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“LOOKING FOR START-UP FUNDS…”
The La Salle County government has agreed to support the Gardendale water utility system two months after a pump failure ran the unincorporated community dry.
County commissioners voted Monday, March 27, to grant $30,000 to the water supply corporation whose representative described the organization as starting anew and needing a structure in which to maintain an office and hold meetings.
The plea and the decision came after the city of Cotulla withdrew its support for the corporation at the beginning of the year. Cotulla City Hall had been managing the books for the water utility and collecting customers’ bill payments under a three-year agreement that ended in September 2022.
City councilors learned last year that the community’s single water well and related infrastructure were in need of repair and had been cautioned that further support of the system could result in hefty expenses. Gardendale’s water pump failure in January prompted the city administration to hire a contractor and pay to bring the supply back online, but councilors voted days later to end Cotulla’s support.
January’s emergency repairs were estimated at the time at $40,000.
The community of Gardendale lies beyond the city of Cotulla’s boundary of extraterritorial jurisdiction.
According to Cotulla City Hall, offers by the council to buy the entire water system from Gardendale and assume full responsibility for it were met with no response from the corporation.
According to estimates by Cotulla City Administrator Larry Dovalina and then-Utilities Supervisor David Wright in January, the Gardendale water supply system generates $32,400 in revenues per year, but operating costs may exceed $44,000.
Speaking on behalf of the corporation on Monday, Gardendale resident Melissa Gonzalez said the utility system is operational and is under the full control of the corporation.
“When the city maintained it, they were maintaining all the revenues, so we are basically starting brand new,” Gonzalez told commissioners. “We are looking for start-up funds.
“We need a location,” Gonzalez added. “There is nowhere for people to go. We are asking for some type of building for meetings, for people to come and find out about our services. Right now, the corporation is meeting in someone’s house, and that’s not appropriate. We need a public meeting place.”
Gonzalez noted the county’s history of supporting the water supply utility in Gardendale in the past, adding that the county government has helped secure development grants and made upgrades to the utility system.
Gardendale’s current water supply replaced individual property owners’ wells in the late 1990s and was inaugurated in a ceremony with county government officials and District 21 Texas Senator Judith Zaffirini.
Gonzalez said the system is presently being studied for what she described as a needs assessment to determine what further repairs or upgrades are required. She added that the system is currently in compliance with state mandates.
“Our goal is to continue to allow the Gardendale Water Supply Corporation to grow,” Gonzalez told commissioners. “The needs are there. We want to get some grants to continue with the upgrades.”
Commissioners continued their talks behind closed doors for thirty minutes in consultation with financial advisor Jorge Flores and County Attorney Elizabeth Martinez before emerging to record a unanimous vote for the grant, specifically for purchase of a building.
Commissioners did not indicate the grant would be annual and did not indicate whether their support would constitute subsidizing the water utility system’s operations.