Considering the high water bills some residents are facing due to Winter Storm Uri, League City City Council approved a measure March 9 to ease the burden.

With council’s unanimous vote, League City water customers’ bills for February will be capped at the second of four price tiers regardless of whether they used enough water to move them to a more expensive tier.

According to city officials, League City customers use about 10 million gallons of water a day. During the winter storm, that increased to a peak of nearly 25 million gallons in a single day, mostly due to residents running their faucets to prevent pipes from freezing and other residents experiencing burst pipes, officials said.

League City water customers are billed a flat amount plus an amount based on their water use. The first tier is $2 per 1,000 gallons for the first 3,000 gallons; the second is $5.61 per 1,000 gallons for use between 3,000 and 10,0000 gallons; the third is $7.14 per 1,000 gallons for use between 10,001 and 25,000 gallons; and the fourth is $8.67 per 1,000 gallons for use of 25,000 gallons and above, officials said.

As a way to keep costs down for customers who ran their faucets or experienced pipe breaks while still recovering water costs to the city, League City City Council voted to cap all residential customers at the second tier even if they used more than 10,000 gallons in February. This adjustment equates to about $35,000 in lost revenue for the city, officials said.

Additionally, the city will allow for individual adjustments based on individual requests. For instance, if a resident’s water bill is high because their pipes burst and the resident was unable to turn off the water, the city will consider a one-time adjustment to the resident’s bill to lower the cost, officials said.

Council Member Nick Long said he agreed with giving residential customers a break but objected to giving the same benefit to commercial customers. Long argued that commercial businesses that were closed should have prepared for the freeze and that League City residents should not have to pick up the tab for commercial customers.

As such, the motion did not include commercial customers. League City officials will gather data on how much the city would lose in revenue by passing the benefit to commercial customers, after which City Council will vote on the matter.

In other business

Long made a motion March 9 to allow other vendors—besides the franchise with which League City has an exclusive deal—to provide dumpsters to residents after local disasters. Long said that in his view, after a disaster, there is a shortage of dumpsters available for residents tearing out drywall and insulation. Allowing residents to get a dumpster from companies besides Ameriwaste, the one company with which the city has an exclusive trash-collecting deal, would allow residents to get trash hauled away sooner, he said.

“I think it’s always good to allow people to use the free market, find a better vendor, get the stuff off the street and out in front of their house as soon as possible, and get their lives back to normal,” Long said.

Council Member Chad Tressler said he does not believe that it is a challenge for residents to get a dumpster through Ameriwaste after a disaster. Additionally, Tressler said, part of the reason the city has a low trash-collection rate is because of its exclusive deal with Ameriwaste, which Tressler said he did not want to do anything to jeopardize.

Council ultimately voted 4-4, with Long and Council Members Justin Hicks, John Bowen and Andy Mann in favor. With a tie vote, the motion failed.

League City City Council also unanimously approved a 3% merit-based pay increase for City Manager John Baumgartner.

Council Member Hank Dugie said Baumgartner has been great for League City. Baumgartner has assembled a team that has gotten the city through several disasters, Dugie said, and the city has gone from completing 40% of its projects on time and on budget to 90% under Baumgartner.

“I appreciate John for his tenacity in getting those projects done,” Dugie said.