City denies TDCJ water request, approves MOU with TxDOT

    Posted: September 24, 2014
    BY CONNIE CLEMENTS, Examiner reporter

    There was no question of the solidarity of Navasota’s city council Monday night on the matter of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s request to purchase water from the city.

    The request came with an estimated $2,570,098 price tag that the State of Texas expected the city to bankroll and council members voted unanimously not to approve.

    Texas Press Association - Public Records

    While not unsympathetic to the issue of slightly higher than normal levels of arsenic in the Wallace Pack Unit’s water, which is outside the city’s service area, council had to consider the costs of construction of a long extension of a water main, the effects to the water supply and benefits of the project. A due diligence report prepared by Jones and Carter was provided to council members. City Manager Brad Stafford said, “TDCJ also is requesting that we finance this project and they will pay us back. I personally have a concern with that just due to the fact that the city taking on a debt for any developer would not usually occur, and therefore, taking debt on for the State of Texas seems odd to me especially when we have legislators who criticize cities and their debt service. It would be a risky proposition in my opinion.”

    Council member Peter Canney felt the request bordered on ludicrous. He pointed out that $2 million is folding money to the state but 10 percent of the city’s budget.

    “Being the state, if they decide to walk away from this, realistically speaking, we have no recourse,” Canney said. “We could not sue them as a sovereign entity and have any hope of succeeding.”

    Reviewing the various aspects of this project, Public Works Director Gary Johnson reported the city would have to drill another water well, incur possible costly upgrades to be able to provide that service and that the city might have to purchase and even go to court for the Certificate of Convenience and Necessity from the current water provider, G&W Water Supply.

    “We might have to go into the drought contingency plan, stage one or two, and ask our citizens to curtail their water usage so that we can give it to the inmates out there and that just doesn’t sound good to me,” said Johnson.

    “It is an expensive project with a price tag of over $2 million.” “ I think it is safe for us to say that the financing is a non-starter,” said Canney.

    City approves MOU with TxDOT

    City council members approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for the State Highway 249 project. Upon completion of the project, TxDOT will designate with signage State Highway 249, concurrent with State Highway 105, “from the point it intersects SH 105, west along the State Highway 105 alignment to the point that it connects to State Highway 6.”

    The MOU states that TxDOT will work with the city and Grimes County to assure adequate emergency access for first responders to and across toll facilities, and identify and prioritize future additional interchanges and frontage roads.

    A timeline was also established for the study of the expansion of State Highway 105 to a non-tolled, four-lane divided highway with frontage roads and an upgraded connection to State Highway 6 - to accommodate long-term traffic projections along the corridor and avoid construction of an alternate route that would bypass Navasota.

    Budget, tax rate pass without public comment

    No public comments were made at the final public hearing and second reading approving the budget and budget amendments. Looking toward future needs, $159, 814 have been placed in the General Fund Reserves and an additional $159,814 in the Utility Fund Reserves.

    Also approved were the second reading of the $0.54 per $100 valuation tax rate, a 2 percent increase in water rates, 3 percent in waste water and an additional $1 per month fee for the street and drainage maintenance fee.

    Action items

    The council approved the existing agreement with Republic Services for solid waste services.

    Municipal Services Manager David Aguilar advised, “We’ve held our prices the same since 2013 which we will do again this year for 2014-15.”

    Council members approved the ordinance extending boundaries of the Central Business District and including six properties between South LaSalle and Railroad Street along West Holland, an area that will house the new home of the Navasota Theater Alliance.

    National Night Out

    Mayor Bert Miller issued a Proclamation to proclaim Oct. 7 as “National Night Out,” America’s 31st annual “night out against crime.” Police Chief Shawn Myatt said the event is an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other and meet the police officer assigned to their party. To host a block party, contact Marla Gurka at the police department.

    City employees recognized

    Stafford recognized Financial Assistant Rita Pullen, a 16-year employee, as well as Navasota Police Department employees, Officer Terrance Johnson with one year of experience, and Investigator Amanda Klawinsky with over 15 years at the police department. Not present was Administrative Assistant Daphne Kopycinski, who has worked for the city for eight years.

    Community interest

    W.C. Mercantile was recently nominated by the city as one of the Outstanding Downtown Businesses for the Texas Downtown Association, and is one of three finalists. The winner will be announced at the TDA annual conference in November

    The city is gearing up for the All-American Classic Car Show Oct. 4, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with family activities beginning at noon. Suede will provide musical entertainment.

    Keep Navasota Beautiful is promoting its annual wildflower seed scattering on Oct. 25. It is an opportunity to beautify Navasota in honor or in memory of a loved one or to celebrate an event. Seeds can be purchased from Cindy Armatys at city hall.

    KNB and Grimes County are co-sponsoring an electronic waste recycling event at the Grimes County Expo on Nov. 15.

    The council will appoint citizens for board and commissions on Oct. 27.

    Contact Karen Collins at city hall for an application.

    Navasota received the Platinum Designation in the Texas Comptroller’s Leadership Circle for efforts in financial transparency. This has been a project of Chief Financial Officer Lance Hall and, as a result of his hard work, Navasota received 21 out of a possible 22 points.

    City denies TDCJ water request, approves MOU with TxDOT

    Please Note: I am sure this will effect the prison units in that area...

    Bizarre Confusion Endangering Water Supplies

    The Ethician Foundation
    Texas Non-Profit Foundation #30-0736697
    1401 19th Street
    Huntsville, Texas 77340
    936.295.5767 Telephone
    936.294.0233 Fax

    11 February 2014

    To: EDITOR
    Subject: Bizarre Confusion Endangering Water Supplies

    Dear Editor:

    The San Jacinto River is reported to have unsafe levels of bacteria but that is only part of the problem plaguing water quality in many of our rivers and lakes.

    During parts of the year as much as 50% of the water entering Lake Livingston from the Trinity River is composed of treated wastewater and agricultural chemical runoff. Parts of the Neches are equally unsafe from a contact recreation standpoint and the fish in parts of many of our rivers are unsafe to eat due to contamination.

    To add to the worry about the safety of drinking water for millions of Texans is the fact that there is no apparent coordination between the EPA, TCEQ, TRA, SJRA, and the Texas Railroad Commission in regard to rules or regulations in regard to fracking and drilling under either Lake Livingston, Lake Conroe, or Lake Houston.

    Blowouts are not uncommon and numerous oil and gas wells are being fracked and drilled in both the Trinity and San Jacinto River watersheds, oftentimes only a few hundred yards from creeks that ultimately empty into our reservoirs. A blowout or spill could cause serious environmental problems that could make our already polluted water even more unsafe for human consumption.

    Now ranchers and farmers seem to worry that the EPA will determine that non-navigable waters will be considered “waters of the United States” and subject to regulation. Actually ranchers and farmers should applaud rules that might protect them from the TCEQ’s laissez-faire issuance of waste water permits to industries that allow them to dump their wastes, both treated and untreated into ditches during heavy rainfall and subsequently onto flood plains and creeks in the watersheds leading to our drinking water reservoirs.

    Just in the last few months, the TCEQ has declared that a ditch that was dug to allow waste water from an industrial site in Walker County was “water in the State” and thus has been permitted to allow it to flow over one half mile through the flood plain of Shepherd Creek that flows through private wildlife sanctuaries managed by the Ethician Foundation and eventually into Lake Houston.

    A Municipal Utility District with operations on the shores of Lake Livingston has been allowed by the TCEQ to trespass on America’s only “Green Veteran’s Cemetery” and dump waste water from its sewer plant from a pipe on the cemetery property and into a formerly ephemeral stream that empties directly into Lake Livingston.

    Unfortunately, the courts in Texas have sided with the TCEQ in declaring that any puddle, ditch, pond, or any other drop of water in the State of Texas does not belong to the private landowner upon which the water stagnates or flows, but belongs instead to the State and thus the TCEQ can permit the discharge of wastes from both municipal and industrial sites through any farm or ranch in the State of Texas. The dumping of waste water without benefit of a legal easement or payment to the private property owner is a gross abuse of governmental power, in my opinion, and a “taking” of private property rights for the net benefit of others.

    I hope that the Texas Farm Bureau will check the actual facts and be very concerned about abuses that are actually occurring. When the TCEQ grants a permit to discharge wastes through private properties, the owner has the obligation to pay property taxes yet the State of Texas claims that any water flowing over said private property belongs to it to do with as it pleases and we are not talking about navigable streams.

    George H. Russell

    The Ethician Foundation
    1401 19th Street
    Huntsville Texas 77340
    United States

    STATESMAN IN-DEPTH: State Prisons

    Water Outage, Summer Heat Draw Attention To Texas’ Sweltering Prisons

    Posted: Aug. 13, 2013

    By Mike Ward - American-Statesman Staff

    Kenedy — Saying he weighs “a trim 250 pounds,” the guy in the gray uniform is red-faced and sweating profusely. He has just come from work at the Connally state prison, which made headlines a few weeks ago after two wells went out of service and left the prison without running water for several days.

    The prison about 110 miles south of Austin was without water for a time last summer, too, after a truck hit a power pole supplying electricity to a key pump. Service was off and on for several weeks.

    Read the complete story... HERE

    August 1, 2013

    Inmates Complain About Prison Water Problems
    By: Robert Price

    Several days without showers and claims of toilets that don't flush.

    Severe water restrictions at a South Texas prison have some inmates crying foul.

    The Texas Department of Criminal Justice confirms the on-going water problems started last week at the Connally Unit in Karnes County. That's about an hour southeast of San Antonio.

    Prison officials say the worst of the restrictions were lifted a few days ago. Tanker trucks are now providing inmates with drinking water.

    But family members of inmates say their loved ones are being treated like animals.

    "It's bad for me," says Marie Avila, whose son is an inmate at the prison. "Having my son in there and going through all this -- not only my son, but all the inmates in there."

    "He's paying for what he did," says brother Johnathan Avila. "But also, don’t treat him worse than a dog."

    Prison officials say water could be fully restored as early as Friday.

    The Connally Unit had similar water problems last summer, which officials say prepared them for this time.

    Inmates Complain About Prison Water Problems

    Hobby Unit: An inmate's perspective

    The following statements are taken from court records pertaining to a lawsuit that was filed by Helen Ann Caples, an inmate at the Hobby Unit, which is a women's prison located near Marlin, Texas:

    "For the last several years, Marlin's water has been contaminated. At one point, the water was severely rationed until repairs could be made (none have as yet). In 2003, because our drinking water was determined to be contaminated, offenders of Hobby Unit were restricted to using three six-ounce cups of water per day for all purposes. Toilet flushes were non-existent for lack of water.

    "The unit was using porta Johns, but close custody was not allowed to because we were not important. The toilets in our cells were backed up with urine and feces while fowl flies, and gnats had started to surface due to the toilets being unflushed. We were like this three to four days. Three-minute showers were added later. All this happened in 2003, but the problem originally began years ago.

    "[Water] Pipes were supposed to be replaced. Funds were raised to rectify the problem, but matters have never changed. [Note: She's talking about matters not changing and continuing in the present time frame. Her lawsuit was denied by the federal court on October 16, 2006, and all the unresolved problems she's talking about still persist.] There's been reports of mercury, as well as dirt, rust, dead catfish, and even straight up sewage water in the water that is supplied to this unit [in the reservoir the water that is supplied to the prison comes from].

    "This contaminated water should only be used--if they just have to use it at all--for the purpose of showering and flushing toilets. A better filtration system for our drinking water is the only solution to this problem, and according to risk manager Emily Davidson, this [filtration system] has been a long anticipated solution to be installed in the near future. [Note: We have been told in the past that a water polishing unit supposedly cured the contamination problem, but a risk management official has recently admitted to Caples that more filtration is needed! Until that extra filtration is installed, the Hobby Unit inmates remain exposed to contaminated water.]

    "In August of 2004 [note: the temperature was running anywhere from 100 to 106 degrees every day at the time] offenders at the Hobby Unit went through several boil water issues. Some [boil alerts] lasted an entire month. But TDCJ officials claimed there was nothing wrong with the water. [note: there were 6 suicides and 4 deaths due to heat-related illness that same summer.] But there's more wrong with the habitat here at the Hobby Unit than just the water.

    "In April 2006, a woman that I know died. She had colon cancer and lost control of her bowels. Three other long-time friends of mine have cancer: one has breast cancer, the other two have colon cancer and have to wear diapers. Another woman I know has fibrosis and is being seen, when conditions permit, by an special doctor. All these women are in their early 40s. There's also numerous problems with H- pylori that many inmates, including myself, have acquired while serving time here at the Hobby Unit. H-pylori is a bacteria found in the stomach and is known to cause ulcers. Here recently, I've been having blood in my urine, complicated by a high white blood cell count with cells that cause cancer also present in my urine. Besides that, my platelet count is always running between high and low extremes--all of which cause conditions that continually threaten my health. All this has happened since I've been incarcerated at the Hobby Unit.

    "Besides all that above stuff, our showers also have worms [maggots] that turn into flies on the floor along the shower stalls. In the winter, rats run from cell to cell looking for food, and roaches and water bugs are always in our cells. The chow hall has birds that fly in and out, and bird droppings can be found on the tables and floors. (12-7-05) Ms. Franzoni [a field boss] was working the chow hall when a bird flew in through a window near the ceiling and broke its neck. Franzoni picked the dead bird up and was looking at it. No one seems to think there's anything wrong about birds flying in and out of the chow hall. But birds carry lice, and some carry a kind of bird flu. Yet the doors to the chow hall stay open, and the birds think it's a big barn with lots of food in it. Some visitors (ACLU) were on the unit and they observed the birds flying in and out of the chow hall. However, they were just like the Hobby Unit staff and COs and didn't see anything wrong with it either.

    "Dealing with the water issue and the prospect of [related] future health problems makes it scary enough in here without having to deal with worms [maggots] in the showers and birds flying in and out of the chow hall. (May 26, 2006) During chow time, a bird flew across the table of myself and Nicole Williams and did his business [pooped] on the table. A kitchen worker half-way cleared the table with a kitchen rag, but Lt. Scott wouldn't let us move to another table. He gave us the option to either set back down and eat or get the hell out."

    The sworn affidavit of inmate Jessica Garza #1293892 reads as follows:

    "I have dizziness, bad headaches, and it makes me really sick to my stomach when I drink this prison tap water. I never had these problems until I got to the Hobby Unit. I believe there needs to be something done about this water."

    The sworn affidavit of inmate Kelley Courtney [no number available] reads as follows:

    "The water here at the Hobby Unit makes me really sick at times. I keep a bad headache at all times. I have a stomach virus, diarrhea, and really bad stomach cramps. It gets to the point that I feel as if I am dying. Within the last two years, I've found out I have an over-active thyroid problem. I did not have this problem in the free world. I really feel that the drinking water is causing many of my health problems. The doctors have recently found a lump on my right breast that could be cancer. I don't know yet if it is, but Lord knows this water is killing me and many of my fellow inmates. Could this water be the reason that we feel dizzy and try to pass out all the time? Lord help us all be set free of this distasteful water."

    A Press Release
    by; Helen Caples

    For Immediate Release
    as of November 27, 2006

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I've heard that only a strong prison reform movement can win and enforce significant legal victories. But the prison reform movement can also benefit from court action to build its political strength. A well-publicized lawsuit can educate people on the outside about conditions in prison. The struggle to force a court order can play an important role in political organization both inside and outside prison. Favorable court rulings backed up by a strong reform movement can convince prison staff to hold back so that conditions inside prison are a little less brutal. But to make a fundamental change in prison conditions, I can't rely on the lawsuit I currently have on appeal as a sole course of action. Therefore, it's important to connect my suit to the larger struggle. So I'm presenting this press release to explain my suit and what it reveals about prison and about the plight of American women who are serving time in prison.

    We, the inmates of the Hobby Unit, are being exposed to contaminated water, and the results are CANCER: stomach and colon cancer. And nothing is being done about it because our lives mean nothing to the TDCJ officials who have charge of our confinement. All that matters is seeing to it that we serve our time, and controlling us until we die. And many of us are, in fact, actually in the process of dying a little more each day that we spend in Hobby Prison Hell. I hope and pray that this press release is more than just acknowledged; I pray that someone can please help us.

    Respectfully Submitted,
    Helen Caples #535949
    Hobby Unit
    742 FM 712
    Marlin, TX 76661


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