Houston hits Harris Co. with huge drainage fee bill

December 20, 2011 4:41:45 PM PST
It's the city of Houston versus Harris County over a big bill connected to an ongoing drainage dispute. The clock is ticking for the county to pay out tens of thousands of dollars city leaders say it owes for drainage connected to our three major sports complexes.

County commissioners have yet to recover from the first payment of the city's drainage fee that involves Reliant Park. This latest bill is ratcheting up tensions even more, but this time for good reason.

Reliant Park includes everything from Reliant Center, to the Astrodome, to Reliant Stadium and it's all county property that was built and paid for with county bond funds.

In downtown, there's Toyota Center and Minute Maid Park; both are city-owned properties. And that is why the county is wondering about its latest drainage fee bill.

"It apparently includes charges for both Toyota Center and Minute Maid Park," said Willy Loston with the Harris County Sports Authority.

To make matters worse, the letter states that the $88,000 the county paid in its first fee installment was an under-billing and about $4,000 more is due. And this latest bill is $107,000.

"And we're left in the same position of not having the money to pay it," Loston said.

That's because the county never anticipated that as a government entity it would have to pay a fee on public property.

Reliant Park though generates income, the city argues, so it is subject to the fee; it's something the county plans to fight during the next legislative session, using the sales tax at Reliant as the way to do it.

"Taxpayers are paying taxes to Harris County and we're having to turn around and give those taxes to the city of Houston and that doesn't make any sense," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.

The bill, minus an adjustment, will be paid, but Commissioner Steve Radack has a suggestion for how it should be delivered.

"When the Rodeo gets cranking and they start hauling out all the stuff that becomes fertilizer, they ought to throw it in that same truck," Radack said.

The due date for the $107,000 bill is Wednesday, but the city of Houston decided to grant an extension without penalty or interest because of some of the issues involved.


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