TWDB to City Council:|
Yes... but Only IF and WHEN
City Council’s Wastewater System “Change of Scope” request came before the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) again on Thursday, March 28. The Council has been asking the TWDB to allow the City to continue using the Board’s $5.2 million loan for the Change of Scope, to complete Wimberley’s wastewater system to clean up Cypress Creek.
To watch the Wimberley portion of today’s hearing, go to the video clip for item 11 (55 minutes, 15 seconds) at the TWDB video site: http://texasadmin.com/tx/twdb/board_meeting/20190328/ .
The loan was first granted April 11, 2016 for a Wimberley-controlled and -managed wastewater system that included a treatment plant to clean the water and reuse it to water the Blue Hole sports fields and - if the amount of downtown sewage ever grew great enough - all of Blue Hole Park.
The current Council’s Change of Scope switches the sewage treatment to the private company Aqua Texas. This revised plan requires drilling a raw sewage line under Cypress Creek near the Blue Hole swimming area - an area with uncharted karst features. In addition, the plan will not supply any water to Blue Hole Park - meaning the Park will need to use precious aquifer water for watering.
Speaking for the TWDB staff, Executive Administrator Jeff Walker gave the board a recommendation to accept the current Council’s Change of Scope, but only after the Council meets several stringent further requirements.
Before detailing these requirements, Walker noted that:
- The Change of Scope lost $2 million in free grants. (Not noted was that there has been an additional loss of approximately $1/2 million, including the loss of TWDB loan interest forgiveness for the environmental qualities of the previous plan, legal and construction fees, and other costs.)
- The change does not allow for the use of “reuse water” at Blue Hole which, Walker said, “was an important component of the City’s original pledge of revenues.”
- Walker also said “...because of previous delays and the potential for additional delays that could affect the ability of the City to generate sufficient revenues to repay the debt, I’m recommending additional security for the debt.” (Like any lender, TWDB needs to know that a loan can be repaid in a timely manner.)
“There are still some items that have to occur before construction can begin,” Walker continued. You can hear these at 57:55 on the TWDB video. These requirements include a Golden-cheeked warbler habitat assessment by a qualified biologist within 300 feet of Cypress Creek, and the City must coordinate with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the proposed changes, followed by a 30-day public review period on the findings.
Walker stated, “...because of previous delays and the potential for additional delays that could affect the ability of the City to generate sufficient revenues to repay the debt, I’m recommending additional security for the debt.” He concluded with “a recommendation that you require an exchange refunding of the city’s outstanding bonds in order to add ad valorem taxes to the pledged revenue for this project.”
In other words, the city must put in place a NEW property tax for the expected 30-year life of this loan. This is different from the property tax (set at 0%) in place for a previous TWDB loan for the system design, that will expire when that loan is paid off in August 2020.
With those conditions, TWDB gave approval to the plan.
For additional information, download the Amendment to Project Scope memo prepared for the Board by Dain Larsen, Manager, Regional Water Project Development.
One note of thanks: As at the last hearing on this topic, TWDB Chairman Peter M. Lake and Executive Administrator Walker both made very clear that many on the TWDB staff had worked countless hours, for years, and with great “professionalism” on dealing with Wimberley’s efforts to get a wastewater system. Their displeasure with having to do this for so long was both spoken and implied.
More than anything else in this long fight, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development wants to see Cypress Creek downtown cleaned up for the citizens and guests of Wimberley. We add our appreciation to all the members of the Board and Staff, including Walker and those named by him who have worked hard on this need: Dain Larsen, Hector Estrada, Kristin Miller, Jesse Milonovich, and Clay Shultz.
- CARD Steering Committee
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