Devine Council updated on water well status, criticized over communication

Emergency Management Coordinator Rob Flores provided an update on the state of the City’s utilities and District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler expressed frustration about reactions to the City’s water distribution efforts following the recent snowstorm during the Devine City Council meeting last Monday, February 22.
Flores said that Edwards Well #1, one of two wells on FM 1343 that pull water from the Edwards Aquifer, was the primary functioning well, though pumping rotates between all five of them when running.
“That well, the week before the storm on Thursday, the motors blew on that one,” Flores said. “So with this weather coming we contacted the well service that installs the motors. He showed up Friday and put that well motor in.
“It was that close for us not having any wells.”

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Flores, who is also the Interim Director of Public Works, said that the electronics in the City’s water wells were destroyed, and that the wells had sustained other damage that would need to be addressed.
“Those wells, the age of some of those wells, specifically the Bain Well, it’s going to need a lot of refurbishing,” Flores said. “I think when we can turn it on and the pressure’s up it’s going to blow some of those main lines in it.
“It’s just the shape that it is, and it’s been, so that’s our biggest problem. The rest I think will be fine.”
Flores said the LC Martin Well wasn’t pumping water from the filters into the main tank, but that a technician was scheduled to repair it the next day.
“I guess turning the power on and off the way [AEP] did, it damaged a lot of stuff,” Flores said. “It hurt us.”
According to Flores, a transfuser board at one of the water wells wasn’t working, even after being replaced. Transfuser boards communicate between the wells and the water storage tanks.
“When we refill those tanks, we have to go out there and manually turn them,” Flores said. “Turn the well on, and then turn it off.”
Because of that lack of communication, Flores said Public Works had to guess how much water is in the elevated water tower near Warhorse Stadium.
“But it’s staying full, we’re keeping it full, and it’s fine,” Flores said.
When Mayor Cory Thompson asked about the equipment failure, Flores confirmed it was due to factors outside the City’s control.
“Whatever they were doing with the electrical grid, that’s what damaged that stuff,” Flores said.
Following Flores’s updates, Lawler called for a point of personal privilege to address the City’s efforts to distribute bottled water to residents after the water table became too low to provide running water to municipal customers.
“The main purpose of that water distribution was to take care of the community,” Lawler said. “Schoolchildren needed water the next day for school. There were elderly people that were coming by asking for just enough water to get them through the night, and yes, they were stopping at City Hall because people were working. I think there were some disgruntled people, but again, it was done to serve the community, and it was done under the Emergency Management Coordinator, and I was of the understanding that’s his job. If you see a need, you jump in, you take care of it.
“The thing I didn’t like was the messages (facebook posts) after trying to do this. And it was, you know, all the negative things that were said about this, and people being insulted, and it could have been such a good moment for us. It could have been a shining moment. We’d just gotten word that there was going to be more water that could be distributed the next day, and we were able to hand out this much water, so let’s take care of the hundred people, the kids that need water, the elderly that need water. Everyone was trying to notify, to be notified, and I don’t know, it just turned what was supposed to be a helpful thing into division and anger. And that’s not anybody’s goal, anyone’s goal. It’s here to take care of the community.”

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Lawler also said people asked her about water distribution in Lytle that she was not aware of.
“So we need to be able to communicate and take care of the purpose of why we’re here,” Lawler said. “We’re here to take care of the citizens; we’re here to help one another. We’re not here to cause trouble, cause diversion. We’re just here to do a job we were elected to do.”
Kevin Stephens, who is challenging District 5 incumbent Debra Randall in the upcoming election, addressed Council about its communication during the Visitors/Citizens Forum portion of the meeting.
“I don’t always agree with what all the decisions are or agree with you but I respect each and every one of you,” Stephens said. “One thing I do see is a lack of communication. What [Lawler] said strikes a nerve with me because if we’re doing a good act for the community or for our residents or our citizens, we shouldn’t tear down the person for doing a good act. We just shouldn’t do that.”
Stephens praised Devine residents reaching out to help each other via Facebook and said that’s what is needed during difficult times, not bickering and arguing.
“I said it my last meeting here, it’s time for you to stand up and be leaders,” Stephens said. “That’s what you need to be. And you need to be leaders that can communicate with each other.”
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer