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Legal funding should not be about politics

By BY TOM HALEPASKA
June 18, 2012 at 1:18 a.m.

Tom Halepaska

The recent City Council vote against funding for legal representation in a contested permit hearing for the proposed wastewater treatment plant before TCEQ seems to have more to do with political posturing than with common sense. The immediate prior vote that night was for continuing with the permit process and it passed successfully. That would seem to preclude the next vote which was to fund the defense of that permit.

The estimate for legal services, engineering testimony and fact finding to defend against the legal action by treatment plant opponents was an amount not to exceed $175,000. It may take less, but that is the estimated number that must be budgeted for the job.

Mayor Pro-tem David Hagan wants to cut this by more than half, ostensibly to save taxpayer money. The lofty goal of saving taxpayer money is something that all council members constantly strive to achieve with every tax dollar that is allocated. But if this project isn't properly funded, the public can expect one of two things to occur. Either the defense of the permit will fail because it wasn't given the funds to succeed, or they will get part way through the fight and have to return to Council for additional funding.

Do some council members wish to sabotage this project by denying the necessary legal funding to win the contested hearing? One newly-elected councilman is a member of this opposition group, yet he is allowed to vote against funding, unbelievable as that may seem. Should this project fail, they can always tell some of the people that they fought to keep expenses down while at the same time telling those against the wastewater treatment plant that they got it defeated on their behalf. This might be a good way to play politics and win votes, but it does not address the needs of the whole city. The need for that plant will continue to become more obvious in the coming months and years.

It is clear to everyone that the small group of individuals that is contesting the permit are the cause of this additional expense to all the citizens of Victoria. The vote is scheduled to come up again on June 19 and will likely continue to be addressed until it is solved. Tell your council person to quit playing politics and get the job done. Victoria needs this.

Tom Halepaska is the Victoria City Council representative for Super District 6. He can be contacted at 361-575-4715 or via email at thalepaska@victoriatx.org.

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