Plainview Estates to Finally Get Water

County signs off on connecting the 40 homes in low-income subdivision to water service

Travis County commissioners had no problem signing off on $115,000 this week to connect the 40 homes in the low-income Plainview Estates subdivision to water service.

Plainview Estates came to Travis County loaded for bear – with a minister from Austin Interfaith in tow – to plead the case for the water service. Many of the homes, on large-acre lots subdivided just more than 40 years ago, have faced limited well water for months. One well in the subdivision dried up more than six years ago. A number of residents commute into the city weekly to haul water back to their homes, just to be able to flush their toilets.

But even before residents got up on Tuesday to outline their case, County Judge Sam Biscoe noted the court's inclination to fund the water project. As Alfred Krebs, pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, pointed out, the county is getting a good deal. The Hornsby Bend Utility Company is willing to pick up most of the $476,000 tab on the water-line extensions down Plainview and Clearview drives. All the county is expected to put up is $115,000, only a quarter of the full cost of the project.

"To be honest, compared to the other water projects we've had, this is a small amount of money," Biscoe said. "At the same time, though, we've done enough of them to know that there are typically other issues that surface before the project is done, and there is no reason to think we won't encounter some of those issues here."

Read that to mean that water service may have to be followed by sewer service out to the small subdivision. Travis County, which has faced such "urban colonia" issues in the past, is used to such problems. Forty years ago, the county had practically no standards for getting subdivision plats approved. That's why people moved out to the country. No taxes and no regulations then, however, equals headaches like Plainview Estates now.

The county has successfully brought water service out to a number of similar subdivisions. In some cases, such as Kennedy Ridge, the path to water and sewer service was somewhat bumpy but worked out once state-grant funding was secured. In others, such as Northridge Acres, it took years to get the neighborhood to offer up the cooperation and sweat equity necessary to complete the rather extensive water and sewer project.

Commissioners approved the initial funding for Plainview Estates unanimously. The only real discussion in the case was which fund the county would use to pay for the project and any eventual septic-line projects that may follow. Community development block grant funds can't be doled out in advance and would not be available until year's end. County health corporation dollars or unallocated funds could fill the gap.

Biscoe said the details of the expenditure – and where future money would come from to deal with any future challenges in Plainview Estates – will be worked out at a future court meeting. Details of the project are likely to come back to court when the county signs a contract with the utility provider.

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