Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 5
Water Rates Changed with Conservation in Mind • Don't Leave Your Dog Tied Up • Biscuits are Not Quite Imminent • Signs and Wonders
Water Rates Changed with Conservation in Mind
What you see here is late-breaking coverage of me paying my Coppell utilities bill this morning. The operative word there is “late.” Yes, the blue tint of the billing statement means my payment was past due. I’m sorry about that. I’ve looked through my meticulously well-kept files (ahem) and can’t find the original bill sent on white paper.
I like to pay my utilities bill by dropping an actual paper check in the collections box in the Town Center parking lot. It’s one of the ways you can avoid the credit-card processing fee that the city instituted a few months ago. (Another way is automatic drafts.) I’m telling you about the collections box because my wife was unaware of its existence until she saw me use it last month. As I pulled our van into the Town Center parking lot that day, she seemed alarmed: “Wait, where are we going? What are you doing?!?”
Fortunately, the water charges on our monthly utilities bill will decrease soon. On Tuesday, the City Council approved an ordinance that establishes an “increasing block rate structure,” effective June 1. That means lower rates for people that use the least water and higher rates for people that use the most water. Here’s a breakdown:
I confirmed via the city’s “Get to Know Your H20” customer portal that my house is part of the 71.1 percent of Coppell homes that use fewer than 15,000 gallons of water per month. Based on the length of my sons’ showers, I’d have guessed otherwise.
Kim Tiehen, the city’s assistant director of finance, said the change to an increasing block rate will be “revenue neutral” from the city’s perspective. The point is to encourage water conservation rather than to raise money. “Those putting a higher demand on the system will pay more,” she said.
The ordinance was not approved unanimously because John Jun, who joined the council just a few months ago, was hung up on another aspect of it related to sewer charges. At the moment, residential customers’ sewer charges are based on $2.24 per 1,000 gallons of water used. As Tiehen told Jun during a council retreat in January, sewer charges are based on water usage because there’s no way to measure sewer usage.
“We can only meter water going into the home,” she said on Jan. 30. “We can’t meter the wastewater going out.”
Our monthly wastewater charges are capped at 14,000 gallons, no matter how much water we use. The second part of the ordinance approved Tuesday reduced that cap to 13,000 gallons. The plan is to reduce it by 1,000 gallons in each of the next five years as the city transitions to a sewer billing system based on average water usage in the winter months.
“The winter average is generally considered by the industry to be the most fair, just, and reasonable means of charging for wastewater service,” Dan Jackson, vice president of WillDan Financial Services, told the council on Tuesday. “Thousands of cities around the United States do it. The benefit of it is that it does the best job of tying actual usage and actual contribution to the wastewater system with what that person pays.”
(Please don’t consider your “actual contribution to the wastewater system” any longer than is necessary. Please don’t consider mine at all.)
In Coppell, the average home uses 6,500 gallons of water per month in December, January, and February versus more than 20,000 gallons in the literally high-water month of August. During Tuesday’s meeting, Jackson displayed charts that showed the following statistics regarding the winter-average system:
The average Coppell resident would pay 2.8 percent more annually (an additional $13.66 per year).
A low-volume user would pay 9 percent more annually (or $37.17).
A high-volume user would pay 0.8 percent less annually (or $3.99)
“The bottom line is this: The more you water – and the more outdoor water usage you use, right now – the more you benefit from the implementation of a winter average,” Jackson said. “If you’re a customer that does not water outdoors and uses very littler water, you’re just simply going to end up paying a little bit more under a winter-average scenario.”
Jackson suggested the city wait to implement winter-average billing until the monthly cap is eventually lowered to 9,000 gallons, because he said it would reduce the sticker shock for low-volume users like me. Jun wasn’t buying it.
“The fallacy of your argument is this: We’ve been charging citizens for sewage rates that they have not been using,” Jun told Jackson on Tuesday. “And if you say because some people are going to benefit and some people are not going to benefit, but yet still continue to charge people that are not using a sewage rate, that’s a fallacy.”
Even if the winter-average scenario is instituted sooner than Jackson recommends – and the timing of that change was not on the council’s agenda Tuesday, as City Manager Mike Land pointed out – Tiehen wants to wait until the city starts using new billing software, because she wants to spend a few months calculating bills under both the old and new software to ensure accuracy. She estimated that the new billing software will be ready by December at the earliest.
“One thing we cannot afford to do is to lose the public’s trust,” Tiehen told Jun on Tuesday. “And if we don’t have a way to compare bills from our current system to our new system, we run the risk of sending out bills that are incorrect, and we lose public trust.”
Regardless of how the bills are calculated, I’m going to keep paying mine via that box in the parking lot. A penny saved is a penny earned.
Don’t Leave Your Dog Tied Up
If you spend a lot of time on Facebook or Nextdoor, you might think two of the biggest issues in this community are A) people who walk their dogs off leash and B) people who drop their dogs’ waste in other people’s trashcans.
You might want to add people who leave their dogs tethered and unattended to that list. The City Council has discussed an ordinance prohibiting such behavior during their last four regularly scheduled meetings.
All of this discussion is because the council members, the city’s attorneys, and Police Chief Danny Barton have been trying to draft the ordinance together, while incorporating suggestions from a group of residents who sparked the whole conversation over concerns about one tethered dog in particular. Having that many cooks in the kitchen reminds me of an expression involving other animals: “a camel is a horse designed by a committee.”
At times, the conversation turned to the materials used in tethers and whether a dog can be pinched or choked by its collar. Some members of the council questioned whether they would be in violation of such rules. For example, Mayor Karen Hunt has two 90-pound dogs that she walks at the same time. “They have choke collars on them, and they know not to go past the choke,” she said. “Otherwise, my neighbors would know my dogs better than they wanted to.”
However, the proposed ordinance does not apply to dogs on walks. It’s designed to save dogs from being left alone while tied to an inanimate object.
During last Tuesday’s meeting, Barton told the council that all Coppell ordinances regarding animals are Class C misdemeanors with a maximum fine of $500. The state’s tethering law – “which we currently operate under” – is also a Class C misdemeanor.
If police decide an animal is being abused, Barton said, they can turn to the penal code, which he described as broader and more robust. The chief said it ranges from a Class A misdemeanor – which can lead to jail time – all the way up to felonies. However, that was a moot point, because “in talking with our Animal Services folks, we virtually have no animal abuse in Coppell.” Barton said he can recall only one such case.
Council member John Jun asked whether tethering offenders could be ordered to undergo an educational program in lieu of a fine. The consensus among Barton and the rest of council was that the municipal court would have that option.
“These things in Coppell are typically educational,” Barton said. “The one dog that started this discussion, we had to go out and educate them a couple of times, because they just didn’t know the law. But they immediately rectified the situation.”
The proposed ordinance will be discussed at least one more time, as the council deferred a vote until their April 13 meeting.
Biscuits are Not Quite Imminent
I was tooling around a couple of Saturdays ago, running the typical errands of a suburban doofus, when my near-sighted eagle eyes spotted some new signage at the intersection of Sandy Lake and Denton Tap, aka the center of our universe. I immediately pulled over and snapped this picture:
I then posted that picture in a couple of Coppell-centric Facebook groups with the caption “Biscuits are imminent.” I was excited to break this news because the Biscuit Bar has been a long time coming to the spot most recently occupied by a Mooyah burger joint. The Biscuit Bar’s founders, Carrollton residents Jake and Janie Burkett, appeared before the Coppell City Council way back in July of 2019.
At that time, the Burketts were seeking permission for a few variances to the zoning for their future site. They had plans for a patio that would encroach on the required setback area, and they wanted a bigger sign than is normally allowed. The general consensus among the City Council was “Yeah, bigger sign, sure, whatever. Let me ask you this: When will the biscuits be ready?”
The Burketts told the council they wanted to open by Dec. 15, 2019. I don’t know what caused them to miss that target, but we all can easily assume what caused further delays in 2020. (Thanks a lot, COVID!) The thing is, Coppell was supposed to be the home of the third Biscuit Bar, after the original in Plano and the second in University Park. While we’ve been waiting and salivating, they’ve managed to establish three other Biscuit Bars in Arlington, Deep Ellum, and Fort Worth. What gives?
“We do not yet have an opening date for our Coppell location,” Holly Knight, the Biscuit Bar’s director of marketing and branding, told me via email on Tuesday. “We are waiting on a few permits from the city before we can confirm anything.”
Well, that’s disappointing. However, I can report that Ms. Mary’s Southern Kitchen is targeting April 15 for its opening date in the former home of the Deliman’s Grill. That’s straight from Ms. Mary herself, Mary Davis, who told me, “We are excited to come to Coppell.” Her soul food restaurant was previously located in Carrollton for 17 years.
Signs and Wonders
I’ve long wondered why this sign at the corner of Bethel and Coppell roads still bears the name of Quincy’s Chicken Shack, which flew the coop in July of 2017. And that’s not even the most befuddling sign associated with this zombie eatery. When the misspelled monstrosity below was erected in 2016, I posted a picture of it on Facebook and said, “If this was a mistake, the restaurant's owner should be frustrated. If it was intentional, I'm frustrated.”
I’ve also wondered why the neon signs at Quincy’s neighbor, Twisted Root Burger Co., have stayed on during the pandemic, considering that place has been closed for a year. Well, there may be a neon light at the end of the tunnel. A Feb. 1 post on that restaurant’s Facebook page says, “Hey hey Coppell. We're ready to get twisted again! Follow us here to keep to date with the latest reopening date.”
Meanwhile, I wonder how long the Cottage was open at all. I never even got a chance to try the breakfast spot that took over the Sandy Lake location previously occupied by Sunny Street Café. I was intrigued when a Cottage coupon landed in my mailbox a few days ago. However, when I rolled by on Saturday morning, there was a hand-written sign on the door that said, “Restaurant for sale. Everything must go!” I called the phone number on that sign to ask some questions, but nobody’s called me back with answers yet.
Finally, I wonder how many other people spotted this banner on Denton Tap and thought, “That’s the number to call if your office could use a few more guys named Larry.”