The Palmview City Council revived a committee intended to improve cooperation with the Agua Special Utility District on Tuesday.
Mayor Rick Villarreal, City Councilman Jose Luis Perez and City Councilwoman Alexandra Flores met with Agua SUD last week to discuss the sewer project. They reported back to the full City Council on Tuesday afternoon.
“It was extremely positive,” Perez said.
The City Council voted to appoint Perez to a committee that will meet regularly with Agua SUD to discuss the sewer project and other matters of mutual interest.
Agua SUD — not the city — controls water and sewer service within Palmview.
That arrangement became a major point of contention during the past few years, when contractors hired by Agua SUD started building a sewer system for Palmview.
To install the sewer pipes, construction workers dug up just about every major street in Palmview. The dust, muddy streets and constant road closures frustrated residents.
“And I really feel for them. We really need to get this done. It’s taking too long,” said City Councilman Joel Garcia. “That’s all I hear. That they’re tired and: ‘Where’s the sewer?’”
Palmview attempted to speed up the process by paving streets after the Agua SUD contractors finished their work.
Agua SUD, however, sometimes took longer than the city wanted to release streets for paving. Problems with the sewer system also required workers to occasionally dig up the newly paved streets.
Political differences wreaked havoc on the relationship too.
Garcia and other members of the City Council frequently met with Agua SUD, but they seemed to clash as often as they cooperated.
“It’s a big responsibility to be on that committee,” Garcia said. “It’s not an easy thing.”
The most recent meeting, though, apparently went well.
Perez said they discussed several major issues, ranging from street paving to how they would handle development in areas where homes and businesses are still being connected to the sewer system.
“And, supposedly, there’s been some situations here on (Farm-to-Market Road) 495 where they’re getting water from the pipe,” Perez said. “If there’s a problem that they need to dig and fix that issue, they’re going to repair it.”
City Councilman Javier Ramirez said he fielded calls from constituents asking if they should replace septic tanks.
“One of the concerns that has been coming up lately is some of our constituents’ septic systems are starting to fail. So I get a phone call asking: ‘Hey, when are they going to connect?’” Ramirez said. “Because they don’t want to make that expense if they’re going to connect in a month or two. And I can see their concern. It is very expensive to fix a septic system. So that’s one of the things that our constituents and residents are struggling with right now. And it’s a fair concern.”
City Manager Michael Leo said he received similar questions about sewer connections for new homes and businesses.
“There is some flexibility. If it’s on the south side, where the system is complete, and there’s a situation like that, we can make a request so they can go — and specifically go — to this one, specific address and make that connection,” Leo said. “The challenge is if it’s on the north side, where the sewer is not even ready. Then it’s going to fall on the property owner: Do I make this investment or do I wait?”
Uncertainty about when, exactly, sewer service will be available in particular parts of Palmview makes the decision about whether or not to install a septic tank especially difficult.
“And, in some cases, they could not wait,” Leo said. “They had to bear the expense of the septic, only to hook up to sewer two months later, give or take.”