The vote on the contentious item was delayed twice as council members discussed finding other options to make up for revenue losses sustained during coronavirus shutdowns. Ultimately, it passed, with council members Edward Pollard, Amy Peck, Mike Knox, Greg Travis, Michael Kubosh and Martha Castex-Tatum voting against it. Council Member Letitia Plummer, who has tested positive for the coronavirus, and Council Member Sallie Alcorn were absent.
The fee will be applied to city water bills beginning July 1 and is expected to generate an estimated $5 million, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
Turner, who has previously rejected trash collection fees, pushed for the bin fee as a way to stave off additional furloughs he said could be necessary to help close the fiscal year 2020-21 budget's $169 million deficit.
Council Member Jerry Davis said the solid waste department's strained resources motivated him to vote for the fee.
"You see the trucks that break down, and you see the work and the long hours they put in, and even though there is a certain number of people who don’t want me to support this, I'm getting more calls from people who do," Davis said.
Several council members took issue with the fee and said they believed it would disproportionately affect low-income Houston residents who may have already suffered wage losses from coronavirus shutdowns.
“This is still a fee no matter how you slice it, and we’re asking the public to pay an additional dollar when every dollar counts," Pollard said during a previous vote.
As compared to other major cities in Texas, such fees are not unusual and are often higher. Austin charges $18-$43 per month, and San Antonio charges $15-$28 per month.