Towering issue over Bartonville

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John D. Harden/DRC
In the distance, towering above the tree line, a water tower sits half completed in Bartonville. The town has been in legal battles with the Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation over the water tower's construction and according to a recent town survey, residents are unhappy with the town’s handling of the situation.
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Conflict over water tower in Bartonville could see resolution

BARTONVILLE — The addition of new council members and the recent resignation of the mayor may open the door for town officials to finally resolve a four-year battle with the Cross Timbers Water Supply Company over the construction of a new water tower.

Some of the newer council members said that they are anticipating moving forward with resolving the conflicts — perhaps through mediation — since the abrupt resignation of Mayor Rob Robertson and Mayor Pro Tem James Farrell late last year.

They say the dispute is coming at the expense of the taxpayers.

For now, however, construction at the site is idle, as is the town’s legal fight over construction of the project, interim Town Manager Stacy Almond said recently.

Conflicts began in 2011 when what was then the Bartonville Water Supply Corp. decided to construct the $1.2 million water tower.

The corporation started building the tower, but the town demanded construction stop, saying the corporation had failed to obtain the proper permits, according to court records.

The town later denied the corporation’s request for a construction permit because the site was not zoned for construction, and the corporation sued the town. That suit was dismissed, according to court records.

In 2012, the corporation requested a rehearing of the suit, and a judge ruled that the town’s zoning ordinance and building permit requirements did not apply to the water supply corporation.

The judge then ruled that a construction permit should be issued to the corporation for the water tower.

The town appealed that decision, and the appeals court overturned the lower court’s decision but left unanswered whether a permit for construction should be granted.

“They never answered the question [of] whether or not if the town has the authority to stop construction of the water tower,” said Pat McDonald, president of the Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp., which now oversees the project.

Subsequent mediation efforts fell apart this fall, with town officials pushing to tear down the half-completed tower and corporation officials wanting to complete the project.

The former mayor led the charge to defend the town against any litigation filed against it.

However, several residents polled by the city in partnership with the University of Texas at Arlington stated that they were not happy with the town’s handling of the legal battles.

City officials said that it’s no coincidence that there have been changes on the town council recently.

Farrell’s position was filled by the appointment of new council member Norma Harrington, but Robertson’s seat will remain vacant until the May elections.

Neither Robertson nor Farrell have responded to requests from the Denton Record-Chronicle seeking comment.

Local officials say the water supply corporation is pushing to get a council that shares their views.

Water supply corporation officials alleged that political forces in Bartonville were holding families and businesses “hostage” by denying the construction of the water tower.

As a result, the corporation made a push to ask residents to vote for change in November 2013.

And on the day the new council members were sworn in, the mayor and mayor pro tem stepped down from their posts.

“I really don’t want to be part of this. I don’t see myself working with you guys. I really don’t. I think you’re heading down the wrong direction,” Robertson said, according to an official recording obtained by the Denton Record-Chronicle.

McDonald said the water tower is needed to ease the threat of running out of water, which would threaten about 2,170 families and businesses.

“We’re hoping to get this resolved as soon as possible,” he said.

The Town Council is scheduled to start its Tuesday meeting with an executive session to discuss the issue, and officials may consider taking action in open session. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden

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