By HEATHER CATHLEEN COX
City of San Benito officials remain tightlipped regarding the current state of Water Plant No. 2, a $17 million facility that leaders have long-touted as a game-changer in municipal water treatment.
Despite being hailed as a state-of-the-art facility, the now-inoperable plant has not served the community without assistance of the older plant once considered antiquated.
Although officials have recently stated the problem with Plant No. 2 is a need of new membrane filters, sources close to the matter have reported that there may be a problem with the membrane itself. When asked if whether there were issues with the membrane, City Manager Manuel Lara stated, “I have no idea where that information came from.”
Even if the problem lies with the filters, which at a reported $212 apiece would cost the City north of $100,000 to replace, these membrane filters are manufactured in Australia, and instillation of the filters is not included in the cost.
Water Plant No. 2 was part of a $32 million project which also included the construction of a water storage tank and a new wastewater treatment plant. Such a large cost also meant a gradual incremental increase in San Benitians’ utility rates.
Last week, Lara confirmed that San Benito is fully relying on Plant No. 1, which was never taken out of commission. To some residents of San Benito, this news has come as a shock.
On June 11, elected officials voted to recruit legal representation from the Houston-based Arnold & Itkin LLP law firm. According to Lara, City Attorney Rick Morado has been handling communications with the Houston firm.
With regard to Arnold & Itkin’s findings, thus far into the investigation, Morado declined comment.
At a special meeting to be held on Tuesday, July 15, counsel from Arnold & Itkin will meet with city officials to discuss their findings. “The attorneys will be here next Tuesday with a presentation, likely to be held in executive session,” said Lara. “We’re going to wait for Tuesday and see what guidance they give in moving forward.”
In May of 2007, with reference to a City of San Benito groundbreaking ceremony for Water Plant No. 2, then City Manager Victor Treviño said, “With the old plant treating less than 4 million gallons of water each day and being over 80 years old, this new facility is critical. It will provide water for current and future needs until about 2025…I am sure it will last after that.”