Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Eagle’s hopes for city-county East sewer plant partnership stall

Posted

A proposal by Precinct 4 Commissioner Dave Eagle for the county and the city of Granbury to enter into an interlocal agreement for a wastewater treatment plant that the city would manage and that would serve customers outside the current city limits does not appear to have the city’s support.

Concerns about the proposal were expressed at an interlocal government meeting held last week at Granbury City Hall, although several city officials indicated a willingness to work with the county on growth-related issues. The interlocal government meeting was attended by city, county, and Granbury ISD officials.

Eagle has advocated for constituents in his precinct who are opposed to the city’s planned wastewater treatment plant at 3121 Old Granbury Road. Construction has been delayed since 2019 because of that opposition.

Although the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved a permit for the site last year after a contested case hearing before two administrative law judges, the group brought legal action against TCEQ in district court in Austin. The case has not yet been resolved and the city has not yet begun construction.

A citywide and extraterritorial development moratorium that was put in place because of the delay and because of capacity issues at the city’s existing WWTP remains in place.

Eagle spoke about his partnership proposal at the interlocal government meeting and also at a March 1 county workshop where there was discussion about the $5.7 million that remains of American Rescue Plan Act money. The county is facing a deadline for committing or spending those funds.  

The Commissioners Court has not yet determined how the remaining ARPA money will be utilized, but it recently heard presentations from local nonprofits and tasked the Emergency Management office with creating an application process for allocations.

Discussions have also included possibly allocating some of the money to the county’s volunteer fire departments. Fire department needs are of particular concern to Precinct 1 Commissioner Kevin Andrews, who is a volunteer firefighter and former Lipan fire chief. He stated at the March 1 workshop that he wanted to schedule another gathering for the purpose of discussing fire department needs.

When responding to a question at the March workshop, Eagle declined to state the specific location he has in mind for a city-county WWTP but said that it is farther down Old Granbury Road, more than a mile from the city’s wastewater station by the Ashley Oaks development. He said that two lift stations would be needed for his plan and also said that landowners are agreeable.

“The only gripes will be prairie dogs, and coyotes, maybe,” he said.

As for the landowners, Eagle stated, “Will they have something to do with development further out? Yes.”

Eagle said that under the federal government’s rules, the county could use some of the ARPA funds to purchase the land and pay engineering costs.

“It opens up the east and northeastern part of the county, if there is sewer out there that could be tapped into,” allowing for growth in that part of the county, but the city would have to be on board, he said.

Eagle further stated that the WWTP would be a farther distance from Lake Granbury than the 3121 Old Granbury Road location and that retention ponds could be created to handle the plant’s discharge, providing irrigation including for possible future golf courses.

Discharge from the existing WWTP on Water’s Edge Drive is used to irrigate the Harbor Lakes golf course.

“There are a lot of benefits in my mind about it,” the commissioner said.

THE DOWNSIDE

However, during the almost half-hour discussion about the proposed partnership at the interlocal government meeting, city officials voiced concern over a number of challenges, including the amount of time involved in bringing such a plan to fruition, particularly with environmental studies factored in; the cost; who would make up the customer base; and how the debt would be paid.

Mayor Jim Jarratt said that the city “has no plans of abandoning” the 3121 Old Granbury Road project but are mindful of the importance of planning for future needs as the community grows.

Granbury City Manager Chris Coffman said he had met with Eagle the previous week to discuss the proposal. He noted several things: that 2,000-4,000 homes are “on the radar for construction in that area”; the land in question is in Cresson’s extraterritorial jurisdiction; the city would have to pipe wastewater “uphill a long way”; and construction costs have doubled since 2019.

“Of course, we offer our assistance any way we can. We’re all about regionalism,” Coffman said. “But the bottom line is, we can’t invest in treating other people’s needs. We have to take care of our taxpayers and citizens.”

He said that a project like the one Eagle was proposing “takes long-range planning.”

Eagle noted Coffman’s assertion that construction costs have doubled and said that his own calculations had put the cost for the plant at about $40 million. His proposal is for the plant to treat four million gallons of wastewater per day, with expansion possibilities. He said that financing would come from different stakeholders, including developers who “realize they will need to pony up money.”

 County Judge Ron Massingill said that he consulted with the county’s development director, Clint Head, and that Head estimated the price tag to be more like $250 million.

As the discussion wrapped up, Eagle told Coffman that he had “confirmed” that the land is not in Cresson and “has not been annexed.”

He stated, “I think we do need to work together. I’m glad that we’re at least at the table. I look forward to continued efforts to see if we can work something out.”