Real News

Dublin water, sewer problems continues to cause 'stink'

posted Jun 16, 2011, 2:11 PM by Micah Moore   [ updated Jun 16, 2011, 2:14 PM ]

   Dublin City Manager Jerry Guillory said the city's water distribution, wastewater collection system and sewage treatment plant will be the "biggest headache" the city council will deal with in the near futile. 

   Public Works Director Cory James said he loses sleep over the "major problems" with the water infrastructure, while Mayor Becky Norris calls the situation "critical."

   City officials are working to address the crumbling water main that delivers water to residents and the sewer system that stretches underneath the entire city.

   Today's life expectancy on sewer systems that use standard plastic pipes is 50 years. Dublin's sewer is more than 60 years old and consist of clay pipes that are eroding quickly.

   Inadequate and improper maintenance over the last five decades has worsened the problems, according to officials. 

   Pipes on Post Oak Street between Sheridan and Valiant streets have deteriorated so severely that city employees cannot make improvements or clean out the pipes, many which have been patched with duct tape. 

   When the section was last repaired in the late 1990s, the clay pipe improperly settled after heavy rains, trapping water and sewage in the pipe setting 21 feet below the ground. Now, water and debris is set in pools for six blocks underneath Post Oak Street.

   "Post Oak is deteriorating to a point where we cannot clean it out anymore," James said.

   More than 10 other key areas of the sewer system have been classified as "high priority" on the city's punch list of repairs with an additional 10 areas that also need improvement.

   In addition to major sections of the pipes, city employees are constantly battling points of inflow and infiltration that allow excess water and foreign material into the system.

   "We have identified and corrected more than 150 sources of inflow and infiltration. There are likely dozens of others left to address," James said.

   Inflow and infiltration contributes to many of the issues at the sewer treatment plant that has elevated pH and ammonia levels due to recent weather. 

   Waste water leaving homes and businesses isn't the only problem facing the city, but  the pipes that bring water into the city are deteriorating as well.

   In November, the main water line into the city burst leaving the city without water, and washing away a section of Short Street. 

   Additionaly, the city loses 13 percent of its water supply though cracks and holes in the water pipe. Water loss is common among city water systems, but the state recommends that cities have a water loss rate of less than 10 percent. 

   In March, the city was slapped with a $102,000 fine from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for the problems. Unless the city acts fast, it will continue incurring fines from TCEQ or face problems with their drinking water supply.

   The city, however, does not have the funds to support the mandatory improvements - or additional fines - and the city is now exploring financing alternatives.

   Ryan Cunningham with Southwest Securities outlined four options the city council can take. 

   "Certificates of obligation is the most efficient mechanism to the city," Cunningham said.

   Certificates of obligation are a funding source that requires a combination of raising taxes and increasing city utility rates.

   Other options include a general bond election, revenue bonds which are funded solely by additional utility surcharges or sales tax or tax notes.

   The issue is bound to be on the minds of the eight city councilmen as budget work sessions begin later this summer.

   "The city needs to set aside a significant amount of money now and in the future so that we can get a long-term solution in place," James said.

   Norris told the council to be prepared for multiple work sessions to tackle the situation before it becomes "stinky." James will submit Dublin's long-term plan of action to the TCEQ in July which will outline timetables of addressing and financing the problems.

   "Without correcting all of these problems, Dublin will continue to have major problems well into the future," James said. "We've got to start thinking long-term."

Tarleton staff morale low as more cuts loom

posted May 23, 2011, 7:43 PM by Micah Moore   [ updated May 23, 2011, 7:53 PM ]

   According to the results of a recent survey of Tarleton State University staff, morale is low. 

   Tarleton staff members expressed a variety of concerns about pay and workload, university spending and other issues across the campus. 

When asked about the erosion of benefits, budget reductions and insurance costs, a majority indicated they were highly concerned - and with good reason.

   Tarleton staffers are feeling the pains of state-mandated budget cuts.They have seen minimal pay raises, increases in medical insurance costs, and, in the wake of unprecedented budget cuts, more work. 

   Currently, there is a minimum of 90 days before vacant positions can be filled and other cost-saving strategies in place including energy conservation and careful departmental spending. 

   Employees were allowed to submit anonymous comments to explain concerns and offer ideas on solutions. 

   The results indicate that many do not feel there is a fair balance in budget reductions. 

   "If Tarleton needs to reduce budgets, then it needs to be across the board and especially from the very top," one employee stated.

   Some said the "president gets everything he wants," while departments across campus "suffer" with what is left in appropriations.

   Other comments expressed concern about "extravagant" spending on projects, calling them "unneeded expenses."

   Equally important to university staff is the rising cost of insurance. 

   Employees asked the university to be better advocates and fight to maintain low expenses.  

   But not every employee is unhappy. 

   One response thanked the university's president, Dr. Dominic Dottavio, for a small raise and other efforts.

   "His efforts are noticed and appreciated," the comment stated. 

   Staff Council president Stan Swam presented the results to Dottavio and said the president was "very interested in what staff had to say."

Swam said not all the comments were accurate, but "it's about people's perceptions that matter."

   But in the midst of difficult times that have brought down the moral across campus, a solution to the staff's woes may not come soon enough.

   Tarleton's legislative appropriations request submitted to the state indicates there will be an elimination of 15-20 full-time employees, and no merit increases for fiscal year 2012-13 so the university can achieve the state-mandated 10 percent budget reductions. 

Other cost saving strategies include eliminating certain programs and reductions to operations and maintenance allocations.

   This leaves staff members asking administrators to embrace the same budget cuts as the rest of campus. 

   "Now is the time for leadership, including leadership by example. You want us to find ways to reduce our spending to accommodate the required budget cut, but that does not seem to apply to some of our leaders," one staff member submitted. "We are all in this together, aren't we?"

   Calls to other top university officials for comment were not returned. The survey did not include faculty members, only staff members not involved in classroom instruction.

Ruling by Texas A&M counsel limits flow of public information

posted May 23, 2011, 7:40 PM by Micah Moore   [ updated May 23, 2011, 7:54 PM ]

   Tarleton State University faculty can receive disciplinary action, and face termination, for making certain assignments to their students - even if those assignment are in accordance with state and federal laws. 

   Professors are no longer allowed to direct students to file open records requests with the school - or any other member of the Texas A&M University System - following a recent ruling by Andrew Strong, general counsel of the Texas A&M University System.

   The ruling came after Tarleton officials questioned the counsel on whether faculty members can direct students to file open records request seeking information about the university.

   Dan Malone, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalism and broadcasting professor at Tarleton, learned about the ruling Tuesday.

   Malone is co-chair of the Light of Day Project, a program that works with journalism students and professionals to increase awareness about public information laws.

   He would not comment on the ruling. 

   "The relevant System regulation provides that an employee may make requests to a system institution such as Tarleton only in the individual's capacity as a private citizen not within the individual's capacity as a university employee," Strong wrote in a letter dated Oct. 27 to Dr. Dominic Dottavio, president of Tarleton. "A faculty member's directive to a student in his or her class is an action within that individual's capacity as a Tarleton employee." 

   Failure to comply with the policy can result in disciplinary action, including termination.

   The ruling has caused a firestorm of criticism from journalism professionals across the state.

   Linda Campbell, an editorial writer and columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, questioned how the system justifies the ruling.

   "It seems to me to contradict journalism instruction," Campbell said. 

   Campbell, who previously taught media law at Texas Christian University, doesn't understand the system ruling. 

   "It doesn't make sense to me that I can instruct my students at a private university how to receive information from a public institution, but that a public university cannot do the same," Campbell said. "This prevents students from learning how to conduct valid research."

   She described the ruling as a way to thwart the free flow of information

   "This is a novel way to not provide information," Cambell said.

   Other state leaders agree.

   "On its face this appears to be aimed at preventing journalism professors from teaching future journalists how the Texas Public Information Act can, and should be, used as a checks and balances to obtain information some might prefer to be kept secret and out of public view," said Keith Elkins, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

   Elkins also said there is no legal exception in the law preventing Malone or any other system employee from using the Texas Public Information Act, citing a subsection that states, "...all requests shall be treated uniformly without regard to position or occupation of the requester."

   On Wednesday, university officials defended the ruling. 

   "This just says what an employee can do in his official capacity," said university spokesperson Rod Davis.

   Davis said employees can file requests for public information as long as it is not at one of the 19 system institutions across the state. He said employees can simply ask their peers for information about the university and do not have to file an open records request.

   Davis also said Malone can still conduct his class and discuss how to file open records requests, but cannot assign students to submit one at Tarleton.

"There should be a thousand other ways to study how to file an open records request," Davis said.

   The announcement has professors concerned about the implication the ruling will have on Tarleton's journalism program.

Originally published on Dec. 12 in the Stephenville Empire-Tribune.

Dublin residents urged to boil water after main breaks

posted May 23, 2011, 7:32 PM by Micah Moore   [ updated May 23, 2011, 7:53 PM ]

   Dublin residents have been advised to boil water befo

re drinking it following a water main break on Short Street Tuesday. The 6-inch rupture in the ironpipe caused a 12-hour city-wide water outage.

   The boil notice will remain in effect until further no

tice from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

City Manager Jerry Guillory said the break happened between 1-2 a.m., and city staff immediately responded to the problem by stopping the water from spewing and manning phones as citizens called in to report the issue. 

   Crews from LeHigh Heidelburg Cement Group, a Fort Worth specialty repair company, patched the pipe by 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. 

   The city began filling up the pipes and purging lines to restore service early Tuesday afternoon, while crews slowly began filling and re-pressurizing the city's water lines. 

  Fire hydrants have been opened at strategic locations across the city to purge debris and bacteria from the lines. The city is also working to return chlorine residual levels back to TCEQ standards. 

   Publc works employees are now left with more work to do.

"A lot of the street has been eroded by the water," Guillory said.

   Crews will begin filling in the hole that extended more than 10 feet deep and 15 foot wide and resurfacing Short Street. 

   The full impact the water main rupture had on the city is yet to be seen, however, Chamber of Commerce President Karen Wright said local businesses were affected.

   "The impact was quite substantial for Dublin businesses," Wright said.

Wright heard reports that restaurants, hair dressers, meat processors and other businesses closed Tuesday due to the water loss.

   "Anyone who requires water to operate was not open for business," Wright said.

   Dublin ISD canceled classes on all campuses Tuesday, but Dublin High School Principal Vicky Stone said classes will resume today. 

Originally published Nov. 16 at and Nov. 17 by the Stephenville Empire-Tribune.

Dublin ISD closed, residents without water after main breaks

posted May 23, 2011, 7:28 PM by Micah Moore   [ updated May 23, 2011, 7:55 PM ]

Dublin residents have been without water since early Tuesday morning  after the water main piping the city's water into the city on Short Street burst. The 6-inch rupture of the iron pipe caused a city-wide water loss.

Dublin ISD canceled classes on all campuses due to the water loss. High School Principal Vicky Stone said classes will resume tomorrow.

City Manager Jerry Guillory said the break happened between 1-2 a.m. City staff responded to the problem by 3 a.m. stopping the water from spewing and manning phones as many citizens had already begun calling.

"A lot of the street has been eroded by the water," Guillory said.

Crews from LeHigh Heidelburg Cement Group, a specialty repair company, are on their way to fix the break.

Guillory said he is uncertain when service will be restored, but expects to have water flowing Tuesday evening.

Originally published Nov. 16 exclusively at

Athletic broadcast agreement not typical of LSC Schools

posted Sep 29, 2010, 4:03 PM by Micah Moore   [ updated May 23, 2011, 7:56 PM ]

Tarleton faces unique spending habits in wake of unprecedented budget cuts

By MICAH D. MOORE | Texan News Service

Tarleton State University pays a Stephenville radio station $33,750 to broadcast its athletic events – almost twice the amount any other public school in the Lone Star Conference pays to broadcast its sporting events, records show.

Tarleton’s payment to KSTV-FM 93.1 comes as the university is trying to cut $9.3 million from its budget by the end of August 2013, according to a university spokesperson.

A Texan TV News investigation, based on contracts and documents obtained under the Texas Public Information Act from Tarleton and other schools across the state, found that the most any other state school in the Lone Star Conference paid a radio station to broadcast athletic events is $18,305, records show. That payment came from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

One other school, Texas A&M University-Commerce, uses its university-owned station KETR-FM 88.9 to broadcast its athletic events. The only expenses that the university incurs are fees totaling about $10,000 for sports announcers to do play-by-play and color commentating for all sports throughout the year, according to records obtained under the Texas Public Information Act.

One public institution in the Lone Star Conference doesn’t spend any money to broadcast any of their athletic events. Angelo State University Vice President of Communication and Marketing Preston Lewis said, “There is no exchange of money between Angelo State University and Foster Communication.”

Foster Communication owns four radio stations including KKCL-FM 100.1 which broadcasts Angelo State University athletic events.

“They broadcast these games in return for the commercial revenues, “Lewis said.

Texan TV News attempted to interview top administrators at Tarleton about the KSTV contract. The office of Vice President for Institutional Advancement Rick Richardson, who oversees media relations, declined a request for an interview. The Division of Finance and Administration, which oversees contract administration, referred questions to Athletic Director Lonn Reisman.

Reisman initially agreed to an in-person interview with a Texan TV News reporter, but cancelled that meeting and subsequently agreed to only answer questions by email.

Reisman said that Tarleton Radio was not considered to broadcast university athletic, as TAMU-Commerce uses its own station, events because “at the time of the bid, KTRL’s broadcast range barely exceeded the Stephenville city limits.”

In 2009, KTRL operated as a low power station at FM frequency 100.7. That summer, Gary Moss, a Cleburne broadcaster, donated to the university a much larger, non-commercial station that operated at the 90.5 frequency.

The university gave the new, larger station KTRL’s call letters and assigned new call letters, KURT, to the smaller, student-operated frequency of 100.7 FM. Tarleton Radio General Manager Eric Truax over sees both stations.

Truax said the university-owned KTRL-FM 90.5 has “the largest signal coverage of any station based in Erath County and is certainly able to broadcast Tarleton’s athletic events.” KTRL can now be heard as far as Weatherford, Abilene and southwest Fort Worth.

“If the Athletic Department were to ask about broadcasting on KTRL, we could definitely do it for less than they are paying now,” Truax said.

Tarleton has owned KTRL for more than a year. The station is now an affiliate of National Public Radio.

In past meetings and correspondence with Truax and student staff, Tarleton officials have questioned whether the staff of its radio station was capable of broadcasting athletic events.

Beginning this fall, KTRL began broadcasting athletic events of the nearby Glen Rose Independent School District – to the satisfaction of the school district and KTRL.

“We’ve had great success broadcasting Glen Rose football. We put out a consistent good quality signal each week and have a trained staff of sports broadcasters,” said Truax.

Glen Rose Athletic Director Tommy Dunn has received positive feedback from the community regarding the broadcast of their games. People are now able to hear Glen Rose football games where they previously could not.

“I think KTRL has done a good job broadcasting Glen Rose Tigers games,” Dunn said. “The staff at KTRL has been professional and I hope this has been a positive experience for the students at [Tarleton].”

Glen Rose ISD allows Tarleton to broadcast the football games for free and Tarleton charges the school district nothing for the service.

“It shouldn’t be about money. It’s about the love of the sport itself and about giving students real-world sports broadcasting experience in a professional environment,” said Truax.

While Tarleton pays tens of thousands of dollars to the privately-owned KSTV, that same station is paying thousands of dollars to the Stephenville Independent School District to broadcast athletic events, records show.

 KSTV pays Stephenville Independent School District $8,000 each year for the exclusive broadcast rights to Stephenville High School athletic events.

KSTV’s contract with SISD provides that KSTV is the only media outlet of any kind with permission to broadcast any of the games and pre- and post-game activities.

KSTV General Manager Robert “Boots” Elliot says he has a tight relationship with Reisman but Tarleton retains control over its broadcast rights. By comparison, Elliot said he has complete control of every media outlet at Stephenville games.

Other universities sometimes receive generous amounts of advertising as part of their contract agreement. Records show that TAMU-Kingsville receives 30, 60-second commercials per week during the season.

Additionally, TAMU-Kingsville’s broadcaster retains six minutes of the entire commercial inventory during each game.

Midwestern State University receives half of all the proceeds from available commercial air time from the broadcast of its games.

In contrast, hand written notes in the contract between Tarleton and KSTV states that the university gets two minutes of free advertising during Tarleton Thursday programming.

Reisman said the contract between Tarleton and KSTV was approved and recommended by Tarleton’s purchasing department.

Purchasing Director Beth Chandler confirmed that the athletic department did not make any recommendations on the contract nor were they consulted in the bidding process. Athletics submitted their specific broadcast needs to the Purchasing Department, then purchasing oversaw the process until a vendor was selected.

Tarleton is currently in the third year of a potential five year contract with KSTV. Records show that the contract can be renewed annually at the recommendation of the university and KSTV. If renewed, Tarleton continues under the same contract with the same specifications.

The university, however, can opt to not renew the contract. At that time, Tarleton would begin the search for another station to broadcast the athletic events or continue with KSTV under a new contract.

Editors Note: Micah Moore is a producer for the Texan TV News and a former station manager for Tarleton Radio’s student-run station, KURT-FM 100.7.

In the Texan TV News investigation contracts and other documents were obtained from all Texas public universities in the Lone Star Conference as well as other entities. Those include Tarleton, TAMU-Kingsville, TAMU-Commerce, Midwestern, West Texas A&M University and Angelo and Stephenville ISD. Copies of all documents acquired in the investigation, including Tarleton’s and SISD’s athletic broadcast agreement with KSTV, financial statements, contracts from other Lone Star Conference schools, are available below and also at Texan News Service.

Tarleton's Open Records Request Letter

Other Universities Open Records Request Letter

Tarleton State University's Broadcast Agreement with KSTV

Documents Regarding Tarleton's Broadcast Agreement

Stephenville ISD's Broadcast Agreement with KSTV

Texas A&M University Kingsville's Broadcast Agreement and Supporting Documents

Texas A&M University - Commerce's Announcer's Contracts and Payments

Angelo State University's Broadcast Agreement

Midwestern State University's Broadcast Agreement

posted Sep 27, 2010, 7:15 PM by Micah Moore   [ updated Sep 29, 2010, 4:06 PM ]

1-7 of 7