Lytle council discusses how to handle large water demand for new construction during drought; emergency plans and generator grant

On March 14th at 6:30pm the Lytle City Council meeting began. Joseph Morrow, Alderman District 1; Sam Cortez, Alderman District 2; David Emery, Alderman District 3; Charles Cate, Alderman District 5 and Mayor Ruben Gonzalez were all present for the meeting with Jerry Stone, Alderman of District 4 being absent. The meeting included the approval and relocation of water meters, a revisiting on the discussion of a Lytle City Emergency Plan and creation of a list of potential capital improvement projects.
VK Knowlton Request For Water Meter
The meeting kicked off with the approval of a request from VK Knowlton for using a water meter on a fire hydrant for construction activity on Rosewood Estates. Phil Bandel, Supervisor at VK Knowlton started off the conversation explaining to the council how much water the company anticipated to use during this project.
“Depends on how the weather goes,” Bandel said. “If it rains it helps us because we won’t need to use as much water. But I know that in talking with PD you all requested dust control. That’s going to cost a lot of money, I mean a lot of water over 133 acres.”
Josie Campa, City Secretary, followed this up by explaining the city’s current situation and why it was important the water consumption remain at a reasonable level.
“Okay council, you all are aware that we did go into stage one and we are required to cut back 20%,” Campa said. “I did reach out to Edwards Aquifer and they said our use permits construction and stuff. Just to keep in mind, let me read this from them ‘please be aware however if the use of the city’s water by the developer should cause the city to exceed their permitted amount, the city will be required to either lease or purchase additional Edwards water rights before December 31st or pay penalties.’”
Bandel then went on to relay what Knowlton planned to get done, painting an even clearer picture of the water consumption expected for the project.
“So when we start on the job site, we come out, we start cutting the streets out,” Bandel said. “What we have to do is we have to put in fillers, we have to embank the dirt on lots to make it match and we have to do it in six inch lifts. I haven’t inspected it, you know, but they’re taking densities so water is used for that because it has to have a certain density, certain moisture content, stuff like that…when we do subgrade to get ready to make the streets actually with base, asphalt and stuff like that, the base will also take water and subgrade will take water and dust control.”
When asked about potential alternatives if VK Knowlton can’t get the meter or water onsite and whether that would prevent them completely from doing any civil engineering, Bandel stressed that going off-site would be a bad choice money-wise.
“I don’t know whether there is any other water source around there,” Bandel said. “I know that as far as cost analysis, that going somewhere else to get water, it’s not going to work…I know we talked about this earlier that we wanted to put like a tower on site so that we could have water, because we didn’t want to have to leave the job site to get water because, you know, traffic and tracking mud off in the street. We don’t want any of that.”
When asked if the city was hit with these penalties for water consumption and if VK Knowlton would be willing to pay for them, Bendel explained that he couldn’t speak for his employers but that he was willing to look into it for the council. Campa confirms that the city gets a meter reading every month which should help the company avoid them, but still warns that these penalties can be severe and that the city wants to do everything it can to avoid an outcome where they’ll need to be paid.
“…penalties are pretty stiff, we went that way one time and that’s why we are always in a hurry to try to get or purchase some water by the end of the year just to try to avoid those penalties,” Campa said.
Not wanting to slow the process of the Rosewood project, but still concerned about potential penalties, the council moved to approve the request under the condition that Bendel speak with whoever was in charge about potentially paying any incurred penalties in the future.
Relocating Two-Inch Water Line
Approving VK Knowlton’s request, the council then moved on to address the next item, discussing options with Pape-Dawson Engineering on re-locating existing 2-inch water line on Rosewood Estates Property that service two water customers. Charles Rodriguez, Lead Engineer on the Rosewood project stepped up and explaining how they planned to keep their construction from disrupting the lives of two nearby homeowners living near their project in progress.
“Pape-Dawson’s been in coordination with the city and the two homeowners as far as facilitating accommodating them and not having any water interruptions or electrical interruptions during our construction,” Rodriguez said. “…alongside with VK Knowlton we’ve come up with a solution to provide, to bypass, to terminate that line and to bypass the two inch water line along our property line as a temporary solution…we’d like to relocate the first homeowner’s meter to the frontage of the right away within her property along the frontage road with the help of the city.”
Rodriguez said that Pape-Dawson and VK Knowlton plan to work with the homeowners, making sure they communicate with from start to finish as they help her handle her plumbing and all construction improvements that may occur on her property.
“The second property here, you’ll see their property ties into the future rosewood,” Rodriguez said. “As soon as it’s accepted and you know chlorinated and all that good stuff to the Rosewood eight inch water line, the meter will be in. … the goal is to make those meters easier for maintenance and that kind of stuff.”
Request For Height Variance
Campa started the next discussion, further explaining to the council that a request for a variance for the height of a gas station sign off of the IH 35 and FM 3175 had been received from Victory Signs.
“The people that are putting in the convenience store at the corner of 3175 and I-35, they called and asked about the zoning and I told them what the zone was, Zone B2 and they asked about what size sign they could put up, how tall it could be,” Campa said. “Our ordinance says two and a half stories or 35-feet high and when I told her that she said it ‘just won’t do, we need the sign that’s going to be much higher.’ So they’re asking for a variance on that. We’ve had many; many companies come and ask for variances. The one that I can think of was the Days Inn back in its day because it’s also Zone B2; ATV is Zone B3 so they didn’t have to ask for a variance on theirs.”
Realizing that the sign actually sits in TxDot jurisdiction rather than Lytle, the item was tabled and no action was taken.

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Revisiting Lytle Emergency Management
Next, the council re-visited the discussion to act upon the contract for emergency management plan with Cumorah Eldgredge.
“The background on this is basically we were trying to get the information back to them (Eldgredge) so they could actually review it and try to make a decision on it,” Mayor Gonzalez said. “Tom, I know you got back to them and that was yesterday. So based on the timing and then being able to look at the information and be able to put it together, it’s not ready to be able to do that.”
While an action was taken to table the item until Eldgredge could be there to fully speak on the topic, the discussion was opened for comment from the other council members while Mayor Ruben Gonzalez voiced his concern on the matter.
“The only thing I ask is that let’s try to help them out based on timing and getting this stuff to them,” Mayor Gonzalez said. “I think the last meeting we had asked to try to get them so they would have the time to go ahead and put it together.”
Alderman Charles Cate commented, “I looked at Atascosa county’s contract and it is much more inclusive than what Miss Eldgredge is proposing and so my thing is: Why are we trying to pay for something whenever we already have something in place that’s better?”
Attempting to counter this viewpoint the Mayor explained that the reason he did not want to use the Atascosa contract was because it was not localized to the City of Lytle.
“If you read that contract mayor it says that she is going to mirror Atascosa County’s plan,” Cate said. “In a sense of the detail of how it’s lined up but you localize it. But it’s less detailed because there’s less annexes….Let’s look at this contract because what you’re telling me is not correct.”
“Okay so what you’re telling me is what I’ve been exposed to during emergency management, it’s not adequate?” Mayor Gonzalez said.
“No it’s, I mean, in my opinion it is not, because the last meeting I asked you what unique circumstances do we have in Lytle?” Cate said.
“We have the different things that could actually happen in Lytle,” Gonzalez said. “We talked about the natural disasters; we talked about the derailment, right?”
“Your comment was the ‘railroad,’ is what you said,” Cate said. “Lytle was unique in having a railroad? Natalia has a railroad; Devine has a railroad, Lacoste, Somerset. I mean we’re not the only city with a railroad…Do we have a nuclear plant? Do we have a hazardous storage facility? No we don’t.”
To answer Cate’s concerns, Mayor Gonzalez further clarified what he meant by wanting the contract and plan to be localized.
“Once again let me take you back to what I’m talking about,” Mayor Gonzales said. “What I’m talking about is localizing it. It’s one thing to just put it on a piece of paper; you gotta come up with agreements. If you say local here and we have something like a derailment, you’ve got to work with the school district on one side of railroad and you’ve got to work with somebody else that’s going to provide the transportation. That’s how you put an emergency management plan together to be able to provide the support that goes along with it.
“Mayor have you looked at the annexes that she’s proposing to improve in this contract?” Cate said. “Which one is more excluding?”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” Gonzalez said.
“What I’m telling you is that based off Cumorah’s contract, the annexes that she’s excluding and I looked at it: law enforcement, firefighting, public works are all excluded. Legal, donations, ones that are extremely important to have. Who clears the roadways whenever there is a disaster? I’m telling you that the annexes that are excluded: law enforcement is not on there. Is law enforcement imported in emergency management? If you look at the contract, she is proposing to do the bare minimum for work. If it’s a localized emergency management plan it’s the bare minimum to qualify for that if you were going to have an intermediary or an advanced plan you have to include initial ones so basically in essence we’re paying to receive a less inclusive plan right less comprehensive plan than when we fall under the county.”
The Mayor moved to close up the discussion.
“…When I went to the state and I asked all these questions, they basically told me if you have a localized plan, you concentrate on a localized plan,” Mayor Gonzalez said. “The county is going to do their own thing. My responsibility here, it’s not for Atascosa, Medina or Bexar. My responsibility is for Lytle… When I went to ACOG and I asked ACOG to go ahead and provide some help and see if we could get it, they’re the ones who actually directed me to two people that would be able to do it. One of them has passed away, the other one was Cumorah because of the background that she has. That’s the reason why we actually went to her and asked for some assistance …”
Lytle Chief of Police, Richard Price, then chimed in, reminding the council about their three county situation.
“Keep in mind we have three counties so Atascosa county is not going to help us with a disaster at the high school,” Price said. “It’s not in their county, that’s going to fall under Medina County’s emergency management and I don’t have any idea about their plan. Their director just got elected and is going to be taking over as judge. Now Bexar county, we know Bexar county emergency management all the way to the top, but we only have a small portion of Bexar county.”
The chief followed this up by sharing with the council how last time they had a situation like a derailment, Atascosa didn’t give them as much help as they would’ve liked.
“They came down but they didn’t do anything,” Price said. “It was Matt and I…none of them stayed there, they assigned no one here. That was that was us…there was no logistical support from them whatsoever other than the immediate response.”
The council moved to officially table the item until Eldgredge was able to attend the meeting in person to discuss.
Approve agreement and Application For Generator Grant
An action was then swiftly made for the intergovernmental agreement with Atascosa county for a generator grant to be finalized and sent to the county for their approval alongside the action to apply for this $150,000 grant.
By Christian Toler
News Correspondent