Plan would change funding for flooding projects

HOUSTON "Renew Houston" is a campaign to address the problem of making drainage and street repairs. Many residents agree those are areas that need attention in Houston. A number of neighborhoods across Houston often experience flooding problems and high water during heavy storms, threatening streets and homes.

Those are the problems the Renew Houston campaign is aiming to address. Houston city council member Stephen Costello says the initiative would create a new way of funding. It would pay for drainage and street maintenance projects with a dedicated fund.

Costello says these projects are currently paid with money from the city's general fund, and that leaves too much room for them to be edged out because of the city's other needs. The change would include fees for developers and an average of five dollars a month in a drainage fee for residential property owners.

"Here's what the problem is. We're sitting in front of someone's house that has flooded twice, and this particular house doesn't even exist in a 100 year flood plain," Costello explained. "The reason why it has flooded is an inadequate drainage system... On behalf of the city, we do need to work to solve this particular problem."

"I guess you would have to see where it goes from that point," said one resident. "It's a wait and see type of thing, but initially I would probably say it was OK."

The fee would be based on a property's square footage. The average residential property owner would be responsible for a fee of about five dollars a month.

Response to the campaign has been mixed. Many people agree that if you want better services, you have to pay more money, and they didn't mind the fee if the streets would be repaired. Others felt they pay plenty in taxes and that money should be used on the things that are the most necessary, and they believe flood control is a high priority.

The campaign would move the funding to a pay as you go system, so that money would be spent on projects and not necessarily on interest.

Tens of thousands of mailers have gone out to Houstonians to raise awareness for the petition drive for Renew Houston. If the organizers can gather 22,000 signatures of registered voters, they can put this issue on the November ballot and then all registered voters would have a say on the topic. It would require a change in the city charter in order to make this proposal happen.

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