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City Manager lays out next steps in process to build Desalination Plant

Council members are expected to finalize the land acquisition for the Desalination Plant location in November.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The update was made during Tuesday's city council meeting, but it's a topic that continues to cause friction among council members.

The council is moving forward on coming up with a plan for an alternative water source for the City of Corpus Christi.

City Manager Peter Zanoni said there will be a series of three virtual town hall meetings. Those will take place September 21, 23, and 24 and will offer a chance for the public to hear the plan.

Zanoni said the meetings will help provide another layer of community engagement, but the number of meetings is something that drew criticism from council member Paulette Guajardo who is running for the mayor's seat in November.

"I've got a real issue with three days to inform the public of the biggest most expensive decision we are going to make, three days. We've got five districts, but we are only going to give three days back to back to come and learn for a 3-5 minute video," said Paulette Guajardo.

Guajardo also questioned if the meetings would be translated to Spanish. Zanoni said they would be. He further explained that anyone would be able to attend each of the three meetings, not just citizens in specific individual districts.

Guajardo expressed there should be at least five meetings.

"My suggestion would be, we do one for each district," said Guajardo.

Mayor Joe McComb reacted to Guajardo's statement, "why don't we do nine?"

"All districts can attend all three meetings," said McComb.

"So when we do budget meetings, no one is saying cut it back to three, we do five. Why do you think that is," asked Guajardo.

"Because we do budgets every year, and this project has been going for five years," said McComb.

You might recall, last month council voted in favor of pursuing an $11.4 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board that will go towards the plan to build the desal plant.

RELATED: McComb: Passage for first loan for Desal Plant will result in 'no increase' to your water bill

The financial agreement is one of two parts of an expected total $222 million loan.

Guajardo was one of three council members who voted against the item.

Meanwhile, current county commissioner Carolyn Vaughn who is also running for the mayor's seat, spoke to reporters outside of City Hall about the desal project vote. She said council shouldn't have started the process to get the plant before holding a public meeting.

"They gave the public again no chance to comment, and they started the process of spending $222 million of your money without holding a public meeting," said Vaughn.

Vaughn said she sent a letter to the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to hold a public meeting.

Vaughn continued to voice her stance against the construction of a desal plant by adding, "the Harte Research Institute of Texas A&M University who studied the desal sites pose serious questions and concerns about the desal plant including killing sea life."

Council members are expected to finalize the land acquisition for the desal plant location in November.

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