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Corpus Christi utility bills and a lack of transparency

Posted at 6:34 PM, Apr 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-26 19:39:51-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — One of the most consistent calls we receive in our newsroom is complaints about utility bills and why they seem to be so high and why does it appear the city doesn't want to be transparent about your concerns?

We've spent the last 6 weeks or so listening to your concerns, attending Corpus Christi City Council meetings, and speaking with current and former city officials about this.

"I got my first water bill. My consumption of fresh water was $12.92. My wastewater charge was $52.20. When I called the city on 3 different occasions, and even spoke with a supervisor, no one has been able to explain to me how you assess $52.00 of wastewater on $10.00 worth of usage."

Kim McIntosh is a new Corpus Christi resident. She was among more than a dozen residents who were telling stories on a warm March day at Stonegate Park on the city's south side.

It was an opportunity to share their complaints about their utility bills and what they perceive is a lack of transparency by the city in responding to those complaints.

"I've lived in this city for 23 years," said Dr. Lilo Burda, a longtime Corpus Christi resident. "And the past 2 years, the water bill has tripled. And also the wastewater is three times the charge of the water that I'm actually using."

These random residents want to know why the stormwater, wastewater, and charges for other items on their bills keep going up?

And why does it seem as if the city isn't giving them a thorough explanation.

So, a suggestion.

"How many of you people have gone on Tuesdays when they have council, when they have public comment ? How many of y'all have gone and stood before...stood before city council ?" Action Ten News asked.

So on April 11 and again on the 18th, Steve Klepper, a former city employee, Kim McIntosh, Ruth Lara, and others, showed up, ready to speak up, during the public comment segment of the council meeting.

Klepper said, "But for those people that are very water wise, and use 2000 gallons or less, as you can see in the top part of the chart, their bills went up 35% the first year. And actually 44% when you consider any fee that went up."

Once Klepper's 3 minute time limit was up, city manager Peter Zanoni, who was also present, was quick to comment, saying, the city holds town hall meetings at various times and at various sites across the city to address this topic specifically.

David Loeb served on council from 2009-2012.

He points out that stormwater fees in San Antonio and Austin are less than what we pay.


They use property taxes to pay for them.

"The reason our stormwater fees are high, and at the end of this, will be the highest in the state, is that we're the only community that, when we re-build a street thru a bond package, we borrow the money to replace the stormwater infrastructure, and charge our utilities thru it," Loeb told us.

In fact, Loeb showed a letter he submitted to city leaders suggesting putting a rate calculator on the city's website which would allow citizens to better understand what their bills would be.

He also pointed out that the current fee structure makes an otherwise fair system "unfair" by having smaller property owners subsidize the run-off of larger ones.

As for Ruth Lara, "At this point, I feel that the city has truly failed us. They need to be more transparent with us about how fees are charged, and why we're paying so much money."

We requested an interview with a city representative for our story.

We wanted to ask the city how, you the residents of Corpus Christi, can question your water bill.

They said they would provide a statement, but have not done so.