McAllen Approves Drainage Utility Fee

By Davis Rankin

Starting in March, McAllen residents will begin paying a fee for drainage improvements, with it showing up as a line item on monthly water bills. The fee will range from as low as $1 per month to a high of $75 per month, and what you pay will depend on how much ‘impervious cover’ your property has.

City commissioners passed the fee unanimously at their regular Monday meeting this week.  The fee is the fruition of at least two years of work and discussion by staffers and commissioners of city drainage needs. The commission, as of now, is planning to take a drainage bond issue to the voters in May. Staffers think most residents will pay about $1.50 per month. Impervious cover is cement and asphalt.

City engineering staff held two public meetings before Christmas last year at which City Engineer Yvette Barrera explained the city’s drainage plans, and how they were arrived at, as well as explaining how they came up with the fee. About 20 people showed up at the first meeting at the Lark Community Center and only one person attended the second at Palmview Community Center, and that person is a Mission resident who owns property in McAllen.

In a 2015 opinion survey of McAllen residents, Barrera told commissioners, citizens ranked drainage improvement as one of their top three improvement projects. Staffers have drawn up a list of 66 projects totaling $46 million, and general fund revenues can’t pay for them all, so staffers came up with several “revenue streams” to pay for the work, she continued.

The funding sources include, according to Barrera, $2.5 million from the city’s Capital Improvement Projects fund, $823 million from Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), various grants of $5.3 million, $7.3 million from a TIRZ (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone) that includes La Plaza Mall and $11.2 million from the new fee over about five years.  Barrera added that their plans include $20.5 million from a planned drainage bond issue.

As passed Monday, the new drainage fee can only be spent on storm water-related projects, and it will be reviewed by commissioners each year at budget time.

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