Sherman provides $30 water credit for residents

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Sherman City Council approved a motion Monday night that will give residential municipal water customers, including home owners and apartment residents, a $30 credit on their next water bill. The announcement came as a part of efforts to give some relief to customers following the loss of water and electric service last month during unprecedented winter storms. This story will be updated as details become available.

Sherman residents can expect a pleasant surprise on their next water bill. The city council voted unanimously Monday night to direct city staff to give residents a $30 credit on their next water bill as a part of relief efforts following winter storms that left many residents without power, water or both for multiple days.

The move came out of discussions regarding the February storms, which set records for lowest temperature, lowest high temperature and lowest wind chill, among others. The unprecedented winter storm left many residents without water service the better part of a week as city crews worked to restore service.

"At 9:00 we didn't know whether we'd have to manually touch 14,000 accounts to provide these credits," City Manager Robby Hefton said Monday. "I have since learned that we would not have to do that. Through programming and a few other things, we can do that in a few hours."

Sherman residents within the city's surface water zone first started losing water early in the storms after power was cut to equipment as a part of what was expected to be rolling blackouts. This allowed the equipment to freeze, rendering it unusable for much of the event.

The city tried to rely on its ground water resources, but downed wells along with the demand from drained towers and the entire city proved to be too much for the system.

The idea of providing some storm relief to residents through water credits has been used by other neighboring communities with most providing about $25 in credit. However, the city elected to increase this to about half of what an average residential user would pay on their monthly bill.

Hefton and members of the council emphasized that this credit would be focused on residents and not businesses or industry. With an estimated 14,000 customers, Hefton said the cost to the city could be about $420,000.

City Council Member Sandra Melton expressed concern regarding how the benefit would apply to apartment complexes and apartment dwellers. Unlike single-family homes, many apartment tenants are billed for water through their apartment complex. Melton expressed concerns that this would not be passed along to the residents and instead would be kept by the complexes themselves.

"There are not 400 meters at that apartment complex, so we would have to trust that apartment complex to pass that on," Hefton said.

Other members of the council said that they are thankful that Sherman is in a place where it can look back and begin assessing the storm and provide some relief to residents. Others, including 390,000 Texans are not not as fortunate and still do not have clean drinking water.

"We have come a long way in saying we are not a part of that 390,000," said Council Member Pam Howeth.