Citing what they say is a relationship that has hindered the city for 25 years, the city of Palmview announced Tuesday they are seeking to sever ties with the Agua Special Utility District to provide wastewater services to their city.
During their Tuesday city council meeting, interim City Manager Leo Olivares said the city will begin applying for a Wastewater Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) which would grant the city wastewater service rights for the area. Agua, which provides water services to 15,000 residents across western Hidalgo County, currently has wastewater and water rights to service the area.
According to Olivares, the city previously held the CCN for the city before transferring it to the La Joya Water Supply Corporation in the 1990s. Under that agreement, the utility district would provide wastewater services for the city.
“That has stymied development all this time,” Olivares said. “We’ve essentially waited an entire generation for Agua to deliver on services that are still not here. Several businesses have turned down coming here after finding out they need to build a septic tank for their place of business. We have the highest cases of waterborne diseases in the valley and are the largest suburban area in the state without a wastewater collection system. This is a basic infrastructure we are lacking and have been promised it would be here. All we have is 25 years of arrested economic development.”
Representatives from Agua SUD did not answer requests for comment as of press time.
The decision to apply for a CCN comes months after a state judge ordered the city to cease construction on a nearly $600,000 sewer project that would have serviced the Expressway 83 frontage road between La Homa and Breyfogle Roads. The sewer project, seperate from the $42 million sewer system Agua is constructing for Palmview, began construction without properly filing an application to service the area within the utility district.
This led to Agua filing a lawsuit against the city requesting they cease construction.
“Agua is alleging the city is operating a wastewater utility and we have no right to do that. Our position is, we are not operating a utility, we’re constructing one so therefore we’re not violating any state laws,” Olivares said. “We want to make it clear Palmview wants to have the right to provide service to the area.”
Palmview City Councilwoman Linda Sarabia said the lawsuit from the utility district was another example of a rocky relationship between both entities.
“This has everything to do with our sewer project,” Sarabia said. “This is our last resort, they’ve been slow to service the area, and they have several management issues and other negligent decisions that show we cannot continue to rely on Agua to service our community. Some people will say we’re spending too much money on legal fees, but I believe this community has been overlooked for over 25 years, this is an investment for the community that will pay off in the long run. It’s a bold but necessary move.”
According to Olivares, besides legal fees the city wouldn’t have to make any payments in receiving the wastewater rights. A decision on the CCN and the Agua lawsuit is expected within a year, Olivares said.
In other business, Olivares also announced during Tuesday’s meeting an update in the lawsuit against the city filed by former City Manager Ramon Segovia.
Segovia was fired by the city council last year following a management review that highlighted several departmental deficiencies due to Segovia’s inexperience. He later filed a lawsuit against the city citing a breach of contract.
Olivares said in response to the lawsuit, which is currently in mediation, the city is filing a crossclaim to bring Segovia’s predecessor, Johnn Alaniz, as a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit.
“We believe there were some problems in terms of the debt Alaniz assumed as city manager,” Olivares said, explaining that the city accrued $2 million in debt under Alaniz, leading the city to operate in a deficit.
“That’s a violation of the city charter, making him personally liable for any violations,” Olivares said.
Alaniz could not be reached for comment.