HOUSTON, TX – Houston honors our veterans all the time with parades and ceremonies, but the city’s putting one 23-year Army vet through water torture.
Jose Valera’s water bill in at his home in South Houston is usually about $25, but when it arrived last February, it said he owed more than 9000 bucks!
“If I didn’t pay it by March of that year, it would be almost $10,000,” Valera told us.
In February, he had had a small leak fixed near his water meter that his neighbor Earnest Craft discovered while working in the yard.
“It was a very light leak, nothing was piled on the ground,” said Valera, “no water standing.” So he says there’s no way it could have leaked the 719,000 gallons he was charged for. That’s like 33 swimming pools!
“Right away, I called the city,” said the vet, “and they said, ‘No, that’s what our meters say, and that’s what you owe.”
After contacting a lawyer who agreed to help him pro bono, he had a hearing with the city. They cut the bill in half but said he needed to pay $4500 ASAP.
“That’s a little high…that’s real high!” said his neighbor Craft.
So Jose filed a suit against the city to keep his water on and have the charges removed… what he calls “justice.”
“I’m not trying to get rich off this. I’m not trying to collect any extra money,” He assured, “I’m just trying to be even.”
You might think all this is just Houston cracking down on wasteful water usage. But two doors down from Jose’s home, water has been bubbling up from a crack in the front yard gallons at a time since Sunday. Although the city’s been notified, they haven’t come out to fix it yet.
Valera is hoping this won’t mean another surprise on this month’s water bill, “There’s always a possibility… they might try to stick it on my bill.”
We contacted Alvin Wright with Houston Public Works, but he said, because of the lawsuit, he couldn’t comment. Let’s hope Valera has better luck in court and gets the charges dropped. That’s not too much to ask for a soldier who served our country for more than 20 years, is it?