$12 water surcharge angers Fritch residents

Fritch City Officials said it shouldn't have come down to this, but that adding a surcharge to residents' water bill is one of the only things they can do to help pay for its new water system.

Resident Christy Vetter said, "I'm just highly angry about it, and I know there's a lot more than just me."

Vetter said before the City of Fritch decided to purchase its own water rights, having a main water break would have been fixed with little hassle, but she's gone nearly three months with water in her front yard.

"I have constant water leaks," Vetter said. "I have a water leak on the main line in front of my house which I've had since November and they've just marked it a few weeks ago but it's still not fixed."

Interim City Manager John Horst said Fritch has been plagued with water leaks for nearly two years. He said the city purchased an existing water system from High Texas Water Authority and took out a $3 million bond in 2011 to pay for it. However, according to Horst elected city officials were unaware of the financial issues in the community.

"I can tell you this that the mayor and council was not aware of the severity," Horst said. "They were told that this would be a money maker and a good deal.

The city has failed to make its last bond payment and Horst said it is likely to miss the next payment due in February. As a result the city added a surcharge of $12 for the 2,200 Fritch residents using the system. According to Horst, the city has also cut 10 full time city employees to help pay for some of the cost.

Brenda Smith is a caretaker for a man at Lake Meredith Harbor. She said he lives on his own and struggles to make it as is.

"He's on a fixed income and makes a little more than $700," Smith said. "When you're taking an extra $12 when his heating bill is already $300, it all adds up."

Vetter said a lot of residents just want answers.

"We went up from $18 a month to $21 a months and now we're at $33," Vetter said. "They're never going to take this off. I just don't understand why they're doing this to us."