The Lake Breeze Ski Lodge’s main dining room was crowded from wall to wall with hundreds of Lake McQueeney residents on Saturday, however, they weren’t there to enjoy the water.
Instead, they were in attendance of the annual Friends of Lake McQueeney meeting searching for answers of what is to come with the future of Lake McQueeney Dam and the repairs of both the Lake Dunlap and Lake Wood dams nearly four weeks after Dunlap’s spill gate failed.
“It’s the worst phone call you can ever get,” State Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin) said to the property owners on Saturday. “Kevin Patteson (GBRA General Manager/CEO) called me early that morning, May 14, telling me that the gate broke. What do we do now?”
Following the failed spill gate at Dunlap, both Kuempel and State Sen. Donna Campbell tried to secure funds during the legislative session, but were unsuccessful due to time, Kuempel said.
“May 14 just two weeks before the end session the budget is pretty much written,” he said. “We can’t get the money appropriated that quick to come pay for this and that’s just two of the six. I literally was on my knees in the Senate begging and that didn’t work.”
While the search for funding continues, together Kuempel and Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher are looking into the possibility of setting up a public improvement district, which could help fund the dams while preserving them.
“We need to start talking about creating those districts, public improvement districts that can help do this,” he said. “We need to start the conversation on how we create a public improvement district, which is a taxing district, and how that is created through an election. Through that, we can secure a loan in the next five months that initiates a 30-year loan, create a district that pays debt service on that loan.”
However, special taxing districts can be challenging, Kutscher said.
While only people within the district can vote, there is a statute that “allows people that are outside that district that can be negatively affected by the creation of the taxing of that district to voice opposition too,” he said.
“If the district isn’t created to a conservative level, it could potentially increase taxes on the other side to cover the future loss,” Kutscher said. “If it’s too bold and trying to take too much money and it raises taxes on other parts of the county, you’re going to have a lot of upset people that are going to come crush your district.”
Residents in other parts of the county such as Schertz and Cibolo are not going to want to fund something like this, he said.
“When you look at trying to get support outside of these river properties, it’s very difficult because it’s a private lake,” Kutscher said.
Additionally, there are plans to create a task force for all the dams in Guadalupe County, Kutscher said.
“What we have planned to do is start a committee and task force that includes the county, one member of each lake association, Senator Donna Campbell’s office, State Rep. Kuempel’s office and possibly someone from Gonzales, but we’ll see how that goes.”
The task force requires regularly scheduled meetings and a website to communicate to the public, Kutscher said.