Administration Asked to Make Politically Unpopular Storm Water Utility Proposal

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Administration Asked to Make Politically Unpopular Storm Water Utility Proposal

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – Torrential rains and accompanying land slides have prompted the Huntington City Council Storm Water Committee to ask the Wolfe Administration for a blueprint for establishing a stormwater utility.

Council member Nate Randolph made the proposal at the Wednesday afternoon, May 11, meeting, acknowledging that it would be unpopular.

“There’s zero money for storm water… obviously, with thirteen active slips attributed to rain and storm water , it’s not going to fix itself. Every district has flooding,” Randolph said.

Mark Bates, council chairman, added, “We owe it to our citizens to explore a storm water utility. The alternative is not working.”

Creation of a stormwater utility would mean another bill for residents.

Russ Houck objected, “it’s untimely (at this point) and there are unfunded mandates,” referring to federal and state clean water regulations for which they have not provided municipalities with revenue or grant resources.

Anderson responded that unfunded or not, “enforcement action comes through the regulations. If we don’t comply, we might have the Department of Justice on our backs.”

Bates asked that public works director David Hagley and Anderson work with the administration to propose a plan for review at a future date.

“Council will start the debate, thrash it out, have hearings and do what we have to do.”

Randolph noted that the process will not be “fun, but we can’t keep kicking the can down the road.”

 

The motion came after assistant public works director, Kip Anderson, told the committee that the Division of Environmental Protection had agreed to a six month extension --- until November 2011 --- for the city to submit its storm water management plan.

Anderson added that Region III of the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection had stated during their audit that they would agree to an extension, as other projects had been dumped on their plate.

“We’re doing the storm water management plan in house,” Anderson said, adding that the city will be able to work with Marshall’s integrated science department on the MS4 plan.

Anderson said Charleston spent $1.8 million for mapping and $750,000 for staffing, but “we can do a rougher version than Charleston.”

Shelly Wilkins, MS4 coordinator for the State of WV , attended the meeting. She told the members that “it’s not going to go away, it’s part of the Clean Water Act.”

Ms. Wilkins said that the municipal storm water utility could serve an area within 20 miles, but acknowledged accessing a fee or imposing regulations on those outside the city limits “has not been challenged” in court.

“It’s politically unpopular,” she said.

However, the City of Hurricane did prevail on a suit forcing inhabitants outside of the city limits to pay the storm water utility fees.

The committee left the geographic range of the utility undetermined as along with imposition of utility fees comes liabilities.

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