Residents may have to pay more for drainage fees

June 8, 2011 4:15:30 PM PDT
The mayor responded today to mounting criticism from Houstonians upset over the new drainage fee, shocked to find out just how much it's really going to cost them. We've been telling you about the controversial drainage fee for months. Voters gave it their approval in November, and now it's about to go into effect. But were you prepared for how much you're being asked to pay?

Voters thought they'd be paying on average about $5 per month for the drainage fee, but it turns out they'll be paying more like $8.25 a month. Some people feel like they've been misled and say the mayor has some explaining to do.

"Citizens need to know up front who is going to pay and what it is going to cost them," said Houston City Council Member C.O. Bradford.

It was the source of a long debate inside City Council chambers today, and at times, a heated debate.

"I challenge my colleagues, rather than to criticize this particular program, to sit down and work with us," said Council Member Stephen Costello.

The issue is the Proposition 1 drainage fee to repair the city's old, problematic infrastructure, and why Houstonians who voted with the impression they would only see on average a $5 per month increase on their monthly water bill, are now being told that average has increased to $8.25.

"I've gotten phone calls, emails, and notices in my neighborhood -- I haven't seen a single one for $5 yet," said Bradford.

"That could be a problem for people on a fixed income who dedicate their resources every month to food and bills," said homeowner Ron Clark.

He is now among others who are wondering if they were misled by the mayor and her administration. The mayor, however, says its all a big misunderstanding, and that it has to do with her using $5 only as an example for the typical plot -- a 5,000 square foot Houston lot with a little more than 1,800 square feet of impervious surface.

"I understand that it doesn't matter how many times we said, 'This is an example; do your own calculation.' What voters heard was it's going to be $5. I believe voters should get what they thought they were voting for, but that may be difficult to accomplish," Mayor Annise Parker said.

The mayor hopes to be able to lower the fee to around $5, but it will take approval from City Council.

Residents in Clear Lake fought and they will not have to pay the city of Houston drainage fee. The mayor says they will continue to pay a Clear Lake drainage fee.

We've made it easy for you to find out how the city came up with your drainage fee total and it's definitely worth checking out.

We first told you last month that the city is using satellite images to determine the amount of impervious land on your property. In some cases, the system calculated things like trampolines, cars parked on grass, and even shadows as impervious areas, meaning those homeowners are being charged more than they should.

Houston residents received a sample bill in the mail last month. You have 60 days from receiving that bill to appeal. You can find more information at

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