McAllen mayoral candidate responds to attempts to nix Water District No. 3

McALLEN — Othal Brand Jr., who serves as general manager and board chairman of Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3, released a statement Tuesday morning calling Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa’s bill to nix the entity an “illegal power grab” that is “doomed to fail” for the fourth time.

“The first three times his legislation went down in flames. We are confident the same fate awaits this latest piece of thuggery,” Brand said in a news release Tuesday, referencing Hinojosa’s Senate Bill 2185.

The bill Hinojosa filed last week would give the city of McAllen the option to take control of the water district that supplies water to the city, which the city then sells to residents. The move once again pitted the legislator against Brand, who is once again running for McAllen mayor after a failed attempt in 2017.

Hinojosa announced his bill in a scathing news release that accused Brand of enriching himself by providing the district services through businesses Brand reportedly owned or operated.

“There is no greater waste of taxpayer money than the continuation of the Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3,” Hinojosa said in his news release last week. “Year after year the citizens of McAllen support an obsolete, burdensome, and unnecessary layer of government. The Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3 has outlived its purpose, lacks proper oversight, and is an unnecessary waste of taxpayer funds. It is time to dissolve it and transfer the operation to the City of McAllen.”

Brand fired off his own scathing rebuke Tuesday morning, accusing Hinojosa of grandstanding and filing unconstitutional bills.

“(We) know joke bills are filed, designed purely to allow a lawmaker to grandstand,” he said.

Brand also touted the district’s reliability and low pricing, indicating the city is the one who hikes water prices for its residents.

“HCWID No. 3 supplies water to the City of McAllen at 29-plus cents per 1,000 gallons of water. The City then sells that water to local residents at anywhere between $1.35 and $1.65 per thousand gallons,” he said. “As a result, McAllen PUB is the biggest money maker of any department in the city.”

He also prided himself in being able to provide water after two natural disasters: Hurricane Dolly and the recent February freeze, when thousands of families lost access to water.

“We were the only reliable water source, and the only water district with totally uninterrupted power, thanks to our backup generators. No other district had backup generators,” Brand said. “The City of McAllen was so confident of our supply during the freeze they sold water to four other entities that either did not have enough water or no water.”

And as far as the state audit that Hinojosa said pointed to mismanagement, that had more to do with policies and procedures, Brand claimed.

“They brought down six or eight people and spent six months investigating us. The only thing they could come up with was, quote, ‘weak management’ because the water district did not have a three-inch ream of policies and procedures for an office staff of two people,” he said. “No misappropriation, no money missing, no $2 million that the senator and others were telling the governor was missing. They made that up.”

Brand also warned about the possible ramifications S.B. 2185 would have if it passes the legislature this time around.

“This is a slippery slope for other water districts. They know they will be next on the chopping block if this bill becomes law,” he said.

Check for updates on this developing story.