A West Texas Town in Crisis

Sundown Water Tower - Ed
Sundown Water Tower. Photo ©Ginny Phillips

Sundown, Texas is a little town of around 1,500 in population sitting in the middle of the Llano Estacado.  The town is off the beaten path – meaning you have to purposely drive to it to get to it.  This small rural West Texas town is in an economic crisis due to poor governance.

Why is this important?

First, you can never base a budget on sales taxes revenues. These always fluctuate and are driven by the economy.

Second, city services are being systemically eliminated with the EMS, public library, and city pool to save on monies. Instead of cutting jobs – the city management should have figured out ways to cut other budget items to save the jobs in this tough economy.

Third, you do not have a city council and city management outright lie to a tax paying resident that the city pool has been fixed and will be open come the summer and then turn around and tell a reporter something completely different two days later.

Fourth, you don’t keep a 9-hole golf course in operation, which only benefits a majority of the city council and mayor, as well as a few other people and has consistently been run in the red for years at $100,000 or more every year. This has always been the biggest money drain on the city. Yet – it’s kept open because the city council wants it. It’s never had any economic benefit. It only benefits the men sitting on the council playing golf every day. Then there is the water factor – how many gallons of precious water would be saved if the city were not watering the golf course just for a few? The golf course could be repurposed for affordable housing, a bigger city park, etc.

Fifth, for a city, to be in such an economic crisis why did its Economic Development Board (EDC) Board and council vote to move forth to help build a gym in the city? Taxpayer monies will help fund this gym, yet the city will have no EMS. Does that make sense to you?

The city council, city management nor EDC Board understands that they are dealing with taxpayers’ monies. They have to be held fiduciarily accountable for every last cent. They are the trustees of taxpayer monies to not freely spend freely on items not needed, i.e., new trucks because city employees keep wrecking them.

Granted the biggest downfall is the citizens not holding the council and city management accountable for all these decisions. They only speak up after the fact and the few that do, expecting more from the council, city management, and EDC are casually dismissed or are yelled at. Just because, “that’s the way it’s always been done” which is a statement heard over and over is proof there is no true concern for the town or it’s citizens wellbeing, almost indicating an air of laziness.

This town needs changes on many governance levels because without change Sundown will go deeper into a hole where not only a few lives are endangered because of lack of EMS, but the whole town will be destroyed. Sundown’s outlook is bleak with its only salvation being the citizens to save it. But will they care enough to step up to the plate and do something about it?

The KCBD story which aired on April 14, 2016.



Photograph – ©Ginny Phillips