Just as I was putting the politically-charged writing thing on pause to give my husband some post-election season recovery time, the doc started My Mister on blood pressure meds. Coincidence? Design? In any event, a few public meetings later and here we are — with one little, colloquial red-head’s over-simplified nutshell of current City/TSU relations issues:
(1) When the Britches No Longer Fitcha – The University tone at its recent public-info session and last week’s Council meeting is, essentially: ‘we’re experiencing exciting growth and hustling to meet burgeoning housing/parking/administrative/academic/athletic space demands.’
Takeaway: coupled with excitement, TSU is feeling the pressure of growth – and there’s an informal ‘please excuse our mess’ floating.
(2) And the Horse Says the Cart Should Giddyap – Another street closure (McKewn) was before the council last Tuesday, taken up at a special meeting as a courtesy to TSU because, basically, the University asserted that if the street wasn’t conveyed before the June 3rd regular meeting TSU’s pending residential construction project would fall apart at the seams.
The problems: (a) the request was for the street to be given (not sold) to TSU, because the University’s internal procedures would require obtaining two appraisals that TSU thought would be more expensive to TSU than the value of the street is worth to the street owners (i.e., taxpayers); and (b) the onus of a project stalling out should encourage a party to timely follow established procedures, not serve as the basis for excusing the party from adhering to those procedures.
Takeaway: how many times can/should/will the worthiness of the end be used to justify the means?
(3) Before Betting the Farm – There’s an interesting passive-aggressive angle to the pending annexation of 420 acres of College Farm: Tarleton actively wants the annexation in order to gain access to city water services, but would prefer to passively ‘not fight’ it.
Our council is left questioning (and seemingly not getting specific answers to): why has it come about this way? If water is the goal, the city could sell water services to the Farm at the same rates normally charged for service delivered outside the city limits.
Is the ‘why’ underlying apparent annexation-passivity perhaps the hope that city-initiated action undercuts the city’s bargaining position for simultaneously asking Tarleton for something in return? Or another reason altogether?
Takeaway: this is a more complex question than ‘to annex or not to annex.’
(4) We Oughta Meet at the Waterin’ Hole – Okay, so TSU wants city water service to the Farm. Well, in exchange, the city wants the right to drill new water wells at TSU’s Hunewell Ranch, which is reported to sit atop a very rich part of our aquifer. Why? Because planning for the ability to provide clean water to the citizenry is of critical importance (just look to our neighbors’ plight in Palo Pinto County and in Wichita Falls where water resources are frighteningly scarce).
Ostensibly, this one is simple: TSU wants the Farm to be able to draw upon the city water supply; the city wants to be able to drill at Hunewell Ranch to ensure an ample city water supply for everyone.
Only it’s not so simple, because when raised in council chambers last week, the TSU response was that the documentation regarding the city’s Hunewell interest is in a stack on a desk somewhere and TSU will get to it at some point but does not really want a quid pro quo between the annexation and Hunewell drilling rights.
Tarleton may prefer not to get quid-pro-quo’ed into a water rights agreement, but the city would prefer not to get bubba’ed out of a way to make the annexation mutually beneficial by protecting the water supply.
Takeaway: the logical time to negotiate water rights is when both parties have stakes in the game.
Neighbors, we need to join in the discussion and encourage the City/TSU partnership . . . in a way that benefits both partners. Let’s clear some time to show up in council chambers at 5:30 on Tuesday for the last public hearing on the annexation issue so that a breadth of concerns and ideas can be considered before the annexation (or not) decision is made.
We’re all growing, Stephenville, and exciting things lie ahead. Be informed and be involved!
Shelby Slawson, attorney turned mommy turned writer on a quest for trophy wifehood, authors the blog “Other Such” at www.othersuch.net. She is also a member of the E-T's community columnists. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.