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City ‘horse trades’ for monitor well

By Judith Pannebaker

After some old-fashioned horse trading, City of Bandera elected officials and staff got what they came for - a monitoring well located within the city limits.

After a special meeting Thursday, August 30, several city representatives attended a similar meeting of the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District. Groundwater directors were set to discuss drilling a monitor well in the city - a topic that had been bandied about for months.

No one on the water board denied the advisability of installing such a well, they were just quibbling about who would ultimately pay for it. Several members felt if the water district must ante up the entire fee, the county would be better served by installing the well between the city and Flying L Ranch, where most county development seems to be taking place.

City officials, on the other hand, believed since they had paid so much in taxes to BCRAGD, the board could well afford to foot the entire bill. They also felt data collected from the Lower Trinity Aquifer from a monitor well located near the municipality’s three commercial well would help officials determine the scope of future city growth.

Groundwater Director Richard Connors opened discussions by enumerating the reasons for a monitor well within the city limits. “It would provide well field data to improve our ability to make recommendations to the county about well placement and proximity,” he said, adding, “A well in this area would give information to the city about its ability to sustain growth.” Connors also felt the well would provide data and modeling for accurate determination of the benefits of ASR. In addition, he said it would conform to the current management plan and goal objectives of the groundwater district.

Countering Connors’ reasoning, Director Ron Solomon said, “By putting it in the Flying L, we’d get more bang for our bucks. It would benefit a lot more citizens in that area, as well as in the city.”

City Administrator Gene Foerster refuted a contention that only 4 percent of the county’s population was concentrated within Bandera city limits. “City utilities serve 900 customers. At 2.2 people per connection, that’s 2,000 people,” he said. In addition, the city supports between 120 to 150 commercial establishments, Foerster said, amounting to one-third of total county businesses. “On weekends, the city can serve 10,000 people at times,” he added.

At that point, Connors and Groundwater Director Karen Ripley offered conflicting information they had obtained independently from James Beach, a representative from LBG-Guyton, a consulting firm hired by BCRAGD to conduct an on-going water study.
According to Connors, Beach said it would be beneficial to install a monitoring well close to the city’s three commercial wells to determine the effect of wells pumping against one another.

Ripley, however, told directors Beach had indicated both sites were equally viable. “He said well placement was more of a political question,” Ripley added.

“Politics has nothing to do with me,” Connors countered.
“If you want to make this a political issue, look at the taxes paid by the city verses those paid by people living in subdivisions,” said Councilman Philip Acton.

To a query from Bandera Mayor Denise Griffin, Ripley said a monitor well within the city limits was “far down on the list of recommendations,” adding Guyton had advocated a location “near,” as opposed to “in,” the city.

After several requests to open the bids, groundwater directors unsealed the two bids received for installation of a Lower Trinity Aquifer monitor well within the Bandera City limits.

The first, from Aqua Tex Drilling Inc. came in at $16,070, and the second, from Pipe Creek Water Wells, was $15,570.

Noting the initial estimate topped $33,000, Robert Koimn, a member of the Bandera Planning and Zoning Commission, said, “At those prices, you can drill two wells.”

“Now, we’re down to it,” said BCRAGD President Jim Chastain - and the horse trading began.

Griffin said she understood the water board was seeking a 50-50 collaboration while the city would be more amenable to an 80-20 spit - with the water board bearing the brunt of the well’s installation.

Foerster said the city was willing to secure the land for the well and do site preparation if the cost for both - which amounted to approximately $1,000 - would be included in the city’s proposed 20 percent monetary contribution to the well. In addition, Foerster said, the well would be owned by the city and data collected by the groundwater district shared with Director of Public Works Mike Cardenas.

After additional wrangling, which included an amendment to an amendment to a motion - guaranteed to have flummoxed Robert (of Robert’s Rules of Order) himself - the city tentatively agreed to provide a prepared site for the monitor well and contribute $3,100 to its construction within the city limits.

“We’ll take this proposal back to city council for approval and to have an interlocal agreement signed,” Foerster said.

All in all, it was good mule trading - for the city at least. During their earlier meeting, council had approved contributing an amount not to exceed $4,000 to the cost of a city monitor well.