At first, it seemed likely that the council would postpone action on the agenda item.
City Manager Deborah Ballí said she had received requests from several of the five council members, asking that the item be brought before the council.
Ballí said the council had several options to entertain, including leaving the fee as it is, reducing the cost of a permit or completely doing away with the fee.
She expressed concern about changing the fee, saying that residential wells could be drilled into the same aquifer that the city may end up using.
She said that would mean that those who could afford to have a well drilled would be getting water for free from an aquifer that city utility customers are paying to receive.
Also, allowing city residents to use the aquifer could adversely affect the city’s ability to draw water from the formation.
“We would need assurance that water from the wells would be used only for irrigation,” Ballí said. And the city would lose, forever, any revenue it could have seen from residents who have wells drilled.
Councilman George P. “Trace” Morrill said he has a problem with a fee that discourages property owners from taking advantage of their right to capture and use a resource to which they have a right.
Councilman John Fulghum said he would like to see what kind of fee other municipalities charge for a well-drilling permit.
Two city employees spoke up, saying that Beeville is the only city they have seen that even allows residents to drill and use wells within the city limits.
The fee was established by the city at about the time Beeville switched from using its own wells for municipal water supplies to the surface water system that takes water from Lake Corpus Christi.
At the time, council members were told that a number of residents were requesting permits to drill wells on their property so they could use the water to irrigate their lawns and gardens.
Also, water rates were substantially increasing so that the Beeville Water Supply District could pay off the approximately $10 million it took to build the surface water system.
Ballí said she had been told the initial fee for a permit to drill a well had been $5,000 and that the city had reduced that by half some years back.
Just as it looked like the council might take no action on the issue, Morrill made a motion to reduce the fee by half, to $1,250.
Councilwoman Libby Spires quickly offered a second to the motion, and when Mayor David Carabajal called for a vote on the motion, it passed without opposition.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.