Marble Falls, Burnet, Kingsland, Llano, Spicewood, Horseshoe Bay, and ALL of the Highland Lakes
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The new Granite Shoals water tower is just one of several public works projects being completed using a $7 million bond obtained in 2021. A raw water intake project was tabled by the City Council after members were told they might have been misled about its necessity to improve the city’s water quality. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
The Granite Shoals City Council put a raw water intake project on hold after members learned they might have been misled about its necessity by former City Manager Jeff Looney.
The council unanimously decided to table the project during its Jan. 24 regular meeting and will divert funding for it to improving water lines and installing fire hydrants on the city’s east side.
The city draws its water from Lake LBJ. Looney, who was fired in June, proposed replacing the current intake and moving it farther out into the lake because of concerns about poor water quality and the threat of dropping lake levels. Those fears are unfounded, Interim City Manager Peggy Smith told the council, adding that she did not know why Looney wanted to replace the intake.
“I’d really like for you to consider that we put this project on hold and look at using that portion of that money to do a line extension down Hill Way Drive to Valley View Lane,” Smith said.
The money to replace the raw water intake would come from a $7 million bond that the city obtained in 2021 to upgrade the city’s water supply. The city spent $29,600 on engineering proposals for a new intake, but Looney was fired before the project could move forward.
Two designs were proposed by Hayter Engineering’s Mike Tibbets, who is a longtime friend of Looney’s, Tibbets confirmed to DailyTrib.com. Both designs were met with skepticism by the council and Smith after Looney was terminated.
“The council and Mrs. Smith are doing what they think is best,” Tibbets told DailyTrib.com. “I’m just following their lead.”
The current raw water intake is approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and its depth of 9 feet below the lake’s surface guarantees it will not be affected by lake levels dropping unless the Colorado River ceases to flow and Lake Buchanan goes dry. Lake LBJ is a run-of-river lake and not a reservoir, so its level remains fairly stable.
“The raw water intake project was sold to the council as ‘this needed to be done to increase water quality,’” Smith said. “There were some falsehoods in that.”
Several councilors spoke on the matter, including Phil Ort and Ron Munos, who were in agreement that water lines and fire hydrants on the east side were a better use of the city’s money.
Counselor Samantha Ortis asked Smith why the council hadn’t been informed of these falsehoods earlier.
“We were not allowed to question Mr. Looney’s direction with this,” Smith responded.
Prior to being interim city manager, Smith served as assistant city manager to Looney.