Gov. Greg Abbott has signed a bill that local lawmakers say could create accountability for sewer utility services in the southern part of the county.
Abbott signed House Bill 4749 on June 15 to create the Rose City Municipal Utility District, according to the Legislature’s website. The law goes into effect Sept. 1.
The new district, known as a MUD, would be a government entity providing sewer services in the southern part of Tyler, the northern part of Bullard, and unincorporated areas in between.
The territory in question is currently served by the company Liberty Utilities, which faced customer complaints about high sewer prices for years. In 2017, the city of Tyler challenged the company’s proposed rate increase, leading to a settlement.
"We now have leverage in dealing with Liberty Utilities that we didn't have before," Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, said in a statement. "It will still require time, effort, and planning to move the Rose City Municipal Utility District forward. But we have a tool we never had before.
"Gov. Abbott was kind enough to call me personally to tell me he would sign the bill, and that showed his respect for the people of Smith County," Schaefer said.
The Smith County Commissioners Court and Tyler City Council passed resolutions earlier this year in support of the bill. Schaefer introduced the bill in the Texas House, and Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, led the bill in the Texas Senate.
The Rose City MUD would be governed by a five-person board, with three appointed by the city of Tyler and two by the Smith County governments. It would have the authority to issue debt and pay it back with revenue from sewer fees, but would not be able to levy taxes.
The bill made it through a joint committee of the House and Senate in the final days of the legislative session, and was sent to Abbott’s desk on May 29. He had the option to sign, veto or let the bill go into law without his signature.
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