Avalon Water Supply and Sewer Service Corp. formally closes eminent domain issue

In their monthly meeting on October 10, 2013, the Avalon Water Supply and Sewer Service Corp. board voted to formally close eminent domain for the property surrounding the wastewater plant, approved previous minutes/financial report, heard reports from the General Manager and Operations Manager and addressed members concerns.

Jennifer Birchfield addressed the board regarding late fees. She stated that she had never been late paying her bill.

“I dropped my payment in the drop box on the 18th,” Birchfield said. “I always put the date and time on the envelope when I drop it. Y’all charged me a $20 late fee because I was told that I was late.”

Ed Hettinger, General Manager, explained that he checked the drop box at 5:30 p.m. on the 18th and her payment was not there. He said he checked it again on the 19th and the payment was not there. He said that when he checked the drop box on the 20th, two payments were there, her payment and one other. Her envelope had the 18th handwritten on it.

After a discussion by the board, they voted to waive the late fee this one time since she had never been late before and also because they could not prove that the payment was not there until the 20th.

Jan Hettinger reported that the financial statement was looking much better. She told the board that last March, the corporation only had $14,000 in the bank, but at the end of September, the account showed a balance of $49,000.

Ed Hettinger reported that two weeks ago they received a letter from TCEQ advising of an investigation of whether or not AWSSC was operating as a non-profit water supply corporation under Chapter 67 of the Texas Water Code.

“They requested several documents and we quickly sent them back with a letter written by David Waishes,” he explained. “The letter asked TCEQ to help us with this issue since we are a member run WSC.”

He also reported that Avalon ISD had paid the late fees that they had discussed at the last meeting and will be paying the bill on time from now on.

He also stated AWSSC would join the TRWA in December to cover the membership for 2014.

Hettinger also told the board that they received a letter from the Texas Workforce Commission requesting a meeting regarding workers comp not being paid. He said they had taken care of this so there would be no need to meet with the TWC. He also reported on the letter they received from Dean Carrell’s attorney.

“We received a letter from Dean Carrell’s attorney,” Hettinger added. “Dean returned our mixer, but none of the other stuff we asked for. Since our items weren’t returned, we didn’t send any of his back. He subsequently had his attorney send us a letter that we were illegally holding his goods and City of Italy items.”

Waishes said it was best to have the attorney that had written the release to respond.

Greg Rodriguez, Operations Manager, reported that the smoke test had been done and problems with three manholes were found. He said they were working on the problems. He also said the manholes need new lids at a cost of $160 each. He also reported that TCEQ had performed an inspection and wanted a valve installed to isolate the water at the wastewater plant.

President, David Waishes, addressed the issue of formally closing eminent domain for property surrounding the wastewater treatment plant.

“We do need to act on this one and formally close the eminent domain for property surrounding the wastewater plant,” said Waishes. “Here is a little background for members on that. And again, I can only speak from my personal knowledge, but when I came on in March 2012, we had a letter from TCEQ that said we were in violation of a couple of things. One of them being that we didn’t have a buffer zone, a correct buffer zone around the sewer plant. There had been some studies about that and some recommendations that cost a lot of money to do a lot of things. But one of the things based upon that letter, is if we complied with that buffer zone requirement, we were going to have to expand our property in order to have that buffer zone.”

“The way that a governmental entity, a municipal, a water/sewer services corporation, just about any federal government, state government, city government, whenever you need to increase your land holding, you have to declare eminent domain upon the land that you need,” Waishes continued. “Whether it is for highway right of way, courthouse, or whatever. The first step for us then was to disclose the need to declare eminent domain based on buffer zones. Well, we were also corresponding back and forth with TCEQ. Basically, meeting with them in Austin on a number of other things, we found that we could get that waived under the right circumstances. Came back wrote the letter requesting a waiver under these circumstances and they granted us a waiver.”

“We stated that when that happened, but we did not formally close the declaration. We said based on this letter we may have to declare eminent domain to stretch our tent posts and have a buffer zone. Well, thankfully we don’t have to go out and buy more land. So, because we did not want to close that issue, time dragging along. If you need further clarification what we really need to do is just formally close that issue.”

With a motion by Robin Donaldson and a second by Denise Wimbish, the board unanimously voted to close the eminent domain issue.

The meeting adjourned at 8:06 p.m.