The topic of electricity once again dominated the Tomball City Council meeting Feb. 3, following a surprising announcement from a CenterPoint Energy official during public comments.
City council was considering an ordinance which would loosen some longtime regulations regarding power lines within a neighborhood, allowing above ground lines around the entire perimeter of a new development. This was done at the suggestion of developers for the new Raleigh Creek subdivision.
"CenterPoint Energy does have some concerns," Craig Oliver, service area director for the company announced during public comments. "I would ask council to table this so we could have some further discussion on it."
Tomball Community Development Director Craig Meyers seemed to be at a loss for words.
"I'm a little, I guess, confused," he said. "Staff met with Mr. Oliver and thought we were all in agreement with the proposed language."
Oliver told council that the ordinance would interfere with the franchise agreement the city has with CenterPoint.
"CenterPoint has rights to construct its facilities within the city through the franchise agreement," he said.
To that, City Manager George Shackelford and Councilman Derek Townsend questioned Oliver about the sudden opposition, considering a more restrictive ordinance had been in place since 2002.
"There's already an ordinance now to that effect," Shackelford said.
"I agree and we intend to object to that," Oliver responded.
Townsend asked city staff whether Center-Point objected to the 2002 ordinance when it took effect.
"It was brought to CenterPoint's attention in 2009 or 10 and we haven't heard anything since then," one staffer replied.
Other council members were upset that the language of the ordinance was worked out with a CenterPoint engineer following the first vote on this issue several weeks ago, but that engineer has not responded to city staff's phone calls or emails.
"He guaranteed us this was the best way to do this almost," said Field Hudgens. "It's concerning to me that CenterPoint is here telling us what they don't like about our ordinance, when their engineer was here telling us how to do the ordinance."
Raleigh Creek developer James Spurlin seemed shocked and frustrated at the turn of events.
"We are at the point in this development where we have done everything we are supposed to do," he said. "CenterPoint had a tremendous opportunity to do this before now.
For our development we need this decision to go forward. There are builders ready to build model homes in 10 days."
In the end, council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance, allowing the development to go forward.
Shackelford said that the city has not heard from CenterPoint since the meeting.
Officials from CenterPoint Energy did not return a phone call or email seeking comment, as of press time.