The Agua Special Utility district is preparing to hold its first election under its recently implemented single member system.
During a board meeting last week, Agua directors called the May 2, 2020 meeting to order and in a 4-3 vote selected to make the Peñitas Library its sole polling location.
Though the Agua elections previously opted to have more than one voting place, Agua SUD General Manager Jose E. “Eddie” Saenz said one location will save the district money.
“The county charges us $10,000 per polling site to manage it and it’s within our CCN,” Saenz said of the location. “It’s what the board chose and it’s within half a mile of District 2’s limits.”
The districts up for election are districts 1, 2 and 3 which are overseen by Esequiel “Zeke” Ortiz, Homer Tijerina and Franco Lopez, respectively. Lopez, cousin of Peñitas Mayor Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez, was sworn into office last month after former director Rogelio Hernandez III stepped down to serve in the La Joya City Council.
The single member district went into effect at the end of the 2019 calendar year after state lawmakers passed Senate Bill 2552, which replaced the city and county-based seats with single-member districts and required each member of the board to represent a sub-district containing “one-seventh of the total number of residents in the district.”
Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill last June.
Each district contains around 8,000 residents, Saenz said, adding that the election would only be open to Agua customers living in the districts that are on the ballot.
Palmview largely falls in districts 1 and 2 while district 3 serves a stretch of unincorporated land north of Palmview from the 3 Mile line to the 7 Mile Line.
Peñitas, meanwhile, is mostly covered by District 4.
Tijerina, who is running for re-election in the Agua board, was one of the three board members who voted against the Peñitas polling location.
“We’re only gonna go vote in one location and it’s not centralized,” Tijerina said. “We used to have multiple locations for voting and now we have the one to save money but with the majority of the districts not in Peñitas, why have it there? It’s not within the districts up for election.”
Business owner Esmeralda Solis, who is running against Lopez for the District 3 seat, also said the voting location is “concerning.”
She lives in District 3 near the 7 Mile line, she said.
“It’s really inconvenient for people in our area to go all the way to Peñitas,” Solis said. “If that’s going to be the case, people will be discouraged to vote, it’s quite the distance.”
While she said she understands that having one polling location is cost-effective for the water district, she questioned why the polling location wasn’t made in Palmview where most Agua SUD ratepayers reside.
“I don’t feel a decision was made the right way,” Solis said.
This story was originally published in the Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 edition of the Progress Times.