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$5 Drainage Fee Deal

$5 Drainage Fee Deal?

The City of Houston’s misleading five dollar ($5.00) drainage fee presentation sounds like a dishonest sales pitch.

The prompt arrival of the so-called ‘drainage bills’ in the month of May has not only surprised Houstonians, but also forced them to dig deeper into their pockets in these economic hard times. The $5 drainage fee sales pitch has now suddenly become more than double the amount what the proponents of Proposition 1 campaigned for during the last November city elections. In addition to that, the responsible City officials in charge of the Houston Drainage Program did not have all the eggs in their basket. According to the June 3rd issueof the Houston Chronicle, when the Clear Lake residents also received their drainage bills from the City of Houston they were upset because they are already paying taxes to the Clear Lake City Water Authority that handles drainage for the Clear Lake Area.

The City officials in charge of the drainage program failed to produce a legitimate comprehensive drainage plan that could streamline the proposal and clearly indicate the boundary between the City limit areas and other existing jurisdiction. This clearly shows that City officials rushed to implement Proposition 1.

It appears that whoever is advising Mayor Annise Parker took a wild guess at how much the drainage fee should be, and pulled the $5 amount out of a hat.  What was this $5 fee based on?  It’s ridiculous to think that the $5 would be applied to each and every single home or business within the city limits, considering houses come in all shapes and sizes; and have different land uses. Emphasis was given to the $5 fee per property owner presentation to the unsuspecting public.  The accompanying 3.2 cents per square foot of impervious cover was not explained clearly to Houstonians. 

What scientific or engineering principles were used to establish the $5 rate? Mayor Parker should question that and hold those officials responsible for setting this ideological confusion straight!

We know that the uses and land areas of physical structures are not homogeneous. Taking an average of different property sizes would not give an accurate picture.  Instead, the city should have established a category range based on type of land use such as residential, commercial, office parks, institutional and industrial parks, etc. Take for example residential areas.  Single-family homes should have been delineated into types, i.e., say a “Type One” category for one bedroom to three bedrooms plus driveways; “Type Two” category from 4 bedrooms and up.  “Type Three” category land could be the multi-family apartment complexes with various numbers of rooms along with parking lots and driveways. Finally, items in the “Type Four” category would be a combination of all commercial, industrial, institutional, office parks and entertainment centers.

The suggested classification methodology is essential for sensitively determining the proper dollar amount of drainage fees because apartment complexes, for example, have more impervious areas than any other land use category.  This type of methodology is missing and people are misinformed about the actual reach of the $5 drainage fee ordinance into their family wallets. All Houstonians were under the impression that $5 drainage fee is what everyone would pay.  That has proved to be a misleading approach to trick the voters into voting for Proposition 1.       

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