by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Storm Water Ordinance Referred to Committee for Public Hearing

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams  has taken on a challenge that has been avoided since 1948.

Williams start-up program would initiate steps in curtailing storm water runoff that plagues the city flooding major thoroughfares such as Third and Fifth Avenues, all the viaducts, residential streets, basements and parks.

As proposed, the start up  stormwater management and street flooding  mitigation plan would require about $1.2 million dollars in funds, which would be raised by a seven tiered fee based on square footage under roof.  For residents , the cost will be about twenty five cents a day.

Councilman Pete Gillespie, whose district includes the West End,  speaks softly, but his questions have merit: He’s asking about balancing the load between business and residents without putting the fee so heavy on commercial establishments that it’s a discouragement for locating within city limits.

“As you go up in square footage, those with higher square footage pay less percentage wise,” Gillespie said. Since impervious surfaces cause massive runoffs, he stated “those contributing to the flood problems more than the population   ( i.e. commercial entities with large paved parking lots) are paying less than individual households.


Still, council and the mayor exerted signs of impatience, especially since the decision making responsibilities have been kicked down the road from one council and administration to another.


Council member  Frances Jackson resounded, “We need to get this going.”


Councilman Rick Simmons wants to ensure those with low incomes have hardship exceptions. Councilman Scott Caserta insists that the “start up” have a “sunset” provision preventing the fee structure from continuing past the initial formation challenges.  At large councilwoman Rebecca Thacker reluctantly agreed to the item coming back as a second reading from committee.


However, the unheard voices in council chambers are the public. The first reading does not allow public comment.


Public input will be gained through a series of neighborhood institute meetings. The storm water committee holds its public hearing Wednesday, Jan. 8.


The mayor wants to get started. He strongly opposed an initial motion that would have the ordinance come back from the committee as a first reading. Williams indicated that if the committee amends the ordinance and council accepts that proposal, a third reading will be necessary.


“I’m sick and tired we can’t cross the city East or West , North or South after a rain storm,” Williams said. At the work session, he alluded to beginning  federal lobbying efforts for potential homeland security funds due to public safety endangerments when high waters block arteries and viaducts that detour first responders.


He seems confident that a majority of council will pass the start-up. He admitted at the work session that it will not likely be a unanimous vote.

The proposal won’t immediately fix the major flooding. One viaduct will cost millions. However, the proposal will allow for cleaning streets and catch basins. Some of them have vegetation growing out of them having not been trimmed in 20 years.


What type of fee structure will residents feel comfortable?  Council members phones are ringing. What will occur once the current proposal goes into the neighborhoods? 


That will wait until after the holidays.