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Heber district board told more water hookups needed

September 28, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

HEBER — If only half the proposed developments mentioned by George Aguilar come to fruition, the town is going to need more than 131 water hookups.

Aguilar, told the Heber Public Utilities District Board of Directors here during Thursday's meeting that he has had discussions with developers who want to build power plants, gas stations, "big box" stores, houses and industrial parks in Heber.

Aguilar is the district's general manager.

To provide water to the future Heberites, the town is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build a multi-million dollar water treatment plant. However, utility district Manuel Castaneda told the board that after meeting with USDA reps last week it looks like the plant won't be operational until May or June 2002.

Castaneda said the USDA won't allocate the $2.5 million pledged for the project until budget meetings in October

It will take a month to process the grant, leaving Heber without the grant money until November, and no future hookups until the summer of 2002 at the earliest, he said.

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"That's not much," said Director Margarito "Tito" Huerta of the 131 new hookups for which the district has capacity.

Board President Diahna Garcia-Ruiz asked if the new homes planned for the west side of Dogwood Road were among the 131 planned hookups.

Aguilar said they weren't. He said those homes might not even be built unless a new developer comes in and takes over the project.

Aguilar said 131 hookups is not as restrictive as it appears.

"Obviously we couldn't accommodate a bottling center here but a big box store wouldn't need more than one or two," he said.

The general consensus of the board and Aguilar is the town will just have to plan its growth conservatively until the new water plant comes online.

In other business during Thursday's meeting, Aguilar updated the board on talks with Seattle-based R.W. Beck.

Beck, which has made a New River deal with the city of Calexico, is shopping their services in Heber as well.

According to Aguilar, Beck could attempt to secure $25 million in "humanitarian funding" for Heber.

Beck is a corporation of environmental engineers and public relations people who look for "alternative funding" to finance public utility projects.

"Looking for alternative funding" usually consists of lobbying corporations for tax-deductible donations and pocketing a percentage of the donations for the lobbying efforts, according to Beck's business model.

If Heber and Beck end up working together, Aguilar said the money could be used to build a new community center or multipurpose gymnasium.

He also has told Beck reps about his plans to make canals running through Heber into "linear parks."

Aguilar said the reps were receptive to the plan, as were Imperial Irrigation District officials.

By the end of the year or early next year, Heber could be the site of a linear park pilot program.

Aguilar wants to see landscaping and little piers or handholds for those who fish the canals.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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