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BCRAGD adapts policy

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater Conservation District (BCRAGD) directors voted unanimously to change two policy items during their April quarterly meeting held Thursday, April 5. One change referred to permits for public water suppliers, and the other referred to wells owned by volunteer fire departments. The board also made an equipment purchase that will solidify the district as an active river authority in the Clean Rivers Program.

In a previous meeting, the board had instructed General Manager Dave Mauk to begin making progress on updating permits for public water suppliers in Bandera County.

At this month's meeting, Mauk explained to the board that the district's rules were "basically written for new permitted wells." However, there are over 50 existing permitted public water supply wells, such as those belonging to the city of Bandera. "Most of those are small users like restaurants," said Mauk. "And TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) regulates those." The BCRAGD will regulate any new permitted wells drilled in Bandera County.

The new policy will allow Mauk to permit all those existing wells for the district. "That will bring those 54 wells into our records and we can start getting pumping logs and data," said Mauk.

Board member Sid Gibson thanked Mauk for presenting the idea. "[It's] such a logical solution to get us going down the road on [well permits]," said Gibson, before casting his vote for the proposal.

In the second policy change, wells owned by local volunteer fire departments to be used for firefighting will be converted to a registered/exempt well classification. "Under our current policy, fire department wells are treated the same as domestic wells, but they need access to more water," said Mauk. The new policy will allow VFD's to pump up to but less than 25,000 gallons per day.

Eric Ede, certified public accountant with Ede & Company, presented the board of directors with an "unqualified" opinion for the district's annual audit.

"That's the best rating you can get," explained Ede.

Ede complimented the board on its financial soundness reflected in cash on hand in the general fund of $260,000.

He also said the district was in good standing with its property tax collections. Property taxes provide most of the district's income. "You have a very good collection rate; your taxpayers are very responsible," said Ede.

He suggested the board be more conscientious about amending its budget to reflect variances between what was budgeted and what was spent.

Those amendments need to be made near the end of the fiscal year, he advised, if they are not done sooner.

Later in the meeting, the board amended six line items in the budget, including increasing the cost of attorney's fees and for vehicle expenses. The latter has gone over budget due to increased cost of gasoline and some unexpected repairs.

In other action, the BCRAGD board approved a $17,000 purchase of testing equipment to support the district's active entry into the Clean Rivers Program.

"For 10 years, we've tested surface water in the Sabinal and the Medina Rivers, but we didn't share that information with other agencies," said Mauk. "The Clean Rivers Program involves sharing data so that the results can be utilized scientifically."

Mauk said that although the initial equipment purchase was expensive, "it's robust and expected to last 10-15 years."

Mauk has been campaigning hard to get the BCRAGD involved in the Clean Rivers Program. "If we do the sampling, it keeps outside agencies from coming in and doing it," said Mauk.

Board member Jerry Sides commented that "SARA (San Antonio River Authority) would like to come in and do it!" Not something Sides welcomes.

Director Karen Ripley added, "I like that we can use the science in court [if necessary]. And we'll be at the table when people downstream start making decisions [about our watershed]."

In a final item before adjournment, the board voted to increase Mauk's salary to $53,477. "Dave started [as GM] in April with the assistant manager's salary," said Board President Don Sloan. "We're happy with his work and hope he'll stay for a long time."

Board member Lee Kneupper was absent from the meeting.