‘We don’t have that’: South Bexar County residents face hefty bill to buy water meters even after $400K project

The county said it allocated that money for the Dixie Lee water line extension project, but it never planned to pay for water meters

BEXAR COUNTY, Texas – Dorothy Duquette and her family buy dozens of plastic water bottles each week.

“It’s unrealistic,” Duquette said. “You would think we lived in a third-world country the way everyone down this street has to live.”

Multiple homes along Dixie Lee in South Bexar County are not connected to the public water supply. Residents are left to bring in water themselves.

Now they’re looking to the county for help.

“I feel like we’re treated differently,” Duquette said.

The street sits just off U.S. Highway 281 South of Loop 1604. No street sign or pavement is on Dixie Lee, but dozens of people live on the street.

Duquette said she has reached out to the county several times since moving in five years ago.

“Here we are, five years later, and we’re still waiting,” Duquette said.

In 2022, the county took action to help this community through a water line extension project. Precinct 1 Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores pushed the project. The county allocated $400,000 for the design and construction of a water main line.

Neighbors said this project started in 2022 and construction ended in 2023. However, more than a year later, Duquette said most neighbors on her street have not been connected to the water line.

“This is the meter box,” Duquette said.

“But there’s no meter in it?” KSAT asked.

“There’s nothing in it,” Duquette said.

Duquette said the county and the San Antonio Water System expect them to buy their water meters, but she said this could cost each resident thousands of dollars.

“We don’t have that,” Duquette said. “We don’t have that luxury.”

Here’s how the $400,000 was allocated for the project: The county said $61,585 went toward design and $338,415 went to SAWS for construction, but every dollar was not spent.

The county said the design came in $10,000 under budget and construction was $22,255 cheaper than expected.

“Where did the money go?” Duquette asked.

KSAT took that question to the county and it confirmed the leftover $32,255 went back into the General Fund of Bexar County. A spokesperson said Bexar County is looking into how the money could be used to “assist” property owners who still need to purchase meters.

The reason the county said it can only “assist” is because water meters sit on private property.

“Public funds cannot be expended on private property,” a Bexar County spokesperson told KSAT. “Additionally, some of the properties have multiple structures on it, meaning each property may need multiple meters.”

A SAWS spokesperson confirmed it is standard when new customers are added to the water system that they are responsible for paying an impact fee and connecting their own home to the water main.

The impact fee at SAWS is the future cost of supplying the water to the site.

“Meters are installed when all fees are paid, and a suitable connection is made,” the SAWS spokesperson said.

SAWS confirmed one address along Dixie Lee is connected to the main. But other families, like the Garcia household, still have no water connection.

“It’s a real tough pill to swallow,” Rachell Garcia said. “It’s just something we simply can’t afford.”

About the Authors

Avery Everett is a news reporter and multimedia journalist at KSAT 12 News. Avery is a Philadelphia native. If she’s not at the station, she’s either on a hiking or biking trail. A lover of charcuterie boards and chocolate chip cookies, Avery’s also looking forward to eating her way through San Antonio, one taco shop at a time!

Alexis Montalbo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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