Court date set for
By Velda Hunter
Published April 11, 2004
ANGLETON — The city of Angleton
wants to go to court.
But the company that used to run its wastewater treatment plant
and street maintenance doesn’t want to see that happen.
A judge will have the final say when the two make a court
appearance May 10 to see whether the dispute will go into
litigation or arbitration. That’s after a failed mediation
The city says USFilter, now called Veolia Water, breached its
contract by not hiring enough employees to run the plants and
maintain streets, by not submitting annual capital project
reports and improperly charging expenses to the maintenance and
USFilter denies those allegations, saying the decision to end
the contract was driven by city politics not its performance.
The company wants to go through arbitration to settle disputes,
given that’s the process outlined in the contract.
“We just feel like this situation is extremely unfortunate,”
said Christie Kaluza, a USFilter spokeswoman. “We feel we have
maintained a stellar record in Angleton.”
Angleton City Attorney Keith Vaughn disagrees.
Vaughn said the contract was terminated for lack of performance.
The city wants USFilter to pay about $1 million for street
maintenance, drainage and mowing services he said the company
“We think we should be in court instead of arbitration,”
Vaughn said. “When the people on the jury see what they’ve
done to us, they will come back with a favorable response for
Affidavits filed at the Brazoria County Courthouse by USFilter
state the company’s project manager told an employee to tell
others to “take anything belonging to the city” when the
city announced it was taking over the plant Jan. 5.
Employees took city property, including a mower and welding
machine, according to one affidavit. However, the manager told
an employee to tell others to return the property after learning
the city didn’t plan to take over that day, court records
Some items are still missing.
Kaluza called the claims made in the affidavits “completely
false.” When the city terminated the contract and took over
operations, Kaluza said city officials locked the doors, taking
possession of $50,000 worth of USFilter equipment, including
But a relationship gone sour hasn’t slowed workers from
getting the job done, despite a brewing legal battle.
The city has been in charge of the plant and street maintenance
since January when council members terminated the USFilter
contract. The takeover brought few challenges, said David King,
assistant public works director.
“It was just a matter of doubling the workforce, but it was a
smooth transition,” King said. “We’ve gotten back up to
what they had.” USFilter had 16 workers, and most of the
city’s employees are former USFilter employees. More training
wasn’t necessary, he said.
City Administrator Michael Stoldt said operations since have
been going well. But to say the city has received no complaints
wouldn’t be true, he said.
“You’re always going to get some complaints from the
community,” said Robert Heinemeyer, public works director.
The complaints are typical of most cities — sewer back-up
during heavy rainfalls. But overall, the community seems to be
happy with the service, Heinemeyer said.
However, the city was fined $5,250 by the state last week after
levels of ammonia, nitrogen, zinc and suspended solids exceeded
what is allowed at the wastewater treatment plant in March 2003
and May 2003. The violations occurred while the plant was run by
Both the city and USFilter said the violations had been
corrected. Kaluza said the violations occurred during an
“We got fined for just the ammonia level, which was high due
to the construction that was going on,” Kaluza said. “We
immediately called the state on both accounts and corrected the
issue. … The plant had 99 percent compliance in 2003.”
Severn Trent, the city’s contractor specializing in water and
wastewater services, visits the site, monitors operations and
helps correct problems, said Angleton Mayor Matt Sebesta. The
company stepped in during the transition and helped correct an
ammonia problem the plant had for a few years, he said.
Since the takeover, there have been some operational changes,
such as aeration adjustments to keep bugs alive in the system,
given the treatment process is biological, said Olga Flores, an
“We’re working to do the best we possibly can,” Flores
Copyright © 2004 The Facts