By ESTEVAN MEDRANO and DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
The Laguna Madre Water District welcomed their newest board member Martin Cantu Jr., who was appointed and sworn in Feb. 11 as the replacement for Nancy Martinez. Martin, a product of the University of Texas at Brownsville, was selected among five candidates vying for the position which included former candidates John Thobe and Ray Puente.
Martin, who served in a several previous local boards and serves on the Port Isabel Board of Adjustments, cites his father as a major influence for his desire to give back to the community.
“The position became available and I wanted to give back to the community,” he said. “I owe a lot to my dad. He always pushes me to give back to where we come from as much as we can. I thank all the board members who appointed me. I look forward to working with them and seeing what we can do to serve our community,” he said.
There was some controversy surrounding his eligibility as a candidate, in regards to meeting the residency requirement. Some claimed he resided in San Benito. However Cantu, born and raised in Port Isabel, dismissed the allegations and maintains that though he owns property in San Benito he resides in Port Isabel.
Though the general election code of the Texas State Constitution provides a loose definition of “residence,” it states in Sec. 141.031 Line 4I, that a candidate must provide proof of “the candidate’s residence address or, if the residence has no address, the address at which the candidate receives mail.” Furthermore, the administration of water districts is further governed by the law outlined in the Constitution’s Water Code. In Sec. 54.102 of that part of the code under the heading “Qualifications for directors,” the code states that an eligible candidate must, “either own land subject to taxation in the district or be a qualified voter within the district.”
This fact was reiterated by district General Manager Carlos Galvan. “He (Cantu) does have an occupation here in Laguna Madre,” he said. Galvan also stated the District sought clarification from legal counsel. “We did get our attorney involved in that question and he sent us the information on it and we followed through with his information,” he said.
Aside from filling the vacancy on the board, the District has been considering various other items of business, as well. The board recently approved a measure to try to create a wastewater reclamation facility to utilize effluent wastewater, said Galvan. Such a facility would take treated sewer wastewater and make it potable again.
Similar facilities have been constructed in drought heavy locations like California, Galvan said. “We’ve been in droughts … we’re actually still in drought right now. We’re under the 50 percent levels as (Lake) Amistad and Falcon Lake,” he said, reminding residents that the Valley is still under water conservation conditions.
Currently the District uses about 3.5 million gallons daily (MGD) to service approximately 6,400 customers, of which about 2.5 MGD is lost to wastewater, Galvan said. An effluent water reclamation facility at just one of the District’s four wastewater treatment plants could allow the District to reclaim “750,000 gallons per day … In one year that would be pretty close to 273 million gallons,” he said. “That’s a lot of water that we can utilize again.” The District hopes to be able to establish reclamation facilities at two plants, Galvan said. “We’ve been discussing it for about a year,” he said.
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