- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A Texas environmental agency that’s supposed to consider forcing a small South Texas town to turn the water back on so its school district’s students can return to class has received conflicting recommendations.

The Office of Public Interest Counsel, appointed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to represent public interests, wrote in a letter that cutting the water to the La Villa district “presents a serious and imminent threat to the health and safety of the students, teachers and staff.” It said the agency has the jurisdiction to force the city to turn it back on and should do so.

La Villa shut off the water in December because of a billing dispute. Students were supposed to return to class Monday, but without water, the schools have remained closed.

TCEQ’s interim executive director, Richard Hyde, wrote in a letter to the commission that it does not have necessary authority to compel La Villa to return services to the school district. He recommended the commission take no action, which is what it did when the school district made a similar request in December.

The TCEQ was scheduled to take up the issue Wednesday morning in Austin.

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