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Wastewater issue at center of Wimberley candidate debate

The only debate slated for candidates seeking a seat on the Wimberley City Council dais centered on the city’s polarizing wastewater controversy.

Hosted by the League of Women Voters, candidates debated on the wastewater project, the proposed boring under Cypress Creek and future of the Cypress Creek Nature Preserve.

Wimberley Mayor Susan Jaggers, who is running for the Place 3 seat, as well as Place 1 candidate Tim Dodson and incumbent Place 5 council member Erik Wollam supported the city’s change of scope for its wastewater project, which scrapped a city-owned plant for a facility operated by Aqua Texas.

Those three candidates said the change of scope is connected to an argument of no discharge.

“This community needs to heal itself by getting this can kicked down the road done. It does that by completing this project and bringing us back together,” Wollam said. “It prevents discharge into the Blanco, it’s the financially correct thing to do…”

Jaggers said she could not support the city-owned plant because it is located within Blue Hole Regional Park. Jaggers she will “fight tooth and nail” to keep a wastewater plant outside of the park to ensure the park stays protected.

However, Christine Byrne, who is running against Jaggers in the Place 3 race, refuted her claim and said the plant was not within the park. Byrne, who supported the city-owned option, said those plans included irrigation to Blue Hole Park, which is lost in the change of scope.

Dodson, however, was not a fan of the proposed boring under Cypress Creek that would transport raw sewage to Aqua Texas.

“Unlikely is not good enough,” Dodson said in regard to the pipe potentially leaking. “We need a double-sleeved piece of pipe. I saw it happen in Bay Town and when it does happen, there is no going back…”

Rebecca Minnick, who is running against Dodson in the Place 1 race, along with Byrne and Bowman also worried over the proposed boring. Minnick said a price for the boring has yet to be confirmed. She said there are major environmental risks associated with the boring.

Place 5 candidate Bo Bowman, Byrne and Minnick discussed what they alleged is a lack of transparency and communication with the current city council and a broke trust in local leadership.

Bowman said he would address transparency by hosting multiple town halls with both wastewater options laid out for people to see, if elected.

“The trust has been broken and nothing I saw will satisfy the people in this room,” Bowman said. “I will commit to having four meetings after the election to look at our options…that’s the only way to get that trust back.”

Proponents of the nature preserve are adamant on ensuring public access to trails within it.

Byrne, who served on the Parks and Recreation board for over a decade, has been a supporter of keeping the area open the public.

However, Jaggers argued the area is “a preserve, not a nature trail,” calling for the city to limit access in order to prevent it.

Minnick argued that the trail acts as access to the city and nature; Minnick was also against any fencing that would distract from the river.

All candidates vocalized opposition to Kinder Morgan’s proposed Permian Highway Pipeline that would cut through some areas in Wimberley Valley.

Bowman commended the efforts of the council to pass a resolution opposing the pipeline’s route, which was unanimously approved.

“I was really our of them for all their discourse,” Bowman said. “I’m proud Wimberley took up and took a vote to reject Kinder Morgan.”

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