VON ORMY— In 2011, the Texas Legislature sealed the fate of the scandal-ridden BexarMet Water Distinct by passing a bill that called an election for its demise and transfer to the San Antonio Water System (SAWS). To residents of San Antonio this plan made perfect sense. SAWS increased its service area and acquired additional water assets at no cost. In fact the dissolution of BexarMet transferred a half-billion dollars of water rights to the City of San Antonio. When one calculates the value of buildings, water infrastructure, movable assets, and other property the windfall was even greater.
These assets did not belong to the BexarMet Water District, which was just a governmental entity. They truly belonged to the ratepayers of BexarMet who mostly live in rural, suburban and South Bexar County and who paid for these assets via 80 years of water bills. Estimates at the time of the election placed the value of assets lost at $30,000.00 per household.
Not surprisingly, the Bexar County legislators ignored the pleas of their rural constituents to provide protections against the reallocation of these assets. State Sen. Carlos Uresti was the worst offender. After the House of Representatives added provisions guaranteeing that non-resident ratepayers would have an elected representative on the SAWS board, he stripped that provision from the bill despite pleas from local officials, the mayors of several suburban cities, the Texas Farm Bureau, LULAC, and the San Antonio Tea Party. The latter two even held a joint press conference with the ExpressNews, providing the rare cooperation of liberal and conservative organizations unified in opposition to this facially unfair proposition.
Not surprisingly, the areas of greatest opposition in the BexarMet election were Von Ormy (80%), Somerset (75%) and south San Antonio (65%). Residents here understand the consequence of losing our voting rights, representation and vested assets. The stacked election turned out as predicted. The more populous north side of San Antonio out-voted the south side.
The lack of representation on the SAWS board has had a notable impact for rural ratepayers. SAWS has unilaterally cancelled contracts that City of Somerset had negotiated with BexarMet, increase rates for the purpose of repairing sewer lines in the City of San Antonio, used the water rights once owned by rural residents to service the urban areas without compensation, and even appointed representatives for Von Ormy and Somerset to a ratepayer advisory board without consulting these cities or residents!
Now a proposal has been made to transfer Von Ormy Heights from SAWS to Atascosa Rural Water Supply. This move would restore voting rights to Von Ormy residents and with it accountability from their water provider. Government is only responsible when it is directly accountable to the people. SAWS is owned by the City of San Antonio and therefore operates primarily for its benefit. The transfer to Atascosa Rural Water Supply will undo some of the damage caused by the BexarMet fiasco, such as the lack of representation and accountability, but not all. Long gone are $30,000.00 of vested assets per household and faith that our Bexar County state legislators will defend the voting, property or water rights of those not living in San Antonio, when San Antonio sets its eyes on any of them.