Two candidates on ballot for water authority board of directors in Spring area

Several directors of the North Harris County Regional Water Authority are up for election this November, with one of those races being contested and on November ballots. (Courtesy Pexels)
Several directors of the North Harris County Regional Water Authority are up for election this November, with one of those races being contested and on November ballots. (Courtesy Pexels)

Several directors of the North Harris County Regional Water Authority are up for election this November, with one of those races being contested and on November ballots. (Courtesy Pexels)

Several directors of the North Harris County Regional Water Authority—which was established in 1999 to manage a broad initiative to reduce the region's reliance on ground water—are up for election this November, with one of those races being contested and on November ballots.

Since that time, the authority has been working to convert water usage in the north Harris County area to surface water sources to meet standards set by the state and monitored by the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District.

Directors on the water authority board serve four-year staggered terms. The District 4 seat represents parts of the Spring area between Hwy. 249 and I-45. With a major infrastructure project underway that involves delivering water from the Trinity River to homes across north Harris County and the rest of the Houston area, here are what the two candidates running for District 4 think will be the top issues facing the authority in the coming years.

North Harris County Regional Water Authority Board of Directors, District 4



Responses have been edited for length and clarity.



Al Rendl*


*incumbent

Why are you running for NHCRWA board of directors? How does your background make you qualified to serve on the board?




AR: Back in late [19]90s, we realized that if we did not do something, our ground water would run out because the aquifers were declining very rapidly. I, along with several other utility district directors, worked with the Texas Legislature to create the North Harris County Regional Water Authority to be able to convert the 30% of our water needs by 2010 in order the meet the Houston-Galveston Subsidence District mandate. We knew we were running out of ground water, and if we did nothing, many of the communities we serve would be out of water or would be short of water, which would then mean water rationing and possibly eve no water. We currently have eighth utility districts that rely 100% on us for water. They have run out of potable water in their wells. I have been on the board of directors for 20 years and have been the spokesperson for the regional water authority.




What do you believe will be the most important responsibilities of the District 4 director in the upcoming years?




AR: The most important aspect of what we’re going to be doing is providing outreach to the water users to let them know why their water bills are increasing and what we are doing [and] how we are doing it. All of us have teamed up to do this major project to make sure that the Greater Houston area will have water now and for the future. It just so happens to be one of the largest water projects that is being constructed today in the world. If we don’t do this we won’t have water, not necessarily tomorrow or next year, but in the very near future.




What should the water authority be doing to work with local MUDs and water districts to make sure they are kept up-to-date on project status? What would you do to better educate NHCRWA customers?





AR: We communicate with the utility districts on a regular basis through the operators. We invite all the utility districts to join us in our monthly meetings where we talk about ... where we stand on the various projects [and] how they are affecting people. We have been sending out, on a twice a year basis, an item called Water Lines. It’s an 8-10 page pamphlet that goes out to most of the residences ... that explains what we’re doing. We know the price of water is going to go up and will continue to go up for the foreseeable future. We make available to the utility districts bill stuffers that deal with how to cut the water use in your home.





How do you intend to ensure effective cost control measures are in place with the Authority's projects?





AR: I have made a commitment to all the utility districts back 20 years that we would keep the price of water as low as possible for as long as possible. We only raise the price when we must in order to meet the bond service needs. We have been very diligent in how we sell the bonds. The state of Texas several years ago passed an amendment [that] allowed the state to take $2 billion out of the Rainy Day Fund to help with water projects. That $2 billion is used to lower the interest rate that we have to pay back by 40%. It’s been calculated that the savings we are currently getting from the bond sales that we’ve made ... will save over the life of the bond up to $240 million.





As projects are completed, what role does the NHCRWA play moving forward to ensure water quality throughout the system, including water quality from the Trinity River Intake Facility before it enters Lake Houston?



AR: All of the experts believe that there will be adequate water in the Trinity River ... for the far out future. In order to use the water, we’re having to build one of the largest water purification plants in the Houston area. It will be a 400 million gallon a day water treatment plant. The plant is currently 80 million, so there’s about a 320 million gallon plant that’s coming on, which will be ready probably in the middle of 2024. We are watching very carefully how we do this. Those [utility districts] that need the water the most, we’re trying to get it to them as quickly as we possibly can.





Fred Blanton



Why are you running for NHCRWA board of directors? How does your background make you qualified to serve on the board?




FB: I'm running for a number of reasons that I feel I have the experience to address and perhaps correct. First, when I have looked at the literally skyrocketing charges on my water bill each month, I find that residents, seniors and homeowners are paying a higher share of the costs. The large big box retailers and businesses are only paying what a large track homeowner is paying, yet they are getting water service for a multi-million dollar property. At the current rate of increase the bill will be doubling in only a few years. The authority should be going to the legislature to restructure the revenue system to give seniors a lower, frozen rate and more evenly spread the burden over all users and taxpayers. It's time to drain the swamp as the incumbent has had 21 years to figure this out and look at where we are. The structure of the authorities places us in a liability position and we are literally in a "box canyon."

I have served three terms on the Woodcreek [Municipal Utility District] board and one term on the [Northwest] 30 board (Windrose). I have had businesses in the north Harris [County] area for over 45 years, met payrolls, paid taxes; [and] served a number of years as precinct chair and election judge in Precinct No. 263. I have managed large landscape projects, lighting installations and some of the largest decorative lighting displays in the Houston area (Galleria Post Oak/ Moody Gardens Festival of Lights, Herman Zoo Lights and the Miracle on Main Street) and one of the top 10 largest retail floral operations in the FTD network. Not my "first rodeo." I also manufactured safety products for 10-plus years as well as Llghting systems for 36 years.




What do you believe will be the most important responsibilities of the District 4 director in the upcoming years?




FB: Bringing transparency to the ratepayers and taxpayers. Communication and restructuring with the Legislature. Working towards a more balanced fee structure and setting a fixed rate/fee for seniors (hasn't happened since the inception of the authority).




What should the water authority be doing to work with local MUDs and water districts to make sure they are kept up-to-date on project status? What would you do to better educate NHCRWA customers?





FB: Report more of how the items I have addressed above are being implemented, via the media, blogs and websites.





How do you intend to ensure effective cost control measures are in place with the Authority's projects?





FB: We need to compare costs and publish bid tab sheets for each project on the district's website where the average reader can find them. We need to look at every expenduture and determine its necessity on an annual basis.



As projects are completed, what role does the NHCRWA play moving forward to ensure water quality throughout the system, including water quality from the Trinity River Intake Facility before it enters Lake Houston?



FB: We need to ensure that test stations are functioning in various places on the Trinity and discharges are being audited that enter into the Trinity all the way to Dallas if necessary. The same applies to all of the discharges that are going into Lake Houston. We also need to revisit the subsidence issue and see exactly how effective our measures are in reducing the actual subsidence in the greater Galveston-Houston area.
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


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