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HAVANA — Over the past 75 years Havana, a small town outside of La Joya, has enjoyed a steady and consistent growth. It’s gone from a community with only four dwellings, two schools and a church to a town of 125 homes with an estimated population of 500 residents. Havana’s continued growth and prosperity, however, could be hindered without a sewage system.

“Businesses such as Walmart and H-E-B will not want to open locations in any town that does not have a sewage system,” said La Joya City Manager Mike Alaniz.

On Wednesday, the City of La Joya held its second public hearing where Havana residents were given an opportunity to learn more about La Joya’s proposed plans to bring a sewage system to the community. It was also an opportunity for the residents to ask questions they may have over the proposed improvements to their community’s infrastructure.

“This is something which is inevitable,” Alaniz said to the nearly 20 Havana residents at the hearing. “It is something which we need to do not only for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren.”

Anticipating what would be their biggest concern, engineer Alfredo Constante explained that they would not have to incur any out-of-pocket expense for the installation of the sewage system.

“The City of La Joya is going to be expanding and modernizing its sewage plant and will be able to accommodate the needs of the community of Havana,” Constante said. “The North American Development Bank (NADB) will be making a grant available for this purpose and will offer the City of La Joya a loan to help fund any balance the grant does not cover. We are hoping for a $2 million grant, but we still have some documents to submit before we know the exact amount.”

The NADB was created in 1993, along with the BECC (Border Environment Cooperation Commission), under a side agreement of NAFTA for the purpose of enhancing the environmental conditions of the U.S.-Mexico border region and advancing the well being of residents of both countries. BECC focuses on the technical, environmental and social aspects of project development, while NADB concentrates on project financing and oversight for project implementation.

BECC and NADB function as a team, working with communities and project sponsors in the U.S.-Mexico border region to develop, finance and build affordable and self-sustaining projects that address a human health or environmental need. The community of Havana is eligible for this grant due in part to its proximity to the border, according to BECC’s Website.

The start of the project is almost three years down the line. Once it’s operational, the residents of Havana will only need to pay for their water usage and a monthly fee for sewage service. The sewage fee will be tied to each home’s water usage with a cap of $30 a month, officials said.

“What it boils down to is how much this is going to cost,” said resident Ernesto Conde. “The people don’t care about the grant or the loan, they want to know that they’re going to get sewer service and that their home connection is going to be free.”

While the minimum two public hearing requirement has already been met, plans are in place to hold additional hearings in order to give more Havana residents an opportunity to become informed and to voice any concerns.

The dates, times and locations of these hearings have not been determined but notices will be published and flyers will be distributed in advance of subsequent hearings.

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