GAG Order: Officials mum on Plant No. 2

Staff Writer

It has been weeks, yet residents of the City of San Benito must remain without an official update regarding the operational status of Water Treatment Plant No. 2 and the litigation currently ensuing with regards to the plant and San Benito City Manager Manuel Lara.

For months, Water Treatment Plant No. 1 has been the City’s only source for water, this after $17 million Plant No. 2 was deemed inoperable. San Benito and its manager are being sued by Cruz-Hogan Consultants Inc. – one of several defendants named in the City’s lawsuit against the companies involved in the construction Plant No. 2.

Officials remain tightlipped as to the present status of litigation, and Lara offered at least one reason. “We were basically given a gag order by our attorney,” said Lara of San Benito City Attorney Ricardo Morado.

As previously reported, findings presented by engineering firm Lou Portillo and Associates PLLC have confirmed that Plant No. 1 requires nearly $350,000 in repairs and is presently operating out of compliance with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulations.

Officials have made arrangements with the City of Harlingen to provide water – should its only water source completely quit functioning.

In light of the city manager’s inability to provide taxpayers with an update, Lara said he has requested that Morado issue an informative statement to the public. “He has been asked to give us a press release,” said Lara. “I told him, ‘Morado, I need you to move on this.’”

According to a conversation held between Lara and this reporter, he reportedly asked for the press release at least two weeks ago. However, no such release of public information has been provided.

On Friday, Mayor Celeste Z. Sanchez said, “Mr. Morado told me he hasn’t given us a press release because there isn’t much to say.”

“We are still on track,” said Sanchez of the City’s efforts to address its water plant woes. A hearing has been set for 9 a.m. on Mar. 4. “It’s just a conversation to set trial dates.”

Regarding specifics as to where litigation stands or what can be done to move forward with repairing Plant No. 2, Morado was unreachable for comment by presstime Friday.

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