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Water Wars

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The Ellis County Press
PALMER – Due to ever rising prices at the gas pumps and soaring prices at the grocery store, there are many people having to adjust their household budgets. However, citizens in Palmer may soon have to adjust their budgets to pay their water bills.

Palmer has been plagued with many controversial situations regarding the city’s water supply.

Issues include, a Reverse Osmosis Plant which was purchased using a bond (low-interest loan) and then subsequently shut-down due to non-compliance with Palmer’s sewage treatment facility. Also, including inaccurate billing statements and the "talk" of un-metered residential and commercial buildings. With some prominent residents paying little or no money for their water, citizens continue to receive higher and higher water bills.

"These buildings [downtown Palmer] were built in the early 1900’s and have never had meters," said local businessman John Templer. "All businesses on Jefferson and Main St. pay a flat rate of $50, the washeteria, the grocery store, everyone. We just got meters installed about a month ago."

However, Jenny’s Café, located at 106 N. Palmer, has been operating in downtown Palmer for nearly 14 years and pays around $200-$225 per month for water.

Also, according to the manager of the Mighty Clean wisteria, it has been open for two years and has always had a meter and fluxuating water bills.

Some questions have been surrounding residents who have guest cottages or multi-family dwellings operating with one meter, to the point of former Mayor Don Huskins being pursued by the city for unpaid water bills. Huskins, who served from 2004 to 2007, had been sent bills for 10,000, 20,000 and 29,000-gallons of water usage.

Former City Administrator Steven Sparks later credited Huskins for much of what he considered too much air in the water pipes, a phenomenon which causes water meters to spin.

Huskins blamed most of the council’s actions against him on political vendettas.

A city council meeting agenda recently listed Huskins’ name and conversations over calling in the Texas Rangers to investigate "unpaid water bills," interest and penalties and Palmer hiring local attorney David Miller to pursue the matter. Huskins maintains a home and a guest house that operate on one meter. The house was built in 1888, he said.

Huskins said his water usage averages 5,000 to 6,000 gallons a month.

The Palmer city council was set to vote on raising water rates when this story went to press.

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