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Las Lomitas subdivision pleads with county not to turn off water tap

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 by Michael Kanin

The potential shut-down of the last of the Travis County-owned water distribution points revealed a pending disaster for a small subdivision in the southeastern part of the county Tuesday. According to the residents of the Las Lomitas development the loss of that outlet would eliminate their primary source of water. Currently, they say, they have no source of running water and no set water provider.


That news came as the Travis County Commissioners Court held a public hearing to discuss the capping of the water spout, housed at the county’s Pct. 4 satellite office. County Judge Sam Biscoe sent the issue to an afternoon executive session, but not before indicating that the court would revisit it in two weeks.


Ileana Riojas served as a spokesperson for members of the Las Lomitas community. She read from a prepared statement. “By proposing to close the water spout at 183, you are proposing to cut the lifeline of this community, literally,” she told the court. “This is a community just 10 minutes from the Capitol. Just 10 minutes from this very room. I am pleading with you to consider these matters before making your vote.”


Riojas then offered the court a list of 10 concerns. These included the fact that it would take the equivalent of two years’ worth of Las Lomitas property tax dollars to come up with the $125,000 to $200,000 that she estimates it would cost to acquire easements and construct pipelines. Riojas added that Las Lomitas residents “have no water rights to dig a well, or hire a company to haul in water and no built in water pipelines.”


She asked the court to delay action to close the water outlet until their situation could be addressed.


According to residents, Las Lomitas includes roughly 25 families who live on fifteen 10-acre tracts. Their situation is compounded by the fact that the closest water firm – the Creedmoor-Maha Water Supply Corporation – said that the developer behind the project failed to follow regulations when designing the subdivision. That situation has prevented the two parties from even beginning the process of setting up a local water line.


The developer of the project was Hank Peavler. Creedmoor-Maha attorney Mark Zeppa told In Fact Daily that Peavler refused to comply with “repeated requests” from the water supply company to submit a water supply plan, pay connection charges, and cover the costs of installing water lines.


According to Zeppa, the utility’s hands are tied until that situation is remedied.


County staff say that the water outlet is the last of four standpipes that serve Travis residents at each of the four county satellite offices. The other three were all closed by 2009.


The head of Travis County’s department of Transportation and Natural Resources Steve Manilla told In Fact Daily that his jurisdiction doesn’t “have the proper credentials” to operate the spout legally. He noted that the paperwork for that undertaking would have to come from an application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.


Manilla added that this was the first that he’d heard of the Las Lomitas situation. Despite claims from the community that they had tried to contact their court representative, Pct. 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez, Manilla didn’t seem to be alone.


“Frankly, it’s the first I’ve heard of the Las Lomitas issue,” said Pct. 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt.


Gomez’ office denied residents’ claims that they attempted to contact her office.


Members of the Las Lomitas community planned to attend a meeting of the Creedmoor-Maha board on Tuesday evening. They’ve also begun the process of formally organizing into a neighborhood association.

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