The Texas Pastor Council, First Baptist Church of Magnolia, Magnolia Bible Church and Believers Fellowship—known as the Magnolia Ministries—will file a lawsuit against the city of Magnolia regarding the water and wastewater rates Magnolia City Council members implemented last spring, Texas Pastor Council President Dave Welch told Community Impact Newspaper on Feb. 19. The Magnolia Ministries are represented by First Liberty Institute.

Last March, Magnolia City Council members unanimously voted to adjust water and sewer rates, revise the rate structure and add an institutional user category, which applies to tax-exempt, nonprofit or government entities, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. The changes took effect in the April billing cycle. Previously, institutions were included in the commercial category and charged the same rate as businesses.

The Magnolia Ministries issued a letter to City Council members and City Administrator Paul Mendes on Dec. 12, threatening litigation if the city did not reverse the water and sewer rate structure implemented last April. The city had until Feb. 15 to respond, but no response was given, Welch said.

“We are in the process of securing a local Houston-area attorney to work with [First Liberty Institute] in handling the lawsuit and determin[ing] the date of process,” Welch said.

Welch said he could not provide the name of the Houston-area attorney until a lawsuit is filed.

Magnolia city officials declined to comment.

In addition, Welch said the Magnolia Ministries are working to draft a bill for the ongoing legislative session, sponsored by state Rep. Cecil Bell Jr., R-Magnolia, state Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, and state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe.

“The goal of this bill is to eliminate any confusion, opportunity or loopholes in state law that allows blatant water discrimination against nonprofits like the Magnolia City Council has done,” Welch said.

Welch said a bill should be drafted this week.