Drainage District 3 still has lots to prove

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Jan. 31, 2018 at 4:21 p.m.

Two interesting points have surfaced regarding the City of Victoria's ongoing battle with Drainage District 3.

The Victoria City Council recently heard a report that said the drainage district saved the city nearly $12,000 in fiscal year 2017 by helping mow 11 ditches in the city.

That $12,000 is a drop in the bucket considering the drainage district collects $650,000 annually in taxes, of which about 83 percent comes from city taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the city still had to spend $41,020 to perform finish work, such as weeding, boom mowing and trash removal, from those same ditches - all work the drainage district doesn't perform.

A second, more impressive point is the drainage district saved the city about $1.2 million removing brush and re-sloping part of the Lone Tree outfall, which helped re-establish the flow line of the ditch.

Donald Reese, Victoria public works director, told Advocate reporter Marina Riker the city didn't have the equipment to perform the work and would have had to hire a company to do it, thus the $1.2 million savings.

That news was certainly encouraging, especially when you consider the drainage district's history of lack of transparency, secrecy, conflicts of interest and excessive payroll.

The drainage district was formed in 1915 to maintain the ditches to keep down flooding. At the time the lines were drawn, none of the land was in the city. As the city has grown, those areas have been annexed by the city and developed.

Last year, Victoria Mayor Paul Polasek estimated the city spends $120,000 performing maintenance work in the ditches, and he wanted the drainage district to reimburse the city that amount.

The city and the mayor have since retreated on that position, but we believe it would still be a prudent move to try to recoup maintenance costs the city incurs doing work the district should be doing.

Or, like the news above, taxpayers and the city need to see the drainage district routinely performing work in the city, considering most of its tax revenue comes from within city limits.

And if the drainage district doesn't continue making inroads working on ditches within the city, we still believe the city's best move would be pursuing action to redraw the district's lines to remove the city from this taxing authority.

Such a stance would be drastic and require legislative action, but we think it makes the most sense.

Simply put, the drainage district should not continue to collect 83 percent of its taxes from city taxpayers and not perform equal work within the city or reimburse the city maintenance costs.

The news here is encouraging, but we need to see continued, long-term commitment from Drainage District 3 on working with the city, or doing projects inside city limits.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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