Marfa to Alpine: gas money resolution hoped for
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
MARFA – Without taking any official action, Marfa City officials Tuesday evening discussed at length a recent decision taken by their counterparts in Alpine. At issue is a move by the Alpine City Council to reverse a decision to return $78,580 to Marfa from revenue generated from the final meter reading and collection from customers from the Southwest Texas Municipal Gas Corporation.
The gas corporation is no more and was jointly owned by the cities of Marfa and Alpine. Each city now operates separate gas utilities.
“As you know, Alpine had that meeting where they said they won’t give the money,” Marfa City Councilman David Beebe said.
Beebe reported to his fellow council members that he has been in contact with Alpine City Councilman Carlos Lujan over the issue and has found him to be “reasonable.” Lujan voted last week to not return the funds in question to Marfa.
“He said he doesn’t feel right about this,” Beebe said of his meeting with Lujan, but added that Lujan felt Marfa Mayor Dan Dunlap did lower Marfa’s gas rates as a political stunt, causing the schism between the two cities.
Alpine city officials voting in favor of keeping the $78,000 want to use the funds as a rebate to their customers.
“There is a lot of animosity about us beating them to the punch,” Beebe said regarding Marfa’s decision to lower gas rates to Marfa gas customers.
One idea floated by Lujan, Beebe said, was to put the $78,000 in an escrow account and have the funds distributed with the rest of the gas company’s assets when the dissolution process is completely finished.
“Putting the money in escrow is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t resolve it,” Marfa City Administrator Jim Mustard said.
Another idea that Lujan and Beebe discussed was giving Marfa roughly $59,000 and rebating the rest of the funds to Alpine gas customers.
Marfa City Councilman David Fannin asked about the political makeup of the city of Alpine, “Who then would be (Alpine Mayor Avinash Rangra’s) allies?”
Beebe said Alpine City Councilman Julian Gonzalez and City Councilwoman Angie Bermudez were Rangra’s allies on the council.
“The more reasonable side are Diana Asgerisson and Mike Davidson,” Beebe said. “Carlos Lujan is loyal to Rangra but he’s only heard one side. We did talk about keeping the two mayors separated because they don’t like each other. Dr. Rangra told me he really doesn’t like (Dunlap).”
Beebe said his conversation with Lujan did allay some fears. “I think (Lujan) might resolve this situation. If we can come to a resolution were they get some compensation, we should go for it,” said Beebe, “I’m optimistic.”
Marfa city officials hope to have the two city councils work out the issue rather than having to go to the gas company’s board – the panel still exists for an interim period – which would put mayors Dunlap and Rangra face-to-face. Dunlap did say that the gas board could possibly resolve the situation.
“That or litigation,” Dunlap said.
“Let’s not go that far,” Fannin quickly responded.
Beebe said that Lujan would try to get the issue back on the Alpine City Council agenda for discussion.
“It’s out of our hands at this point,” said Beebe, “We agreed to continue conversations.”
In other Marfa city business, city officials:
Discussed a new city website being offered to utility customers. The city now has a one page website where customers can register to view and pay utility statements. The website will give a historical utility record beginning with statements at the time of online registration. Customers paying online will be charged a small fee which the city uses to help pay for the online service. Customers have the option to go completely paperless for free and still have the option to make their payments in person or by mail. The only additional cost incurred by the customer is if payments are made online. The website is www.marfautilities.org.
Discussed a seal coat project for streets in Marfa. Most of the streets are in such dire condition that they will have to be ground up and repaved but a small percentage of the streets can simply get a new seal coat. To seal coat all the streets that can be coated would cost the city an estimated $174,000. Council members have the option to seal less but the contractor will only work on a minimum $30,000 to $40,000 project. Council members will discuss this further and possibly take action at their next meeting.
Story filed under: Top Stories