Harris County Refuses To Pay City Of Houston Drainage Tax

Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack has blocked an item on the agenda — to pay, or not to pay, the city drainage fee imposed on Reliant Park. It's an annual bill of over $350,000. Radack calls the fee illegal.

The ill-will has been ongoing between the City of Houston and Harris County ever since the city imposed the ReBuild Houston drainage fee to help pay for redoing the drainage infrastructure that should have been repaired years ago.

The number one item on Tuesday’s court agenda was a recommendation that the public infrastructure negotiate an interlocal agreement with the city on the drainage fee being charged to the Reliant Park facility, which is owned by Harris County. But Commissioner Steve Radack held the item for further discussion.

“As far as I’m concerned, I personally believe that the fee is not legal. I don’t think there is a proper state law that allows the city to collect from the county. So they can continue to talk, meaning the city and the county can continue to talk, but I don’t see a reason to formalize it with an agenda item. I think it’s obvious to me that we should fight and make sure we don’t pay the fee.”

Radack says the Harris County Flood Control District spends millions of dollars inside the city limits of Houston. He adds that for the city to charge a drainage fee at Reliant Park is unreasonable. I asked him if he thought an interlocal agreement would ever happen.

“I’m not for one. I don’t think we need one. I think we need to file suit, whatever it takes, to make the city understand we have no intent on paying it. But that’s my personal opinion.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett admits that not one Commissioner wants to pay the drainage fee. Neither does Art Storey. He’s the executive director of the county’s public infrastrucrure department.

Emmett: “I think what Mr. Storey said in the end was correct. He just wanted the court to know that these negotiations were going on, and I feel pretty confident that we’re gonna work out an agreement. Now, the agreement itself doesn’t answer the legal questions that Commissioner Radack may want to continue to ask. But in the meantime, we just need to understand that we’re all in this drainage fight together.”

Emmett says both the city and county have vaild arguements.

“The city has a drainage fee. We understand that. But rather than take our tax money and give it to them when that same tax money can be spent to improve our drainage that serves their drainage, then we’re just gonna find a way to move on, I hope. And then we’ll let, if anybody wants to have the legal fight going forward, they can continue having that.”

Mayor Annise Parker hinted last week that a deal was in the works that would have the Harris County Flood Control District provide services in lieu of money from the Reliant Park property.