Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - August 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Houston County Courier - August 2008
By Sharron Randall
Approximately 130 citizens attended the second town hall meeting on groundwater issues in Houston County Monday, Aug. 25 at Crockett Civic Center. The meeting began at 6 p.m. and after a vote for or against a Groundwater Conservation District, the meeting was adjourned at 8:01 p.m.
With an opening by Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt who said, "I have no dog in this hunt," he introduced Hunter Burkhalter, an attorney who has represented several GCDs west of I-35.
Judge Hunt presented arguments for and against a Groundwater Conservation District in Houston County, plus he listed five options: Do nothing; create a single county GCD just for Houston County; combine with Trinity County; join one of the bordering GCDs; add groundwater to Houston County Water Control and Improvement District.
The five options were brought up during the first town hall meeting on Aug. 4 in the community room at First Community Bank.
When Judge Hunt was asked why he had not read the handout prepared by Dr. John McCall, Sr. and published as an ad in the newspapers, he replied that he had worked a good long time on condensing information from the previous meeting to fit on one page. He said that he believed it to be impartial, fair and balanced, and neutral and it would help him "facilitate this discussion".
Judge Hunt also said that the other page was "obviously" against a Groundwater Conservation District, and represented only one side of the argument.
Questions About Groundwater Conservation Districts is "a very informative book" said Judge Hunt. It is available on the Internet for those citizens who have computers, but he said he would contact the extension service to get another supply of hard copies.
Burkhalter said that he was "impressed" at the level of effort to involve the community in the debate and would try to answer any questions, then Judge Hunt set the ground rules: limit opinions and questions to 3-5 minutes in order to give everyone an opportunity to speak.
There then followed a series of questions, answers, comments and opinions, some going over the designated time limit. Several citizens opposed to any type of government control or creating another layer of government asked, "Who's beating the drum, who's pushing this thing?"
Those in favor of some sort of local groundwater control voiced their concerns. One citizen said, "We are sitting ducks," and when another citizen suggested that it would be better to form a water district rather than let some big corporation or urban area come in and take water out of the county, those comments were met with "Boo! Boo!"
Judge Hunt responded that everyone had the opportunity to make a comment or suggestion, or ask a question. He encouraged continued courteous and respectful behavior.
Arguments for a GCD included its power to formulate rules and regulations in protecting water rights, giving local control over groundwater issues, and giving Houston County a seat at the table for regional water planning.
The main arguments against a GCD seemed to be "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," too many unanswered questions from the state, and just another way for the government to interfere with individual rights.
When people began leaving before the meeting was adjourned, Judge Hunt asked that people stand if they were in favor of "doing something" about groundwater conservation in Houston County. Thirty-seven stood.
Seventy-nine citizens stood up to "do nothing" and about a half dozen indicated they hadn't made up their minds but were in the middle.
In conclusion, Judge Hunt said that two public meetings had been held, and it seemed at this time that the majority of Houston County citizens were in favor of doing nothing at this time,
However, he did say that if 50 landowners were interested in pursuing the creation of a groundwater conservation district, they could plan the organization, submit it to the state, but that it would still be up to the voters in the county. He added, "The odds are remote that they would do this."
The meeting was adjourned.
On Tuesday, Aug. 26 Judge Hunt mentioned the groundwater meeting held the previous night and said it seemed that a substantial amount of people opposed the creation of a GCD.
County Commissioner Willie Kitchen reported that he had received two phone calls and one personal visit from citizens who had attended the meeting at the civic center and were dissatisfied with the results.
Kitchen said he believed the people of Houston County needed more information and Judge Hunt agreed that the issue wasn't going away, and repeated that there was still the option that 50 landowners could continue the debate.
As before, Hunt reiterated, "Ultimately, the voters will decide."