Eminent domain a possibility for completion of water line replacement project

Property owners who have not granted easements to the City of Devine in relation to its ongoing $9.9 million water pipe replacement project could face an eminent domain lawsuit filed by the City in order to facilitate access needed to run transmission lines from the Edwards Aquifer wells on FM 1343 to the well yard on Commercial Drive.
Fifteen property owners have yet to respond to letters from the City requesting easements, and during the Devine City Council meeting last Tuesday, November 24, Council granted City Attorney Tom Cate the authority to send those owners a final letter about the issue.
Cate briefed the Council on the status of the easements, which are for Phase III of the water pipe project that has not yet gone out to bid, and recommended sending property owners one more letter regarding the issue during a prior meeting held on Nov. 17.
“I talked with Raul [Garcia, City Engineer] recently, and we decided at this point we need to just write them one more letter and ask them if they’re willing to grant us an easement,” Cate said. “And if not, we’re recommending that we go ahead and tell them that we’re going to start the eminent domain proceedings.”
Mayor Cory Thompson observed that the City has been working to get all the easements for the water pipe replacement project for years, and asked how long the eminent domain procedure would take.
Cate said the City can have property appraised and make a good-faith offer to purchase the property based on the appraisal.

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“The good thing is, if they reject that, we can get out on the property,” Cate said. “If we’re forced to file eminent domain proceedings, we’re not going to have to wait until the end of that [lawsuit].”
Cate said the City had also run into opposition from Devine ISD.
“The school does not want to grant us an easement from our plant over at the water storage tank,” Cate said, referring to the maroon and gold water tower. “They want us to move to the adjoining property.”
The City has not been able to locate a written easement with the school.
“If we do find a written easement with the school, we’ll have to look at it and see if we have enough area in there to put in another line,” Cate said.
Gonzalez De La Garza, the contractors working on Phase I of the project, estimated being finished in August 2021. Phase II will replace water pipes north of Colonial Parkway, while Phase III is the transmission lines from the Edwards Aquifer wells on FM 1343.
“We have to complete the first phase, then we’ve got the second phase, and the transmission line is the third phase,” Cate said.
“So we have until the beginning of 2022 is kind of a rough guesstimate,” District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall said.
Cate said that the money to purchase property, should the City have to do so, is included in the $9.9M that the Texas Water Development Board awarded for the project.
“We’ll have enough money to do it,” Garcia said. “But what the cost is, I have no idea.”
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer