Possible movement on pending water distribution lawsuit

By Lisa Morton

The regular meeting at City Hall last Tuesday had a noticeable guest attending virtually. Henry Paoli, an appeals attorney with ScottHule Law Firm of El Paso, hired by the city, was a nonparticipant for the majority of the meeting. That is until Mayor Becky Brewster announced a closed session forum regarding the review, consideration, and potential action for a proposed Rule 11 Agreement between the Town of Van Horn and Hudspeth County Water Control Improvement District No. 1 in connection with a pending lawsuit identified as Cause No. 2020-DCV3703. The agenda item was a no-action item upon returning to the open forum.

In an October 27, 2019 Texas Tribune article, Macario Marquez, the general manager of Hudspeth County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, said Sierra Blanca’s water has been supplied for decades by the city of Van Horn, about 30 miles east.

“I’ve been here since ’89, about 30 years, and we’ve really never had any major issues with the city of Van Horn,” he said last week. “We used to work pretty much hand in hand and cooperate with each other.”

He described the supply agreement as an informal arrangement but said there’s been a change in administration in Van Horn and that’s no longer the status quo. He said that the shortage started two weeks ago and that parts of the city are completely out of water.

In the same Tribune article Town of Van Horn attorney Steve Mitchell commented along with Henry Paoli, the dispute between the two parties would be addressed, at some point. All stemming from a water shortage that had Sierra Blanca up in arms and the West Texas Detention Facility that houses ICE detainees using port-a-potties.

A Rule 11 Agreement is considered an enforceable contract relating to your lawsuit. An enforceable Rule 11 Agreement must be in writing and signed by the parties themselves or legal representatives. Essentially, Rule 11 agreements are contracts and can be revoked enforceable through a separate breach-of-contract action.

Amanda Frazier was another guest at the Zoom meeting representing Burgess and Niple, who gave aldermen an update on the status for wastewater project and water line under Elm Street project contracts. She said the firm hopes to have a permit ready for Mayor Brewster to sign next week and had a rescheduling issue to address with railroad officials.

Director of Utilities Edward Torres updated council on projects and maintenance in town and at the landfill with the new compactor breakdown and possible seeding golf course in-house. Water leaks and road repair continue to be a part of operations discussions.

There was some discussion regarding the new Dollar Store construction project and the remaining abandoned McVay Court buildings. Apparently, over a dozen illegal immigrants were found during demolition and the zone may be deemed hazardous in connection to city ordinance.

In other city business:

Held a Public Hearing to review the performance and obtain citizens comments regarding the completed TxCDBG Contract No. 7219450 1044 residential water meters project. Originally the Grant was $275,000 with a Cash Match of $130,230. However, the bids were less than expected so the grant reimbursement and cash match will be reduced proportionately with the final amount pending final invoice from supplier.

Approved December 28, 2021 and Special Meeting minutes for January 18, 2022. Tabled approval of December 14, 2021 at the request of Alderman Lyndon McDonald.

Approved Financial Report as presented

Approved payment of current bills as presented.

Approved declaration of 10 old golf carts as surplus and legal process for disposition with an in-house auction.

Ordered the May General Election.

Approved amend Title 17, Zoning, Chapter 17.28, R-1 Residential Districts, Section 17.28.020, Permitted Uses. The ordinance amendment clarified that only site-built homes or HUD-code homes (modular and manufactured with HUD stickers attached) are permitted in Van Horn.

Approved $428,559.72 in ARPA Funding for infrastructure improvements to assist funding Capital Improvement project PWR3 Asbestos Concrete Line. This is for the main line that comes from the plant down to Elm Street and crosses under the track and turns on to Broadway.

Approved authorizing issuance of a request for qualifications for civil engineering services related to utility improvements considered under the American Rescue Plan Act ARPA).

Approved new vinyl billboard located on I-10 at Las Cruces with alterations to include mountainscape at Turtle Mountain.