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Recently, I was able to access the records of the Southwest Municipal Gas Co through the open records act and I would like to share with you some of the information I obtained.
On June 30, 2008 the General Manager of the Gas Company recommended to the board that they sign a new contract for 25% of the gas Btu’s needed at the current rate of $12.30 and the other 75% at a spot rate as needed. He was over ruled by Mayor Dunlap who advocated signing a 3 year contract at the then current rate of $12.30. This rate was close to an all time high for gas and the gas company. in the past had always purchased its gas on a month to month basis. This was done because natural gas is a commodity and the price fluctuates. The contract with West Texas Gas also requires that you commit to an amount of gas to be delivered on a monthly basis so you pay for a certain amount of gas whether you use it or not.
Mayor Dunlap went on to recommend to the board that the rate be marked up $6.99 to the gas customers which is how we have come to pay $19.29 a btu for our gas. This is probably the highest rate in the State of Texas, possibly the entire country. The current rate is around $4.40 a btu. A normal mark up would be around $4.00 a btu.
Melvin Davis, the General Manager of the gas co. has over 20 years of experience in the gas business. Not a single member of the gas board has any experience yet they overruled the manager’s sound recommendations.
At a March 2010 board meeting of the gas company Mayor Dunlap recommended they pay Bobby Duncan $180 an hour and Mayor Dunlap $30 per hour to straighten out the gas company financial records and the board approved this. Mr. Duncan was paid $30,000 and left town without finishing the job. Mayor Dunlap, as a sitting board member, may not be paid to work for the gas co. The entire board is ignorant of its own by-laws and state regulations.
At the March 2010 board meeting, the board budgeted and approved the repair/replacement work now being done on the gas lines in the City of Alpine. The City of Marfa is claiming that this expenditure required the approval of City Council. If this is true, why didn’t Mayor Dunlap bring it to council for approval?
At the July, 2010 board meeting the board voted to reduce the rate charged to the customers by $2.00 a btu. Rudy Garcia abstained, Corina Brijalba voted against it saying she wanted the audited financial statement for 2009 first, and Jane Weimers voted against it saying it would be better to give the rate reduction in October when people would need it.
The gas co. is a non-profit corp. with over $800,000 in the bank. Why would you need the 2009 audit to vote for a rate reduction? Why would you want to wait to give people a rate reduction when you can start giving them some relief now? The $2.00 is puny enough as it is.
Finally, the City of Marfa is saying that the gas co. is in violation of the inter-local agreement because they have not yet produced the audited financial statement for 2009.Looks to me like the board, Bobby Duncan and Mayor Dunlap assumed that responsibility. The 2007 and 2008 statements were produced in May and June of the following years. So where was the hue and cry then if this was some violation?
So now some of the board wants to fire the General Manager over these issues. It looks to me like it is the Marfa board members that are irresponsible in their oversight and uninterested in the hardship their actions are having on their community.
And by the way customers, you are still going to be paying the highest rates in the state of Texas, maybe the entire country, for another year, thanks to this board.