By NICOLE JONES
Searching for ways to fund stormwater and drainage infrastructure, Pearland City leaders are mulling over the idea of a stormwater utility fee.
“Had we done this prior to Harvey, I think the damage and discomfort would be a lot less,” Mayor Tom Reid said during a discussion workshop last month. “The hurricanes are a lot juicier than they used to be, and they seem to be coming more frequently.”
More than 70 streets and intersections were underwater after Harvey, city staff reported, and the city also must meet federal and state mandates on protecting watersheds, streams and drinking water resources, and it’s not cheap.
Stormwater management is currently paid for the city’s general fund, which also funds vital city services such as streets, sidewalks and public safety.
Although the majority of the city is in the jurisdiction limits of Brazoria Drainage District No. 4, the city owns and maintains numerous detention ponds and miles of drainage channels, roadside ditches and underground stormwater systems.
Many jurisdictions have gone this route, staff said, implementing a fee to maintain and build new infrastructure. A few of those cities created a citizens committee that provided comments during the development of this fee and program.
A fee of $5 or $7 per customer would create an enterprise fund — ensuring the money could only be used for drainage improvements and nothing else. Funds could be used to cover maintenance expenses as well as capital projects.
After some discussion, the council seemed to agree that getting residents’ approval is the way to go.
“If we want to go for it, let’s do it, but let’s take it to the people and let them vote on it,” Councilman Woody Owens said.
“We wouldn’t be collecting this until this time next year,” City Manager Clay Pearson added.
Should the issue go to voters, it would likely be the May election.
The next meeting of Pearland City Council is Monday, Aug. 12. The council meets at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 3519 Liberty Dr. A period for public comment is provided.