City still flush with water issues

As part of a new service contract (Ford Patton was the lone dissenting vote), residents may see an increase in their water bills.

BEEVILLE – Issues related to water and wastewater continue to dominate meetings of the Beeville City Council. And Tuesday’s meeting was no different.

The council, after a lengthy discussion, voted 4-1 in favor of a contract with Performance Services Inc. for the installation of 4,200 new water meters. The new meters are supposed to be more accurate than the current ones tracking water usage at homes and businesses throughout the city.

Councilman Ford Patton, who was the dissenting vote, said he did not have enough time to peruse the contract documents before making a decision.

“I’m reluctant to vote to approve this without seeing where I might have questions,” he said.

Performance representatives said because the new meters will more accurately measure water usage, there could be as much as a $350,000 annual increase in the amount collected for commercial water use.

“Customers are going to see an increase in their bill,” Patton said. “But what if this revenue doesn’t materialize?”

Mayor Francisco Dominguez said, “If it doesn’t hit those metrics, (Performance) will pay the difference.”

Patton raised another concern.

“The other concern I have is that the council knows we have a new city manager coming in about a month,” he said. “This is just one more project that is going to be put on the back of the city manager. I suggest we table this until after that transition, especially with a potential cost of $6 million.”

Dominguez responded, “When all of us take jobs, we have a lot of projects going on. We can’t stop the progress of the city.”

Performance also got approved for a lease-purchase contract to pay for the water meters. 

Additionally, Performance gave the council a report on the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which the company concludes is in dire need of renovation. Depending on how extensive the council votes to delve into the plant built in 1948, that work could cost $5 million to $10 million.

City Manager Joe Montez said the city has $7 million earmarked for wastewater treatment from a recent bond issue and would need an additional $3 million, which it potentially could get from a grant.

The design phase for the plant improvements could be complete by November, Montez said.

The council voted to continue working with Performance on the plant but also to have LNV Engineering coordinate with Performance to see what other options exist.

A project that continues to burden the city is the installation of water wells at Chase Field. That project was supposed to be complete by the end of this month, but according to Montez, AEP has not yet installed the electrical transformers.

“We’re as far as we can be without electricity,” said Tom Nance of Gonzalez-De La Garza, the project’s contractor.

The council directed Montez to escalate the issue with AEP.

Patrick King, an AEP spokesman, said in a Jan. 29 telephone interview with the Bee-Picayune that there are five locations at the plant that need service. Four of those locations are ready to be energized but are on hold because customer requirements have not been met.

“A retail order has to come from the retail provider,” King said. “AEP is the wires company.”

AEP does not provide the actual electricity to the site. Rather, King said, the company maintains the infrastructure such as wires and poles. So without a request from the electricity provider, AEP cannot connect the transformers.

William J. Gibbs Jr. is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 343-5220, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.