A group of Lake McQueeney property owners is banding together and taking action against the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority after they’ve spent the last two months searching for answers in hopes of keeping their dam from failing like Lake Dunlap’s.
The property owners recently issued a notice for a class action suit against GBRA through Kelly, Sutter and Kendrick, P.C. Attorneys at Law depicting their concerns as well as demands against GBRA.
“The GBRA has already deeply involved itself in the taking of the property owners’ real properties and exposing the public to the loss of life and limb,” J. Douglas Sutter wrote in the notice. “It is far too late for GBRA to avoid its exposures to liabilities for such wrong-doings by attempting to dump on the property owners the assets it knowingly and intentionally allowed to deteriorate to the point of ‘imminent’ failures.”
For more than a year now, there have been plans to expand GBRA’s offices to New Braunfels by purchasing property in the neighboring city for more than $1 million and drawing up plans to build a new office for more than $6 million.
The Lake McQueeney property owners are now demanding GBRA “cease and terminate all plans” for the new offices and use all the funds from the project for repairs on all six dams.
Sutter writes that the organization also “immediately assume (probably for the first time) its chartered responsibilities and obligations” to repair and replace the dam levees.
Through the suit, the owners are demanding that GBRA conduct all the recommended changes made by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. Since 1994, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission has had authority over GBRA because of previous issues with management allowing them to make recommendations about the organization’s doings or dissolving it entirely if needed, Sutter wrote.
A 2018 report conducted by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission said there has not been a “comprehensive asset management process to ensure timely repair and replacement of (the levees);” the 15 spills gates that broke in 2016 have not been repaired; all gates maintained by GBRA lack maintenance and there is not a formal system that identifies priorities, budgeting or long-term infrastructure needs.
“Dozens of GBRA’s needs have been looming for years which recently resulted in the Authority’s new leadership having to ‘scramble’ to address problems that have been ‘imminent’ and known to GBRA for years,” Sutter wrote.
Sutter added that the report also addressed how the tax and property values on the lakefront properties are affected; there is a failure to manage relationships with non-profit organizations and failure in communication with property owners on the Guadalupe River.
GBRA responded to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission in regards to the report on May 8, 2018, in a two-page response, Sutter said.
“GBRA’s response was half-hearted and conclusory in nature, generally stating that ‘All of GBRA’s operations were developed in response to population growth and the demand for utilities’ without any explanations as to how it will respond to the damning (excuse the pun) findings made by the Sunset Advisory Commission,” Sutter wrote.
In the notice letter, property owners also are asking GBRA to produce several documents including financial statements from 2010 to present; expenditures made between 2010 and now; documents from the purchase of the New Braunfels property; construction documents; documents and plans for the restoration of all six dams on the Guadalupe River; and reports on the conditions of the six levees from 1993 to now.
Several property owners met with GBRA on June 8 at the Friends of Lake McQueeney annual meeting where GBRA Deputy General Manager Jonathan Stinson told them a failure at the Lake McQueeney Dam is “imminent.”
Since GBRA purchased the dams in 1963 “at the end of their useful lives” for $4 million, Stinson told the property owners that the organization has made “substantial amounts of income” from hydroelectric power and the water rights. Therefore, a decision was made to only repair the dam gates on occasion and not maintain them, Sutter said.
“The intention actions on the part of GBRA since at least 1993 have resulted in a ‘taking’ of the property owners’ real properties,” Sutter stated. “GBRA has intentionally determined not to repair or maintain the infrastructure of all the levees situated along the Guadalupe River, instead, electing to continue to take actions only necessary to ensure the lucrative income that it makes from the sale of water, wastewater and other sources of income for other ‘public good’ and for itself and its directors.”
GBRA spokesperson Patty Gonzales said the organization has not received any documents in regards to a class action suit and had no comment.