Storm Water Fee Discussions on Tap Tuesday, Wednesday; Simmons Proposes $20 per Year Per Person

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Rick Simmons, Pete Gillespie
Rick Simmons, Pete Gillespie
File Photo

Huntington City Councilman Rick Simmons has reaffirmed an earlier statement  that he will not vote for additional fees. Simmons made the statement on the Tom Roten Radio Show and to HNN. However, he would not predict whether council would pass what Roten has labeled a "rain tax."

"I know where I stand and I know where others stand," Simmons said. However, he indicated that council and the administration have been very receptive to public input.

The Highlawn Neighborhood Association will meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. in  the Grace Methodist Church on 27th Street and Fourth Avenue. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams will attend and discuss the proposed Storm Water Fee.

In addition, a public forum on the storm water fee takes place at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at Huntington City Hall. "We want to hear public ideas and see if there is any way of getting around this tax," the councilman said. The storm water committee will be televised on Comcast Channel 24. The new camera system will be in use.

"I believe people would be less angry if  (as a one year start up) all residents paid $20 per year," Simmons suggested. Businesses would pay $150 a year. 

Under the current proposal the rates would be based on square footage of real estate owned. Like Councilman Scott Caserta suggested at the last council meeting, Simmons suggested that the start up have a one-year sunset provision.

Further, since Simmons represents Guyandotte, which is considered an impoverished area, he also requested  a more thorough determination of low income adjustments.

"We need to look at the poverty line protocol" on reductions of the fee, Simmons told Rotten. The proposed ordinance contains language that the finance director will make determination on eligibility. 

Later, activist Tom McCalister suggested that funds could be obtained from existing sales and user fees. "Why can't they take the $1.2 million from the user fee or sales tax?"

The start up , as proposed, would average $6 to $7 dollars a month for property owners. About $1.2 million dollars per year would be raised to begin compliance with Environmental Protection regulatory actions and to clean the streets , catch basins, and map the system.

Sewer and infrastructure issues have plagued Huntington since the Fifties. Mayor and former council members have been accused of "kicking the can" to the next deliberative body. A proposed storm water utility had been proposed during the Wolfe Administration. That proposal would have come for a vote at a Christmas Eve council meeting. The proposal was tabled to allow the then in-coming council and in-coming Mayor Steve Williams to make their own proposal.

Radio host Roten agreed that when separation of the water and Huntington Sanitary Board billing occurred, the bill increased.

Roten complimented Simmons for "thinking for the public," adding "His suggestion should be tossed about."  Roten warned, though, that the arctic cold weather could cut meeting attendance.

"Let's hope people show up," he said.

Link to proposed Storm Water Fee/Tax, http://www.huntingtonnews.net/79239

Storm Water Referred to Public Hearing, http://www.huntingtonnews.net/79101

 

 

 

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