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Water Board Backs Off from Ill-Advised Fees

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The San Benito, Texas, utility board on Thursday (March 1) proposed that the city end its $10 monthly base water fee for unoccupied RV park sites and RVs.

Instead, board members said they would propose a water fee for individual mobile homes and permanently tied down RVs, which is allowed under state law, The Brownsville Herald reported.

The board will present its recommendations to city commissioners in a March 6 meeting, Chairman Pete Claudio said.

The amount of the fee has not been determined.

City officials will now count how many mobile homes and fixed RVs occupy lots at the RV parks within the city limits, Claudio said.

For five months, park managers and Winter Texans have protested the October ordinance, arguing it violates a state law that prohibits cities from charging water fees to RVs and vacant park sites.

First Colony Mobile and RV Park has 14 mobile homes and six fixed RVs on the park’s 149 sites, manager Barbara North said. The park paid $1,490 per month under the October ordinance that assessed a $10 per month fee for every RV park lot, whether occupied or not.

“It looks like they’re trying to work with us,” North said after the meeting.

Fun N Sun RV Resort, Texas’ largest RV park with 1,400 sites, has 626 mobile homes and fixed RVs, manager Bonnie Dominguez said.

“I’m OK with it,” Dominguez said of the utility board’s new proposal.

Under the October ordinance, Fun N Sun was charged $14,000 a month for its 1,400 sites, Dominguez said.

Officials said they decided to charge the monthly $10 water base fee to help single-family homes shoulder the burden of high water rates that climbed since 2004 to help pay a $28.4 million debt that stems from water and sewer improvements.

But officials didn’t know about Senate Bill 569 and House Bill 841, laws passed in 2005 that park managers and Winter Texans argue prohibit cities from charging individual unmetered RV park sites, officials said.

Some Winter Texans threatened to pull out of town if the city didn’t scrap the ordinance.

Claudio said the city’s RV parks will be refunded money they paid for RVs and vacant sites if commissioners revise the ordinance.

City Manager Manuel Lara has said the contested money is being held in an escrow account.

“We’re not the bad people,” utility board member Marie Bolado said at the meeting. “We’re trying to work with (the RV park owners and Winter Texans). We don’t want you to leave.”

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