Mayor David Cann, said in essence that the drainage district “will not do any drainage work at all” in Austwell although Austwell is within the district.
He added that the district is “terminating” their interlocal agreement, which states that the district would clean and maintain ditches in Austwell.
Cann said the council had sent Dwight Mutchler to the district’s workshop meeting recently, and Mutchler initially was optimistic that the drainage district would work with the city.
Now, with the attorney’s letter from the drainage district, Muctchler has a different opinion.
“It is within our best interest to withdraw from the drainage district,” Mutchler had written to the council.
“We are being taxed and not getting anything for it,” Cann said.
Councilwoman Nadine Garner noted that the city cannot withdraw from the district without a city vote, saying, “it would have to be on a ballot.”
It was also noted that leaving the drainage district would be a legislative issue as well.
When asked what people were paying in taxes to the drainage district, Cann said as an example, resident Earl Bluhm paid about $800 a year on his properties.
In his letter to the council, Mutchler remarked that the tax money levied by the drainage district could be used locally to keep the city’s drainage managed.
In other business, the council appointed Mary Canales to fill the empty position on the three-member council.
The position had been vacant for about 11 months since Jane Barber resigned the position because of her job.
Canales will be sworn in by City Secretary Melissa Hopper, who was absent from the meeting. The swearing in would take place sometime during the week in the city office, then Canales would begin her duties as a council member at the next meeting.
In other council business, Tommy Bernal, who has served the city as an adviser on grant projects and other issues, gave an overview of the revived wetlands educational center project.
The project, funded by a Coastal Impact Assistance Program grant, had stalled because the initial bids came in way over budget.
“We had $179,000 available, but the project bid came in at $320,000 something,” Bernal said.
However, Austwell’s outfall drainage project was completed under budget, so a request to de-obligate the leftovers from that project – $38,626 – was approved by the Refugio County Commissioners Court on April 8, boosting the available funds for the wetland’s education center to about $220,000.
The money is federal dollars that require no matching funds from the city of Austwell.
Bernal said he met with the engineering firm of LNV and bargained with one of the bidders – Alvarez Associates – for a lower bid.
He said the parking lot improvements, flooring and sheetrock would be taken out of the work project.
He said he also talked to Rudy Briones, who might submit bids for the air conditioning and electrical part of the project.
“By the end of next week, we should have a pretty good idea of what we have,” Bernal said.
“I appreciate Tommy’s assistance on this,” Cann said.
The wetlands education center scope of work includes an 800-square-foot addition to the existing community center’s east side, a configuring of the roof, metal roof, central air, lab facilities in the new addition, ADA compliant restrooms and a machine or utilities building addition on the south end of the community center.
The wetlands education center would be used by students. They would have easy access to the bay and aquariums to hold their specimens while doing their lab work.
Bernal said the city received a one-year extension on the federal grant.
He estimated that if everything worked out on the bidding, the project could be completed for Thanksgiving.