Group of residents fighting Houston's drainage fee

June 1, 2011 3:42:37 AM PDT
The city of Houston says its new drainage fee is crucial to keep the city safe and sanitary during major rain events. But some neighborhoods in Clear Lake are having to pay the fee even though they won't get any of those drainage services. Now those families are fighting the fee. There were about 300 people at the meeting. They say they are getting a bill they should not have to pay and they are prepared to take their fight all the way to City Hall in Houston.

While it's not something we've seen a lot of lately, when it does rain in Houston, it pours, and sometimes it drains.

"We don't like it, we don't like it at all. We don't think it's fair," Clear Lake homeowner Pam Smelley said.

But in Clear Lake the issue is who's draining the water and who's getting the money for it.

"Why did we get this if we are supposed to be exempt by what I would call the simple reading of state law and the city ordinance?" asked Tom Morrow with the Clear Lake SNC Drainage Committee.

Proposition 1 passed last fall. It's an ordinance that gave the city of Houston authority to pass on a fee to homeowners and businesses to improve drainage, but residents in Clear Lake were quite shocked to get a bill for it.

"I'm tired of them cramming things down our throats without them explaining them thoroughly. It should not have been on our ballot in the first place," Clear Lake homeowner Mary McCormick said.

Clear Lake is a master-planned community in the Houston city limits. But since 1963, all waterworks, sewers and drainage facilities have been operated and maintained by the Clear Lake Water Authority.

Folks who live there say they don't receive any of those benefits from the city of Houston, so they have a problem with paying the city of Houston.

"The ordinance refers to benefitted properties that receive these drainage services and Clear Lake City and none of the property within Clear Lake City is benefitted through this fee," said Leslie Alvarez Phillips, GM of Clear Lake City Community Association.

"Read the law, read the ordinances, it's pretty clear, so it should be an open and shut case, but unfortunately city politics isn't always like that," Clear Lake homeowner Greg Mitchell said.

On Tuesday night, they had City Councilman Mike Sullivan and C.O. Bradford are on their side. Now, they say they'll try to convince the rest of City Hall.

The city and Clear Lake Water Authority are scheduled to meet on Wednesday on the issue. Residents say they will also gather at the next few City Council meetings in Houston to make sure they are heard.

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