Water tower costs up in wake of lawsuit

The widely-held adage, “time is money,” has been proven to be accurate in Bartonville. As a result of the construction delay since the Town of Bartonville filed litigation in June 2011 against the Bartonville Water Supply Corporation’s (BWSC) plan to build a water tower, $87,000 has been added to the construction cost.

The proposed 155-foot tall water storage tank will sit on 4.7 acres within BWSC’s property located at the end of I.T. Neely Rd., behind the former Stargate Sport Horses facility west of Lantana.

The general building and specific use permits had already been approved for the ground storage and pumping facilities on the site. The conditional use permit (CUP) for the companion water storage tower had also twice been approved by the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission, but denied both times by the town council; at the November 2010 and February 2011 council meetings.

“The case was filed and we discussed it in executive session with the town attorney at the June [2011] council meeting,” said Town of Bartonville Mayor Ron Robertson in an interview for a Cross Timbers Gazette article in August 2011.

Rather than continuing its attempts to conform to Bartonville’s ordinance codes surrounding its property, BWSC requested a legal determination exempting the public utility from oversight by the Town Council.

In a hearing on May 1, 2012, Denton County 393rd District Court Judge Douglas Robeson ruled with BWSC that the provider is not under the jurisdiction of the town’s ordinances and the CUP was granted.

On June 25, the BWSC board signed a notice to begin construction of the tower under the granted permit.

In July, the town of Bartonville filed a notice of intent to file an appeal of the May ruling with the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Fort Worth. It was determined that the Fort Worth court’s calendar was overcrowded and, therefore, unable to hear the case in a timely manner. The town filed a motion to extend their intent to file an appeal with the 4th District Court of Appeals in San Antonio with a December 7 submission deadline.

At the time of the original litigation filing, Bartonville’s Town Attorney Robert Hager said that the commissioner’s options were limited. BWSC’s powers of eminent domain limit the town’s authority to oppose the proposed tank. He said that if BWSC can show that the tank is needed and required to maintain the system, then the town can only regulate the aesthetics.

Bartonville residents opposed to the water tower had questioned the need for an elevated storage tank, instead of lower and larger ground tanks such as in Southlake.

“There’re only two options to provide the required pressure for water pumps—electricity or gravity,” said Jim Leggieri, general manager of BWSC. “In the 27 years that I’ve been with the company, we’ve only had two shutdowns; both times were when we lost electricity from CoServ.”

He added that both of those shutdowns were back in the days when the system had five hydro-pneumatic pressure tank facilities that served 25-square miles for mostly rural residents.

“If electricity goes out– or if a customer needs to use too much water at one time, like for a fire– and the pressure drops too far, there’s no water getting pumped; just air,” he said. “With a water tower, the pressure for the pumps is from gravity; that doesn’t turn off.”

Leggieri added that municipalities have started passing ordinances requiring sprinkler systems for homes with larger square footage and bigger buildings like schools.

“We simply can’t go forward to meet those regulations,” he said. “It’s like telling a horse to go plow a field, but it’s got a leg tied to a tree.” 

Opponents to the water tower had also stated that property values would drop because the water tower will be an eyesore.

“There are no statistics that support that premise,” said Leggieri. “If property valuation would be decreased, it would be because the ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating had dropped due to a lack of available water supply for fire protection.”

According to AWWA’s (American Water Works Association) recommended standards of 200 gallons of elevated water reserve per customer, BWSC is lacking the needed capacity for fire protection.

“We have a rating of 38 out of 40 and we’ve put in hydrants as we go along the system so we have the needed growth potential,” said Leggieri. “Now the new subdivisions of Canyon Falls and Harvest are starting to build, after a delay from 2008, and the Alliance area growth up I-35W means the whole area is expanding.”

He also noted that the decision to purchase the acreage more than 10-years ago was made because there were existing power lines with easements restricting residential building.

“When I went out scouting potential sites, I considered the existing view,” said Leggiere. “I don’t think a water tower is any more ugly than high-power lines.”

A second tower is also needed to complete the required maintenance on the existing BWSC water tower, which takes three-to-four months to complete. An existing emergency interconnect agreement with Lantana does not provide for that time usage.

“The tower is scheduled to be completed in July 2013,” said Leggieri. “We have the base completed and are moving forward under the May 1st hearing ruling and permit. The longer the maintenance on the Double Oak tower built in 1996 is delayed, the longer it’ll take, which means a hike in cost, which means additional costs to taxpayers, as well as our [BWSC] customers.”

He also said the tower is needed for the day-to-day operation of the BWSC system which serves Copper Canyon, Double Oak and Bartonville.

The new construction cost now totals $1,212,000.

If the ruling from the 4th District Court of Appeals proves unfavorable to either side of the issue, the next step up the legal ladder is to the State Court of Appeals.  The final appeal would be with the Texas State Supreme Court, if it chooses to even hear the case.

Each motion and appeal takes time … and potential construction or demolition costs.


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