When Perwez Moheet became Kyle’s finance director he began, naturally enough, by looking over the city’s monthly payments.
One payment drew his interest: the amount the city spends each month on sewage treatment. “Since it was a large monthly payment I started looking at this one first,” Moheet said. “Something didn’t seem right about that contract.”
So Moheet, who previously retired as deputy director of the Austin Water Utility, did his research.
A trail of emails going back through the spring shows him asking everyone who might know to help him track down an obscure piece of paper. He wanted to see the first addendum to the contract to learn if there was anything he’d missed.
He asked the current and former city attorneys for their advice. He also asked City Manager Lanny Lambert and Assistant City Manager James Earp. He frames his bewilderment as, “Look, guys, am I smoking something?”
But the answer – from Lambert, Earp, both law firms and every piece of paper he managed to find – was no. Moheet was sure that the sewer company owed the city more than a million dollars.
The company, Aqua Texas, did not agree. “We are obviously concerned that your interpretation…differs from a long standing course of dealing, reflecting a different interpretation,” Aqua Texas Controller Kurt Scheibelhut wrote in an April 22 email. “Aqua shall continue to invoice the City upon the same basis….”
Since first writing to the company, Moheet has continued paying sewer treatment bills that he believes are too high. He sets the disputed amount aside in an escrow account so, if the city loses its argument in court, there will be no further damage to the budget. (Aqua Texas has sued for breach of contract.)
He’s confident that Kyle will win, however, and he’s thought of one way to resolve the issue: Aqua Texas gets the money it billed, the city gets the company’s wastewater plant and both sides call it even.
Aqua Texas built the plant with help from the city. Even as sewage plants go, it doesn’t have the cleanest reputation. One year ago it dumped about a million gallons of sewage into Plum Creek, killing as many as 3,000 fish, some of which inhabited the ponds that the city hopes to develop into a parks system.
“If I could get this million dollars for the city of Kyle, that would be an accomplishment,” Moheet said. “I started looking at this after Christmas. It was like, ooh, a big Christmas present for the city.”
Aqua Texas declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Read more: Bulk discount for sewage is at the center of the dispute.
This story was originally published in the Hays Free Press. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print