By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
The Laguna Madre Water District’s (LMWD) bond election has failed, with 57 percent of voters casting their ballots against the proposal.
According to unofficial election results released by the Cameron County Elections Department, which administered the election, voters cast a total of 421 ballots. There were 179 votes for and 238 votes against the bond.
The majority of those votes came during early voting, with the County reporting that 159 votes for and 230 votes against the bond being cast during the two week early voting period which ended Nov. 3.
The election results will not become official until the LMWD Board of Directors canvasses the results. A discussion of the election results is listed on the agenda for the LMWD’s Wednesday, Nov. 8 meeting.
If it had been approved, the water district would have issued just over $16.4 million in bonds to fund seven improvement projects at facilities across the region.
Those projects included:
•Sludge drying beds at Water Treatment Plant No. 2
•A sludge holding tank at the Port Isabel Wastewater Treatment Plant
•A system-wide rehabilitation of the District’s lift stations
•Improvements to the aeration basin and hydraulic system at the Isla Blanca Wastewater Treatment Plant on South Padre Island
•A new headworks at the Andy Bowie Wastewater Treatment Plant on South Padre Island
•Energy efficiency improvements at the Andy Bowie Wastewater Treatment Plant on South Padre Island
•Grit removal and installation of a new headworks at the Isla Blanca Wastewater Treatment Plant on South Padre Island.
As LMWD Board Chair Scott Friedman explained during a board meeting in late September, the proposed bond election would have meant an increase to property taxes of approximately $31 per $100,000 valuation.
Speaking at that same meeting, Director Doyle Wells cautioned that the District may have to consider an increase to its rates if the bond did not pass. “The only alternative we have is to do a rate hike,” Wells said in that Sept. 27 meeting.
But the election was not without some controversy. Former Directors Jeff Keplinger and William “Whitey” Thomas left a special meeting in late August. In a following meeting, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, the Board of Directors voted to accept letters of resignation from the two men. Neither were present at that September meeting.
In a letter to the editor submitted jointly by the pair and published in the PRESS on Thursday, Oct. 26, they urged residents to vote against the proposition. “As former water board directors, we believe there is only one project that is really needed – the sludge holding tanks, which are approximately $1.6 million. With over $5 million in reserve cash, the district can easily pay for that itself without a bond issue,” the letter reads.
“The other projects, in our opinion, are not needed, overpriced, come with too many unknown costs, and will not be adequately overseen by district staff,” the letter continues.
For more details on this story, look for the next issue of the PRESS, to be published Thursday, Nov. 9.
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