Last chance to speak up on street fee

HARLINGEN — For months, the city has searched for ways to create a fixed account earmarked for street projects.

Tomorrow, city commissioners are expected to approve the ordinance that will charge utility customers a monthly fee projected to raise $1.4 million to fund road work.

At City Hall, the proposal has drawn little opposition, City Manager Dan Serna said yesterday.

“I’ve talked to a few people about it. Most people I’ve talked to see it as a positive thing,” Mayor Chris Boswell said. “People like the idea of having a dedicated fund for the streets.”

Serna said the proposed ordinance would stipulate the fund be solely designated for street projects.

“It’s a restrictive bucket of money that can only be used for streets,” Serna said.

The fee would replace the city’s so-called infrastructure fee currently charging utility customers $1 a month to help fund projects such as public building improvements.

Under the proposed ordinance, utility bills would include a monthly $2.50 fee for apartments and other multi-family units; a $2.50 monthly fee for single-family homes using 1,000 gallons of water a month or less; a $4.50 monthly fee for single-family homes using more than 1,000 gallons a month; and an $8.50 monthly fee for commercial accounts.

The fee would raise about $1.4 million a year to help fund street projects.

The proposed ordinance would create a five-year program identifying streets for improvements.

In Texas, cities charging residential and commercial fees to fund street improvements include Austin, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, Richmond, Lampasas, College Station, Taylor, Bryan and Lumberton.

Some cities’ fees range from $5 to $12 a month for single-family homes and $5 to $250 a month for commercial accounts, Assistant City Manager Carlos Sanchez said.

Serna’s proposal stems from last summer’s budget workshop, when commissioners asked him to create a fixed account to help fund street projects.

Too often, commissioners said, officials defer expenditures such as street repairs to fund other projects.