October 26, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria home utility bills to rise with new stormwater fee

ELYRIA — The city is planning to add a stormwater fee to property tax bills so it can create a program to address a federal mandate requiring better management of how much stormwater runs into the Black River and ultimately Lake Erie.

The fee will hit tax duplicates in January 2015, and the city will spend most of 2014 educating the public on what it needs to do with the money.

At this point, city officials are saying the new utility fee has to happen — no matter what.

“We have put this off as long as possible. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency performed audits of the city’s system in both 2010 and 2012 and found deficiencies,” Mayor Holly Brinda said. “We can’t keep that up forever.”

Residential property owners will pay $4.33 per month in the first year and $5.33 per month and $6.24 per month in years 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The rate was determined using a formula that looks at the average amount of hard surfaces (roofs, driveways and patios) of parcels that keep rainwater from seeping into the ground. Multifamily, commercial and industrial properties will see a fee based on measured impervious area.

However, unlike in 2009 when city leaders instituted a series of water and sewer rate increases to fund improvements to those respective systems and were able to quantify the monetary need to $270 million over the next 20 years, there isn’t such a figure or timetable available for implementation of a stormwater utility program.

“We are talking about needing tens of million of dollars and we still have no idea what the EPA will regulate further in the future,” Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said. “The EPA doesn’t care if a city doesn’t have the money. They expect you to find the money and come into compliance or face penalties.”

The 2014 timetable for rolling out the program will include a public education program from January to May. The stormwater program ordinance and rate resolution will be presented to City Council for a first reading in May, second reading in June and public rate hearing and Council in July.

Siwierka said a number of projects have been identified as first-phase needs, including storm sewer repairs, ditch maintenance, roadside ditch clearing, driveway culvert cleaning and capital improvement projects at the wastewater pollution control plant.

The city also has a number of sewers taking both sanitary waste and stormwater to the plant that will need to be addressed, but further assessment will have to be done to determine how many will need to be replaced.

City Engineer Tim Ujvari, who was not with the city when the water and sewer rates were imposed, said those funds can’t handle the load of the stormwater management program. His office is working on a long-term sanitary sewer control plan to address what kind of sewage is entering the river.

“Those funds are set to address shortcomings in those systems. When Elyria was built more than 100 years ago, no one thought so deeply about where stormwater and sewage should go,” he said. “That’s not the case anymore.”

Members of K.E. McCartney and Associates, the firm that for the last year has evaluated the city’s current stormwater management program, gave City Council members a 30-minute presentation Monday night highlighting why the city should act now.

According to Brian McCartney, president, non-compliance is punishable by an administrative penalty of up to $125,000, civil violations of up to $25,000 per day per violation and jail time for those who knowingly fail to fix violations. It also leaves the city vulnerable to federal lawsuits.

But projects are not the only thing the EPA wants from the city.

The stormwater management program has to include an education campaign to the public and a way for the city to gain public involvement in controlling the quantity and quality of runoff water. The city also has to involve contractors in controlling stormwater runoff during and after construction.

To fully implement the new program, it is being proposed that five additional employees be hired — two in engineering and three at the wastewater plant.

Council members said they know residents will not like the idea of a new utility fee, but they say they are hard pressed to find a better way to fund the costly program.

“This is something we are trying to ease into, but we can’t keep fighting it,” said Councilman Mike Lotko, D-at large.

As proposed, the rate structure does not offer any relief for elderly or low-income residents. However, a credit program could roll out to allow business and those that will see the largest fees to see some relief if they individually work to control stormwater runoff on their properties, such as installing bioswales or retention ponds.

For example, Elyria Schools could see a credit by integrating pollution education into its science curriculum.

Elyria’s proposed rate falls in line with other programs in other cities that already charge such fees.

On the low end, Lorain County charges approximately $1.50 per month. Meanwhile, Ironton charges residents $14.55 per month. The average is between $4 and $5, according to data supplied by K.E. McCartney.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.


  • Mark B

    When is the Taxing going to stop , when the goverment is taking 100% of or earnings? City tax levys , school tax , library tax, LCCC Tax , higher sales tax, Lorain county Tax , Higher water Bills, Now more property Tax.
    People it is time to Start voting every single tax down the goverment is out of control takeing more and more every time you turn around.

    • bROWNS77

      You are right! Water bills here are ridiculous! They just trump up your garbage bill if you don’t even use the water! I got billed $56 for garbage last month and $20 for water and sewer!
      Property tax went up to $112 a month on a house I got appraised for $35k.
      Voting down any new renewal tax, city tax that they will raise again conning soon and anyother increase they try!
      So, in the next year , $120 a month for property tax plus around $80 a month for water for a house I can never sell because Elyria is so crime ridden, plus the city takes more money out of my check.

    • FoodForThought63

      It’s just the price we pay for living in a civilized world. You could always move to a third world country and not have to pay for any city taxes, libraries, colleges, water, or anything for that matter. But of course you’d have to accept that there would be no paved roads, police or fire protection, running water or clean drinking water, a much worse economy than here since there are no educated people to run any companies, and garbage strewn all over your living space due to no trash pickup service. i think I’ll take the taxes.

      • Pablo Jones

        The issue isn’t about paying taxes for services. People realize these things are not free. The issue is the city and water department know what items need to be upgraded and improved but put everything off to the last minute and then require large increases in Fees and taxes to pay for them. They should have been saving up money over the last decade or so to make these improvements or implemented minor increase and put aside this money for improvements. Instead, every time they have some money saved up or more money comes they spend or divert money for other causes or give raises to the workers.

        Multiple times they have raised fees or taxes for improvements, but they always come back for more. And once the improvements have been made and they pay off the debts do you think the rates will go back down? No. They will say we need to make additional improvements and therefore we need to raise taxes and Fees again.

        It is sad thing is most politicians get into politics because they like power and money and realize they aren’t smart enough to achieve those goals anywhere else. So we are stuck with their poor decision.

  • Corinne Jaenke

    I understand needing to keep up with the EPA improvements and that money doesn’t grow on trees. but why should someone who has a much smaller house and lot pay the same as someone living on a very large lot?

    • FoodForThought63

      I’m not sure how large one’s lot is indicative of how much water/sewage one consumes/produces. It doesn’t say in the article outright, but it infers that the fee will be tied to the amount of the water bill. If that is the case, those who use less water will pay less, and vice versa, which would make sense.

  • Penny Lynch

    Voting down all taxes isn’t the answer. We need to hold the financial end of the city accountable to ensure those taxes go where they are supposed to go.
    Immediate problem with knowing details of budgets is everyone will know a better way to do it; it would cause more controversy that it would solve. We need to know what’s going on with the city, vote in people we feel we can trust, develop a relationship with your councilman- join his website, join his FB page, follow on twitter, whichever is available. Your councilman is your voice for the city. If you don’t want to go that route for any reason, go to the council meetings yourself. Find out what it is that they do, all the details, and run for council yourself. Most of our council people ran without opposition. If you want changes, you have to make it happen, not wait for someone else to do it.
    Personally, I trust my councilman. I ask him questions, I follow what he does and therefore hold him accountable to his constituents. If he feels this increase is necessary, I’ll hold off bad mouthing it until I know more…then I will look to him for answers.
    And by the way, I am on disability, therefore low income. Our budget is tight. But we love our home and have great hopes for the city, so we will find a way.

  • Mark B

    Actually this is the 3rd time that we have paid for this same issue and the problem is still not being addressed.

  • Mark B

    http://chronicle.northcoastnow.com/2009/01/06/elyria-council-passes-utility-rate-hikes/

    Elyria Council passes utility rate hikes
    Filed on January 6, 2009 by Lisa Roberson
    23 Comments
    ELYRIA — It took reading and passing 45 different ordinances, but City Council voted for and passed a series of utility rate increases that will affect the fees that residents pay for 20 years to come.
    The money from the increases will be used to fund $259 million in capital improvements to the city’s water and sewer systems, the first major overhaul either system has seen in decades. However, the city’s aging infrastructure and the Ohio EPA’s order that Elyria does something to curb the amount of sewage entering the Black River means the city must act now.
    The incremental increases start this year when residents will pay $3.64 more per month for water, 93 cents more per month for sewer and $2.92 more per month for trash. That will push 2008’s average bill of $63.47 to a monthly average of $70.89.
    However, by passing all the ordinances now, residents will also see 2028 numbers that are more than 400 percent of what they are paying today. Adjusted for inflation and to account for the work to be completed, the $12.99 average water bill of today will be $55.25 in 2028 and the $33.65 average sewer bill of today will be $79.52 by 2028.
    Still, many praised city officials for developing a long-term solution to the problem of century-old water pipes and a sewer system built to treat a fraction of what it sees today.
    “Thank you for having the foresight to do what should have been started 50 years ago,” longtime resident Norm Failing of Howard Street said.
    Likewise, Councilman Mark Craig, I-4th Ward, spoke out in favor of the plan. Craig was absent from a previous meeting where the increase was discussed. However, Craig questioned why all 20 years of rate increases were being voted on in one night. He voted in favor of this year’s increase and against those for 2010 and beyond.
    Councilman Gary Gibbs, R-3rd Ward, voted against every increase. He was never in favor of raising the rates, saying City Council had not acted in the best interest of residents by doing so in these tough economic times.
    Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.

    http://chronicle.northcoastnow.com/2008/12/05/elyria-water-rates-could-increase-by-28-percent/

    Elyria water rates could increase by 28 percent
    Filed on December 5, 2008 by Lisa Roberson
    26 Comments
    ELYRIA — City residents will fork over on average an extra $4.57 each month starting in January if City Council votes to accept utility rate increases as recommended Thursday.
    The increase is based on the average monthly bill for a typical household that uses 800 cubic feet of water and will be effective at the beginning of the year. That’s $3.64 for water and 93 cents for sewer. Broken down, the dollar amounts equate to a 28 percent increase in the monthly water bill and a 2.75 percent increase in the monthly sewer bill.
    While the percentage of the increase is the same, the monetary cost of the increase will vary based on water consumption.
    Still, Mayor Bill Grace understands that residents who are battling tough times in the current economy may not be ready for any kind of increase.
    MORE INFO
    City residents can view the complete sewer fund and water fund review at http://www.cityofelyria.org.
    City Council will discuss the matter further with a possible vote to follow at 6 p.m. Monday in City Council Chambers.
    “I understand that these are not the kind of improvements you would put on a brochure saying, ‘Hey, come to Elyria. We have high-quality water lines,’ ” he said. “That is something our residents and businesses have come to expect from their city services. As stewards to a system our ancestors designed, we have done a good job at maintaining things. But it’s time to improve what they started.”
    Grace said the sizable jump is needed because the city’s water fund is so low it would face a $777,000 deficit by the end of 2009 without a rate increase.
    City Council didn’t vote on the matter Thursday. Instead, members elected to take home information-packed data charts and revisit the matter next week.
    Each listened intently at Thursday’s meeting as the focus stayed on the city’s 20-year plan to improve the water distribution system for $154 million and the wastewater or sewer system for another $105 million.
    Attempting to improve either system without rate increases would put both the water and sewer fund seriously in the red within a few years — long before the bulk of either project is completed, said Chris LaGross, an engineering consultant with CT Consultants of Willoughby.
    “There are just not sufficient funds in your systems to support the level of improvement needed,” she said. “The sooner you can get these increases in place, the sooner you can see the rollover effect of those increases resulting in less of an increase over the entire 20-year period.”
    The improvements to the water system include $3.9 million to improve the water distribution system, $70 million to replace the 4-inch and 6-inch water mains, $26.33 million to improve the water treatment plant, another $20.2 million to replace a water transmission main, $27.7 million to replace other water mains and $5.4 million to improve the service pumps.
    On the sewer side, improvements to the pump stations, storage units, sewer overflows and the wastewater pollution control plant are being looked at for a combined $105 million.
    Such sweeping improvements are needed to keep the century-old water system, which hasn’t seen a major improvement in 40 years, working. In addition, the city is nearing a point where it must repair the sewer system to keep sewage out of the Black River in accordance with U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA standards.

  • Mark

    There are no storm sewers on my street. They aren’t going to bill me, right?

  • tickmeoff

    Another cost to consider. My 65 year old sister lives as frugally as possible, but when it comes to her water bill, there is a minimum amount she must pay, whether she uses the water or not. You may get a house at a lower price, but the bottom line is total cost of ownership. One may want to live elsewhere, based on total costs and whether one actually uses a service. On the other hand, could one afford a house elsewhere. You can get a house much cheaper in Sheffield lake, but along with that, the higher taxes with a community that has no industry.
    In Avon lake you pay more for your house, but less in taxes. One has to take in to account the total costs, not just the price of the house.