The decision came at the end of Monday night’s session.
Committee Chairman John Galloway asked the subcommittee members to have a report ready for them when the next meeting is held on Thursday, Aug. 1, at the Event Center, 111 E. Corpus Christi St.
However, City Secretary Barbara Treviño said Tuesday that the meetings for next Thursday and next Monday have been canceled so that the subcommittee can have time to meet and come up with a recommendation.
Sixteen of the committee’s 17 members had argued back and forth for more than two hours before committee member Kathlyn Patton said, “I make a motion.”
When other committee members asked her what her motion was, Patton explained that the committee had spent too much time arguing over its options since its first meeting on June 20.
Patton agreed with an earlier recommendation made by member Jessy T. Garza that the group appoint a subcommittee to look at its options and make a recommendation to the entire group.
Patton said the committee has several options from which to choose and reminded other members that they already had listened to a number of speakers.
“What options?” member Tom Beasley asked. He had been urging the committee to bring in a consultant to look at the information the committee had come up with some figures on costs and then report to the committee.
But Garza said he thought the committee had enough information and enough “numbers people” to go over those options and make an intelligent decision.
“It appears to me that we’re going around and around,” Patton said. “We’ve got to trust someone. Our subcommittee.”
“Let’s make a step forward instead of one step forward and two steps back,” Patton demanded.
“I make a motion that we make a subcommittee,” she said and committee member Raul Casarez seconded the motion.
“At the end of the day, we need some expertise,” Beasley argued.
When Galloway called for a vote on the motion, Teresa Holland, Kenneth Elsbury, Garza, Jim Crumrine, Tom Healey, Orlando Vasquez, Garry Cude, Casarez and Patton voted in favor of it.
Carlos Perez, Galloway, Tom and Richard Beasley voted against it.
Galloway then suggested that the committee accept volunteers for the subcommittee. But a number of names already had been suggested.
Eventually, committee members agreed to appoint five persons to the subcommittee and took down the names of Garza, Elsbury, Cude and Crumrine. Vasquez then volunteered to serve on the committee, but Garza demanded that Tom Beasley also be appointed. Beasley balked at the idea, but other committee members said he should be part of the group because he had asked questions that needed to be answered by other subcommittee members.
At that point Vasquez suggested that he step back and allow Beasley to take his place. But committee members said they wanted Vasquez on the subcommittee because he is one of the numbers experts.
They suggested that the subcommittee membership be expanded to six members so Vasquez could be appointed.
The committee adjourned its meeting shortly after that.
At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, committee members listened to Mark Ellison of the Texas Water Development Board speak over a telephone conference call.
Ellison said his office was familiar with the kind of public/private partnerships that NorrisLeal Engineering Water of Austin had proposed.
Bill Norris, principal of the firm, had suggested that his company provide financing for drilling two wells and building a reverse osmosis (RO) plant that would filter out suspended solids and salts from the brackish Jasper aquifer. That water would be blended with purer water from the shallower Evangeline aquifer.
But opponents to an RO plant have suggested that the figures offered by Norris and his partner, Jesús Leal, are not realistic and that the project would have to cost more. Norris, Leal and another principal in the company, David Pettry Jr., were all at the Monday night meeting. Norris did speak briefly.
Ellison said most of the public/private partnerships he had seen in recent years involved wastewater treatment instead of drinking water treatment.
But he said the agreements have worked in some places. He had not seen a public/private partnership that involved the construction of an RO plant.
Norris had suggested that his company sell water to the city for 10 to 20 years and at the end of that period the city could gain ownership of the facilities.
He had told the committee that his company could provide the system and sell the city water at a rate comparable to its current costs for drinking water.
Ellison discouraged the city from expecting any grant funds from TWDB. He said the Legislature had wanted any funds made available by the board to be on a low-interest loan basis.
When Garza asked the water expert about the cost of borrowing money, Ellison suggested that the city assist in funding any project because the city could get a lower interest rate.
Ellison then encouraged committee members to attend a special conference scheduled for Sept. 11 in Austin. He said the conference will deal exclusively with public/private partnerships.
Several committee members later volunteered to attend the conference.
When Galloway asked Ellison if any cities were getting involved in partnerships to develop fresh water resources, Ellison said some were. He said finding a fresh water source was better than going after deeper brackish water aquifers.
“People need to be good stewards of the resource,” Ellison cautioned.
Ellison also suggested that the board start getting companies to look at Beeville’s water situation and offer bids on a project to solve the problem.
The City of Corpus Christi has cautioned Beeville that if the current drought continues, Beeville could be unable to take water from Lake Corpus Christi within 18 months.
But City Manager Deborah Ballí said that may not be the case because recent rains on the Nueces River watershed had increased the lake’s water level.
“You’re blessed,” Ellison told the committee when he was informed that the city has at least three options for water, including the RO plant recommendation, a system of wells on State Highway 202 with a main well at the Chase Field complex and the surface water system.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.