Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of articles focusing on candidates for Stephenville City Council and their views on various issues. Today’s article focuses on drainage.

By DOUG MYERS Managing Editor

Candidates for two Stephenville City Council seats in the May 12 election offer different opinions about whether they believe the city is adequately handling current and future drainage needs.

While Place 7 incumbent Mark Murphy believes the council is “on the right track,” one of his challengers - Virginia Abel - doesn’t believe the council has taken adequate steps.

“It is my understanding that Phase 2 of the Stormwater Drainage (Project) is soon to begin,” Abel said. “However, I do not believe the city nor the council has adequately addressed current and future drainage needs. The current growth and expansion of the city in proportion to the numerous property tax increases has failed to yield any real progress in stormwater drainage.”

Murphy, on the other hand, said the council is “doing fine with the amount of money we are spending, which is a lot.”

“Phases of the stormwater drainage plan are in operation, and we begin construction (when school is out) along Baxter near Central Elementary down to the river, then we'll go across the railroad tracks and down the middle section of Frey Street," Murphy said.

Murphy said the effort should "help drainage around the real problem areas of Sloan, Ollie, Frey and streets all around there."

"If you haven't noticed, government moves real slow," Murphy said. "Big problems don't always get fixed quickly, but this one is being addressed."

Last year, Murphy said, he made the motion to fund the Methodist Branch drainage project (Phase I of the plan) for $4.2 million.

"It was approved unanimously by the present council," Murphy said. "I think we are on the right track, though you don't see anything physically being done at the moment."

Robert Burns, a former council member who is also challenging Murphy, noted that the council in 2005, when he was a member, accepted a plan for Phase 1 of the Stormwater Drainage Project. He said Certificates of Obligation were issued funded by the existing "stormwater drainage fees that each of us have been paying for some time."

"It is two years later and the work has not been started," Burns said. "Phase 1 provides the flow of runoff to the Bosque River and must be completed prior to any other phase beginning."

Burns said he started a push while he was on the council for Tarleton State University to pay stormwater drainage fees to help with needed drainage improvements. Although efforts failed in Austin to pass such a bill while he was on the council, Burns said State Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) introduced HB 462 in January 2007 to do so.

Burns said he has encouraged key lawmakers to move the legislation, which is on the verge of being heard on the House floor, forward.

"With the continued funding from the storm drainage fees, and with Tarleton's support (when the law is changed), those of us who live, work or travel on or along Frey Street and the adjacent streets, will not have to refer to it as ‘The River Frey’ every time it rains," Burns said.

Meanwhile, Place 1 incumbent Cyndi Godwin said she believes the council is adequately handling current and future drainage needs.

"We're going to proceed with it," Godwin said, referring to Phase 1 of the Stormwater Drainage Project. "We're working on it and pushing it as quick as we can."

Pat Shelbourne, who is challenging Godwin for the Place 1 seat, said the council has "spent much time looking for the best solutions for our stormwater drainage needs."

"They have determined priorities based on perceived problems, and have selected solutions which they feel will start to control drainage issues now," Shelbourne said.

Shelbourne said Plase 1 will take approximately 12 to 18 months to complete, while Phase 2, which will extend up to Chamberlin and "provide further inlets for drainage water to flow into the tunnel built in Phase 1," is in the planning stage.

DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at doug.myers@empiretribune.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.