During a meeting meant to highlight the growth of Palmview, residents demanded answers on a current Palmview project to pave dozens of streets across the city.
On Thursday, Oct. 25, the city of Palmview held their second annual town hall meeting where the public was invited to hear from city officials on updates in the city.
Officials spotlighted several recent developments in the city, such as $72 million in public works projects including a $20 million project to expand Veterans Boulevard between Abram Road to La Homa Road to five lanes that would start in 2020. However, during the question and answer section that was open to the public, the two dozen attendees confronted officials over unpaved streets in the city.
“In my street, it’s full of soquete-mud,” Sylvia Blanca said. “Every time people go outside we have to cover our shoes and feet with plastic trash bags to not get dirty. It’s unbelievable.”
Perez and the rest of the attendees were from Perez Street, which is one of the many streets that were torn up as part of the Palmview Wastewater Project to add sewer lines and provide wastewater to Palmview residents provided by the Agua Special Utility District.
Earlier this year, Palmview hired a contractor to pave the streets released by Agua SUD after the sewer lines had been installed.
A small segment of Perez Street was released by Agua SUD but has yet to be paved, said Humberto Garcia of EarthWorks Enterprises, the company hired by the city to pave the street.
Council members at the event were Linda Sarabia, Javier Ramirez, Joel Garcia and Joselito “Hoss” Hernandez They replied to any questions regarding the street paving by reminding residents that while it is a project from the city, the city has to wait till Agua finishes their project of installing the sewer lines before they can be paved.
“If this was a project from the city, do you think we’d allow ourselves to be this open to criticism,” Ramirez said. “It’s kind of hard when you take a beating for someone else but I get their frustrations.”
At the agenda for the event, Esequiel “Zeke” Ortiz Jr., a director at the Agua SUD board was listed as a speaker of the event but wasn’t in attendance. Councilmembers pointed out this out.
“This project and the paving is something we need to address,” Garcia said. “So why aren’t they here.”
The meeting represented another strain in the relationship between Agua SUD and the city. One week earlier, the city announced they would seek to sever ties with the Agua Special Utility District to provide wastewater services to their city. This decision came months after a state judge ordered the city to cease construction on a nearly $600,000 sewer project.
In an email obtained by the Progress Times that was sent to Palmview officials hours before the town hall, Ortiz accused the city of failing to notify him of the meeting in time, making him unavailable to attend the town hall.
“I take my position on the Agua SUD board very seriously as a representative for the City of Palmview,” Ortiz said. “I find it extremely unprofessional and a lack of professionalism that I was not afforded the courtesy of more advance notice or that I would be listed as a participant in this meeting.”
In response to the email, the city released to the Progress Times an email response dated Monday, Oct. 29 showing a call log to Agua SUD from the city of Palmview made a month in advance.
“Contrary to your assertion that you were provided insufficient notice of the meeting, the City contacted Agua staff thrice Sept. 24 to notify you of [the meeting,]” the email from City Secretary Annette Villarreal states. “This represented more than three weeks’ notice.”
Ramirez told residents at the town hall to be patient with the street paving project and said he relates to them as his street is also waiting to be paved.
“People had questions about the street and rightfully so,” Ramirez said. “Right now we’re just asking residents to be patient and call Agua SUD for any questions they have. Agua should come to the table and plan with us. That would make a big difference.”
Interim City Manager Leo Olivares praised attendees asking questions and trying to remain informed on the project. He said despite issues with agua SUD, the city is still interested in having a relationship with them.
“We’re continuing to work with them, they’re part of this community and we want to make sure they are working and if there’s an issue we’ll bring it up in a professional manner,” he said. “The city will not shy away from a controversial issue because it’s controversial.”