Two weeks after a split commissioners court voted to urge state legislators to help create a new drainage district in Galveston County, a slightly less split court voted to walk back that idea.
In a 4-1 vote Monday, commissioners removed the proposal from its legislative agenda. Only Commissioner Stephen Holmes voted against the removal. He did not explain why.
Commissioner Ken Clark on Feb. 12 pitched the idea to consolidate parts of Galveston County into a single large drainage district to create an entity that could work with other, already existing districts to plan and fund large-scale drainage projects.
The proposal was met with resistance from the get-go as Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said he would not support an idea that would increase taxes to county residents. He and commissioner Darrell Apffel voted against adding the item, and then insisted that the county’s paid lobbyists note the division when they talk to lawmakers.
It’s unclear whether any lawmaker was briefed on the idea, and no legislation has been filed about creating a consolidated local drainage district.
Henry on Monday proposed taking it off the lobbying list for two reasons.
First, he said, if county voters were interested in creating the district, there was no need for the legislature to act, because a group of 25 people can petition for the issue to be put to a vote.
“We don’t need Austin,” Henry said. “If the voters of the new proposed drainage district want to petition the court to create one, they can do that without any participation from Austin.”
Henry also said he felt Clark had misled officials with claims that state Sen. Larry Taylor’s office supported the idea. Henry said his office checked with Taylor’s and was told that wasn’t true.
“He said you came to him with this idea,” Henry said. “He was not a proponent of this idea.”
During the Feb. 11 workshop meeting where Clark first proposed the drainage district, he prefaced his pitch by saying he and Taylor had gotten “into a discussion” about how the state might fund the maintenance and operation of a coastal spine that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is developing.
Part of Clark’s pitch was that a large drainage district could also be responsible for operating the coastal spine.
Clark said he didn’t want to get into a tit-for-tat with Henry about his discussions with Taylor, and said he never explicitly claimed he had Taylor’s support.
“I do think that he wanted me to contact his office,” Clark said.
Clark said the senator’s office had pointed out that the issue could be prompted by a local petition, which is why he voted for moving it from the agenda.
Clark defended his proposal as a way of achieving meaningful work toward large drainage projects, but said he had no plans to lead a petition to get it on the county’s ballot.
“I think what we need to do is have some additional discussion as opposed to having a petition,” Clark said.