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Palmview and Agua SUD may start working together after months of tension

After months of acrimony, Palmview and the Agua Special Utility District may finally bury the hatchet.

Palmview Mayor Pro Tem Joel Garcia and utility board Director Esequiel “Zeke” Ortiz Jr., who represents Palmview residents, met Tuesday morning for breakfast.

AguaSUDLogo“The line of communication is open,” Garcia said. “So we’re trying to work things out for the best of the community.”

While they both serve Palmview residents, the City Council and the utility district board spent the past year fighting.

The City Council, which wants to spur commercial development on the Expressway 83 frontage road, started building a sewer system without permission from the utility district.

When the utility district complained about the project, Palmview filed a lawsuit.

State District Judge Letty Lopez signed a temporary injunction against Palmview, which blasted the city for acting “utterly without lawful authority” and flagrantly disregarding both the Texas Water Code and utility district regulations.

Palmview asked the 13th Court of Appeals to review the ruling.

The utility district also petitioned the Texas Public Utility Commission for a cease-and-desist order.

Palmview fired back, accusing the utility district of failing to provide the city with basic services.

“Because of the lack of any wastewater collection or treatment system, residents are subjected to higher than average instances of water- and air-borne diseases such as Campylobacteriosis, Shigellosis, and E. Coli bacteria,” according to a motion Palmview filed with the public utility commission. “The state has documented instances of these diseases, especially after flood waters affected thousands of septic tanks in homes and businesses.”

The city and the utility district also clashed over the Palmview sewer project.

Contractors hired by the utility district spent the past year installing sewer pipes underneath city streets. Workers hired by the city followed behind them, repaving each road.

When streets weren’t paved within a reasonable period of time, the city blamed the utility district for stalling.
Another potential dispute surfaced during the past few weeks.

The city pays the utility district to bill Palmview residents for trash collection.

Under the agreement, the utility district adds trash fees to monthly water bills. Customers who don’t pay risk disconnection.

Tension with the city prompted the utility district to consider canceling the agreement, which would leave the City Council in the lurch.

Ortiz, who represents Palmview on the seven-member utility board, met with Garcia on Tuesday morning to discuss the matter. They agreed to work together on the trash bill transition.

Perhaps more significantly, though, they discussed working together to resolve the lawsuit and the administrative proceeding before the public utility commission.

The utility district board apparently discussed the matter Tuesday night in executive session.

“It’s good,” Ortiz said. “I think it was a good first step.”

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