State senator calls for plan of action from Agua SUD

Concerns over management at the Agua Special Utility District have prompted state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa to call on the utility district to develop a plan of action.

Hinojosa, D-McAllen, issued a letter to Agua SUD board President Roger Hernandez, expressing concern over the leadership at the district and requesting a plan of action “in an effort to resolve the lack of management and leadership at Agua SUD.”

Specifically, the state senator took issue with interim General Manager Richard LeFevre who Hinojosa alleges is not carrying out his responsibilities.

“He has independently hired Milo Salinas, the vice president of his company LeFevre Engineering & Management Consulting, to run things at Agua SUD on a contract basis,” Hinojosa states in the letter. “He has already paid Mr. Salinas $18,000 of taxpayer funds without any approval or even notice to the Agua SUD Board of Directors.”

Hernandez, the board president, did not return a request for comment as of press time.

LeFevre was appointed interim general manager in September following the resignation of Oscar Cancino, who had served as the executive director of the utility district.

At the time of his appointment, LeFevre assured he would be able to focus his attention on Agua SUD despite the work his company had separate from the district. He explained his vice president would be serving as his company’s representative for those outside projects.

He did not return requests for comment.

In his letter, Hinojosa also mentioned meetings held between Agua SUD officials and representatives of the Texas Water Development Board.

During a meeting held last week, Hinojosa wrote, Agua SUD officials were unable to answer specific questions regarding ongoing projects.

“Specifically, the TWDB engaged in discussions on the $41 million city of Palmview wastewater project,” he said. “While the project is still moving forward, it has been delayed and may not be completed until spring 2019.”

The Texas Water Development Board is funding the Palmview Wastewater Project, which upon its completion will provide sewer services to the city of Palmview.

Lack of financial transparency is also an issue, according to Hinojosa, who stated the district had not posted its financials on its website in the past two years.

A 2015 statement is the most recent document available in the “Financial Information” section of the website.

“As a result, the TWDB will not consider any future projects until confidence is restored that Agua SUD can perform their functions and do their jobs,” Hinojosa wrote.

Hinojosa requests the plan of action to address those issues “for the benefit of taxpayers, current ongoing projects and the future of this district.”