By Geena Martinez
FORT STOCKTON - The City of Fort Stockton will have to pay $1,000 after they were caught selling and exporting water without the proper permits. The Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District voted on the fine at their regular meeting on Tuesday.
City officials said it was an honest mistake but some board members still aren't happy with the outcome.
Heated debate filled the MPGCD meeting while the discussions focused on the City of Fort Stockton and their violation of groundwater district rules.
Back in April, groundwater district employees stumbled across some wells and water lines that didn't have the proper production permits. Those wells were on land owned by the city.
According to the district's investigation, City Manager Raul Rodriguez signed off on a contract to export water out into Reeves County and sell it to an oil company.
Rodriguez said at the time, he believed the land already had the proper permits.
"We purchased that property maybe 15-20 years ago," Rodriguez said.
In about four months, the city sold more than 541,000 barrels of water without permits to do so.
"As soon as we learned of that, we raised our hand and took ownership of it," Councilman-At-Large, Billy Jackson, said. "We immediately stopped pumping those wells."
Officials said it was an honest mistake.
"This new council come aboard and we had a lot of transitions, new city manager, things of that nature and it was an oversight," Jackson said.
Whether it was a mistake or not, a few board members of the district feel the city needs to be held accountable.
"At some point, we have got to draw the line in the sand," MPGCD Board Member, Janet Groth, said.
"I don't think $1,000 is enough. I think we ought to fine $10,000," one board member said.
However, others felt the city's past compliance didn't warrant such a harsh penalty.
'"I think everybody makes mistakes and really I don't wanna penalize the city," another board member said.
In the end, they voted on a fine of $1,000.
"The district was fair," Rodriguez said. "It was apparent they treated us the same as any other landowner with wells so we were very pleased."
"We're very transparent. We own our mistakes and I wanna move forward," Jackson said.