• December 26, 2014

No trial date set in Lampasas water debate lawsuit

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Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014 4:30 am

LAMPASAS — The city of Lampasas is suing Kempner Water Supply Corporation over a disputed contract.

The city is seeking $70,884 in relinquished costs and requesting the 27th District Court to clarify exactly how much Lampasas is required to pay for its water.

The suit was filed in September, and city officials requested a trial by jury. No date has been set yet.

According to the city’s claim, the dispute arose in June when the water company changed the way it billed the city for water. City officials claim the corporation overbilled Lampasas residents by $28,629 for their water usage in June, July and August.

Delores Goode, the corporation’s general manager, said the corporation’s lawyers re-examined the existing contract in September, and interpreted it to read that Lampasas is responsible for all water delivered to the city.

The water company then sent an additional invoice to the city requesting $54,868, which included charges dating back to 2010, according to court documents.

“The problem lies in the interpretation of the contract relating to the cost Lampasas pays for water delivered to the city’s points of delivery,” Goode said.

The contract, which was drawn up in 2006, involved Central Texas Water Supply Corporation, Kempner Water Supply Corporation and the city of Lampasas.

In 2006, the flow of operations was relatively straightforward. The Harker Heights-based Central Texas Water Supply Corporation drew water from Stillhouse Hollow Lake and treated it. The water was then transported to a pump station owned by the Kempner water company, where it would travel through Kempner’s pipes to Lampasas residents.

In 2010, however, the infrastructure grew a little more complicated. The Kempner company decided to build its own water treatment plant and service its customers through it. Lampasas chose to remain with Central Texas Water Supply Corporation because, according to documents, it was in the best interest of residents.

Currently, water treated by Central Texas Water Supply Corporation and Kempner intermix at the State Highway 195 Pump Station — the main pump that delivers water to both Lampasas and Kempner residents.

“There’s no doubt the water is co-mingled at the 195 pump station,” said Finley DeGraffenried, Lampasas city manager. “However, contractually, we’re only obligated to pay ... for (water from) the Central Texas treatment plant ... It is Kempner’s responsibility to ensure that they receive enough water from Central Texas (Water Supply Corporation) to meet our needs.”

The Kempner water company controls the volume of water the station receives from both plants.

Predicting use

Goode said the problem with the city only paying for treated water from Central Texas, is that it is “almost impossible” to predict how much water Lampasas will use on a daily basis.

“How do you know how many people will turn on faucets that day?” she said.

There are additional water treatment delays that could possibly occur from both plants, Goode said.

“If there was a brief time when Central Texas was unable to deliver water because the lake was too low, it would be able to make up with the difference with our plant,” said Perry Steger, an engineer with Steger and Bizzell Engineering Inc. “And if Central Texas had quality issues, we could correct that by blending and thus bringing quality up. They’re technical reasons, but that’s why, from time to time, it makes more sense to not match gallon for gallon. It’s good for Lampasas, too.”

Lampasas is also claiming the Kempner water company prevented the city from meeting its minimum water use requirement with Central Texas Water Supply Corporation in July, which resulted in a $14,427 penalty. According to court document claims, the requirement would have been met if Kempner had not delivered its water to Lampasas instead.

Nevertheless, Goode said that with the way things are currently written in the contract, Kempner water corporation members have been footing some of Lampasas’ water costs since 2010.

“Based on this contract, Kempner members are currently paying a percentage of all water delivered to the city’s points of delivery, and if Lampasas wins this lawsuit, Kempner members will be supplementing Lampasas even more,” she said.

According to city documents, Lampasas officials discussed a possible amendment to the 2006 contract to reimburse and “provide KWSC with relief when water comes for the KWSC plant to the city” in 2011. The amendment, however, was not approved by KWSC because it was not in the best interests of its members, according to court documents.

Both city and Kempner water officials said the two have a good working relationship and that will continue regardless of the case’s outcome.

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