By Lewis Spearman
CROSBY – A meeting at the Newport Municipal Utility District was held on Tuesday, Jan. 21 to inform residents of the price of water or the amount of tax residents will pay, to be decided by another bond election.
The board introduced themselves individually and told how they came to be at their position and why they serve. About 57 residents attended and asked questions of the board.
At a meeting last Nov. 22, the Board of Newport MUD voted to increase the water bill by $35 following the residents voting down a $70,000,000 bond last election day.
At the public meeting on Jan. 21, the board proposed a six year bond instead of the ten year bond that asks for $59,450,000 or the pay as you go option would mean a $270 a month water bill. The issue comes to a vote on May 2, according to board member Margarette Chasteen.
Districts must use more surface water according to subsidence laws, e.g. the 80 -20 law is one factor. The districts are tasked with using much more surface water from legislation passed in 1990 to contend with sinking land. Newport seeing this coming built one of the first local surface water conversion facility by 1995.
Now, however there is a need for an $18,705,176 surface water plant, a $838,588 water plant, a $12,283,766 water distribution system, a sanitary sewer system valued at $10,847,294, lift stations and force mains $1,757,929, a wastewater treatment plant $18, 223,765, and a new administration building to cost $388,235, additionally, a new Compass Tract Defined area of 530 homes to be valued about $250,000 each has been approved and supply to that development is to cost an extra $4,270,588. The total runs $67,315,341.
The bond if passed would add at estimate an extra $700 a year to the average homeowner’s taxes as against over $3,240 in fees. Either way, the money has to be supplied by 2023 to handle the burden of compliance with the Houston-Galveston Subsidence District.
Privately, many residents will say they are wary of H.O.A.s and M.U.D. boards that seem to act much more in the interests of developers and big money real estate than the homeowners. Some of that resentment came to the meeting a one resident was asked to leave early on as he refused to accept the premise and offered to audit the system for free.
“It just feel like boards are always selling residents a golf course when it starts losing money, but someone has to have one to sell property. Let the homeowners take all the losses, we are just in business to make money,” said one disgruntled resident.
Current tax rates are: Newport: $0.59, Crosby: $0.51, Barrett: $1.09, Indian Shores: $0.63, Lake Shadows: $0.60, Spanish Cove: $0.75, City of Baytown $0.81, Houston $0.58, Mont Belvieu $0.43.
The arguments continue on social media throwing accusations back and forth but most all agree “that Newport MUD needs funding to address the state mandated requirements and to repair our aging infrastructure.”
However, Mr. Don Cox answered, “The bond must pass – but how much? I have a different way of looking at this. The board keeps saying our infrastructure is in bad condition and the previous boards did nothing to get us out of this situation. If you say the previous boards I was on did nothing about planning, we provided a successful bond election that provided our financing until the most recent bond sale. That is why it is now time for a new bond election to carry us into the future. To do a bond election earlier was just not practical. So, I ask the engineer if the operator had been neglecting Newport all these years and what condition was Newport’s infrastructure in now. I guess no one was ready for that question because the engineer said the operator had taken great care of our system and our system was in good condition as of that day. The reason we need the bond is because of aging wear and tear. I don’t understand why it is necessary for this board to scare the residents and make them think our system has been so neglected that they have to pass this bond. The truth is we need this bond to pass, but we can get it to pass at a lower amount without all the hysteria.”
According to Board member Margarette Chasteen, the six year bond is a compromise by the board with this viewpoint.