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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Fort Worth makes twice-a-week watering restrictions permanent

By Scott Nishimura snishimura@bizpress.net

Fort Worth City Council members voted to make twice-a-week watering restrictions permanent Tuesday night.

The city staff made one clarification in the proposed ordinance that makes it clear use of a handheld hose to water foundations is permissible at any time. Such use is currently permissible but wasn’t clear in the proposed ordinance, and it came up during one citizen’s criticism at last week’s council meeting.

The council voted 7-0-2 in favor of permanent restrictions, with Mayor Betsy Price in Australia and Councilman Danny Scarth in Washington, D.C., and absent.

Council members voted 5-4 last week to give themselves one more week to consider whether to make temporary twice-a-week restrictions permanent, after several citizens showed up to protest. The temporary measures have been in place since June.

“There is no one on this council who has ever said anything against water conservation,” Councilman Jungus Jordan, one of the five-vote majority last week, said Tuesday. “We all support and understand the importance of water. Water is a lifeblood. I will stand here and listen to the citizens any day of the week.”

Businessman Blake Woodard, who represented an opposition group, put up his own plan last week that would have maintained twice-a-week restrictions, but given citizens flexibility to choose which days they wanted to water.

Water director Frank Crumb told council members Tuesday that Woodard’s plan would be “difficult” to enforce and wouldn’t save water.

“We don’t think it has impact on water use when we’re not in drought, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve,” he said.

Such a plan would also conflict with the Tarrant Regional Water District plan and those of other cities, Crumb said.

“It takes us away from regional consistency,” he said.

City staff and the water district say permanent restrictions – the temporary ones have been in place since June – will save water and help defer major capital expenditures on new water infrastructure.

Water District board members were among several speakers at tonight’s council meeting.

“Water is precious and use it wisely,” Marty Leonard, a board member, said.

Linda Christie, community and government relations director for the district, told the council that the temporary restrictions save water.

“We do not ask our customers to implement measures that we have not thoroughly vetted,” she said.

City staff and water district officials told the council that the temporary restrictions saved 8-10 percent on usage and permanent ones will help defer major planned capital expenditures on new water infrastructure.

Christie also told council members that not having permanent restrictions in place could put Fort Worth in difficult position to be approved to participate in the development of a new water source in the future.

Council member Gyna Bivens, who was in the five-vote majority last week, said Tuesday the council was “respecting our citizens” by hearing citizen protests.

“Nobody at this table doubts the need for conservation,” Bivens said.

Mayor Pro Tem W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, who led last week’s vote for a continuance, said Tuesday that “this week has provided a big benefit.”

Zimmerman and Jordan, also one of the five-vote majority last week, asked for a review of city processes to ensure the city isn’t wasting water in irrigation on public property.

Zimmerman said the city’s immediate response when a water main breaks, for example, should be to “shut it off.” He also said the city should review the landscape ordinance.

“We’re sending mixed messages,” he said.

“Our citizens understand the need for conservation, but they look for us to do it as well,” Jordan said.

Jordan also asked for a quarterly update on water conservation “so we keep this front and center.”

COUNCIL NOTES

Councilman Sal Espino asked the city staff to arrange a meeting with minority business groups, to gather ideas on how to augment city contracting with them. Staff data presented to the council Friday shows the city has exceeded its minority and women-owned business contracting goals on professional and business services and small business enterprise, but not construction.

Stakeholders in a zoning case involving a planned apartment building on South University Drive near TCU met with Councilman Joel Burns in a private meeting Tuesday, but reported no progress toward an agreement.

Councilman Joel Burns asked for a six-month update on how the Forest Park “road diet” restriping has performed. Councilman Jungus Jordan, who opposed the road diet, said he saw no need. “There’s no reason to come back on any data when the horses have left the barn,” he said.

The city manager’s office continued a proposed item to the April 15 council agenda that would give developers seeking public money a choice between setting aside a certain number of affordable housing units, or paying cash into a housing trust that would go to housing projects elsewhere in the city.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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