Petition stops City from issuing bonds to expand water supply

Two hours before the City Council was set to vote on an ordinance to  issue certificate of obligation bonds that would allow two more wells to be brought on line, a petition was filed that stopped the process.

“It is a setback, and it isn’t in the public’s best interest, but we do have other options that we’re considering,” said City Manager Manuel De La Rosa.

De La Rosa told The Independent on Tuesday that the petition was delivered in person to City Hall at 3 p.m. Monday by Jamie Williamson,  owner of The Leader newspaper.

“We confirmed the signatures with voter registration rolls and determined that the majority were valid,” he said.

According to state law, only 5 percent of the qualified voters residing inside the city limits were needed to prevent the City from authorizing the issuance of the certificates. In Liberty Hill’s case, that was 28 voters, De La Rosa said. If city officials decide to pursue that funding option, a referendum would be required in May 2012.

“We have other options, one of those being funds from EDC (Economic Development Corp.) for public infrastructure,” De La Rosa said.

“This does slow us down in getting the capital improvements we need, but it doesn’t interfere with the City’s acquisition of the water system (from Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp.) or the wastewater treatment plant (from Lower Colorado River Authority),” he said.

The Council voted Monday to accept a low bid from Arnold Water Well Service to drill two wells to increase the city’s water supply. Funds for the drilling and construction are coming from Williamson County’s Community Development Block Grant program. De La Rosa said funds from the City’s issuance of certificate of obligation bonds were intended to be used to connect the two wells to the water supply.

“What the Council was trying to do with certificates of obligation was to save the taxpayers money,” said Mayor Michele “Mike” Murphy.

“That was our cheapest option to get new wells connected to the water supply. We were trying to put the last piece in place to have more water.”

Mayor Murphy said it appeared as though some may have signed the petition not understanding the “unintended consequence.”

“Why would anyone want a more expensive loan?” she said. “In the end, this will cost more money.”

She said if the City had been able to utilize certificates of obligation to connect the wells to the water source, the interest would have been from 2-3 percent. By using another funding alternative, the City could pay twice that.

“We can’t stop the process because we have to have more water,” she said. “And we already own the water supply corp, so that’s not the issue. That’s a done deal.”

Mayor Murphy said she did not know what voters were told when asked to sign the petition, but suspected some may not have understood and believed they were signing something to keep the City from becoming the water provider.

After comparing the signatures on the petition with county voter registration records, 51 names were confirmed valid.

The City did not accept the signature of Connie Wiggers, who also signed four days later using another name, Connie Lauder, at the same address.

Three others were not registered to vote in the city.

From the petition documents obtained by The Independent through an Open Records request, it is not clear who solicited the signatures.

In addition to Mrs. Williamson, other petition signers include the following: Gwyn Montes, Paul Montes, Monroe Williamson, Michael East, Paula East, Russel Polk, Pamela Polk, Becky Child, Chris Child, Augustina Lopez, Joe Lopez, Bertha Hernandez, Debra Brown, Bobby Brown, Mary Montemayor, Angelo Montemayor, Richard Dawson, Sloane Dawson, Tresa Hernandez, John Cantrell, Shayne Kilian, Lance Whitehead, Carlos Hernandez, Larry E. Allman, Tracy Wiggers, Garry Byerly, Roberta Byerly, Edward Hernandez, Mary Lou Hernandez, Dennis Rollins, Tim Cronan, Richard Lattanzio, Linda Lattanzio, Sammy Pruett, Christina Pruett, Betty Darnell, Connie J. Lauder, Malcom Terry, Debra Terry, Cindy Van Meeteren, Steve Van Meeteren, Pam Medrano, Carrie Van Meeteren, Monty B. Price, Dorothy Page, Karen Cantrell, Jeanette Whitehead, Margret Moore Wetzel and Ruth Michele Wetzel.