The Lakeway Municipal Utility District (LMUD) is the provider of Water and Sewer services for 1/3 of the City of Lakeway, Texas, serving 3000 households in-district, plus 1000 out-ofĖdistrict who take water only because they have septic systems.
Lakeway MUD is managed by 5 volunteer elected Board Members, and the paid General Manager, Earl Foster, who reports to the President of the Board. In this year's election, 3 candidates vie for 2 Board positions. Early voting for the Board Members starts April 28,2014 at Randall's. Voting day is May 10, along with the school board election.
Below are several documents regarding issues that came up over time that will give you in-depth reading about LMUD:
LMUD CONTROL ISSUE IS KEY by Karl Ansbach - Lake Travis View Article(click on link to view)
CANDIDATES FORUM RECAP by Jerry Hietpas - April 2014
Thank you Lake Travis Democratic Club for hosting this LMUD Candidate forum. This is a real public service you can be rightly proud of. What a wonderful thing that LMUD is having a contested election, where we can air out the issues.
I am the one incumbent running to represent you on the LMUD Board of Directors. The LMUD Board consists of 5 volunteers.
LMUD needs vision, and I have been told that I do that. I also am the Board Member involved with Engineering and Operation. I am an engineer, registered in 7 states. You do not need to take notes on what I say, because within two days I will put it and a few other documents on my website CauseyEngineering.com. Click on the last heading along the left hand side, LMUD.
I am on record as saying that I give due consideration in my deliberations to the following 4 stake holders:
The City did not start out providing water and sewer service to its citizens, because that is really not practical. The state legislature created MUDs to help developers get loans using their taxing authority, and so far the City has 5 MUDs serving its citizens. You should consider what each of us thinks about that, because it has a significant impact on your personal pocketbook. Read Karlís LT View article. It does a good job of recounting that what was broken has been fixed. Some of the fixes started while I served during Tom Rogers' Presidency.
Here is what I have said for years about the issue of the city taking over LMUD. "What is your plan"? What is your plan for getting there from where we are, and what are the benefits to LMUD Members and customers? How will you avoid a lawsuit from LMUD Members if you simply take our $5 million in reserve accounts, take the $20 million in valuable land we will soon sell, and redistribute it to the rest of the city? Thatís $8,000 taken from each Member household. Surely it will generate a lawsuit.
And here is another issue. What is you plan for taking over the large area in the city that is in District 17?
And what about the 1000 households who now purchase water only from LMUD, and do not have sewer lines in their area. Will some of them demand equal service, take you to court to have the city install sewer lines in that large area, and enlarge the sewage treatment plant to handle the additional volume?
LMUD has the lowest rates and taxes in this area. How will you lower their rates? Or will you raise LMUDís rates to treat us all equal?
When 5 years ago I asked those questions of Steve Swan during the previous city takeover of LMUD attempt, he answered in our Board meeting, "Jerry, you give us too much credit". That takeover attempt fizzled.
Later, when Dave DeOme ran the first time I asked him his stance on the city taking over LMUD, and his reply was, "Not on my watch". Several months ago I was at an LCRA meeting protesting the release of water from the lake, and the President of neighboring District 17 said, "Jerry, what is this I hear about the city taking over LMUD"? It shocked me when he explained Lakeway City Manager Steve Jones had recently told Burnet City Manager that he would soon take over LMUD. That issue had never been on the city Council agenda.
So I went to Mayor DeOme, thanked him for serving, told him I would not hold him to "Not on my watch" and told him what Steve Jones had done. He did a bob and weave act about how I did not have the whole story, and denied pretty much all of it.
But now Jack Smart writes in the LT View that "It is well known the City of Lakewayís vision is that all water or wastewater providers that are totally within the cityís boundaries be consolidated into --- one utility." Now we are getting somewhere, a plan in the newspaper written by Jack Smart. Well not really. You will be able to read on my website about my latest attempt to bring LMUD, and the three MUD districts in Rough Hollow and the Highlands to work as one. For the last 4 years I have been trying to get that done.
Is Jack Smart in the audience? Is Jack Smart not a person? Who is behind all this? Whoever wrote it is in tight with the city, or is the city. The View refuses to tell who duped them.
Several years ago Mayor DeOme told me that a certain official mistakenly thought that his friends kept secrets, but some pass them on to him. Thatís true, and here are things various people told me. When they do that, I quiz them to weed out trouble makers.
I see the big banners for Armstrong setting on Haythem Dawlett property, the Mayor is doing his very best to get Armstrong on the Board, and now Jack Smart, and all being done in the shadows, I conclude that a shadowy political machine is working hard against the best interests of the Members of LMUD. A vote for Armstrong is a vote for them and their hidden agenda. including the take over of LMUD by the city. And it has never been on the council agenda. Who is running things over there? It sure is not the council.
Aside from the take over issue, the LMUD Board needs someone who can analyze the 52% water rate increase the LCRA proposed, analyze revisions to the waste water irrigation rates, the contract with the golf courses, and the cost of providing operational services on a contract basis for the Rough Hollow and Highlands three MUDS. Amongst we three candidates, that guy is Larry Burmeier. It is a no-brainer that you must vote for Larry Burmeier. Then decide between voting for Tom or Jerry.
Should three people on your Board have the right to let the city take over LMUD, and take your $8,000? They think yes. I would put it to a referendum where all LMUD could vote. This election is really a referendum on it. This is your chance to stop it. Get out the vote. Vote that the city not take away your $8,000. Vote for Burmeier and Hietpas
Thank you for coming, and thank you for listening.
Jerry Hietpas April 8, 2014
(This is a political advertisement written and paid for by Jerry Hietpas for re-election to the Lakeway MUD Board.)
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LETTER TO THE EDITOR by Jerry Hietpas - On Water Management Policies
In the Hill Country, most water comes from rain, is stored in and then pumped from our lakes, treated for human consumption, and then the vast majority is not drunk or used for household usage. It is sprinkled on lawns. Unfortunately the current concept is that a beautiful yard is a grass yard --- not stone, not xeriscape. The other big user of water from Lake Travis is what is passed through the electrical generators at Mansfield dam and flows down river to supply those cities, and irrigation water to rice farmers. In case of drought in our area, rice farmers are cut back. We are going through a drought of record. Our lake system works, it is getting us through the drought so far. But as the Colorado River basin population grows, what can be done to function and thrive with the finite amount of water available?
Developers finance the water and sewer systems they build with a Texas legal tool called MUD (Municipal Utility District). Developers stake out land for a new MUD, and get a permit from the TCEQ which enables them to borrow money to pay up front for the water and sewer system, using their MUDís taxing authority as collateral. About 20 years later when the bonds are paid off, the developer will turn control of the MUD over to the people it serves. MUDs enable developers, and protect existing residents from paying for the newcomerís water & sewer systems.
There is a unique law that applies only to the Highland Lakes area. I will not debate the Highland Lakes Rule here, but accept it as a reality for the Hill Country. In short, it requires that all treated waste water be evaporated, not returned to the river or lake. Treated waste water is cleaner than the lake water. Most other places, including Austin, put treated waste water into the river.
The TCEQ requires MUDs to have enough land and a sprinkling system under the MUDís control on which to spray all their treated waste water. That is how it is evaporated. MUDs often can negotiate to control the amount of sprinkling on a golf course, or on public land, but that is usually not enough land, and the MUDs must have cedar tracts too. The TCEQ gives no credit for sprinkling yards if the MUD does not control those sprinklers. That is because the homeowner may elect to shut his sprinklers off. Of course, there is a practical limit of how much control the MUD has over the golf course and public land, but with enough land required, that is not an issue.
Water conservation will cause a MUD to sell less water and decrease its revenue. Thatís a problem. The variable costs will decrease some, but the fixed costs will remain the same, and the MUD must find a way to pay its bills. If conservation can forestall an expansion project to the water side of the system, that is worth a lot of money. There is likely not enough fat to cut out of operations to cover the shortfall caused by conservation. Increasing the rates to pay for conservation may be politically tough. Bottom line is, MUDs are a business, albeit not for profit, that face a dilemma over conservation. Conservation also causes the LCRA to sell less lake water to the MUDs, but they seem to have other willing new customers.
With that background, here are thoughts and specific doable actions to conserve water.
IMPROVE UPON THE HIGHLAND LAKES RULE:
Cedar tracts are a waste of water and money. Whatever is sprinkled on a cedar tract instead of needed irrigation is additional water taken from the lake and treated to be potable (safe to drink) water. The cost of buying a cedar tract ties up a MUDís money. It takes money to keep the cedar tract in usable condition. Cedar tracts are dedicated to emergency irrigation --- not useable for any other purpose, not a park etc. This waste of a finite resource and money exists in Hill Country MUDs, with differing degrees, situations and opportunities.
Lakeway MUDís 100 acres of cedar tracts have not been sprinkled in the past seven years. LMUD now has enough other places to sprinkle their treated waste water where it does some good, and are identifying and evaluating additional places for the future as the build out of Lakeway increases the volumes. The TCEQ needs to revisit itís regulations to adapt them to the growth and build out of various communities into towns and cities. Unfortunately, the TCEQ is perceived as unapproachable, will not listen to reason, so why try? What is needed here from the TCEQ and state government policymakers is leadership to foster creative thinking of waste water as a valuable resource, not a burden. MUDs need to make their case, not cower. It is an opportunity waiting to happen. Karen Huber called it "complacency". Lets get on the ball, think, network within your community, and then speak up to your policy-makers.
It is unusual for a developer to include a purple pipe distribution system while installing the potable water and sewer pipe. (Treated waste water runs in pipe that is colored purple for identification.) Installing it from the get-go as a neighborhood system, only one pipe is needed on the lot lines if the sprinklers turned all the way around. When each home owner installs a sprinkler system later, each yard has separate line at the edge of the property, and the sprinklers turn half way around. If the purple pipe system was larger diameter than our potable water meters, there could be fewer zone control valves. If the TCEQ grants some credit for the yards sprinkled with reuse water, the developer can reduce the amount of cedar tract his MUD must supply. The same pumping system used for any cedar tract can be used for the purple pipe system. The home buyer pays less for his irrigation system, uses cheaper water, has better control, and water is conserved.
The point here is that policy makers can and ought to establish regulations that allow for smart irrigation systems, better use of waste water, and stop wasting money on additional cedar tracts for all these developments. Giving credit for sprinkling yards is good policy for new developments as well as existing mature MUDs.
IMPROVE CONTROL OF IRRIGATION SYSTEMS :
Most all individual home sprinkler controllers are primitive technology and waste water. They operate on only a timer, not on a sensor to measure soil moisture and wind velocity. They sprinkle if itís raining or if the wind is blowing all the water away. Most of us just set our "Rainbird" for a period of time, and forget it. There is a better way.
Generally the arrangement with the golf courses was developed with the paradigm of waste water is something to get rid of, not an asset. How often is there over sprinkling on golf courses? Thatís just the way it has been. Better technology for managing the water used on golf courses would conserve water, but why do it if its only wasted on cedar tracts. That gets back to an update of the Hyland Lakes Rule.
Consider Austin Energyís Power Partner program. On the really hot summer afternoons Austin Energy sends out radio signals to stager the cycling of many home air conditioners, which reduces the peak electric demand. They provide a new thermostat and its maintenance are free, plus a brake on the electric rate. This same concept could be applied to sprinkling systems. And because irrigation timing is much more flexible than peak AC electrical loads, it can offer more than the electrical "peak shaving" benefit. Effective controls is a way to conserve.
LCRA and MUDs could do the following:
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A LETTER ON PACKAGE UNITS by Jerry Hietpas - To My City of Lakeway Neighbors in the Highlands and Rough Hollow
Your sewer system in the Highlands and Rough Hollow has not yet been completely installed and the present TCEQ permit will soon need to be amended before completion of build out. Our community of Lakeway should work together with a vision to stop chopping up our sewer systems which thwarts the goal of a regionalized system. If the Highlands developer gets a permit amendment from the TCEQ to proceed with his revised plan to install remote package sewage treatment units, it will not benefit the following "Three Stakeholders":
Currently the Highlands developer seems intent on not following what has been the plan all along, the 1998 Exclusionary Agreement, a plan he supported until recently. After the developer left the negotiating table LMUD wrote a letter asking him to come back, but he has been unresponsive to date.
In the 1988 Exclusionary Agreement LMUD divested itself of the area that is now MUD Districts 11, 12, &13, also known as Rough Hollow and the Highlands, so the developer could form his own MUD(s) there. Part of the agreement was for the developer to build the sewage treatment plant, and give it to LMUD. He did, (West Plant now located along Highlands Blvd, near the World of Tennis) and thatís where Rough Hollow and the Highlands now send their sewage. But the West Plant is not big enough when the Highlands is built out, and your sewage will be shifted to somewhere else. Why? Because the Developer is choosing to not invoke another part of the Agreement that gives him the right to triple the existing plant size to accommodate all of Rough Hollow and the Highlands.
Instead, now the developer intends to install "package" sewage treatment plants somewhere in the Highlands. He wanted to place them beside the West Plant, and the LMUD Board said "no", expand the existing plant as has been the plan all along. It has available pond storage and was built to be expanded. And it is run by an award winning staff that produces clean and odorless treated water for irrigation.
I speak from experience. The developer of what is now old Lakeway (Not the developer of the Highlands) installed sewage package units in his LMUD; now our LMUD. There were too-frequent excursions, i.e., spills of sewage, the treated water stunk, and people complained. When the developer left, LMUD was junk. We had to spend tax money for a new permanent eastside plant, and have been fixing the poor quality underground piping systems since that time. No one had inspected the developerís underground installations. We do not need to repeat this situation again.
LMUD and the developer of the Highlands should get back to the table and work out the rest of the Exclusionary Agreement, which is a regional agreement. It is a plan favored by the TCEQ, and will benefit we three stakeholders. I am suggesting that you in Rough Hollow and especially the Highlands form a group to get up to speed of what is happening regarding these package units, and take action in what you determine to be your best interests.
I referred to a second opportunity for LMUD above. The Rough Hollow and Highlands developer contracts out the operation of his MUDs. The first opportunity would be that LMUD would be paid on a contract basis to process the additional sewage in our expanded plant. We have the credentialed operators in place for what is now an underused facility, and no new staff will be required to operate an expanded plant. LMUD wants to be that contractor, it is a perfect fit for us, and will do a great job.
The second opportunity for LMUD would be an operational contract for the water distribution and sewage collection systems throughout 11, 12, and 13. (Your potable water in the Highlands is purchased via a contract with another utility, but your Districts must maintain all your underground pipe systems. Some water for Rough Hollow is purchased with a partnership with LMUD. LMUD has award winning operators in place and credentialed staff members who check on things 365 days a year. LMUD has an office, meter reader, computerized billing system, equipment, parts, and everything here in town to do the job. LMUD has amongst the lowest rates in the area and can contract to operate your sewer systems very competitively versus any outside contractor. That will allow the developer to set better rates for you in Rough Hollow and the Highlands.
These contracts would provide a smoother transition in the future if there becomes a viable way for the city to provide water and waste water service to the entire City. The same goes for arranging the sewer system now so it heads toward our West Plant, not to a package unit out at the far end of the Highlands.
Let me be clear. I and the rest of the LMUD Board have worked with the Highlands and Rough Hollow developer in the past, and want to continue to do so for the good of the community. We have helped him get through some rough patches before, and maybe can do so again. He is a good developer; a good businessman, and is making beautiful things in Lakeway. He created MUD Districts 11, 12, and 13 to get necessary financing using the associated taxing authority as the State legislature intended, and that is good. All MUDs must get approval from the TCEQ for any changes to their permit. Historically, a Developer establishes and controls his MUD for about 20 years with his hand picked Board Members until he has paid off his loans and does not need his MUD any longer. Then he turns control and the system over to the MUD Members, or perhaps to the City in this case.
I am a member of the Board of Directors of LMUD, and we are on record as favoring what I have written herein. But this letter is from me, not from them. As far as I can tell, the city has not become involved, but they should. With all the building going on, time is short. I understand the developer has the following application at the TCEQ for approval: Travis County MUD #12 application for TLAP permit amendment/renewal. Permit number is 0014534001.
I hope this letter helps all of us.
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CITIZENS' PARTICIPATION SPEECH by Jerry Hietpas - April 21, 2014 Lakeway City Council Meeting
(Jerry Hietpas gave this speech during the Citizens Participation portion as a non-agenda item during the April 21, 2014 Lakeway City Council meeting. He said he was a member of the LMUD board, but was speaking for himself, not for the board. The mayor commented Jerry had no way to know if the items he claimed had not been on a council meeting agenda actually were on an agenda, and a few other comments.)
Mr. Mayor, Council members, and Staff:
Thank you, volunteers, for serving our beloved community.
Jack Smart wrote an article published in the April 10th edition of the Lake Travis View. If the paper was not duped, finally the city takeover of LMUD is on paper, sort of. I first heard about the most recent run at LMUD while at an LCRA meeting protesting their water management plan. The President of District 17 said; "Jerry what is this I hear about your being taken over by the city?" He then surprised me by saying; "Our Lakeway City Manager had told the Burnett City Manager that he would soon take over LMUD." And now recent events are making it clearer and certain that the city is working on taking over LMUD. Go to my website for more particulars. It is CauseyEngineering.com. Scroll to the bottom of the menu along the left hand side to Lakeway MUD, and read about it.
According to Jack Smart, and this just flabbergasted me, you are agreeing to take over a sewer system for which the developer has applied for a TCEQ permit that is even a worse design than what LMUD would not agree to. We told him no, abide by the 1998 Exclusionary Agreement, and do not cut corners. Build a permanent system that fosters a regional system.
This city contract, or taking over any MUD, or the city getting into the water and sewer business has never been on a City Council Meeting Agenda. It hides in the shadows. No discussion, no motion, nothing. This would be a game changer.
I will now exclude you, Mr. Mayor, in my use of the term "Council". Council, either you knew of the Contract, or of adding a new water and sewer city department with the attendant increase in budget and staff, or you did not know. In the first instance, it appears you could only know by violating the "Open Meetings Act". On the other hand, if you were unaware, I ask this: Who is running the city, because it sure is not you, City Council.
Please, when this same challenge was directed to me by then Mayor Steve Swann, it hit me hard at first, and did not feel any better when I realized he was right. But that personal challenge was a catalyst that changed LMUD to where now the State of Texas uses LMUD as a good example for governance. Ask yourself, for such a major change as adding water and sewer, do I understand the issues, how was I involved, and who is running this city?
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