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McAllen representative weighs in on water pricing petition

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A representative from the city of McAllen’s public utility department is opening up about their petition against Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3.

As Channel 5 News previously reported, McAllen city leaders sent a filing to the Texas Public Utility Commission over a 17 percent increase in the Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3 delivery rates. 

RELATED: McAllen leaders upset over water delivery rate increase

Last week, Othal Brand Jr., president of Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3, disputed that they were not violating the Open Meetings Act.

Brand also offered several reasons for that 17 percent water delivery rate increase, but the city of McAllen continues to say they believe its unfair.

“$114 an acre foot when the other districts are averaging at $55 an acre-foot. Now, some would say, ‘Well, maybe it’s better water quality,’” said McAllen Public Utility General Manager Marco Vega. “It’s the same water.”

Vega has been an employee for the city of McAllen for more than 18 years, and says from both a numerical and ethical perspective, Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3’s 17 percent increase doesn’t sit well with him.

“A typical increase is a 2 percent, 3 percent — maybe 5 percent increase,” Vega said. “But 17? That’s when we have to draw a line and say, ‘We have to challenge this.’”

The city expects to pay the district an additional $250,000 a year as a result. Although, those costs are currently not being passed onto taxpayers. Vega says going through the PUC was the only way to contest the increase.

But Othal Brand with District 3 tells Channel 5 News that there were three reasons for the increase: 

  • Additional expenses resulting from S.B. 2185
  • Electrical upgrades to "old" pump station
  • Addressing floodway issues

“Between the legislative bill and the two other projects that absolutely have to be done, [the city is] not paying for all the increases that we need to do," Brand said. "This increase from the legislature — this is a brand new cost to the district that they’ve not had."

Brand walked back from what he told Channel 5 News last week that the Valley had “third-world country” water delivery rates, while also stating that the increase is not the highest in the state.

Brand instead suggested that Channel 5 News file a public records request.

“And if you did, you’d find out that I am not the only one that’s had a rate that might be above normal compared to other districts that you’re comparing to that only do delivery and not supply water and delivery,” Brand said. 

Vega assures residents that the city will fight the increase, saying that the numbers should instead focus on the Valley.

“If you want to compare apples to apples, you compare with the Rio Grande Valley. What do other districts provide water for?" Vega said.

Vega says he doesn’t expect any movement on this filing until after the new year.

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