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Misinformed? Or mad for a reason?

BCC Staff

During the joint Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) and Bandera City Council meeting Jan. 4, city council member Lynn Palmer called the citizens protesting the extension of city water and sewer lines across the Medina River on SH 173 south for a proposed 120-unit skilled nursing home that will employ 80 “misinformed.”

The citizens were protesting because while they-current city water users-were asked to cut down their water consumption this summer due to drought, the city gave the initial green light to extending its water lines to new water customers. Were protesters, who additionally claimed that the city had broken its own ordinance by agreeing to the extension without first taking it before the city council for approval, misinformed-or just mad?

Mayor Denise Griffin told protesters at the Dec. 20 city council meeting, “all that was done is that a question was asked, “Is it possible?” She told BCRAGD President Jim Chastain at the joint Jan. 4 meeting, after he said that the city had saved enough water by fixing water lines to serve the nursing home, “You’re talking common sense-we’re dealing with people who come to us and say that we turned their water down last summer.”

City council members, along with City Administrator Gene Foerster, attended the BCRAGD meeting in hopes of leaving with a guarantee from BCRAGD that the City of Bandera has enough water in its Lower Trinity Aquifer wells to provide water to additional users.

The city council voted at their Dec. 20 meeting not to serve new customers outside the city limits until a water availability study was completed.

BCRAGD, however, told the city that while Task 2 of the 4-task water study was scheduled for completion by this summer, Task 3 is the part of the water study that will address the city’s water availability and cannot be completed until Task 2 is completed.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for the developer who has already received preliminary approval from the county. Although Griffin said that the city had taken no formal action on approving the extension of water lines to the proposed nursing home, Bandera County Commissioners Court granted preliminary plat approval with the agreement that the city could and would provide water and sewer to the proposed subdivision.

Griffin wrote a letter to county commissioners Oct. 16 stating, “This is to advise that the City of Bandera will provide utilities to the project to be located at the intersection of SH 173 south and FM 1077. The ability to provide water and wastewater as requested will be dependent on the construction of main lines from the existing mains to the project by the developer. This will require the approval of TxDOT and application for this project has been made by the City of Bandera.”

The county received an additional letter from city engineer Rudy Klein stating, “We have determined that the Nursing Center Subdivision will have an equivalent dwell unit of 150 units. Based on that number, we find that the City of Bandera’s treatment plant does have capacity for the development.”

Klein added, “At the present time, we do not have the elevated tank storage capacity needed. However, the city is currently taking bids for construction of a new 100,000-gallon elevated storage tank which will then provide the capacity needed. We anticipate having the tank online in June 2007.”

Section 11 of the City of Bandera’s regulations state that the following policies and procedures will apply to all connections and extensions: “All extensions of water main facilities must conform to the City’s master plan, ordinances, codes and regulations and must be reviewed by the City Engineer and approved by the City Council.”

City Administrator Gene Foerster defended the city’s actions thus far. He said the nursing home would provide jobs and that extending the water line to more customers would more equally distribute maintenance costs and help prevent pollution. Foerster said that while TxDOT requires a 12-inch water line in their easement, that did not mean that much water would be flowing to the other side of the Medina River. “You can’t push through more water at either end than you have available.”

Foerster said that the city has almost 900 water customers presently. “The Oaks of Bandera increased our water customers by eight percent. The nursing home would increase it by 16 percent. The city council voted to have our staff get with Mr. Jeffery (BCRAGD manager) and go over figures to see if we can get more information on water availability.”

Citizens protesting the extension of the city’s water lines-fearful that serving new customers will deprive them of water-say that the city does not have enough information on water availability to make the decision to extend the lines.

For example, they argue, even if the city can provide the water needed for the nursing home, what about the rest of the proposed subdivision? And what gives the city the right to break its own ordinance and give the county a letter agreeing to provide water before putting the issue before the city council for a vote?