San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 8th, 2008
Tenorio blasts county

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

BUDA – Hays County Judge Liz Sumter might have received everything she wanted from the Buda City Council last week, but she also received something she didn’t want – an earful from Buda Councilmember Sandra Tenorio.

The councilmember expressed displeasure to Sumter over the county’s slow progress on road projects in the Buda area. Sumter led the county court’s reconsideration of a pass-through road financing agreement with the state, ending in a failed bond election last May. Buda-area voters overwhelmingly supported the bond issue, which would have expedited improvements on FM 1626.

Sumter went to the city council on Jan. 3, asking for $5,000 towards helping the county raise $100,000 for a water planning initiative. The county has applied with the Texas Water Development Board for a $100,000 grant, which requires the county to match $100,000.

With the money, Sumter said she expects to form a water or wastewater board to figure out “how much water we have and where it’s coming from,” while also developing a countywide water plan, including federally motivated implementation steps. The implementation steps are necessary, Sumter said, so the county can receive federal funding for infrastructure.

Sumter said the county already has rounded up numerous participants, including the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (GBRA), the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BS/EACD), Aqua Texas, Dripping Springs Water Supply, Wimberley Water Supply, and the cities of Dripping Springs, Woodcreek and Wimberley. The county also has verbal commitments from Mountain City and the City of Hays.

The GBRA is paying $25,000, while the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) is making $15,000 of in-kind contributions, Sumter said. The county will contribute up to $25,000.

As Sumter offered a seat on the conjectured water board while asking for a $5,000 contribution, Tenorio raised a question: Does that mean Buda won’t receive a seat at the table unless it kicks in $5,000?

Said Sumter, “We’d certainly like a commitment, but we would never leave you out.”

Despite that, the notion of regional cooperation in water planning struck Tenorio cold, considering the road issue that largely defined this commissioners court in its first year.

“When we talk about regionalism, the track record does not include northern Hays County,” Tenorio said. “… When we needed roads really, really, really badly, we weren’t even at the table, then we were wiped out. So, I’m very concerned about pitching in money when we don’t even know that we’re going to have a role in it. It’s just not a good track record … I would like to work with the county on a lot of things and I would like it to not start with us making a $5,000 contribution.”

Because Sumter said in-kind contributions are as good as cash, Buda Mayor Pro Tem Bobby Lane suggested that the city’s background in water issues could more than suffice. Lane indicated that Buda can contribute data, knowledge and expertise in water pumping, distribution and forecasting models.

“You’re actually a lot further along than the county is,” Sumter said. “These in-kind contributions are just as valuable.”

Buda City Manager Robert Camareno said he hoped the county’s water initiative would complement the city’s water efforts, adding that the city could contribute data and staff time. Tenorio said she doesn’t mind sharing data, but she doesn’t want to expend city resources to catch other people up.

Sumter said the grant application already has been made, but the county still is sending in letters of support and expects a decision in a month.

The city ultimately voted to fulfill Sumter’s request with a letter of support to the Texas Water Development Board and in-kind contributions. Only Tenorio opposed the motion.

“I don’t understand why the City of Buda is paying for a water and wastewater study to serve Hays County when we have to do our own water and wastewater internally,” Tenorio said. “The people of Buda pay a lot for water and wastewater. They really do. We hear about it. I think if the county wants to do something, they ought to build roads.”

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