By Elsa Maxey
Mayor Leonard Scarcella said he’s been told Fort Bend WCID No. 2 is going to do what Stafford needs and take care of Stafford. But last month, he said, “We had a meeting set up for February 2, Groundhog Day, and the district backed out of it.” He was told the district claimed that it was the city that backed out, according to the mayor. “I don’t know how they had the audacity to suggest that,” he said.
So now, the City of Stafford has made it clear that it wants to have a say in the operations of the Fort Bend WCID No. 2, when it takes major action. In a nutshell, that’s what Stafford City Attorney Art Pertile told councilmembers when they met this month.
The city council unanimously approved a resolution supporting state legislation “graciously carried forward by State Rep. Ron Reynolds,” said Mayor Scarcella, that requires a water control and improvement district such as the FB WCID No. 2 to obtain approval from them before taking major action. The legislation would impact a district with 50 percent or more of its geographic territory within the home rule city boundaries, and one in which the taxable value of its accounts within the city’s and ETJ boundaries comprise 60 percent or more of the district’s taxable over the previous five years.
All of the city of Stafford is served by FB WCID No. 2, Sugar Land’s service area accounts for 254 acres or three percent, and older portions of Missouri City amount to 1,801 acres of the 7,207 served by the district, which “makes up almost exactly 25 percent, whereas Stafford makes up 64 percent,” said Mayor Scarcella. Stafford’s ETJ roughly makes up six percent, with Houston accounting for a very small portion of the district.
Of the district tax valuation, Stafford taxpayers contribute $4 out of every $5 in operations. Because of a $140 million bond indebtedness to operate the district, which the mayor said WCID No. 2 would be incurring with an additional estimated $32 million bond on the ballot this May, “Stafford has a very material interest and concerns about what transpires in WCID No. 2.” Admittedly, he said it’s not the city’s debt, but it is considered part of Stafford’s overlapping debt, which is charged against the city.
Mayor Pro Tem Wen Guerra said, ”we need to sit at a round table,” to work together to find a happy medium for the four cities at this end of the county, meaning Stafford, Sugar Land, Missouri City and Meadows Place, without hurting each other.
“If one meeting, two meetings can solve it, we just need the facts for the people of Stafford,” said Councilmember Cecil Willis, adding that the city needs the plan, the books, the process, and to be able to understand the need to build plants and other issues related to grey water use.
“This is the beginning of something,” said Councilmember Felicia Evans-Smith noting the importance of sitting down with those affected at the local level and disregarding who didn’t attend meetings in the past.
“I think we have to meet here, I think we have to meet in Austin with representatives there,” said Mayor Scarcella about a two-way discussion. “If not now, when and if not us, who?”