— By BRIAN SMITH
HUDSON OAKS — Annetta Town Council politics have delayed and hindered needed improvements to the Deer Creek Water and Wastewater System, City of Hudson Oaks officials told their city council Thursday night.
The mayor of Annetta also told city leaders during the meeting that he hopes to continue the relationship with Hudson Oaks, which manages the system under contract, and intends to hold the Annetta council members accountable for their actions.
During a report at Thursday night’s council meeting regarding the agreement between the cities, Hudson Oaks Assistant City Administrator Patrick Lawler said water and sewer improvement plans, which include a new well and storage tank site on the north end of the system, an additional well site to the south and expanded capacity at the present sewer plant, have been delayed.
“Political delays are hurting us right now and because of them we won’t be able to start the improvements before next summer,” Lawler said. “We’ve taken on the debt to make the improvements but the political process is not conducive to developing plant growth right now.”
In early 2012, the Town of Annetta issued $1 million in bonds for improvements to the system, which will be paid for by users.
However, members of the Annetta council spread rumors affecting land acquisition, according to Lawler.
Annetta Mayor Bruce Pinckard told the Hudson Oaks council that the political climate in his city is “strained” right now, but he hopes it won’t last much longer. He said some members of the council ran for office simply because they didn’t like that Annetta purchased the system. Annetta took over ownership from the City of Willow Park in 2010 after years of litigation involving affected residents and all six East Parker County cities. The initial three-year agreement with Hudson Oaks to manage the system expires in October but has a two-year extension option.
“Some of the council members would just as soon the water system not be there,” said Pinckard, who, along with most or all of Annetta’s current council, is not on the groundwater-supplied system.
Pinckard said the agreement with the city has been good with exemplary customer service. He said he intends to hold the council members against the system “accountable” for what they have been doing.
“I will fight for my community,” Pinckard said. “I look forward to the continuation of the agreement until the time when Annetta is ready to handle the system.”
A group appointed to advise the Annetta Town Council on the water system told the Annetta Council Jan. 17 that they don’t expect either well project to be complete by summer and that the likelihood of selling more water over the summer was extremely low. The system’s approximately 720 users were not allowed outdoor watering between July and December due to the groundwater-supplied system’s inability to meet demand.
In a Friday interview, Pinckard said the well site land aquisition problem that occurred in early 2012 occured when the city attempted to address a water pressure issue between the north and south ends of the system.
They installed valves to deal with high water pressure in the northern Split Rail neighborhood, which is on a lower plane. However, when all the taps in the Split Rail neighborhood are open, it has a siphoning effect on the higher plane in the Deer Park neighborhood, causing them low pressure issues, the mayor said.
An engineer hired by Annetta determined that the north side of the system needs a well to address the issues.
Pinckard said former Annetta Mayor Phil Lumsden, who developed the Split Rail neighborhood, was willing to sell three cul-de-sac lots in the neighborhood for below market value for a plant site. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also reportedly granted the city preliminary approval.
Pinckard said some council members then began talking to Split Rail neighborhood residents, spreading false rumors about the number of tanks and an elevated water tower, something Pinckard said was not planned. Some of the information presented to residents was talked about in executive session and should not to be discussed with the general public, Pinckard said.
Because of the outcry from Split Rail residents, the Annetta council decided not to pursue the land purchase from Lumsden, Pinckard said.
Pinckard said negotiations with a pair of landowners on the south side of the system for a new well site have gone well. A new well could help increase pressure by 30 to 40 gallons per minute system-wide, the mayor said, stating that work could begin as soon as February.
Hudson Oaks City Administrator Sheri Campbell-Husband said that Hudson Oaks has worked well with both the Annetta council and residents on the system and that the improvement in customer service has been an important part of the effort.
Under the agreement, the city of Annetta pays $14,333.33 monthly to the city for water and sewer maintenance, or about $172,000 a year. Lawler says the city isn’t making any money and hopes to turn over responsibility for the projects to Annetta in the future.
“We never intended this to be a long-term deal,” Lawler said. “We never went into this with the intention of making money.”
Since Hudson Oaks took over management of the system, Lawler said the city has made significant repairs to the water system. A foul odor emanating from the sewer plant has also been addressed, with neighbors, including nearby Stuard Elementary School, no longer complaining, according to Lawler.
Hudson Oaks Mayor Pat Deen says the system needs improving and urged the Annetta council to take politics out of the agreement and look at what is best for the system.
“I urge the Annetta council to see the contract through,” Deen said. “The lack of improvements will have a devastating impact.”
Lawler told the Hudson Oaks council that if Annetta decides to cancel the contract early, they can recover monies for the one part-time and two full-time employees assigned to the water and sewer plants.
Former Annetta water advisory board chairman and current Deer Creek user Dennis Thompson, who had his appointment to the board terminated at the Jan. 17 Annetta council meeting after pushing for annexation of the system’s users by Annetta, also spoke at the Hudson Oaks meeting, thanking the city of Hudson Oaks for all they have done.