Friday, September 24, 2010

Water Board refuses Wimberley wastewater loan; it's back to the drawing board

"You mentioned the four or five important water features in the area, so I'm puzzled why all would not be willing to back this up given the fact that the whole reason for doing this is to protect that asset you guys are so worried about."

– Jack Hunt, Vice Chair, TWDB

Note: The RoundUp did not attend yesterday's meeting of the TWDB but did view the entire proceeding on video on the agency's website. Once again, the city finds itself between a rock and a hard place, with its wastewater problem, ongoing pollution of Cypress Creek and the river and its inability to finance a new wastewater treatment plant. Some subtle and not-so-subtle hints were dropped at Thursday's meeting of the need, perhaps, to resort to a city property tax barring any other outside the box solution.

Send your comments and news tips to, call city hall at 512.847.0025, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Bob Ochoa


The Texas Water Development Board Thursday refused to approve an $8.5 million loan to the City of Wimberley to construct a central wastewater system, even while the city is facing an environmental "crisis" from failing septic systems along Cypress Creek and the Blanco River.

After lengthy discussion about the city's loan application before the Board, including testimony from City Administrator Don Ferguson and General Manager Bill West of the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, the city's partner in the proposed project which would own and operate the system, the Board said it would not approve a loan without sufficient pledged revenues as backing from both the city and the GBRA.

TWDB Executive Administrator Kevin Ward said to Ferguson and West, "we'd like to see the GBRA and the city come back with a more adequate pledge to ensure that this project can transition through development and construction without having the risk that there would not be repayment of the loan . . . I think the staff has looked at every way we could to structure a pad where we would give part of the money up front but in the final analysis we struggled with meeting the statutory requirement of making a finding that there was adequate security."
Don Ferguson/TWDB video
City Administrator Don Ferguson, in an emotional appeal to the Board, said, "We have a crisis that we're dealing with right now that we're trying to bring to a head. We have a creek that is full of septic and is growing more full every day as we proceed. When you think about a 4th of July sitting on the creek and smelling septic watching the 4th of July Parade go through, it's not an attractive situation."

"We've closed down one business in the past," Ferguson added, "and we have a fear that we are going to continue to do that. The solution is centralized wastewater and I think the solution is also recognizing the fact that it's not going to be cheap any way you look at it."

GBRA's General Manager West (at right) told the Board that the GBRA "has been trying to assist the Wimberley Valley for years regarding water and wastewater . . . the immediate concern is that of wastewater . . . Wimberley is built on failing septic tanks and that portion that is served by the (proposed) package plant is a result of an enforcement order by TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality)."

A Water Development Board staff summary of the project proposal and loan application points out that prospective residential and commercial customers of the wastewater system would be charged a combined water and sewage monthly fee of $242.50 on top of an estimated $10,000 connection fee which could be paid over five years, in addition to a "hook-up" cost to connect to the system. Additional rate increases would be necessary before 2019 to meet the loan's debt service obligations.

The little red dot at top right is the site of the proposed
wastewater plant. The black lines are the sewer lines.

The service area includes mostly businesses on the Square and residences inside the Cypress Creek loop from where it meanders from Blue Hole and meets the Blanco River, and a short distance along the north bank of the river (red, blue and beige colored areas in the graphic). The proposed project would provide service to 211 commercial, 74 residential and 48 future LUEs (living unity equivalents) associated with the 199 total potential customers.

The city has agreed to a "non-standard" condition that it would require 60% of the potential customers to formally request service from the wastewater system and pay a deposit before final approval of a loan from the Water Development Board. The city would have to provide evidence documenting that 60% have signed. Additionally, customers would have to make a minimum payment of 50% of the connection fee.

"My (city) council has stepped up to the plate. They've adopted a mandatory connection ordinance in advance of this application," Ferguson said. "My council has taken a position that it's not going to get any cheaper."

Final approval of the loan also hinges to a large degree on whether the GBRA is willing to guarantee its payment. But West informed the Board that his board took no action at its meeting last week on the question. "What we do not agree with is Water Development Board's required pledge by GBRA from other GBRA revenue sources for the remaining 40% of the project, for basically backing the whole thing up . . . If GBRA agreed to that pledge every future project within our basin would want the same deal. We simply can't afford to do that."

West and Ferguson thanked Board members and said they would take the Board's decision back to their respective parties for further consideration.

Outtakes . . . The agency's summary of the proposed wastewater project notes that Wimberley's population (inside the city limits) for 2010 is 2,851, a 25% decrease from the 2000 census. The project's utility service cost as a percentage of median household income ($46,042) "is high (6%) when compared to the benchmark routinely used to analyze the overall cost to the customer of these types of systems (2%)." The City of Wimberley has adopted a "mandatory hook up ordinance" requiring "all property owners" inside the city limits and in its ETJ to connect to the system once it becomes operational. The system's initial capacity would be 115,000 gallons to serve approximately 199 customers in the downtown area. An $8 million loan to serve 199 customers comes to about $42,000 per customer, a Water Development Board member pointed out. It has also been pointed out that some septic tanks on the Square are being pumped as frequently as once a month. (Where's all that stuff being dumped?)

Mr. Hunt
(dated photo)

TWDB Vice Chairman Jack Hunt asked if the potential customers included people from Houston. "Everybody I know in Houston has a home in Wimberley," he said. "Obviously this is not a financeable deal. I think even our lawyers failed to sign off on it. The problem you have is not what's happening in Wimberley, it's what's happening all around Wimberley and the threat. You mentioned the four or five important water features in the area, so I'm puzzled why all would not be willing to back this up given the fact that the whole reason for doing this is to protect that asset you guys are so worried about."

GBRA Gen. Mgr. West: "There's no tax base (property tax) there in Wimberley. That's one of the problems."

Vice Chairman Hunt: "Well it is a problem particularly in an area where I know there's tremendous wealth that would benefit from this, from having the river polluted. It kind of reminds me of the Frio River case where you have a small area creating a problem where it really doesn't have the resources to the solve the problem but it's creating a problem for a bigger area which does have the resources . . . I have been here 13 years and seen a lot of deals I scratched my head about, but this is one where my hair came out when I started scratching on it."

According to the TWDB profiles of members of the Board, Mr. Hunt
is president, CEO, and director of King Ranch, Inc., a land-based multi-business resource company. Mr. Hunt also serves as director of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He was appointed to the Board in 1998 by Gov. George W. Bush and reappointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2004.


Joe the Septic Man said...

If the downtown business owners are sure the septic system will benefit all the people in Wimberley - and not just the business owners - then put up a city bond issue for money to get the project to work and have it be voted on.

Short of that solution, the numerous business owners (I saw a number of 60 plus somewhere) can do what the rest of us do when we want to solve our business problems - mortgage their business properties and their homes and get unsecured financing to use the money as private collateral for the loan.

And what are the "sufficient pledged revenues" needed to back the loan. Until we see that number, tax payers should beware.

In the end, I hate the pollution being dumped into the creek. But quite frankly I am tired of government entities pilfering and raising my tax dollars to benefit the business elite that controls the local governments - both at the local and county level.

Another simple answer to the problem would be to close all the restaurants downtown who who don't have their own septic treatment systems. I wonder how much that would cut down on the waste being dumped into the creek. Or close the ones creating the most toxic dumping.

In my mind it seems maybe the restaurants and some of the downtown businesses should have thought about this before they even opened.

Sumpin Stinks said...

It appears that the Wimberley City Council is in denial. They are going to have to vote on an ad valorem tax whether they want to or not.

Isn’t it ironic that many people in Wimberley don’t want any further growth when that is exactly the reason there will be no loan from the Texas Water Development Board? Collecting sales tax form the local junk stores and hamburger joints just ain’t going to hack it.

The fact that the users around the square will likely desert the City before being slammed with the extremely high cost of a centralized sewer system, regardless of what they say, or the ordinance that was passed. This makes the guarantee offered by the City to the TWDB is inadequate and everybody knows it. The Citizens are going to have to fess up to the fact that the City will have to have help from everybody in the City to get this dome.

My question is; does Wimberley presently pay any fines for polluting Cypress Creek and the Blanco River? And if not, why not?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure a lot of business owners on the square and people in the service area are feeling sharp gas pains coming on. What's worse is that the city just might try making a deal with the devil himself as a last resort, that would be AquaTexas. Woodcreek should have gotten rid of that varmit when it had the chance. Well you know the saying, no guts no glory.

Save the creek w/out the growth said...

Hey Stinks, you want a sh*t load of growth? Get that sewer system built and operating and you'll see growth.

Sadly or fortunately the cost for growth will be a great deal higher. But at least those wealthy Houston immigrants would be able to afford it.

Anonymous said...

Or the whole mess could shut down. It seems that Wimberley thought the whole annexation thing was the right thing to do a few years ago. No valid reason, other than just a few hands over there felt like it was the thing to do. Perhaps the right answer now is to undo what was done, and disincorporate. Give the governance of the area back to the County; you want septics, then give the whole thing back to the County for regulatory authority. There was no pressure on Wimberley to incorporate; just a bunch of do-gooders who felt like they had to control everyone else's lives. Well, their wish has come true, and now they are begging for crumbs and finding out that they can't even get that.

Option 2 - adopt an across the board ad valorem tax to pay for a wastewater system.

Option 3 - move to Dripping Springs.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last Anonymous. This is an example of “Be careful what you wish for. Wimberley should still be an unincorporated Village. It is losing population and can’t even support a police (Marshall) force, control traffic flow or manage its wastewater problems. The whole problem is that without a substantial tax base no “City” can hope to be anything but an annoyance to their citizens and surrounding areas. Wimberley has a unique distribution of wealth and should have never been incorporated, kinda like your teenagers leaving home too soon. It is important to note that Wimberley was incorporated as a fraud, not having a the required 3K to 5K population and they have admitted it.

Frankly, the City going to the TWDB on bended knees with their hand out is an embarrassment. There is a severe pollution problem on the square and it didn’t just happen yesterday. The “City fathers” have been piddled around and done nothing. I really believe they are afraid of their own electorate. A good example is the Las Flores debacle, which took forever and is still not resolved to the satisfaction of most. Do you think that the fact that some City leaders have property or businesses in the target area has anything to do with the inaction and begging?

Trying to get State loans of funds to fix their own neglected problems won’t fly. Either step up to the plate and pass an ad valorem Tax or Disincorporate. I can tell you the citizens of Wimberley will not stand for a property tax and if pushed, will demand disincorporation.

Anonymous said...

Since it was brought up, a little investigation into the whole matter of Wimberley's fraudulent incorporation is that they made a petition to the Commissioners Court stating that they had 5000+ people within their boundaries. A quick observation of their petition shows nothing more than about 17 signatures attesting to this and requesting the right to incorporate; and further there isn't any back up documentation proving that there were 5000 people within their proposed boundaries. A review of projects that went through the Commissioners Court and the Village of Wimberley would show that they exercised an extended extraterritorial jurisdiction of five miles since they claimed to have 5000 people. Fraudulent is too light of a word, perhaps criminal would be better.

Downstream swimmer said...

Joe the Septic Man: Cities without Ad Valorem taxes can't sell bonds. The real question here is that if the City Administrator knows that "the creek is full of septic and getting fuller" then why isn't he enforcing the rules and regulations that govern on site systems ie septic tanks? Why is he and the council willing to risk public health and safety in exchange for keeping businesses open? How is it possible for restaurants to expand their number of tables without expanding their septic system in accordance with the law? I can't add to my home without bringing septic system up to code. This has been going on for over a decade now so while they continue to try to get us to pay to fix their problem and increase their property value why can't we get them to fix or mitigate their septic problems? I am angry. I think they should test all the septic tanks and do something. I am calling the TCEQ. Should my kids be swimming in the river? To add insult to injury we find out that the population of the City did not allow them to incorporate as a Type A Municipality and the incorporated limits are illegal. Thank you Bob for reporting on this. Great article. Stay on it!

Anonymous said...

The requested “Loan” from the TWDB is absurd! Do the math, 8.5 million dollars for 199 LUEs, that’s $42,713 per LUE! Remember, they said some restaurants and other users would require more than one LUE. How the hell is that ever going to get paid back? That was a point that one member of the TWDB made during the Finance Meeting. Even the partners in crime with Wimberley, the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, when asket to pony up more of a commitment to pay the loan back even balked. I suspect there is no business on the square that has that kind of money to spend on something like sewers. Some will be honest and move or go bankrupt while others may say the would now but later back out. Since the Council decided not to have the whole city pay for it, this loan idea is DOA. The TWDB is not a bunch of fools. I wouldn’t sell Wimberley a used car with that kind of credit rating.

Anonymous said...

Okay, now that the dust has been stirred I would say that it is perhaps time to listen to some of the other voices of reason (questionable) that offered other suggestions that may be quite a bit more affordable, but would help to make the sanitary conditions in Wimberley better.

David Venhuizen proposed to the City a decentralized wastewater concept (though he hates the term "wastewater") that would be more affordable and easier to implement in a setting like Wimberley.

Perhaps it's time to stop the train, regroup, listen to some other voices and see if there's not some other method that would work for the critical area in question.

However, there may still be the need for an ad valorem tax, though, with David's system, not sure if that is true or not. I think it would be worth listening to his idea again, and digging into it seriously.

Anonymous said...

Wimberley and Wimberley's businesses and tourist traps promote themselves as "a little bit of heaven" with fantasized pristine creeks, a river and a famous swimming hole. How much longer can that advertising gimmick and fraud on tourists and newcomers last?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to ask Mr. Do It All Will Conley, Wimberley's county commissioner, where he was two years ago putting the county in up to its eyeballs in road bonds for the east side of the county instead of clamoring for wastewater bonds for Wimberley. He's been out trying to buy out special interests Jacob's Well and Swimberley instead of investing the taxpayers money in real needs in our community. Conley and those on his dole are the true sellouts.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing what the Conley haters will stoop to. Blaming Will Conley for the incompetence and inaction of the Wimberley City Council is a real stretch. Nice try though.

Joe the Rationalist said...

Isn't it time you Wimberley dinosaurs stopped harping about unincorporation. It is not going to happen, and you are just wasting your potential for good ideas and solutions on past decisions that are not going to change.

Start using your minds in productive ways and on problem-solving for the future.

You un-incorporation people with your made up conspiracy theory "illegal incorporation" nonsense remind me of the ridiculous birthers with their Obama non-citizen birth certificate dribble.

Stop embarrassing yourselves with such thoughts. If you can't seem to stop the obsession, see a doctor about getting some Lexipro.

A Good Citizen said...

It sounds to me like AquaMoney will now be asked to come in and provide the wastewater services for the businesses they don't already provide for around the square.

Now, a decision like contracting with ATI is never a good solution, but it is better than polluting the creek.

But I do not want to pay for it with an ad valorem or any other tax. I will, howeber, pay for it with higher prices if I choose to buy stuff at the stores or eat at the restaurants.

Let the businesses pay for their business waste expense just like I have to pay for my business expenses - out of my own pocket. If the expenses get too high, I raise my prices. If I can be competitive and successful with that normal way of doing business, all is well and fine. If I can't I shutter my doors.

Sorry, but no more taxes to benefit the private sector (even local businesses). However, I will pay higher taxes for education, universal health care for children, and, since I make over $250K a year, a 3.5% higher tax to help our country get better.

Spock said...

Okay stay incorporated but release most of the incorporated area so that it exactly matches the downtown area that needs the sewer system. They they can vote for ad advalorem taxes and use them to pay for their sewer system. I have more confidence that hays county can provide the services we need that we'll never get from the City of Wimberley. One of the budget items is to spend money on lights for the square. Seems to me like they all close before it even gets dark! Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few!

Anonymous said...

Lets see, the only possible alternatives are to, create an ad valorem tax and sell bonds or waste more time listening to an unproven and more expensive theory by David Venhuizen or Contract with Aqua-Texas. If that is the case, we really don’t have a way out of this self inflected debacle. The City will face fines and fences it doesn’t act soon. The word is already starting to get out that Cypress Creek is a sewage ditch and the downstream portion (at least) of the Blanco River is polluted. This can’t be good for health concerns, let alone tourism.

The citizen’s objections to an ad valorem tax is somewhat amusing and explains why nothing get done in Wimberley. The City was incorporated with the idea that sales tax from the tourists was going to finance the City’s needs and no property tax would be needed. That lie has been told to nearly every group of citizens to gain their acceptance and votes for incorporation. Things kinda rocked along while everyone was ignoring problems with the Square’s pollution problem. The economy took a hit and the Marshall was laid off leaving no law enforcement in the City. Somehow funding of the flowers by the bridge and a new City Hall was found. Now the “Septic Square” has reached critical mass and begging the State to bail them out has failed, shows the need for Wimberley to grow up and pay their way. Besides money the main thing Wimberley needs is leadership in government.

Mr. Venhuizen’s presentation is actually little more than promoting individual septic tanks (with chunk collection and removal) and shared pre-processing with the output filtered with sand and returned, to water and fertilize the landscape with an underground drip system (leach field). Frankly I see no difference with ordinary well-managed septic tank systems. His cost estimates are frankly unbelievable and he offers no reference accounts where this type of thing has been successful in a similar retrofit situation and configuration. It could be a good “green” idea for new developments but not for the poorly laid out “Septic Square”. ww discussion.pdf .

Aqua-Texas is a horrible idea in so many ways. They can’t be trusted and in order to enter into a contract with Wimberley they’d have to have guarantees that the City could not make and they can’t be expected to live up to any agreed terms. Since they have the TCEQ in their pocket you could expect cost overruns and annual rate increases. If the Council even mentions cutting a deal with Aqua there should be a re-call election.

Disincorporation? you decide.

David Venhuizen said...

I just love all those "brave" souls who comment under "Anonymous" or some pseudonym, who do not have cajones or the strength of conviction to stand behind their arguments. It would be interesting, would it not, to learn the basis of expertise from which the "Anonymous" of 9:21 AM this morning (Sunday, Sept. 26) asserts there is no merit in the ideas I've thrown out there for the community's consideration -- and indeed that is ALL I have done, along with some commentary on why, such as the ridiculous cost of the currently proposed 19th century infrastructure.

The heart of the matter here is that the community power structure has allowed itself to be totally led around by GBRA and other mainstream interests, who apparently are unable to imagine that anything other than the 19th century, make-it-go-"away" sewer system model could possibly be entertained in Wimberley. They appear to be SO dedicated to that proposition that the mere expression of the idea that there are other infrastructure models that may merit their consideration has caused them to label the person so stating as an enemy of the community, and to promise to exclude that person from any consideration of what those options may be. So in essence, their personal issues are being allowed to get in the way of even considering whether other options might be entertained.

And then some coward like the 9:21 AM "Anonymous" is sent out there to trash the very idea that any other infrastructure model could possibly be entertained. It seems that this person has failed to consider something very basic here -- why would I WANT to work in such an environment? I WILL work with those around Wimberley who are interested in sanely considering their options, who are actually interested in how we can husband our precious and dwindling water resources. Not just pumping a whole lot of everyone's money into flushing that resource "away", AS IF that it the point. Yes, it was the point in the 19th century, but we are now into the second decade of the 21st century. Perhaps time to consider some updated thinking?

I am proud to post these comments under my name. How about you, 9:21 AM Anonymous?

9:21 AM said...

My, My aren’t we a bit testy. Your idea was only one of the choices that seem to be available, so it is not all about you.

I was simply offering my opinions of the various choices available to Wimberley. Your ideas were linked to for a fair comparison. Your side was very fairly represented. You seem to discount the Hydrologic Cycle whereby nature eventually recycles all water, even if it is wastewater. You just want to speed up and direct the process. Your testament reads more like a thesis than and actual working plan with actual testing and installations.

If your system has/had applicable merit, why are we talking about it in the past tense? I have no idea what the Wimberley Council thought of your idea but it seems that they may have rejected it. Did you offer any working similar examples of your theory or were you proposing that Wimberley be the trial balloon at their own expense?

I am sorry that you object more to me remaining Anonymous than defending your own position. I would have expected a defense containing facts and examples, but you offered none. BTW, remaining anonymous is for the protection of my family. Some commenters here occasionally get out of control.

Anonymous said...

The fees cited appear to be the "basic fees". These are the fees that you pay irrespective of actual use. You will have to pay for actual water consumed and wastewater produced on top of the "basic fees".

The "ordinance" regarding mandatory attachment is of questionable validity. The utility cannot require you to be a customer. Only the customers can be forced to pay the $10,000 plus the monthly basic fees. So the city wants to force you to be a customer by virtue of "ordinance". By this mechanism they will force everyone to pony up the $10,000 fee plus the monthly basic fees. When financed in this fashion, the monies are not tax deductible even though they are clearly a municipal tax.

Odoriferous maximus said...

Try going to this web site,

There must be hundreds of engineering firms around the state and country that can offer the city innovative and maybe cheaper solutions. How much has the city tried and why is it tied to the hip with GBRA and the current engineering company? Probably as a backer for the loan from the state, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen, and GBRA is I think responsible for keeping rivers in its basin clean and free of pollution.

Other suggestions in here also sound reasonable. Like determining which of the downtown businesses and homeowners are the worst offenders. Either shut them down, stick them with big fines or talk them into paying for new systems that will NOT fail or present any further threat to the creek and river. Problem with shutting down businesses is that it works against the city's biggest revenue source, sale taxes.

Yes, this is a big rock and a big hard place for the city and the community. You would think as precious as the creek and river are to the community, everyone would be signing up to find a solution.

Joe the Anonymous said...

Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen. You succeeded in the second half of the comments presenting ideas and possible solutions without resorting to silly and out of touch "disincorporation" dribble.

And David V., you need to lighten up. Blogs allow "anonymous" comments. And we get it. You are a visionary and your anonymous critics are 19th century thinkers. It must be lonely being so misunderstood.

Patty Trained said...

The bottom line is the businesses on the Square that still need the wastewater system should pay for the system.

Those of us who live within the incorporated area do profit indirectly via property values as a result of an attractive and environmentally healthy downtown infrastructure. But we will also pay higher property taxes as well. In my mind that makes it a wash

David is correct. It is time to think outside the box and quit acting like victims here. Contracting with ATI would be like being a victim of deceptive corporate expertise. They will ultimately charge too much and provide inferior service. It is the "new corporate order" with Wall Street firms.

Or, we could solve it like the un-incorporation bozos would - place some outhouses strategically around the Square.

David Venhuizen said...

After I left the comment yesterday morning, I watched the TWDB meeting video. It is truly jarring what is being presented here, with a straight face. Before getting into that, I note that Bill West claimed GBRA has spent a half million dollars "desparately" trying to resolve Wimberley's wastewater woes. I can guarantee that I've not received a penny of that. Yet the profile in courage that posted at 9:21 AM yesterday asserts that because I have not, all by myself and totally on my own nickel, completely defined what a decentralized concept strategy would be for the Square, and costed it out, the whole idea does not merit any consideration.

Which leads us to West and Ferguson and their testimony at the Board meeting. West stated "Water protection is GBRA's responsibility." He then quoted a report on the SRF program that noted its impact on water quality has not been as good as
it should because of, in part, "lack of creativity". Isn't that the essential problem in Wimberley? A lack of creativity, resulting in a view that the ONLY system worthy of consideration dedicates the great majority of
the resources to just moving pollution from place to place, focused completely on taking what is perceived solely and exclusively as a nuisance
to that magical place we call "away", on a process called "disposal", which
simply does not exist in this context. This from an agency that proclaims it is all about protecting and husbanding water resources.

West also said the board "... should give special consideration to the environmental
sensitivity of this project ...", yet he insists this project must be all about installing a leak-prone conventional centralized collection system and FOUR failure-prone lift stations over a very small service area.

West then stated that GBRA "... simply can't afford to do that ...", meaning to guarantee the loans, yet does not manifest
the slightest interest in examining other infrastructure models for the multiple benefits -- fiscal, societal, and environmental -- which they might
provide. He made the argument that "This project does not fit in the typical box." And, "We need to think outside the box." Yet all concerned are engaging in, indeed INSISTING upon, a "lack of creativity", on absolutely staying within the box.

Ferguson then came on asserting that this IS an emergency, that Wimberley has "... a creek that is full of septic ..." That is hyperbole. There is no data for any such assertion. No monitoring reports, no enforcement actions, if this really is a dire situation? If it were the case, then why have these supposedly severe polluters been given a pass all these years?

Ferguson also said "It's not your normal situation." Again, if that's really so, why is there such a resistance to considering any way but one, and only one, way to address the matter? Just why is it an article of faith that, as Ferguson stated "... the solution is ... centralized wastewater ..."? Which is to say, is it not, that this "not your normal situation" may ONLY be addressed by "your normal" wastewater management strategy. A strategy rooted solely in the conditions considered to be paramount in the 19th century? In
a 21st century village facing 21st century water resources issues.

Lack of creativity. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Wimberley decided to play “grownups” by becoming a City long ago without taking on the responsibility of being such. They approached the incorporation like a couple of teenage newlyweds, with no understanding of their duties and responsibilities.

Part of being a City is being fiscally responsible and Wimberley has not been and is not today. They don’t have a chance of correcting the pollution problem in the “Square” by paying for it with sales tax and colleted fees from the shacks on the square. It is the fashion of the day, make bad decisions that fail and then get on your roof and cry for help from government.

It would be wrong for the government to fix this fiasco when the simple answer is to adopt a property tax for all of Wimberley to pay this bill and for other needed projects. That is the only fair answer since the mess on the square was a mess when the city incorporated it. If the businesses just started polluting, say, a year ago then they should have been confronted or closed at that time. Since they were polluting long before the incorporation, it is now the whole City’s responsibility to correct it. Certainly not the whole County or State.

The council seeking a loan from the TWDB seemed responsible enough until it became clear that Wimberley didn’t have the resources to pay it back. Even their partner, the GBRA seemed reluctant to commit. The TWDB expects Wimberley to cleanup their own mess by holding its citizens responsible for the cost. By not “asking” its people to pay for the clean-up first, they looked pretty weak at the meeting. The Board hinted at the fact that there is plenty of (Houston) wealth in Wimberley to fund the fix. I think maybe they are right.

I see government’s only role here to be one of enforcement in that they should put Wimberley on notice to fix the problem or else. I believe the EPA is already involved but I don’t know about the TCEQ or the County Health Department but I will contact them and ask that they do their jobs.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous @ 9/26/2010 8:02 PM

There was no suggestion by the speaker that the ordinance is limited to forcing those with "failing systems" to connect or that funding for the $8.5 million would come from only those with "failed systems".

Anonymous said...

First, disincorporation is not a "bozo" idea. It IS an option. Probably not the best, but an option; and I would not say that the incorporation was ILLEGAL, but it was ILL ADVISED considering that the present Council does not seem inclined to want to do the things that a city is required to do at least from obligation, and yes Virginia, that sometimes means TAXATION for the purpose of public good (ala, school taxes, income tax - supposedly at least in theory, etc.).

However, with that said, I would agree that disincorporation is simply pushing the problem further down the road without truly addressing the issue. So, back to the potential real world solutions -

1. Fix the existing septics to bring them into compliance with minimal State requirements; though with the understanding that this is only a temporary fix until the public wastewater system is in place.

2. Look at ALL options for a wastewater system. If the "19th century solution" is too expensive, be willing to swallow pride and listen to even those that are persona non grata (David V.) who maybe has something that could work and might be more affordable at this stage of the game.

3. Be prepared to adopt the ad valorem tax. Simply put you can't buy something on loan without a solid source of income, and with cities that is only ad valorem tax, not sales tax. Sales tax is too easily affected by the economy and is not reliable enough to pay off a loan. Some months are good, and some months are bad. Ad valorem is a constant source of revenue. Adopt the minimum to get by with, and leave it at that unless and until the need to do more (police, fire, etc.).

Those, Joe, are real world solutions and suggestions. Now will Wimberley do it? Depends on whether or not they can get over themselves and do the right thing by accepting some basic facts of life - namely - taxes, and death, are inevitable; septics work in some cases but not all, and in this case not any more; sometimes you want the Cadillac solution, but can only afford the Yugo.

Anonymous said...

If you want to watch the TWDB video, move to 32:15 to see the discussion of the Wimberley financial plan

"Wimberley is built on failed septic systems" - GBRA rep

Want 60% of the LUEs to approve the system.

The 199 figure referred to the lots included in the proposed coverage area . They estimated 330 LUEs in that area. Reps for the proposition made it clear that the restaurants would require multiple LUEs (3-4).

The total cost (excluding finance charges) is about $43,000 per LUE excluding the actual hookup cost. Excluding the actual cost of hooking up, each LUE would pay $10,000 plus $242/month. At 6% of the median income for the area the monthly fees are 3x the benchmark cost of water/wastewater that TWDB tries to stay within.

Observations by the TWDB: There is no backstop in the event of failure. If the project gets stalled out TWDB cannot recover the debt because the debt can only be recovered from those receiving service. Thus there needs to be a financing plan to enable TWDB to recover the funds if the funds are delivered and the installation is stalled or not completed.

Quotable quotes:

"The river is polluted because of this area (Wimberley)"

"We have a creek that is full of septic"

Conclusion: The city and GBRA need to come back with an adequate pledge.

David Venhuizen said...

I too watched the video, but perhaps more critically than those who are too scared to stand behind what they post on here. Because there is a word limit on these posts, first … One thing Bill West said on the video was that GBRA has put a half million dollars into “desperately” trying to help Wimberley deal with this “crisis”. I can guarantee you that I have not received a penny of that. Yet the profile in courage who posted anonymously at 9:21 AM yesterday seemed to be suggesting that because I have not, all by myself and totally on my own nickel, fully described exactly how to execute a decentralized concept strategy for the Square area and detailed the costs of that strategy, the entire approach does not merit any consideration whatsoever. True genius, that.

Next, let’s examine the nature of the “crisis”. Ferguson indeed stated that you have "... a creek that is full of septic ..." (whatever that means). West asserted that "Water protection is GBRA's responsibility." And he asserted that Cypress Creek AND the Blanco River are “polluted”, implying they are to such an extent that this is an existential threat not just to Wimberley and environs but to the entire region, absolutely requiring that GBRA spring into action. If indeed that is the situation, where are the monitoring reports that document the pollution?

When I inquired into this matter last year, here is the response I got: “Attached is a memo from Jason Pinchback regarding the analysis of the Clean Rivers Data used to assess Cypress Creek for the TCEQ. He asserts there is not a bacteria problem in terms of meeting the standard at this time. We have noticed spikes in the data below the square in our volunteer monitoring data and I could show you the systems on the square that should be looked at carefully.”

So it would appear that this “huge threat” to the community and the region has not stirred a single action by a community agent to even so much as evaluate it. The only efforts on record appear to be an exercise by academia and a volunteer effort. It also appears that whatever information that has been generated has not been picked up on and utilized by any official organ, and it seems not to have stimulated any visible enforcement action. Everyone seems to acknowledge – or at least are now asserting, as “evidence” that a sewer system is needed – that the on-site systems in the Square area have been non-compliant for years. But apparently not creating enough concern to actually require these dastardly law-breakers to clean up their acts.

So let’s be clear about that aspect of what is going on here. I’m not asserting that there is no pollution concern – indeed, I’m pretty sure there is, given my understanding of the sort of “sins of the fathers” situation that has been allowed to persist there for years. But to stand up and claim that you have "... a creek that is full of septic ..." and that is why the HUGE expense being proposed is absolutely necessary is a few notches beyond disingenuous, headed toward the cynical range.

Now as to what can be done about it – next post.

David Venhuizen said...

As to the potential solutions for whatever wastewater management problems do exist in Wimberley, Bill West quoted a report on the SRF (state revolving fund) program that noted its impact on water quality has not been as good as it should because of, in part, "lack of creativity". How rich that he would have done that. Because isn't that the essential problem in Wimberley? A lack of creativity, resulting in a view that the ONLY system worthy of consideration dedicates the great majority of the resources to just moving pollution from place to place, focused completely on taking what is perceived solely and exclusively as a nuisance to that magical place we call "away", on a process called "disposal", which simply does not exist in this context. This from an agency that proclaims it is all about protecting and husbanding water resources. He also said the board "... should give special consideration to the environmental sensitivity of this project ...", yet what he insists this project must be all about is installing a leak-prone conventional centralized collection system and FOUR failure-prone lift stations over a very small service area!

West also asserted that GBRA "... simply can't afford to do that ...", referring to guaranteeing the loan for Wimberley. Why then does GBRA not manifest the slightest interest in examining other infrastructure models for the multiple benefits – fiscal, societal, and environmental – which they might provide? West made the argument himself that more creative thinking is needed here. "This project does not fit in the typical box." And, "We need to think outside the box." Yet GBRA is
engaging in, indeed INSISTING upon, a "lack of creativity".

Indeed, if this IS an emergency, if as Ferguson asserted Wimberley does have "... a creek that is full of septic ..." – if indeed, as Ferguson also said, "It's not your normal situation." – why is there such a resistance to considering ANY way to address the matter except the one and only strategy considered so far? Just why is it an article of faith that, as Ferguson also said "... the solution is ... centralized wastewater ..."? Which is to say, is it not, that this "not your normal situation" may
ONLY be addressed by "your normal" wastewater management strategy?

And at that a strategy that is rooted solely in the conditions considered to be paramount in the 19th century? This in a 21st century village facing 21st century water resources issues.

Lack of creativity. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ferguson should be fired!! He has put the city in a bad situation with his comments.

Mr. Venhuizen I'm interested in your 21st century projects that are completed and operating.

For all the businesses/property owners on the square: if YOUR septic is failing FIX IT!!!

Anonymous said...

I have yet to find any mention of a successful project or installation of Mr. Venhuizen’s type anywhere. What happened to the one proposed in Utah a couple of years past? I would love to see something pointing to a working system and a bunch of satisfied customers based on his modeling. I could write a pretty damn good paper on the theory and practice of a perpetual motion machine but no one could build one that would work. If I am wrong let’s see the meat. He very well could be on to something but without a working system, trying to sell it to a cash strapped little town just won’t work.

The level of pollution alluded to by Mr. Ferguson may have been exaggerated for effect but was a stupid mistake in front of government officials and the public. Desperation sometimes drives men to dumb things. I would have thought the Mayor would be there. Actually I think the whole bunch should be fired or re-called.

David Venhuizen said...

I appreciate the zeal of the various anonymouses for trashing any suggestion that original thought could possibly have any place in considering how we address our societal problems, but suggest it is going to be extremely difficult to communicate to them the information they are challenging me to produce as long as they remain anonymous. If you don't want to "unmask" here, please send me an e-mail at and I will provide you some information about the sort of strategy and the technologies suggested to implement it that I've suggested might be considered. And please note that suggesting is ALL I have ever done, indeed ALL I have ever been in a position to do.

While I will be happy to cater to your skepticism, it never ceases to amaze me that some (most?) people cannot accept anything as real unless/until they can "kick the tires". It's like being able to connect an idea to an action is totally beyond them. Reminds me of the line in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou", in which the John Turturo character challenges the George Clooney character as to why he presumes leadership of their little gang, and George Clooney answers, "Well, Pete, I figured it should be the one with a capacity for abstract thought." Enough said.

David Venhuizen said...

Sorry, 9:21 AM, I just now saw your rejoinder to my original post, and also the post I tried to put up yesterday, but presumed didn't "go" because of the weirdness encountered once I clicked on post comment. Anyway, this is an extremely clumbsy venue to try to explain anything like what you assert I should be able to fully and completely justify within the character limit imposed here. As for what was or was not considered, the record shows that nothing but a conventional centralized infrastructure model has ever been considered by the official process in Wimberley. As far as what I presented, the only "official" opportunity to do that was the Water & Wastewater Commission meeting in Feb. 09. So I can have no idea what has or hasn't been talked about and why anything I might have suggested was or was not "rejected", indeed if any of it was even understood. It certainly has not been by you. The piece on my web site to which made reference was quite clear on the why and the how on a general level. From there, it's imagination and creativity and innovation to apply it to any given situation. Again, I have had NO opportunity to apply any of this to the Square. If you want me to detail how to do it there, then you need to get me hired to do so. If you'd like additional general information, make yourself known to me and I'll be happy to discuss it with you till the cows come in.

Et tu Brutus said...

From your tone, Mr. Venhuizen, I can see why city officials have had a difficult time working with you. Worse, you seem full of bluster and hot air and short on provable answers to address Wimberley's current emergency. Your proposal before the city didn't fly the first go around and what you are saying now is no different. The proof is in the pudding, not abstract comparisons of modern technology and 19th Century infrastructure. Nuff said.

Joe the Cynic said...

Mr. Venhuizen, most successful businesses I know with your sizable projects have in their website successful installations and testimonials from clients that can be viewed as "credibility" references. Are you beyond that? Is everyone just supposed to believe you because you are so forward thinking?

We "cowardly" (your words) Anonymous critics/skeptics don't want guarantees. We would just like to know: what are some of the projects you have installed that are operating and functioning effectively? We don't care about the cost. That is for the city to work out with you.

And why are you so contentious about our natural cynicism. I run a business and it is healthy when my prospective clients question me about my track record. It is their right and responsibility to protect their interests.

And why so many defensive comments with such long meandering statements if you are so forward thinking and the rest of us are not? In my mind genius requires no hostility. It just is and needs no explanation.

It seems so appropriate with this discussion: Your sh*t must not stink?

David Venhuizen said...

I had feared that engaging with the cowards who post on the Hays County
blogspot would be unproductive, and indeed it has been. As has appeared to
be the case all along, simply pointing out the flaws in the plan and the
arguments for it is set forth as being of unsavory character, so "no wonder
the city won't deal with you". Neglecting the fact that it never has -- the
only "interaction" so far has been to "shoot the messenger", indeed,
promises of information and meetings to discuss the matter were never kept,
and Mr. Flocke promised me very early on that I was "locked out" -- so how
would anyone know what that dynamic would be like? But the real problem is
that by putting the focus on the my personality and what I have "failed" to
show -- totally on my own nickel, with no planning materials, no access to
data, etc. -- the focus is drawn away from the real problem.

The essence of the matter is that the powers that be have chosen to consider
one and only one infrastructure model in an effort to assemble a wastewater
system to serve the Square and environs, and, exactly as has been pointed
out all along, it has been found that doing it that way has proven to be
very, very expensive, so much so that TWDB has balked at funding it. Rather
than consider if there are ways to significantly decrease the cost by
considering other infrastructure models, it seems the focus is and will be
only on figuring out how to jack the system -- and/or mine the pocketbooks
of the entire community to address the "sins of the fathers" of businesses
in the Square. I am not a member of the community, and all I have ever been
is an advocate for a way of thinking about and approaching these issues, so
it most definitely will not be "because I say so" that there might be any
consideration of looking down other avenues. It will be up to people of
good will in the community to urge the powers that be to reconsider the
range of options it may entertain.

Anonymous said...

I read as much of Mr. Venhuizen’s papers as I could stand, and have come to the conclusion that although his theories seem to some have merit, he must understand and everything he presents is a Research and Development project. It is no wonder that his ideas were rejected for a project that requires a proven record of success in order to invest taxpayer’s dollars. I suspect he spent too much time in academia to understand that basic fact. He now appears desperate in defending his theory, which is unbecoming of a real innovator.

He should contact someone in industry to fund a full sized working model and form a company of investors to manufacture and market (without him) a product. He simply has the process reversed. This is probably because so many people today feel that government is the answer to everything instead of getting out there and working and risking everything to succeed.

Rocky Boschert said...

Dave V., I suggest you consider offering an educational presentation about your proposed water system at some neutral location like the Wimberley Library - where they have a modest state of the art audio-video system for you to disp;ay your seemingly workable water system

And maybe even though the City is not interested in your ideas, other potential clients - both large and small -- may want to see your system as configured or adapted to using two or three differing scenarios.

I know I would be interested. As an investment advisor, I am very interested in new environmentally viable water systems that do not rely on the current short term focused cheaper waste water systems that most managers and old guard water thinkers favor - that end up costing much more in the long run.

And I suspect other serious and courteous citizens would be interested as well. I would also guess some of your critics and/or naysayers would not show up anyway.

Just an idea.

Anonymous said...

Instead of hanging out at the library listening to Dr. Whiz beat his gums about an idea that may never be, I suspect somebody better be down at City Hall figuring out a way to get the $h!t out of the Square.