Council considers infrastructure needs, payment options

Utility infrastructure improvements could soon be on the way following Public Works Director Rob Flores’s presentation of a prioritized list of needs during the Special Devine City Council meeting held last Tuesday, August 31.
Council reviewed Flores’s infrastructure report at a previous meeting (see “Report details issues with Devine’s water, wastewater infrastructure” in the Aug. 25 edition of The Devine News).
The top eight priorities discussed were needs at the wastewater treatment plant and in the Water Department that will be paid for through the City’s Water and Sewer Fund.
Wastewater treatment plant
The top priority is a back-up motor for the City’s two wastewater lift stations, priced at $71,000. The City does not currently have any back-up motors.
Next is a chlorine building to replace what is currently in use, which is in violation of Texas Administrative Code 317.6.
“We’re looking at a few options, but more or less 49,000 just for that,” Flores said. “And that will take care of the issue it has currently.”
Water Department
A new backhoe is needed to replace the one currently in use, which is from 2007 and has 3,837 hours of use time.
The age of the eight-inch water pump used to clear water during leaks is unknown, and though it remains in good condition, Flores recommended refurbishing it and purchasing new hoses.
“We’ve never had a problem, it’s just its age, it needs to be updated,” Flores said. “So if [Council] is good with that, I’m good with that.”
Street Department
Flores described the City’s current street sweeper as “ancient.”
“We need a street sweeper, we really do,” Mayor Cory Thompson said. “Because of the buildup of dirt, especially as we’re going through redoing roads, the buildup of dirt that’s happening on the side of the roads is causing those edges to deteriorate worse than what it should be.”
Also on the list are a backhoe, a motor grader so old that parts are difficult to procure, and a seven-foot shredder.
“It’s kind of an off-brand, and the parts reflect that as well,” Flores said. “It took us almost three months to get bearings for the back wheels one time.”
Unlike wastewater treatment plant and Water Department spending, purchases for the Street Department will be paid through the General Fund.
Water wells
Devine was awarded $1,196,544 in funding from the American Rescue Plan, which can be used to fund upgrades necessary to install emergency generators at the City’s water wells.
The City has five water wells, though only the two Edwards Aquifer wells on FM 1343 and the Bain Well, which draws from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, are in operation. Water pumped from the LC Martin Well behind Triple C is not returning clean samples, while the Harrison Well has been down since its collapse in 2019 (see “Report details issues with Devine’s water, wastewater infrastructure” in the Aug. 25 ed. of the News, and “New well to be drilled after Harrison failure” in the July 3, 2019 ed.)
The Edwards #1 needs an upgraded electrical panel in order to accept a transfer switch for a generator.
“Once that is installed, then we’re able to put a generator on that,” Flores said.
The Bain Well also needs an upgraded electrical panel, though Edwards #2 does not.
“The football field [water tower] and the line pumps that go to the football field tower and the Ingram tower, those are actually in the same situation, it’s ready to go to install a transfer switch and a generator,” Flores said.

Smaller fixes are also on tap, such as upgrading and weatherproofing electrical outlets at the wastewater treatment plant, installing railings at the lift stations, and putting an eight-foot fence around the well yard.
Another priority is installing an alarm system at the wastewater treatment plant to alert employees if there is a blockage in one of the clarifiers. Employees currently manually check for blockages.
“During the course of the day, Monday through Friday, we’re good,” Flores said. “It’s after hours…if there is something blocking, we don’t know.”
Flores estimated the cost of prepping the wells and purchasing and installing transfer switches and generators would eat through most of the City’s $1.1M ARP funds, which must be used by 2023.
The Water and Sewer Fund is projected to have a $245,000 surplus, though the estimated cost of just a lift station motor and chlorine building is $120,000.
“I don’t know that we can do all of it in this one budget,” District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall said.
Thompson said the City could probably handle half of the top eight priorities in the upcoming 2021-2022 fiscal year.
“The chlorine building that’s showing $49,000 is an estimate that our City engineer gave us,” City Administrator John Vidaurri said. “I’m also getting a quote from another company that needs a little bit of additional information…I think we can get it for a lot less than $50,000.”
Randall said Council needed more exact pricing to know how many of the top eight priorities the City could afford to do.
“I would really love to do them all, but it’s obvious we can’t,” Randall said.
Vidaurri suggested looking into a master equipment lease purchase.
“And we can do a private placement with Security Bank,” Vidaurri said. “We have good credit. What that would do would be lower your annual payments and not have to come up with a big cash flow bump at the front. We can explore that for you if you’d like.”
Randall agreed that might be an option for tackling all the priority needs.
“Or at least discuss them,” District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler said.
“I like that idea,” Randall said. “That gives us another option so we can get out of this mess for you guys.”
Council was set to hold another budget workshop during a Special meeting scheduled for press night on Tuesday, September 7.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer