Of trust and water
by Chip Latcham
Mar 07, 2013 | 2140 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two major stories in our weekend edition should have raised some eyebrows.

Three local residents were named among 32 people, including 17 correctional officers from the McConnell Unit prison, indicted on federal charges that range from selling drugs within the prison to smuggling phones for gang members.

“That should send a clear warning to state leadership there is a problem,” said Lance Lowry, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The union leader said the indictments highlight a much larger problem, the inability of the Legislature to keep up with pay and training for the men and women who form the “frontline of defense” to prevent prison gang violence.

“Prison gangs are the equivalent of the drug cartel on this side of the border,” he said, adding that he would like to see a 14 percent pay raise for correctional officers, along with better training and screening of applicants.

Although we’re in agreement that more needs to be done, that may not be realistic – especially when competing with public education, highways and other demands on limited state funds. And though it should be higher, the pay for correctional officers will never be able to keep up with jobs in the Eagle Ford oil boom.

Also, we’re not certain that raising pay alone will solve the problem. It seems that greed and corruption always will snag a few “bad apples” at every level of pay grade, from prisons to Wall Street corporations.

Regarding the second story, a possible $15.3 million bond issue to finance an alternative water supply, we will reserve judgment.

Yes, we have begged the city leaders for months, even years, to do something about our dire water situation. We are pleased they see the necessity of taking action to supplement our aging surface water delivery system.

But 15 million dollars? Wow, that’s a chunk of change. That would mean a property tax increase of $17.63 a month for a $75,000 home in Beeville, using a 3.9 percent interest rate for planning purposes, on a typical payback period of 25 years.

We realize that several engineering firms have been hired to study the problem, but has the city truly explored all its options? What about the groundwater wells already in existence at Chase Field owned by the Bee Development Authority? Couldn’t those wells be utilized to blend with the Nueces River water for a vastly lower amount?

Also we know some experts are questioning the decision to drill a deep well into the Jasper Aquifer and pump water through a reverse osmosis filtering device to reduce the suspended solids to make the water acceptable under state standards. They say it’s an expensive process.

Many citizens will be anxiously awaiting further council meetings and public hearings on the matter before the May 11 election.

– Chip Latcham

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