by BRAD ROLLINS
Hays County commissioners this week approved formation of a nonprofit corporation to explore making a bid for the Lower Colorado River Authority’s water and wastewater system in western Travis and northern Hays counties.
The court deadlocked 2-2 on the same effort last week but in a second pass at it on Tuesday, Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley had returned from vacation and Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe switched her vote to support creation of the Coalition of Central Texas Utility Development Corp. Pct. 2 Commissioner Mark Jones cast the lone dissenting vote.
“I believe in empowering the people of Hays County to have control of their own infrastructure,” Conley said. “It’s a big [water] business out there and it’s a very political game and there’s lots of money involved. If we can stand together as one entity and one voice, we’re going to have a seat at the table.”
The cities of Leander and Bee Cave have already joined the coalition and a list of expected members distributed in court on Tuesday includes Travis, Burnet and Bastrop counties as well as a dozen smaller entities ranging from the Belterra subdivision’s water control and improvement district No. 1 and Highpointe subdivision’s municipal utility district.
Creation of the coalition itself will not cost the county any money, its supporters said. But Jones said he opposed the county’s involvement in utilities such as water and wastewater on philosophical grounds.
“My reason for not supporting this is just the belief that this is more of a municipal issue than a county issue. I just don’t believe counties are set up to be in this kind of coalition,” Jones said.
In December, Hays County and other governments asked LCRA to give public entities first right of refusal to buy the systems and to delay the sale until the end of 2011.
“And it fell on deaf ears,” Pct. 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant said.
Now the coalition is racing to assemble a bid by May 23. Whisenant said the bid will be based on the system’s revenue and the cost of its purchase, if it happens, would be borne by those who use it, not county property taxpayers at large.
Also on Tuesday, the court took the first steps toward reviving the dormant Hays County Water & Sewer Authority, which was founded in 2000 as a conduit for receiving the county’s six percent surcharge on taps into the system. Revenue from that arrangement goes toward funding the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.Email | Print