A good deal for the quarry, not for Chico

By Brenda Rankin | Published Wednesday, June 11, 2014

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In the June 7 Messenger, Brian Knox reported on the Chico City Council approving the city engineer to begin the permitting process to allow the city to sell its treated wastewater.

In March, the council voted to sell the wastewater to P&K Stone LLC for a limestone quarry to be built just east of town off Farm Road 1810. The reporter quoted Mayor J.D. Clark saying at the meeting, “It’s a benefit because we’d rather see the rock quarry use wastewater for dust control and watering down the rock than use good drinking water.”

In a Messenger article dated July 10, 2011, “City could profit from greywater sales” the city council voted to go into the business of selling “used water” to industry. Mayor Clark said, “We’ve got rock-crushers that are interested in buying it.” At that time P&K Stone was looking at building a rock-crushing plant in Chico.

But under the Settlement Agreement, C. Texas Department of Transportation Approvals: D. Potable Water, Chico agrees to sell potable water (emphasis mine) to P&K in accordance with the standard Chico rates and process.

Did Mayor Clark read this clause before signing the contract on May 9, 2014? Knox reports P&K will pay for any infrastructure needed to sell the wastewater – including permitting fees – and the agreement will allow the city to sell to other companies.

What the public does not know is that the mayor signed an agreement obligating the city to sell P&K the reclaimed wastewater for 30 years – with the right of first refusal for all the water produced, at a set rate.

The city is responsible for operating and maintenance expenses for the 30-year period. P&K will offset the cost of the capital investment for the equipment required to provide the reclaimed wastewater to P&K – at no cost – for 10 years or until the total cost is offset, up to 15 years.

P&K gets the benefit of all the wastewater, which it can use for any purpose, including washing of aggregates, dust control on roads, dust control within the aggregate plant and landscape watering, for 30 years.

The use of the potable water from Chico’s water wells was not restricted, nor was an expiration date established. If the supply from Chico’s 1,000 population does not meet the demand for reclaimed wastewater, P&K has the backup of using the city’s drinking water.

There is no benefit to a resident in Chico in selling reclaimed wastewater to P&K for at least 10 or probably 15 years. The cost of operating, electricity, maintenance (including repairs) will be paid from either increased sewer fees or from property taxes.

Will selling wastewater ever make a profit? Not when P&K was smart enough to lock in a rate for 30 years with no adjustment for increases in the maintenance and operational costs!

We are aware of the impact of extreme drought conditions on city water resources. Agreeing to sell our “good drinking” water to an industry located outside the city limits, with no tax benefits to the city of Chico for as long as P&K is in business, without calling for a referendum, warrants a recall election of the mayor and city council in my opinion.

However, the position of mayor may become vacant in the near future, giving the voters an opportunity to vote for a mayor who will stop the encroachment of rock quarries by extending the city limits.

The voters can elect city council members wise enough to simply provide needed services in exchange for taxes and fees; leaving running a business to the private sector!

Brenda Rankin

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