City waiting for TCEQ response
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Efforts to resolve the issues surrounding allegations levied against the city regarding violations at the wastewater treatment plant are moving slowly, but City Administrator Greg Boatright said the city is now waiting on a response from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
The City Council met with legal counsel for nearly an hour Monday in executive session, being updated on the issue.
After the meeting, Boatright said the city has requested information provided to some media outlets from TCEQ the city believes counters the allegations that untreated sewage was put into the South San Gabriel River.
“TCEQ told us when we met with them that they had responded to several different media requests. We asked if we could see those,” he said. “The reason we’re after that is because there is language that clears up that this was not untreated sewage, or even sewage from our plant, that this was sludge found in the river, with no reference to where it came from, unlike the notification we got that said the treatment plant dumped solids into the river. We want that information.”
He said TCEQ responded that they would have to go through legal counsel before providing that information.
Additionally, the city has requested that new samples be taken.
“We have requested to them that we resample,” Boatright said. “They said they found treated sewage sludge, or our sewage sludge in the river, let’s go test it side by side so we know where you’re getting it.”
It has also been suggested that chlorine be used rather than UV treatment of the effluent as it leaves the plant as a solution to the algae issue in the river.
“Instead of using the UV to treat the effluent as it exits the plant, which is the final treatment for the bacteria, they said what if we utilized chlorine as the treatment, thereby eliminating the algae in the river,” Boatright said.
Treatment plants can use chlorine rather than UV treatment until they surpass 1 million gallons per day. Due to that rule, chlorine was not considered because the plant would soon reach that threshold.
“There’s mixed response to that, but I’m in favor of it,” Boatright said. “I’ve been in favor of it for a long time. I wanted us to do it two years ago when this came up before.”
If the TCEQ agrees with the use of chlorine, Boatright believes that would resolve the algae issue for residents.
“That is the main complaint we have,” he said. “The appearance of the river is paramount to those people and I don’t blame them. They bought that property because it’s on the river, and they want to access that river, walk down to it, look at it. I understand all that.”
An investigative report was issued in July by TCEQ, alleging a number of violations at the wastewater plant. The City countered with a letter dated July 17 denying the allegation that the City failed to properly operate and maintain the facility and that it prevented unauthorized discharge of wastewater sludge into the river.
“This simply did not occur. The City strongly recommends that TCEQ retract in writing their false statement regarding improper operation and dumping of sludge immediately,” the letter stated.
Plans to alter the swim center design got a financial boost Monday, when Council voted 3-1 to approve $7,000 to fund the work being done by Halff Associates. City Council Member Wendell McLeod was the lone vote against.
The decision to consider a new design came after McLeod raised the question July 9 about adding swim lanes to accommodate high school swimmers.
The funding covers $5,400 in redesign costs to add two swim lanes to the plan, as well as $1,600 for additional survey work.
The survey work will help the City also move ahead with plans for parking at the park, which is dependent on the drainage solution that comes out of Williamson County’s plan for the County Road 200 expansion.
“We’ve been working with the County on that, but we’ve kind of reached an impasse with the County as far as what our expectations are for the crossing and regrading of that drainage area,” Boatright said.
The City is waiting to meet again with county officials to work out a drainage solution, but wants to begin moving forward with the swim center plans.
The new design brings the pool size down from 4,800 square feet to about 4,350 square feet. It will still include the zero-entry and has added a “tanning shelf”, with the lap area on the opposite end.
Plans still include the splash pad, which is roughly 2,000 square feet at an estimated budget of about $150,000.
The pool house is roughly 1,300 square feet and is an open-air facility with restrooms, pavilion area and changing rooms. There will be no heating or air conditioning. The plan is to have restrooms and a potential vending area accessible year round for park users, even when the pool is closed.
Plans also include fencing, shade structures, landscaping and grass areas surrounding the pool deck.
The original budget for the project was about $1.2 million.
After selecting Doucet & Associates in May to do the engineering work for the Stubblefield realignment, the Council approved the contract Monday for $324,960.
As a cost-saving move, the decision was made to have Doucet & Associates do only part of the work now on phase 2.
“We’ve gone back and forth on the design criteria, specifically costs associated with that and so, what we’ve decided, to try and control costs on Stubblefield was to go through the full design for construction to get phase one implemented, then go and do 30 percent on phase 2,” Boatright said.
Having phase 2 done to 30 percent completion will allow the City to move forward with acquiring right of way before finals plans are completed.
“To help our capital improvement funds go as far as they can, we would want to scale back on full design of phase 2 but have 30 percent plans that would allow us to acquire right of way through platting and make sure the corridor is protected,” Boatright said.
The cost for all of phase 1 engineering, to include services through the bid and construction phase is $223,520.
The preliminary design work for phase 2, which includes survey and design, is $101,440.
The plan is to go from Loop 332, across from Liberty Hill Elementary School southward to eventually intersect with County Road 279. Phase 1 will go from Loop 332 to Fallwell Street, with phase 2 eventually connecting from there to CR 279.
Sculpture Fest donation
While the City Council chose not to fund the Sculpture Festival to the tune of $5,000 from the Parks and Recreation Board budget based on a recommendation from that board, the Council did unanimously contribute $10,000 to this year’s event, matching last year’s contribution.
The Liberty Hill Sculpture Festival committee has made multiple presentations to the Council, Parks and Recreation Board and Economic Development Corporation (EDC) over the last month, but due to lingering questions on how last year’s revenues were used and how the money would be accounted for caused hesitation.
The EDC has not yet decided whether to contribute the $5,000 requested.
Festival planners project a total revenue of about $45,500 with projected expenses of $25,500, leaving a net income of $20,000 organizers said would be used to clean, renovate and restore the sculptures.
The event is scheduled for Oct. 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Lions Foundation Park and then downtown from 6-10 p.m.
A facade grant application approved by the EDC and forwarded to the Council was approved Monday for the “Cousins Building” at 923 Loop 332 in downtown Liberty Hill.
The grant is for $5,000 toward the $11,558 total cost of the project. The building is currently vacant.
“What they’ve done so far is they’ve replaced the windows upstairs, and they’ve taken it down to the studs on the first floor on the interior,” said EDC Executive Director Lance Dean at the Board’s Aug. 9 meeting. “What they’d like to do is add an awning out front, replace the front door hardware, and replace the lower story windows.”
The top floor will be residential and the first floor commercial. The grant is funded as a reimbursement and will not be paid until the owner has a certificate of occupancy.
“They’d just like to go ahead and start the project so they can dress it up a bit so they can go ahead and market it and get it filled quicker,” Dean said.