City and County Settle 20-Year-Long Dispute

by Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

PECOS - Big differences and concerns over the water and sewer rates put a county and city at odds. Pecos and Reeves County have been battling for 20 years over the water cost, supply, and conservation for quite some time. Now, they've come to an agreement.

"Everything from conservation - is there enough water? To how the cost was being allocated on the billing of the water, and how the funds were being transferred to the general fund were being used," Pecos Mayor Richard Alligood, said.

The cost of living went up, Pecos added a new water field, and that drove up the price on water rates.

"It was a traumatic shock to the residents of Pecos when we had to raise the water rates in order to cover the debt service," Alligood said.

So they headed to Austin for mediation, hoping to avoid a courtroom battle. Their decision came down to re-working the city and county payments.

"Everybody was in agreement this needed to be resolved," Reeves County Judge, Sam Contreras said. "Going through the court system would be very costly to the taxpayers and I'm glad we came to a resolution on Friday."

The benefit is for Reeves County residents who have been paying a higher price. Now, they'll be eligible to pay the same rates as people who live inside the city limits.

"I think this helps out the entire community by us doing it, otherwise, I think it hurts us economically if our rates are too high," Judge Contreras said. "It will help us bring other businesses here."

The Reeves County Detention Center is the largest employer of the area. They house almost 4,000 inmates, and use 20% of the area's water supply and part of the new agreement keeps their rate steady until 2016.

"They have long-term contracts with the Bureau of Prisons and have to set their pricing for that period of time," Mayor Alligood said.

"From my perspective, we need to help out the city and in turn, it helps us all with economic development and residents if we try to keep the rates low," Judge Contreras said.

Rates will stay the same during the next year, but in 2011 they may change depending on whether the city and county grow. The results of the mediation will be presented to the city council and commissioners court in the next week.