The county’s septic inspector, Steve McKinney, denied the game room proponents, doing business under the name Sound Planning Inc., a permit for the system saying Refugio County would be setting a precedent if it approved the variance.
The county’s ordinance approved in September 2001 (2001-0-04) lists rules for on-site sewer disposal.
“They want to designate it as a movie theater,” McKinney said.
He added that clients would be in a movie theater two to three hours and leave.
“I declined the permit. I see it as a lounge,” McKinney said.
He explained that a lounge is where clients would relax, play games and drink, but in this case they would be drinking water, not alcohol.
The measurement for such facilities is four gallons of water per seat for movie theaters and eight gallons of water per seat for bars.
McKinney said for safety reasons, he believed denying the permit was the decision to make. He said there are other water wells near the game room.
Representing the game room were Bill Nickerson, septic tank installer Jerry Allen of Jim Wells County and attorney Jaime Carrillo of Kingsville. Game room principal David Garcia was not present.
Allen said the state has no designation for game rooms.
Carrillo added that the facility is asking for six gallons of water per seat, a compromise between the movie and bar measurements.
Refugio County Judge Rene Mascorro asked if any studies had been done to determine how much a facility like the game room uses.
Nickerson added that a game room in San Patricio County or Aransas County has the six gallon per seat, and it has worked fine.
The game room group said they were not bound by costs to expand the system, but rather by space around the facility.
“I have reservations if the state hasn’t identified what these facilities need,” Mascorro said.
“It is not a movie theater-like facility,” Commissioner Ann Lopez said.
Mascorro proposed putting a meter on the facility to measure usage, and if the facility used more than the six gallons per seat, the permit could be pulled.
“We’re putting ourselves at risk either way ... it’s a catch 22,” Commissioner Stanley Tuttle said.
“(Deny the variance) is what your inspector has advised you,” he added.
Carrillo reiterated that the six gallon per seat was a compromise – usage between a movie theater and a bar.
Addressing county inspector McKinney, Mascorro asked if a meter and daily readings would satisfy him.
“You would be setting a precedent. I want it at eight gallons a seat for public safety,” McKinney said.
McKinney said the eight gallons per seat would ensure no threat to nearby water wells.
And he warned if a variance was given, it would be hard to stop what is in progress..
“You try to stop it after it’s already started, you will find it hard,” McKinney said.
“Accountability is in the court,” Mascorro said.
He added that the group were doing business outside the city limits.
“I’m trusting business owners to give me those reports,” he said.
“We have the room to do it. We can increase the parking and do it for more area for the drain field,” Allen said.
But weekly reports, he said, would have to be the manager and establishment’s responsibility.
Tuttle rejected the idea of the establishment doing their own reports.
“I don’t think it is in the best interest of the court to imply any business is dishonest,” Mascorro said.
“If we don’t go by waht our inspector says, why do we have him?” Commissioner Gary Bourland said.
“It it was cut and dry (and the state had statutes), we wouldn’t be here,” Mascorro said.
“I’m stuck on safety of the community. It’s a better job for the county if we go to the other (eight gallons per seat)” McKinney said.
“It is not unreasonable for us to issue a temporary permit,” Mascorro said.
He suggested a six-month permit.
“If it exceeds, we can pull it,” Mascorro said.
“That is perfectly fine with us,” Carrillo said.
“We’re reasonable. We don’t want to dig our heels in and say no,” Mascorro said.
With that, Mascorro made a motion to issue a temporary six-month permit with the threshold of six gallons per seat and require a weekly report. He added that if the amount exceeded the threshold, the permit would be pulled.
“I’ll receive that report in my office,” he said. He added that it would be shared immediately with commissioners.
The motion did not carry because the vote was a tie with Mascorro and Bourland voting for and Lopez and Tuttle voting against. Commissioner Rod Bernal was not at the meeting.
After the meeting, Tuttle said information was needed to see if the septic systems at new game rooms north of Bayside were in compliance.
In other business, the court approved moving forward with a Transportation Infrastructure Fund grant provided by the Texas Department of Transportation.
Ten county roads will be repaired or replaced under the project that totally costs $1.8 million.
Of that amount, the county gets $1.45 million from the state and is responsible for $360,000 in matching funds.
Commissioners approved of GrantWorks Inc. to administer the grant.
Eric Hartzell, of GrantWorks, said the next step is to arrange a Texas Historical Commission environmental review, including procurement and bidding of materials and a list of equipment that would be used on the road projects.
The court scheduled a June 17 workshop to set each of the 10 road’s turn for construction. July is the starting month for work.