To my fellow residents of Celina:
When I became city manager four years ago, I never dreamed of the excitement and joy we would experience as a community. Navigating through these many months alongside our city council and staff has been a privilege, as has meeting with many of you and celebrating your love for the city, and hearing some of the concerns you have as we grow forward, together. As we continue on this incomparable journey, I wanted to take a few moments and acknowledge the most common criticism I hear from our citizens and tell you about some exciting ways we have addressed and will continue to address your concerns.
Issues surrounding our city water service are always at the forefront of people’s minds. I’m aware of this because of your discussions with me and also because my family and I live here and use Celina's water. Unfortunately, I am aware there were some circumstances in the past that forced the city to take some drastic measures years ago that raised rates and offered little explanation as to the reason for the rate hike or the outcomes yielded by the increase. To date, we continue to experience many positive outcomes in our water service and supply, and I wanted to share some of those with you along with the story of how we arrived with the service we have today.
The city’s water service and supply have also made great progress. Since I arrived in Celina, water service in our city has been among my highest priorities. We have launched studies and a strategic water plan that would acknowledge and address our challenges, adjust for future growth and development, and align our pricing structure with cities similar to us in size.
Many of our early challenges have been corrected. Today, we are more drought resilient and weather resilient than we have ever been. During the last winter storm event in February, the city’s system had no reports of customers who lost their water service. The investments we decisively made in our infrastructure protected our community from horrible conditions experienced across the state. In the aftermath of that storm, we credited every customer for 2,000 gallons of water, knowing people were forced to use much more water than normal during that week. For customers who reported broken pipes, which yielded unprecedented water usage, we gave a 100% credit to their account after their repairs were complete.
Along with resilience, we have strengthened our agreements with developers who are building neighborhoods in our city. Rather than our existing customers paying the price for the growth of Celina, our developers now bear much of the financial and physical responsibility of expanding our water services. Exponential growth is inevitable, but I do not believe the financial burden for such growth should be your responsibility. We develop a win/win relationship with developers and the city while maintaining our commitment to the existing residents.
Another investment we have made to protect your water system and supply is the addition of elevated and ground storage. While growth accelerates at the highest pace, we have yet experienced, maintaining a vast water surplus is essential. Our investment in these storage facilities and towers will safeguard our community now and in the future. In the coming years, you will see even more elevated and ground storage structures built. This should assure every water user in the city that they will never be without a strong water supply, no matter how much growth we experience.
Finally, the city has overhauled our online services and provided easier access to information, usage tracking, and more convenient customer service and bill payment options. For instance, we recently eliminated a service charge for online bill payments in order to give more options to our customers. We also launched a citizen’s analytics tool on our website that allows a user to monitor their water usage in real-time so they can audit or adjust their current water usage patterns. The city went to great lengths to test the accuracy of water meters in every neighborhood, offering the customer even more confidence in our monitoring and billing. And we are in the midst of finalizing a massive update to our website which will greatly increase the information available to our users.
While all of these successes are noteworthy and important to our long-term water system infrastructure, I still have two priorities remaining that every customer should know. First, I want to continue to make the best decisions we can to get our water rates in line with neighboring and comparable cities. What you and I pay each month should align with what friends and family in other cities pay for their water. With all the growth around us, we believe this can and should be accomplished soon. Secondly, we need to move towards a system of winter averaging that will balance water and sewage rates for every home in the city. A current water study is wrapping up, and once we have the results from this study, we will be able to identify when this change will be implemented.
I write all of this as evidence to each of our valued customers that your city is committed to offering the best water service and supply available. The accomplishments along the way have moved us in a very positive direction; yet, we still have a way to go before every goal is accomplished. Every customer knowing and understanding from where we have come to where we are now and where we will continue to go is imperative to me. I will transparently update you along the way and will still be available to hear your feedback. We are grateful for you—our residents and loyal customers—and we are glad to be Life Connected in Celina.
City Manager, City of Celina