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City issues moratorium on taps; ETJ residents face upcreek battle for sewer, water

By Austin Jackson | Published Saturday, September 15, 2018
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Permit Problems

PERMIT PROBLEMS – ETJ Unit 5 residents Chad and Michelle Lanier, Robert and Joy Murphy, Anthony and Pam White and dogs Archer, Molly and Macy stand near their homes outside Runaway Bay city limits. Anthony and Pam White are looking to build a permenant home on the lots, but haven’t been able to secure water or sewer taps. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Down a gnarly road just south of Runaway Bay city limits, Anthony and Pam White found two lots where they hoped to settle down and live the Runaway Bay dream.

There, in the wooded enclave, the Whites met a small community of friends, united by a love of the lake. But shortly after, they would be united by another experience.

On the property a short golf cart ride away from the docks of Lake Bridgeport in Unit 5 in Runaway Bay’s ETJ, the Whites found themselves high and dry without access to water. Runaway Bay imposed a temporary moratorium for water and sewer taps outside the city limits in June.

The Whites had put their house in the Metroplex up for sale, readying to build a property on the lots they cleared.

Since closing on the lot in April, the Whites have spent the past months clearing off the brush on the property, staying in an RV as they wait to build.

But this week, when they went by the city to purchase water and sewer taps, Pam White said they were told their dream would have to be deferred.

“They told us no,” she said. “I had my checkbook in my hands ready to pay [for sewer and water taps]. I asked what can I do. And she told me the only thing I can do is get a lawyer. I guess we’ll build a house with a porta potty.”

White said their one-quarter acre lot is too small to get approval for a septic tank and too small to drill a well.

“We don’t have any options,” he said. “We can try to sell, but who’s going to buy a lot if they can’t get sewer or water.”

Upon selling their current home, Anthony White said they will live in their RV, disposing of their waste and filling their water tanks at nearby RV parks.

“It’s not convenient that’s for sure,” he said.

Depending on the block, the residents of Unit 5 are divided by the haves and the have nots.

Some get sewer, some get water.

Others, like the Whites get neither.

Unit 5 resident Chad Lanier has been attending and speaking at city council meetings since April 2017, hoping to secure a sewer tap.

He had a plumber make inspections and sank a ‘considerable’ amount of money into insuring he could get his water and sewer hooked up, hoping to eventually build on the land.

Before he purchased the lots, he said he called up to the utilities office to check if he would be eligible for taps, knowing he was out in the country.

“I asked four separate times if we could get sewer out here before I bought,” he said. “As soon as I closed, they had a check in their hand.”

Lanier received a water tap, but was told he couldn’t hook up his sewer. Lanier believes its due to the city moving its lift station that was nearby to replace one that broke in city limits years ago.

There is a manhole and a sewage pipe near an electric pole with a meter just outside their property.

“It wouldn’t cost much to get a pump, maybe $5,000,” Lanier said. “They’re saying they would need a massive pump for hundreds of residents. But there’s not that many people out here and it’s been projected to grow since the ’70s and hasn’t. If they got a small pump, it would be pay for itself and then some once people bought sewer taps.”

“It’s a mess. I’ve been asking nicely. And they tell me they’re working on it. I’m sick of it.”

In late June, Mayor Herman White decreed a temporary moratorium for taps on sewer and water for all areas outside city limits in Runaway Bay to stay in compliance with the TCEQ.

Runaway Bay city administrator Pamela Woods said the city has since resolved the issue and is currently in compliance.

The violation, Woods said, stemmed from contracts signed in 2005 projecting their water service as being over capacity. She said the amount of gallons per minute of water service stated in the contract was higher then what was actually being used.

The city has since renegotiated the contracts to stay in compliance with the gallons per minute usage, Woods said.

The moratorium on sewage and water taps will be discussed in Tuesday’s city council meeting.

If the moratorium is lifted, it won’t necessarily mean Unit 5’s issues in gaining access to sewer and water will be relieved since there is no pump to the sewer line in the area.

Woods, who was recently hired by the city in June, said she wasn’t aware of the lift station situation.

“I don’t blame them for being upset,” Woods said. “We’ll have to take the best action and do what’s best for the City of Runaway Bay.”

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