LHISD chooses Chisolm Trail as water provider for new high school

An announcement that the school district had chosen Chisholm Trail Special Utility District to provide water to the new high school and athletic complex came as a surprise to city officials this week. During a meeting of the district’s Board of Trustees Monday, Superintendent Dr. Rob Hart said that even though the Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp. holds the CCN (Certificate of Convenience & Necessity) to provide water to the location, LHISD can meet the fire flow requirements of the Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 for less cost by using Chisholm Trail. He said Chisholm Trail offered a plan that was $1.2 million less than what the LHWSC offered.

“We’ve been working with both sides trying to find the best solution,” Hart said.

However, to meet the fire flow requirements to obtain proper permitting, the LHWSC plan called for construction of a 750,000-gallon above-ground water storage tank on the site, which would cost the school district $2.1 million, Hart said.

Chisholm Trail, which proposed to pipe in water from its storage facility on CR 200 using a 16-inch line, bid $828,000.

He said Lake Belton is the primary surface water source for Chisholm Trail. If the volume drops in the CR 200 storage tank, more will be supplied from the tank at Stonewall Estates.

“We know the supply is going to be there (from Chisholm Trail), and I think the fire department felt that way, too,” Hart said.

This week, LHWSC announced three of its five wells were “pumping air” and Secretary-Treasurer Wendell McLeod said the system is “running out of water.”

In recent weeks, the City of Liberty Hill has taken over the operations of the LHWSC — months after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved the transfer of the system to the City. The final approval will come when the City secures financing to repay LHWSC loan debt.

In the past six months, the transfer of the water system to the City has been further complicated by charges and counter-charges of poor management practices impacting system finances, and an insufficient water supply to handle the needs of a growing community. Former General Manager McLeod, who was recently hired by the City to manage its newly-created utility department, has from the beginning been the most vocal opponent to the transfer with his main objection being the uncertainty of his future employment with the City.

City Manager Manuel DeLaRosa, who raised the issue of providing water to the new school during a City Council budget workshop on Tuesday, told The Independent Wednesday that he had not been informed that the school district had made a decision to use Chisholm Trail. In fact, he heard the news for the first time when The Independent asked him how the district’s decision would impact the City.

DeLaRosa said he met one time with Hart to discuss the water issue, adding that the proposal had been developed by LHWSC and its consulting engineer and submitted to LHISD before the City acquired the operations of the water system.

“We are in the CCN of the Water Supply Corp., which will become the City’s, but there is no service there,” Hart told school trustees Monday. “TCEQ will be the one to grant the release (of the CCN) to us and I don’t see that being a problem.”

Hart said he will request TCEQ to release the school property from the LHWSC CCN.

“We have certain rights also,” said DeLaRosa. “And we will have to see if this (decision by the school district) is in the City’s best interest. We have certain rights that are transferred (from the LHWSC) to the City, and we take those rights very seriously.”

DeLaRosa said that once the interconnect line with the LHWSC and Chisholm Trail is restored this week, being able to supply water to the location and to regular water customers should not be an issue. LHWSC has a standing agreement with Chisholm Trail allowing it to utilize up to 400,000 gallons per day when needed, for additional fees.

Hart said he planned to use the City to provide wastewater service to the new facilities, but DeLaRosa said there is no agreement between the two entities. The City is in the process of acquiring the local wastewater treatment plant from the Lower Colorado River Authority — the facility that would process the wastewater from the new school facilities.

Hart said he would be bringing the issue back to the Board of Trustees at a future meeting, at which time he would propose an Interlocal Agreement between the school district and Chisholm Trail SUD. Architects say they will need a water supply at the construction site by mid-October.

WCESD #4 Chief Bruce Watson could not be reached for comment at press time Wednesday