Tomball City Council took no action on publishing a notice of intent to issue $28 million in certificates of obligation at its Sept. 18 meeting in response to several residents speaking about high water bills during the meeting’s public comment period.

Council members expressed a desire to figure out the issue with the high water bills before moving forward with the process to issue certificates of obligation—a way cities can borrow money.

What happened

During the public comment portion of the Sept. 18 meeting, three Tomball residents spoke about high water bills, including John Weaver, who said he is president of the Raleigh Creek Homeowner’s Association.

“What we have going on here is mystifying,” Weaver said during public comment. “I’ve had several folks in our community state to me that that they’re scared and I understand that. You can’t come up on a day and you open your water bill and you see a bill for $500 or $700, when before, it might have been $200. You can’t explain that.”

Council members—who are unable to respond to residents during the public comment period—discussed the residents’ concerns during the item to consider publishing a notice of the city’s intent to issue $28 million in certificates of obligation.

What they’re saying

  • “I think we [should] take no action on this just until we can figure out what the problem is,” Council Member Derek Townsend said during discussion about the certificates. “Because two people going from 15,000 gallons to 60,000 gallons without a swimming pool is pretty much unheard of.”
  • “We’re continuing systematically looking at each one of those [profiles of residents] that are calling in to look at it to see,” City Manager David Esquivel said. “To date, we haven’t found anything that’s really a huge issue.”

Zooming out

Publishing a letter of intent is the first step in the process of issuing certificates of obligation, Finance Director Katherine Tapscott said during her presentation.

The city has proposed issuing $28 million in certificates of obligation during fiscal year 2023-24 to fund several capital projects as part of its capital improvement plan, which was also approved at the Sept. 18 meeting in a 4-1 vote. Council Member John Ford voted against the approval.

According to Tapscott’s presentation, the projects that would be funded with the $28 million of certificates of obligation include:

  • North Sycamore Street parking: $1.5 million
  • Baker Drive water plant: $4.6 million
  • FM 2920 lift station consolidation: $4.8 million
  • South Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion: $16.97 million

What else?

The city of Tomball is underway with a project to replace the water meters for all residential and commercial customers. Esquivel said the city is in contact with the sellers of the new meters to make sure the calibration is correct.

The meters in six Tomball neighborhoods and areas have been replaced, according to the project’s website. Meters in the Tomball Hills neighborhood are in the process of being replaced with meters in the Northstar neighborhood set to be replaced next.

Esquivel also said the city has received complaints from residents who have the old water meters.

“It’s pretty mixed,” Esquivel said about complaints from residents with the new meters versus the old meters. “Because that was the first thing that we wanted to look at—if it’s truly only the new meters, but it’s not.”