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City Reconsidering Water Surcharge on Vacant RV Lots

November 22, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

The city of San Benito, Texas, may consider repealing a $10 water surcharge on unoccupied RV park spaces and apartments that has outraged Winter Texans, an official said Monday (Nov. 21).

The utility board chairman Pete Claudio said Monday the board has tentatively scheduled a meeting for Dec. 14 to review the ordinance, The Brownsville Herald reported.

“We’re going to revisit it, more than anything the vacant lots and vacant apartments,” Claudio said.

The $10 charge on about 2,900 park spaces and apartment units in the city would generate about $348,000 a year, which would be used to offset sales tax revenues that have dropped to six-year lows, Claudio said.

Officials believe single-family homes that pay an average monthly base water and sewer fee of $51.68 bear the burden of high water rates that have increased since 2004.

But Winter Texans packed City Hall last week to protest the ordinance.

“They need to do a lot of rethinking,” Sissy Wilhoit, manager at Tropical Trails RV park, said. “They owe some of us refunds.”

Allen Bills, manager of Resaca Bend and El Ranchito RV parks, said occupancy at some parks drops during the summer months leaving as few as five vehicles during the off season.

“The city does not really have a choice (but to repeal the ordinance) because they’re going to lose so much revenue because they’re going to kill the industry,” Bills said. “They’re nuts … if they think Winter Texans or (park) owners can pay that kind of money.”

Donald Boyd, a retired inventory specialist at Fun N Sun RV Resort, warned he would boycott San Benito businesses if officials didn’t repeal the ordinance.

“There is pressure in numbers,” Boyd said about Fun N Sun, which is one of the largest in the state, attracting about 2,000 Winter Texans to town.

“When we come out of Fun N Sun, it’s just as easy to turn left as it is to turn right to do our shopping. In our hearts we want to support San Benito, but if this thing goes through we’re going to turn to Harlingen.”

Neighbor Ed Jones said called the ordinance unjust.

“It’s an arbitrary rate that’s not based on any additional services,” Jones, a retired teacher and Fun N Sun resident, said. “How are you going to single out apartment buildings and RV parks and charge them differently than other businesses? My parents taught me that if you take something that doesn’t belong to you it’s stealing and if you do it under force it’s called robbery.”

City Commissioner Bill Elliott called for “a judicious review” of the ordinance that was passed in October.

“I think a review is certainly appropriate considering we had concern expressed by some of the facilities … to see if there’s any way a project can be enhanced or improved.”

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