Speakers at Highlawn Storm Water Forum Express Opposition to Proposed Fee

Updated 27 weeks ago Edited by Tony Rutherford from Multiple Reports
Speakers at Highlawn Storm Water Forum Express Opposition to Proposed Fee

“We need to address the full scope of the (rainwater) problem before we collect money to fix it,” said David  Bender, a Highlawn neighborhood resident Tuesday night after attending a neighborhood forum on the proposed city’s stormwater fee.

About 40 residents braved temperatures in the single digits for  the discussion at Grace Methodist Church with Huntington Mayor Steve Williams and administration representatives.  No members of Huntington City Council were present.

Neighborhood meeting speakers cordially opposed the proposed fee. A few speakers had neutral stances. No one spoke in its favor.

The administration has proposed a “start up” storm water program with a fee schedule based on property square footage.  By year three, the fee will be revised to be based on  impervious surfaces i.e. pavement, parking lots, sidewalks and driveways. Mayor Williams indicated at the meeting  that citizens could mitigate a portion of the fee by disconnecting their storm drain from the city sewer system, but such action would not exempt them from the fee.

His start-up proposal includes mapping and data collection  for determination of the most cost effective ways of handling projects.  According to the five year plan, most of the first two years will be a period of discovery and prioritizing larger projects (such as broken storm lines), while cleaning catch basins and securing engineering services for the major projects to come. Initial repairs would be in house.

Ultimately, the cost for sewer and infrastructure repairs  range from $100 million to $800 million dollars. Residents at the meeting expressed  fear that based on current financial computations the fee    --- or a successor ---- could climb to  $50 a month.

Some  residents felt that the administration was attempting to “scare” residents into accepting the new fee through repeated compliance mandates of the Clean Water Act.  Others, believe that the plan does not address flooding issues quickly enough or that the first phase catch basin cleaning could be funded through the current budget.

The Mayor disagreed.  He cautioned  , for instance, that police services might be cut back  under that scenario. He stipulated that the storm water program fees would be placed in a transparent enterprise fund, assuring accountability.

However, residents complained that the $4 to $7 a month fee on most households would adversely affect the middle , working class and minimum wage earning households.

Bender told HNN he understood the complexity of fixing viaducts, but noted that when it rains he “drives through a foot of water at the Board of Education building (old Huntington East High School),”insisting that conditions such as this example could be alleviated without time delays or a new study.

Although Bender , a member of the Campaign for Liberty,    equated the “fee” to a “rain tax,” like radio host Tom Roten,  Mayor Williams stressed that the city can only  impose a fee, not a tax.  Still, some Campaign for Liberty supporters have announced they will demonstrate in front of City Hall prior to the public hearing Wednesday, Jan. 8.

The Storm Water Committee of Huntington City Council begins   at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers. This  meeting allows public input on the proposed stormwater fee ordinance and  allows for council members to discuss possible fee structure alterations.  The stormwater committee may or may not recommend the ordinance to the full council. Council is not bound to act on the committee’s recommendation.

Since the ordinance affects all council districts, most council members are expected to attend the meeting.

A vote on the Storm Water ordinance will occur Monday, Jan. 13, unless council members amend the ordinance. A substantial amendment would push the vote to a third reading on Jan. 27.

 

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

Q and A on Storm Water Fee, http://www.huntingtonnews.net/78970

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

The five year plan of the storm-water program can be viewed here: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/79698

 

  1. Five Year Plan (332.28 KB)
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