to help almost immediately.”

Based on data from the appraisal district, the city of New Summerfield stands to generate $50,628.32 from $12,657,081 taxable value with the 40 cents per $100 valuation property tax rate.

New Summerfield also felt the wrath of Hurricane Ike, though not as severely as other parts of the county.

The city cleaned up debris from the storm for three weeks after it blew through and have turned in paperwork to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse it for the man hours spent on clean-up. Stallings said the city is exploring a couple avenues for funds to purchase new generators for the city’s well stations.

“Overall, we’ve made a lot of progress in the last year, and we’re planning on continuing to maintain the situation in the next year,” Stallings said. “Things are starting to get on an even keel.”

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