Though he knows things haven’t been run optimally, the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority’s CEO said he is totally against a group of people suing the river authority and its officers telling them what to do and how.
GBRA General Manager/CEO Kevin Patteson took the witness stand Tuesday during a hearing for a temporary injunction to get the authority to stop selling water at below market rates, cancel plans to build an office facility in New Braunfels, give no more money to nonprofit organizations and more.
At one point during questioning by the plaintiffs’ attorney Doug Sutter, Patteson lashed out.
“We don’t believe it’s your right to come into our business and tell us how to operate,” Patteson said.
He and other GBRA personnel support the mission of a nonprofit organization the authority created. The injunction Sutter’s clients seek, would stop GBRA from supporting the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust or any other nonprofit organizations.
“We support the mission of the Trust, but what your (temporary restraining order) says is we cannot spend any money on (nonprofit organizations),” he said. “I get that you want the money spent on the gates, but I do not believe (that’s your right to tell us that).”
The hearing came after Sutter filed a request for the injunction last week and Steve Ables, Presiding Judge of the Sixth Administrative Judicial Region, granted the request for a temporary order until a hearing could be held to determine if the judge would sign a temporary injunction.
Sutter said he filed the request on behalf of his clients Jimmy and Cheryl Williams et al who are suing Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, its officers and directors. He did so in hopes of convincing GBRA to use its own money to repair or replace aging dams in its Guadalupe River Valley lakes system.
Two of the six dams in the system already have had spill gate failures leading to drainage of both Lake Wood in 2016 and Lake Dunlap earlier this year. Patteson has said GBRA doesn’t have the funds for the costly replacement of the spill gates and some concerned citizens have begun processes to tax themselves to raise the money.
Others, like Sutter’s clients, want the authority to pay for repairs/replacement and maintenance of the dams.
GBRA has grossly mismanaged its funds and has a legal responsibility to replace the dam gates, Sutter said during an opening statement Tuesday.
“Their defense is ‘We don’t have the money,’” Sutter said. “Our position is they do have the money.”
The authority would have more money if it didn’t fund nonprofits like the Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust, the San Antonio Bay Foundation, the Gorge Preservation Society and the Guadalupe River Foundation, he said. He hoped to show during the hearing that GBRA has done much to shirk its duties, which all has led the river authority’s infrastructure deteriorate to the point that leadership says the dams are dangerous.
The temporary order Ables approved last week already is “hamstringing” GBRA, said Lamont Jefferson, attorney for the defendants in the case. He asked that Ables dissolve the order.
GBRA doesn’t have the funds to replace or repair the dam spill gates, Jefferson said. Sutter wants to force the river authority to fix the dams but that would be detrimental to GBRA’s entire business, not just the hydro-electric arm of the business operated at the dams.
“These hydro lakes ... they’re old, they’re ancient, they’re failing,” Jefferson said. “They’re losing money every year. They are 4% of GBRA’s operating budget.
“To replace the dams, what the plaintiffs want done is to cannibalize the rest of GBRA’s business to support the plaintiffs.”
Sutter called several witnesses for the hearing including a former GBRA executive, two current GBRA board members, and Patteson. The CEO testified that the river authority has been in talks with a contractor hired to build a new GBRA facility in New Braunfels, which would mean more money spent, but not on the dams.
The recent negotiations have been more about putting off plans for that construction which the contractor agreed to for at least the next six months, Patteson said.
Despite Sutter’s assertions to the contrary and a list of multiple photos showing the dams in disrepair, GBRA has made efforts to keep all of the dams — each reaching upwards of 90 years in age — in operational condition, the CEO said.
“There’s been a number of maintenance activities on the dams,” he said.
Testimony ended about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday but the hearing had not ended. Ables ordered the parties to return to the courtroom the following day to complete the proceedings.