Peñitas begins work toward providing water services

PEÑITAS — The city is preparing to be independent when it comes to water services for its residents.

Earlier this month, city commissioners authorized City Manager Omar Romero to apply for a Water Certificate of Convenience which would grant the city the exclusive right to provide retail water to its residents.

The move would mean a separation from the Agua Special Utility District which currently provides water to Peñitas as well as the cities of Sullivan City, Palmview and areas of Mission and La Joya.

Doing so would allow the city to have greater impact on development by being giving them the ability to work out a deal on water meters with retail or commercial developers, according to Romero.

He also said it would mean additional revenue to the city and that the city could provide fire protection.

“Although you can look around the city and see fire hydrants, there is not water pressure in the SUD pipes in order to hook up a fire truck or apparatus to that system in order for adequate fire protection,” he said.

In terms of water rates, Romero said the change could actually lower costs or at least keep them the same since Peñitas rate payers would not be affected by changes in other municipalities like they currently are under Agua SUD.

“Currently, citizens of Peñitas’ rates are affected by whether Sullivan (City) needs improvements or whether Palmview is getting a sewer plant,” Romero said. “Because Agua SUD is the provider of the entire area, whatever Agua SUD does affects the rate versus in Peñitas, we would only have to charge a rate for our people.”

The process of applying for and obtaining a CCN is a lengthy process which could be accomplished anywhere between next year to five years from now.

However, Romero said what makes it easier is that the city already has an enterprise fund set up for their sewer system. An enterprise fund is a government fund that sells goods or services to the general public.

“We’ve already gotten established a system with USDA, with the state leverage fund so that what we can do is we can show that our project is shovel-ready,” Romero said. “People already have pipes in the ground, people already have service, water meters. It’s just going to be the regulatory issues, if any exist, with the state regarding the water supply.”

The commissioners also authorized a feasibility study, to be conducted by engineer Richard LeFevre, for the city to build its own water plant. Building a water plant, as opposed to purchasing water in bulk from Agua SUD, would delay the city’s ability to provide water services but Romero said it would allow them to manage administrative costs.

Results of the study are expected to be presented in October.