Wimberley eyes third party for treatment plant operation

Cost overruns for a city-owned wastewater treatment plant is leading Wimberley leaders to consider hiring a third-party for the plant’s operation.
But residents are concerned about the possible hiring of Aqua Texas, an area water and wastewater provider, due to a handful of wastewater spills in Kyle during the past decade.
More than 100 residents gathered at the Wimberley Community Center June 7 for a presentation about the impact the WWTP could have on the city’s finances.
According to city’s projections, Wimberley will be nearly $400,000 in debt by 2023, should it move forward with its city-owned and operated WWTP.
The projection is pushing officials to consider a third party company for the sewage and treatment plant, a cheaper option than operating a city-owned treatment plant.
According to a report presented at the meeting, an engineering group miscalculated the city-owned WWTP estimate by 45 percent, rising the price of the project from $3 million to nearly $4.5 million.
“If we stay on our current plan, this is what our projection is,” said Wimberley Mayor Susan Jaggers. “We’ve spent 102 percent of our budget for legal fees already this year and only five percent of our budget has been spent on our road.”
Jaggers said Aqua Texas has committed to Type I effluent for the discharge, which is safer than Type II, and can be used for surface irrigation.
“Or we can stay on course with escalating construction costs, while exhausting our discretionary funds,” Jaggers said. “The shelf life for a sewage system is 20 years, but we’re agreeing to a 30-year bid.”
Many of the residents at the community center, however, were against the idea of Aqua Texas taking over.
Aqua Texas, which provides water service to Woodcreek, had co-operated the city of Kyle’s WWTP from 1999 until 2015, when Kyle city leaders at the time purchased ownership rights of the plant. City officials cited failures to maintain the plant for its reasoning behind the purchase.
Kyle sued Aqua Texas in 2013 following several incidents, including two wastewater spills into Plum Creek. Both parties settled litigation out of court in 2016.
Many of the citizens who attended the Wimberley town hall were concerned about a perceived lack of communication with Aqua Texas, which residents said makes it difficult to settle disputes.
One concerned resident asked the mayor directly if she or any member of council was taking contributions from Aqua Texas to push their services to the city.
Jaggers responded by ensuring the community no contributions were given to any members of council.
Jimmy Hall, an attorney with a specialty in water law and former employee for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), said the role of Aqua Texas in Woodcreek has tarnished relationships with its citizens.
Former Wimberley mayor Steve Thurber also was against going with Aqua Texas.
“The sky is not falling and I don’t want false conclusions and fear to spread based on misinformation,” Thurber said. “The city has done a lot of planning for this facility financially. We must say no to Aqua Texas.”

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