Letter from Mayor Lofton
We have endured and survived yet another crisis together. We have proven that we are stronger when we stand together for the good of our community and the world was able to see what we already know. We have turned the corner on the negative aura that was previously associated with Marlin and we are now viewed around the world as a rural community that cares about and supports each other.
In times of crisis, we come together to support, empower, and encourage one another. I want to personally thank our city water personnel, city employees, community partners, those who volunteered selflessly to assist others during Winter Storm Uri and all of you. Your bravery, selfless acts of courage, and tenacity displayed is highly appreciated and recognized. I will not name names because I do not want to miss or offend anyone. We are aware of all efforts put forth and we appreciate you all.
This event marks the third time we have suffered issues with water outages in our community.
Our plant was first approved for water distribution in 2009 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Following issues that have equated to operator error, we endured water outages in 2012 and 2015.
In our Aug. 11, 2020, meeting, council was informed that one of our water plants’ filters had failed (Skid 100). We learned from our Koch supplier that those filters were becoming obsolete. We began the process of looking to upgrade our filters. We met with a representative from Nanostone Water Filtration to begin exploring the option of transferring to a more modern technology that would provide 20 years of service instead of the five we have been getting with the Koch filters. They are comparable in price to the Koch filters.
The City Council voted to explore the change to Nanostone Water in a 5-0 vote on Sept. 8, 2020, with two council members absent. MRB Gray engineers submitted the documentation to TCEQ but failed to indicate that it would be a pilot program initially. We met via Zoom on Oct. 14, 2020, with employees from the Water Supply Division of TCEQ including their Deputy Director, Cari LaCaille, to discuss continued issues with our Water Plant following their annual audit and the failed skid. During this call, we were faced with the possibility that the entire plant could be shut down following violations that were left unresolved since 2013.
Mrs. LaCaille pledged the support of TCEQ, and their representatives worked closely with our plant operators to get our plant in compliance. On Dec. 11, 2020, I received a personal call from Mrs. LaCaille. Our City Manager, Public Works Director, and Water Plant Supervisor were present for the call. She informed me that our operators had cleared all violations at the plant and that the only remaining issue would be to send a notice of violation that occurred in July 2020 to the Marlin citizens. This would be done after they completed their process and forwarded the information to us for dissemination. We received this notice in late December 2020 and letters were sent out to Marlin citizens in early January 2021.
MRB Gray has engaged the services of an engineer to complete the Nanostone Water pilot project but this cannot begin until we receive authorization from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). Once approved, the pilot project will begin. If this pilot is successful, then both filters will be replaced, and Marlin will have a filtering system that is guaranteed for 20 years instead of five. If we wanted to replace the existing filter, it could take months to receive the filter due to them becoming obsolete and other existing plants, that use the same filter, are purchasing them as well. Koch has also stated that to upgrade our plant, it would cost $1 million to accommodate a new series of filters.
Since now we have had 3 outages at our plant, our goal is to make upgrades, per TCEQ approval, that will be longstanding and not temporary. A temporary fix at this point could result in future outages that we simply do not need or want and would be a waste of money. Any changes to our water plant must be reviewed and approved by TCEQ. During the meeting with Mrs. Lacaille, she offered to send personnel from TCEQ to work with any new water operators to ensure that they are trained according to TCEQ standards and to also assist with the Nanostone Water pilot project.
Below is the email response I sent to her on Oct. 14 following our Zoom meeting:
Thank you all for the opportunity to engage to discuss issues with Marlin’s water plant. We are committed to correcting past wrongs so that Marlin is able to move forward in a positive way. We want to create a plant that produces quality water for many, many years into the future without fear of failures like we have faced in the past. Today’s meeting was a key step in the direction that Marlin needs to go to ensure that our goal is achieved. We thank you for your knowledge, guidance, and input and we look forward to working with each of you in the future to achieve the goal of quality water that is so vital to all of us. We greatly appreciate each of you for taking the time to talk with us today. Have a great rest of your day and week and God bless you all.”
Mrs. LaCaille’s response to me:
“Thank you Mayor Lofton. We all want the same thing. Sometimes the tough things need to be said but we really are here to help! I will commit the full resources of the agency to help the City in any way we can. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions or need to request assistance. My cell number is ###-###-####. Again, thank you for joining the conversation today.”
During our recent water outage, the cause was created by Oncor and subfreezing temperatures that affected our entire state. Our water operators were complimented by TCEQ for being one of a very few communities that updated them routinely regarding our outage and ongoing operations at our plant to correct the outage. These operators received high praise for their diligence and keeping TCEQ informed.
Of the $10.8 million granted in 2019 from TWDB, approximately $6 million will be used to make upgrades at our water plant. Because this money was requested for specific purposes, it will be used for those purposes. This money was not given to the city in a lump sum. Our contractors, MRB Gray, must submit an invoice to TWDB. Once approved, the money is transferred to an escrow account and a check is written by the city to pay MRB Gray. The city never receives the money. One of the delays in the projects progressing at this point, is waiting for TWDB to approve each phase of the project. The City Council was provided with a timeline for this project that has seen the dates change routinely because of a lack of response from TWDB to approve the next phase.
We have voiced our frustration over this fact many times to TWDB and the contractors to no avail. Until TWDB approves what has been done and submitted, and grants approval for the next phase, we are all in wait mode. But please rest assured, there has been no money given to the City of Marlin for this project. All invoices have been billed by MRB Gray for their work and their invoices have been paid once the money is released for that purpose.
All the above information has been discussed during council meetings and is available for your review anytime on our city Facebook page.
Our goal as a city governing body is to put systems in place that will upgrade and improve our community for years to come. In the past, our City leadership has been initiating short-term fixes that has not served us well. It is time to put in long term, sustainable goals for this community so that real work can begin to uplift and improve it. That has been our goal since day one. We are bringing in new talent to revitalize our city for future Marlinites and while results may not be immediate in the eyes of some, the lasting effects will be felt for decades to come.
God bless and take care.
Honorable Mayor Carolyn Lofton
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