Stormwater Fee Not Likely Until Next Fall
Two projects the city plans to tackle once the money comes in are repairing the banks along the stream at Powder Springs Park and piping under Sailors Parkway.
At the work session, the vote was moved from Monday’s legislative meeting to the first one in January. Councilwoman Nancy Hudson said she wanted to see a list of what the fee would cost each of the city’s businesses before the vote.
“We haven’t gotten anything,” she told Community Development Director Pam Conner. “I’ve asked for two or three months for a listing of all the businesses and how much theirs is going to be, because that’s what I’m concerned about is the businesses.”
“I’m sorry, I was never asked to give a list of businesses,” Conner said. “I was asked to give” the top five businesses that would have to pay the most in fees.
“I want all the businesses,” Hudson said.
“I can give you that, but I was never asked that,” Conner said.
Conner recommended not immediately enacting the fee when the council votes on it and instead pushing the first stormwater bills to the fall of 2012. She suggested starting the fee at $3 monthly for residences instead of the previously agreed upon $2.
Either way, the fee is expected to be raised in 50-cent increments until reaching $4. Conner said starting it at $3 in the fall of 2012 instead of $2 upon the vote would prevent an almost immediate 50-cent increase in March and another in September.
The director said waiting till fall would also give those with houses, businesses, churches and other structures in Powder Springs time to be notified and prepared to pay the fee.
Where the Fee Is Going
The money is to go to increasing state regulations related to stormwater and to help with the upkeep of infrastructure that retains the flow of the water.
Public Works Director Greg Ramsey suggested laying out annual set costs for things like inspecting drainage pipes and ditches, cleaning and maintaining them, and reporting the work back to the state. Leftover funds could be used for capital improvements, organized by level of priority.
Hopefully, he said, less capital improvement overhauls will be needed as the city gets more proactive about maintenance.
Initially, the city aims to use $385,000 in fee money on projects including restoring the banks of the stream at Powder Springs Park and repairing a drainage pipe under Sailors Parkway.
Ramsey said that because the Sailors Parkway piping wasn’t correctly compacted into the ground when installed 10 years ago, there’s a dip in the road that has “grown progressively worse.”
Mayor Pat Vaughn mentioned a recent piping collapse in front of Martin’s Restaurant.
Ramsey said completing such projects are “much more expensive to do after the fact.” He said the Martin’s collapse is similar to the Sailors Parkway piping “except it’s not as catastrophic obviously because the road didn’t get washed out. It is eventually going to fail completely if we don’t address it soon.”
He added: “There are systems that are much older than (Sailors Parkway) that we expect to have some degradation in their quality."
Officials discussed forming a drainage master plan to identify other needed projects but not yet having the funding to create the plan. Preplanning when it comes to using stormwater fee money could lead to grants, Ramsey said.
Other City Work ‘Suffering’
Conner discussed mapping work being done by Community Development employees.
Ramsey said two city staff members take part of every Thursday to inspect storm drains.
“So if staff is doing all that, why are we having to raise money to have that done?” Hudson asked.
Conner said that regular job duties are “suffering” and being put on the “backburner” as staffers take on work related to stormwater. Unlike regulated stormwater issues, city job duties don’t have an associated deadline or penalty, she added.
Vaughn said: “There’s just so much you can do without the rest of the work suffering. Am I right?”
“Right,” Conner answered, “we’re doing what we can with all the economic development work (done by Community Development), but there’s only so many hours in the day to complete that work.”
Eventually, at least one permanent staff person for stormwater issues will have to be hired, Conner said.
Every year, the city is mandated to inspect 20 percent of its storm drains, and must start over five years later upon reaching 100 percent, Ramsey said. That full-time job is currently being done part time on Thursdays, he added.
The job includes driving to the pipes, writing in a journal, taking a picture, and keeping up with a database network of the pipes, Ramsey said. Since the city has no database, “the legwork upfront will be rather intense,” he added.
Cataloging for the database would include every structure, manhole, outfall or inlet pipe, and more, Ramsey said.
How the Stormwater Fee is Calculated
The fee is what will be applied to homeowners and stays consistent regardless of the size of the home. For other properties like businesses and churches, the fee would go up depending on each one’s square footage of impervious surface, which is basically areas like asphalted ground that water can’t penetrate and must “run off.”
The average runoff contribution of Powder Springs households—called one ERU or Equivalent Residential Unit—is 2,840 square feet.
That average is what will be used to figure what other properties must pay monthly. For example, if a business has 5,680 square feet of impervious surface, it must pay twice the monthly rate a homeowner would pay. So if the rate was $3 for homeowners, the business would have to pay $6 a month.
Also on Wednesday: City Manager Rick Eckert said he examined the city's finances for retirement money for council members since “obviously the council is not that well paid” and potential raises for city employees, who haven't had a raise in four years. He said money will be available for council retirement. The money wasn't available for city raises, but employees will receive a bonus.