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State levies fine against city over water issues
by Gary Kent
May 01, 2014 | 32 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BEEVILLE – Two attorneys at the last City Council meeting, April 22, said they had objections to the city entering into a settlement agreement with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The agreement requires the city to pay the TCEQ $6,929 for alleged violations discovered by the state agency during an investigation conducted on Dec. 10, 2013.

It was during that investigation that Beeville residents awoke to find only a trickle of water coming out of their faucets one morning.

“I have some concerns about the agreed order,” said Councilman George P. “Trace” Morrill, III.

Morrill is a third generation Beeville attorney, and the George P. Morrill, I Water Treatment Plant at Swinney Switch is named after his grandfather.

The TCEQ investigation team was at the treatment plant when the water system failed at the end of last year and left city residents without water for a couple of days.

“I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all,” Morrill said.

That prompted City Attorney Frank Warner to offer to negotiate with the TCEQ to see if the city could pay the penalty without having to agree to the document.

Earlier in the discussion, Director of Public Works Cesario Vela said he thought the city was getting off easy by paying only $6,929 in penalties. He said the state agency had initially wanted more money.

“I think this is a great deal,” Morrill said of the penalty. “I just don’t like the language of the agreement.”

Warner reminded Morrill, interim City Manager Marvin Townsend and the others present that the TCEQ is difficult to deal with in these matters.

“They just don’t like to be questioned,” he said. He warned the council that trying to deal with the agency could result in an expensive and time-consuming evidentiary hearing.

“We have no problems,” Vela told the council. “This will not occur again.

Townsend and Vela explained that one of the complaints mentioned by the TCEQ stemmed from the way city residents were informed of the water situation when the flow to town was cut off in December because of problems at the plant.

He said the city looked at the situation and opted to use the Beeville Police Department’s Blackboard Connect system to inform city residents.

TCEQ authorities thought the city should have used communications media to inform city residents.

Warner reminded the council that if all that the TCEQ claims is true, he may not be able to deal with the agency.

However, Townsend said he did not see any harm in waiting until the next meeting for the council to make a decision on the matter.

He recommended that the council give Warner an opportunity to speak to TCEQ representatives before any action is taken on the document.

The council then voted to table the agenda item and look at it again at its first meeting in May after Warner has had a chance to discuss the matter with the state.

In other business, the council voted to:

— Approve the purchase of a 3,000-gallon tanker truck for the Beeville Volunteer Fire Department at a cost of $247,600 from Seminary, Miss. The truck will be bought through state purchasing agency programs. Funding will come from a number of sources.

— Approve street closings in downtown Beeville for this year’s May 2-3 Relay for Life at the Bee County Courthouse.

— Authorize the city to complete the purchase of a pneumatic roller that the city has been leasing in recent years.

— Allow the purchase of a 2014 police car for $22,807 from Dodge City in McKinney and authorize the city to purchase $10,359 in equipment for the vehicle.

— Approve the sale of a 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe for $28,113 from Caldwell County and purchase a K-9 insert and other equipment for the vehicle.

— Authorize the city to make a final payment of $28,196 for sidewalk construction work conducted by Central Road and Utility Ltd. of Austin.

— Approve a change order to the sidewalk contract to reduce the final payment from $80,689 to $77,642.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.

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