WCID

John Blankenship, right, attends a Nolanville Economic Development Corporation Board meeting at the J.W. Sims Community Center in Nolanville in this Herald file photo.

As the county’s regional water group prepares a legislative pitch to expand its boundaries, the Bell County Attorney is looking into possible conflicts with state law with a board director.

County Attorney Jim Nichols said he would research this week possible conflicts between current representatives on the Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1’s board of directors and stipulations in the Texas Water Code, which governs those districts.

According to wording in the law, board representatives are not allowed to work as real estate developers within the boundaries of the district.

The district’s current boundaries are contiguous with the city of Killeen’s 1985 corporate limits even though the district serves several area communities. If the district’s plan to expand its boundaries to include all of its municipal customers passes the Legislature, it would put one developer/director within the boundaries.

Board president John Blankenship is a developer for the Bella Charca community in Nolanville, which would fall within the new boundaries once they are expanded and now falls under areas served by the district.

“I’m not sure how the boundary expansion will affect the current board members,” Garrett previously told the Herald. “I’ve seen the definition of developer in the Water Code. It appears to be pretty broad.”

Garrett did not comment on whether any board members are in current violation of the code.

The Bella Charca neighborhood purchases water from the Bell County WCID No.3, which is a wholesale customer of WCID No. 1.

Nichols told the Herald he would look into concerns this week on whether Blankenship could be in violation of the water code currently or with future plans.

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Water Code 49.052(a) specifies when a person is disqualified from serving as a member of a board. Pursuant to 49.052(c), any person who willfully occupies an office as a member of a board and exercises the powers and duties of that office when disqualified under the provisions of Subsection (a) is guilty of a misdemeanor and, on conviction, shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $1,000.

“The TCEQ does not have jurisdiction to enforce this section,” spokeswoman Andrea Morrow told the Herald. “Suspected violations of this section are typically reported by district residents to their local county attorney or district attorney for investigation. It is up to the local prosecutor to determine if charges will be filed for violating Section 49.052(a). In addition, the remaining board members are authorized to remove a disqualified board member and replace the board member with a person who would not be disqualified.”

District Attorney Henry Garza said Friday he was awaiting Nichols’ findings on the issue and would later decide whether or not to investigate.

What’s happened so far

In December, the Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1 board of directors voted to pursue a proposal that would extend the district’s boundaries to include all municipalities it served, while simultaneously taking away elections for board members in favor of an appointment system.

In January, the district, which serves Copperas Cove, Killeen, Harker Heights, Nolanville, Belton and Fort Hood, lobbied each entity for resolutions of support, which would more easily allow the plan to pass through the current session of the Texas Legislature Session.

During the Jan. 21 meeting of the Killeen City Council, the council voted to support expansion of the district’s boundaries, but did not offer support for the removal of elections to choose WCID-1 board members.

The next day, members of the WCID-1 board of directors said they misjudged the response Killeen residents and council members would have to the proposal, and its five members voted unanimously to keep elections.

The board decided to add two seats to the board, going from five members to seven. This would allow each municipal customer of the district to have a seat, with Killeen having three seats, Copperas Cove, Harker Heights, Nolanville and Belton each with one and a representative from Fort Hood serving as an ex officio member.

In order for this to happen, WCID No. 1 would need an act of legislation that would amend the district’s bylaws.

“To date, notices have been published in both the Killeen Daily Herald and the Gatesville Messenger,” WCID General Manager Ricky Garrett said. “The notice is required to run for 30 days before a local bill can be filed. Also there has been a meeting with our Bracewell attorney and an attorney with the Texas Legislative Council regarding our proposed legislation. At this juncture a draft is being generated. I expect to have a version ready to discuss at our upcoming board meeting.”

The WCID board will meet Feb. 27.

Sec. 49.052. DISQUALIFICATION OF DIRECTORS. (a) A person is disqualified from serving as a member of a board of a district that includes less than all the territory in at least one county and which, if located within the corporate area of a city or cities, includes within its boundaries less than 75 percent of the incorporated area of the city or cities, if that

person:

(1) is related within the third degree of affinity or consanguinity to a developer of property in the district, any other member of the board, or the manager, engineer, attorney, or other person providing professional services to the district;

(2) is an employee of any developer of property in the district or any director, manager, engineer, attorney, or other person providing professional services to the district or a developer of property in the district in connection with the district or property located in the district;

(3) is a developer of property in the district;

(4) is serving as an attorney, consultant, engineer, manager, architect, or in some other professional capacity for the district or a developer of property in the district in connection with the district or property located in the district;

(1) comment

Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.

As I remember portions of the Jan.21, 2019 meeting of the Killeen, Texas City Council meeting, it was in fact discussed the proposed change of in expansion of the district's boundaries, but not the support for removal of elections as city council members said that 'this should be an action by the entire citizen membership.

Copy: 'During the Jan. 21 meeting of the Killeen City Council, the council voted to support expansion of the district’s boundaries, but did not offer support for the removal of elections to choose WCID-1 board members.
The next day, members of the WCID-1 board of directors said they misjudged the response Killeen residents and council members would have to the proposal, and its five members voted unanimously to keep elections.' End of copy.

Now it seems like the WICD-1 board is attempting an end run by asking to 'change the rules by allowing the Assembly to increase by two the number of board members from 5 to 7 plus an ex officio member for a total of 8. Now I ask, 'why would it be necessary to expand the board from the current 5 members to 7 members since it has been operating at it;s present level of 5 board members since the district was enlarged by 10 MGD in 2013? What is the reason for this desired change now? What else would be required to be changed and especially for example the 'removal of elections to choose WICD-1 board members'. Why did the board 'decide', the next day, to add the two seats to the board? Was this at the request of Killeen, Texas or just an arbitrary decision as it is stated:
Copy: 'The board decided to add two seats to the board, going from five members to seven. This would allow each municipal customer of the district to have a seat, with Killeen having three seats, Copperas Cove, Harker Heights, Nolanville and Belton each with one and a representative from Fort Hood serving as an ex officio member.'
Continuation of copy: 'In order for this to happen, WCID No. 1 would need an act of legislation that would amend the district’s bylaws.' End of copy.
I for one are wary of this move by the WICD-1 wanting these cities to allow changing of city elections to 'the removal of elections to choose WCID-1 board members'. If I understand this correctly, if the cities mentioned had elected to give the WICD-1 the ability to change to board members being allowed to 'appoint' the board members themselves, it would not have been necessary to make any change at all, so why the addition of 2 board members is it necessary to go before the Assembly?
To the city of Killeen city council, was you aware of this change by Assembly vote? If not then I suggest that you call on the WICD-1 board before any Assembly action is taken and ask for a clarification as to just what means does the WICD-1 have in mind and what effects does the change from 5 to 7 entail or should it continue along on the method it has been since 2013.
Copy: 'The Bella Charca neighborhood purchases water from the Bell County WCID No.3, which is a wholesale customer of WCID No. 1.'
Continuation of copy: 'Board president John Blankenship is a developer for the Bella Charca community in Nolanville, which would fall within the new boundaries once they are expanded and now falls under areas served by the district.' End of copy.
Also, is this a new move to include the 'Bella Charca community in Nolanville, which would fall within the new boundaries once they are expanded and now falls under areas served by the district. When did the community in Nolanville, Texas start receiving water from the Bell County WICD-3 and when did the WICD-3 start delivery of water from the WICD-1? If this is a new arrangement, conceived under the 2013 water contract hen is the 'Bella Charca community entitled to take water from the WICD-1 Belton Lake as this charter would only be effective when the water facility starts delivery of the water plant out of the Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, which is not complete as of yet.
Yes I think it is imperative to call on the WICD-1 and get the straight information as to just what is going to happen before they seek any action from the Assembly.
Copy: “To date, notices have been published in both the Killeen Daily Herald and the Gatesville Messenger,” WCID General Manager Ricky Garrett said. “The notice is required to run for 30 days before a local bill can be filed. Also there has been a meeting with our Bracewell attorney and an attorney with the Texas Legislative Council regarding our proposed legislation. At this juncture a draft is being generated. I expect to have a version ready to discuss at our upcoming board meeting.” End of copy.
Again I suggest that the city of Killeen, Texas, city council members, ask for a clarification of just what is going on and what ramifications are expected.

This has been the personal opinion of this writer and nothing shall be used, in context or without or changed in any way without first notifying, and receiving explicit approval from this writer.
One of the 4.28 % who voted.

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