Speak out at
City Council Thursday night
If you believe Aqua Texas is not right for the environment and future of Wimberley, then you should let City Council know that at the Thursday, March 7 meeting at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.
This item is on the agenda:
7. Executive Session pursuant to Texas Government Code, Section 551.071 (Consultation with Attorney) to receive legal advice regarding review of a potential Aqua Texas contract.
Here's why this is a potential disaster that smacks of desperation, that could cost the City a lot more money, that might lead to an ad valorem tax and that could even kill any sewer system for Wimberley.
TWDB Position on the Council's Change of Scope Request
For months the current Council has been trying to get the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to approve continuing the $5.2 million low-interest loan for its plan to switch Wimberley Wastewater from a City-owned and -operated plant to a hook-up with Aqua Texas. Two years ago, the TWDB granted the loan because the plan for the City-owned plant was financially sound and environmentally exceptional. It would clean up Cypress Creek's downtown pollution and supply the much needed water for Blue Hole Regional Park, and would protect our waterways.
That is why Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development strongly endorsed and supported the plan.
The previous Council plan was clearly able to repay the loan to TWDB, which is another essential reason TWDB made the loan. (After all, it's their money and they will want it back.)
Since the new Council's August 2018 vote to switch to Aqua Texas, TWDB has been asking this Council for the answers to many questions, mostly environmental and financial. The current Council has consistently given non-answers and insufficient answers. Perhaps that is why TWDB became concerned about Wimberley's ability to pay back the loan and provide an environmentally safe alternative.
On February 25, after months of waiting for the current Council to show that their "Change of Scope" to switch to Aqua Texas was financially and environmentally feasible, the TWDB finally let its impatience show. In a stiff rebuke of the Council's underdeveloped, environmentally risky Aqua Texas plan that will be costly to Wimberley, TWDB gave a vote of no confidence by voting unanimously to Take No Action on the Change of Scope until after the Council has fulfilled a long list of requirements - requirements that the TWDB has been requesting since the vote to change to Aqua Texas. To see the TWDB meeting with Wimberley City Council, go to the 37:45 minute mark at this link: http://texasadmin.com/tx/twdb/board_meeting/20190225/
Included in their list was a demand for a genuine environmental study of the Aqua Texas plan (not two pages casually tossed out by the project engineer), which includes putting a pipeline carrying raw sewage directly under a beautiful and sensitive area of Cypress Creek between Blue Hole and downtown! TWDB was aware that Texas Parks and Wildlife had recently sent the City a 14-page letter detailing recommendations on an environmental study. Perhaps TWDB knew that Mayor Jaggers had publicly stated in Council that the Texas Parks letter was "just a suggestion."
TWDB also stated that the Council had to show proof that its now-financially risky plan could still pay back the TWDB loan - proof such as putting in place an ad valorem tax.
But TWDB did not stop there. After verbally spelling out their lengthy requirements on February 25, a few days later - apparently concerned the Council still was not hearing them - or still not listening - TWDB sent a blistering email to the Council. The email put the list in greater detail, and gave the Council some unusually blunt warnings, such as:
"Please provide a complete response, including any information the City may want to provide from other sources. For example, notes that indicate that TWDB should seek input from Aqua Texas are considered non-responsive. The City must provide its own responses on its behalf..."
"Any related construction PRIOR to the environmental finding or approval of the change order could result in those project elements or the entire change order being deemed ineligible."
Future of Project
CARD has always opposed the Change of Scope on environmental grounds. The current Council has disagreed, and done all they could to make the switch to Aqua Texas a reality. We respectfully ask that in light of the nearly impossible task of getting TWDB approval, and the escalating financial setback this change has already caused Wimberley, that Council steps back from the Aqua Texas plan and returns to the original City-managed plan that clearly is environmentally superior and benefits the community.
One more thing: At this writing, citizens, and even some Council members, have not been able to see recent versions of the proposed Aqua Texas contract, but the previous contract included a $250,000 cancellation penalty. Signing with Aqua Texas would make a return to the original plan, which seems the only feasible way to go, more costly to the people of Wimberley.
And if it annoys the TWDB enough, they might even cancel the loan for good, no matter what this Council, or the next, decides. The City would still be on the hook to pay back money already received to build the (still unfinished) collection system and the work done by Black Castle on the treatment plant before this Council cancelled that contract.
Please let Council know Thursday night that Wimberley does not approve of the Change of Scope to Aqua Texas, and does not approve of signing a contract with Aqua or any other business until: the TWDB issue is resolved; a thorough environmental study has been done; an alternative to drilling under Cypress Creek has been found; and the Council finds adequate funding sources to avoid an ad valorem tax where one was not needed before.
The original City-managed wastewater plant can still be completed. The lost $2 million grants are still available. Blue Hole Park can still get the promised water it needs to make a great park even greener. And our waterways can be protected. Let's get Wimberley back on track and get this tiresome issue behind us.
- CARD Steering Committee
CARD publications are written and approved by CARD Steering Committee members. We are listed on our website's About page. Archives and more information also are available on hayscard.org.