One step forward, two steps back for City’s Water and Gas Systems

By Edna Clark

The Van Horn City Council met on Tuesday, June 27, with all aldermen present and Mayor Pro Temp Pam Young presiding over the two-hour meeting.

Council was provided a letter from the University of Texas Board of Regents requiring payment of $104,815.20 for an easement located adjacent to the Interstate 10 West rest area.  The City’s natural gas pipeline which runs under the UT land was first contracted in 1987 for ten years for $10,000.

According to Ms. Malafronte, in 1997, when the contract was to have been renewed for another ten years, the agreement was somehow dropped by UT.  From 1997 until this time in 2017, no payments have been requested by UT.  Now, the UT Regents are demanding payment in full for the $104,815.20.  Council voted to table payment until legal counsel and State politicians can be contacted for possible mediation for a lesser amount.

Finance Director Jodie Corrales received approval from Council to pay bills amounting to $122.518.10.

City employee Jamie Hudson took the floor to make Council aware of happenings in the Water Department since the June 13 Council Meeting.

The water tank on Houston and 4th Streets, which passed inspected in February 2017, failed to function appropriately on Sunday morning.

An El Paso Electric transformer failure caused the pumps to stop working which caused the water tank to partially empty and decrease water availability to the community.  In turn, the emptying and refilling of water caused increased pressure which lead to a small leak and water pooling under the forty-year old tank. U.S. Underwater, the company that earlier this month found the true issues of this water tank, will return in early July to place epoxy over the entire bottom of the tank base to hopefully seal it for the next eight months.

During the winter months when water consumption is decreased, a new 212,000-gallon water tank will be installed in place of the current tank.  City crews will be vigilant in caring for it to sustain the tank’s life to continue providing the necessary water to the City.

Due to the water tank emptying, new water samples were collected and sent to a laboratory for bacteriological cultures and chlorine level testing.

On the south side of Interstate 10 East, water pressures were found to substandard when the transformer failed.   TCEQ was reportedly contacted by a McDonald’s representative who complained about the water pressure of less than State standards requirements.

In order to pay for these and other repairs that seem to crop up daily, Council approved an application with the USDA for a 2.60% interest long term loan and grants program under Resolution NO. 17-06-008.   This loan application, however, is a lengthy process and will hopefully come to fruition when the new water tank is installed during the upcoming winter.

Golf course manager Raul Rodriguez and Hudson related that fresh drinking water has been used to water the greens because the pH of the waste water was too high.  This water condition will kill the grass as happened about seven years ago.  Council told Hudson and Rodriguez to immediately contact a water testing lab and submit water samples for determination of chemicals necessary to lower the pH in the waste water so it may be used to water the greens.

Council discussed the possibility of drilling a non-potable water well in the vicinity of the golf course to provide the golf course and Jobe plant necessary water sources.  Doing so will relieve the decreased water pressure to McDonald’s and surrounding areas.

Edward Torres then addressed Council about the gas lines.  Multiple sized gas lines at some time in the past were installed and attached to required 2 inch gas lines.

Additional gas lines are being replaced in the McDonald’s area as well in the Wild Horse area where the new sand plant will be located.

Ms. Malafronte related to Council that she has been asked to allow solid waste to be emptied at the landfill which remains closed until the new permit is issued by TCEQ. Council reiterated that no disposal is currently available at the landfill; all roll-off garbage trailers are still being hauled to the Clint and Sierra Blanca landfills.   The City is only operating a Citizens Collection station only.

Van Horn Convention Center remains in the state of needing to be repaired by the contractor and architect.  Roof leaks, garage door leaks, a faulty floor, and thoughtlessly placed thermostats continue to plague the building.  Council advised Ms. Malafronte and Attorney Steve Mitchell to draft a letter advising pending litigation against contractors and architects for refusal to make necessary repairs as contracted to do.

The next scheduled City Council meeting is July 11.  Citizens are encouraged to come see your Council in operation.  Instead of ignoring the current utilities crises, Council and City employees are making the necessary repairs to provide for our community for many years to come.


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