Mayor of La Ward talks grants, water and sewage
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LA WARD - Mayor Richard Koch said he started from scratch after landing in office.
Koch, the city's former marshal for 35 years, a Victoria Police Academy graduate and a former business owner, became mayor in 2008.
La Ward, a 200-person town located 13 miles southeast of Ganado, was in a technological time warp when Koch took office. The city still issued handwritten water bills on postcards, city records were located in people's homes and the city charter was misplaced.
Koch said he worked to lift the city to a higher standard.
"If you're going to be a city you need to act like a city, and get up to state standard," he said.
In the past year, the city council passed the first budget in its history and completed its first audit since 1992.
The city expects to receive a $23,000 grant through the State Energy Conservation Office, but water and sewage continue to be the most pressing issues, Koch said.
Q: What are some important issues you feel the mayor's office addressed?
A: Right now the city has a problem with the water. We've got too many people on the water versus what the system can handle. The (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) has fined us two years ago for not being compliant. And so what we're trying to do right now is get a grant. We're working with the Council of Governments to upgrade our water system and sewer system.
Q: So do you have any grants coming in?
A: We just got approved for a (State Energy Conservation Office) grant to upgrade our grinder pumps, our two wastewater substations and we go two blowers for our sewer plant. So that's a $23,000 grant we got there .
Q: When was the last time the water system was updated?
A: There has been none . These tanks were bought in 1982 or 1983. So that was the last update on the water system per se. We had a grant in 1999 for the sewer, but as far as the water - nothing's been done with it since 1983. So you can tell there were some things that should have been done that weren't done in the past. We can't add nobody on the water system. We can only stay with what we've got.
Q: So no new customers?
A:No new customers, right. And that's really a shame. That's something that should have been worked on years ago . There's some issues that we're working on now to try to solve the problems of why we didn't get grants over the last 20 years. Every two years they would come up. That's what we've been wanting to know: Why?
Q: You've applied for a waiver with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. What is the waiver for?
A:We're out of compliance on two issues. One is we have to have a 20,000-gallon tank. Right now the well is running 24 hours a day in the summertime. It's over capacity. I filed with TCEQ to get an extension until we work on our next grant to get a $250,000 grant. The reason I filed the waiver was to not be fined now because we can't do it. We don't have the money to do it ... until we apply for a grant to cover those issues.
Q: When do you think you apply for that?
A:For the water and sewer grant it'll probably be in August. And that's through the Council of Governments.
Mayor Koch is running in a contested race for mayor against Joel Hunt of La Ward.