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Poor workmanship? Mayor says wetland piers ‘crooked’

November 20, 2018

SAN BENITO — For Mayor Ben Gomez, the $30,000 job observation deck built to draw eco-tourists to the city’s wetlands is “unacceptable.”

So yesterday, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa met with Donna-based Saenz Brothers Construction to request the contractor review the project site off Line 20 Road near Williams Road.

“ I anticipate corrective actions to be undertaken in the near future by the contractor once the areas of concern are addressed by the staff to the contractor,” De La Rosa stated yesterday.

After the meeting, the contractor did not respond to a message requesting comment on whether Gomez’s concerns would be addressed.

The project called for construction of a 13-foot by 13-foot observation deck and the renovation of two old wooden piers that run more than 200 feet along the wetland area.

Mayor’s concerns

Last month, Gomez told city officials the observation deck was “crooked.”

“ I see the pictures and this railing is all crooked — it’s warping,” Gomez said during an Oct. 16 meeting. “The floor is old wood that was already there.”

That’s when Bernard Rodriguez, the city’s planning director, told Gomez existing piers were used to build the observation deck.

Rodriguez said the piers were “structurally sound.”

But Gomez wanted the contractor to review the work.

“ To me, this is unacceptable because we want to bring eco-tourism,” Gomez told Rodriguez. “If we have something like this, this is not attracting people to come to our city.”

As a result of the city’s concerns, the Texas General Land Office has granted the city an extension to the year’s end to complete the project.

De La Rosa said he has presented the city’s concerns to the contractor.

“ The mayor says it’s looking awkward,” De La Rosa said. “We’re not looking at its integrity — we’re looking at aesthetics. Maybe it’s just appearance. We want to know why it’s looking awkward. Is it industry standards?”

Rodriguez said the contractor was reviewing the city’s concerns.

“ The contractor is looking at what the issues are and how they can address them,” Rodriguez said. “They’re going to assess it and respond accordingly.”

10-year project

The work on the observation deck marks the completion of the wetlands’ project first two phases aimed at drawing eco-tourists to the wetlands at the site of the city’s old sewer plant near the Arroyo Colorado.

For more than 10 years, the city has been working to turn 10 old sewer ponds there into a 40-acre wildlife sanctuary.

The project stems from the city’s response to warnings of a hefty state fine.

In 2005, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fined the city about $3 million for discharging inadequately treated sewer water into the Arroyo Colorado.

As part of an agreement, the state agreed to waive payment if the city launched a project to turn its old sewer ponds into wetlands.

The wetlands will help clean agricultural runoff discharged into the Arroyo Colorado, the General Land Office states on its website.

The project “will restore the remaining 10 ponds at the 165-acre water treatment property along the arroyo and utilize them to water and treat nearby agricultural runoff before entering the Arroyo Colorado,” the website states.

“ Evaporation and utilization by vegetation will reduce the amount of water impacting the seagrass ecosystem in Laguna Madre.”

fdelvalle@valleystar.com

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