AVON — City officials might implement a storm water utility fee that will be tacked on to water bills.
The City Council’s Service Committee, along with the mayor and members of the engineering and planning departments, met earlier in the week to discuss the fee and the need to generate money for storm sewer projects.
The city pays for storm water-related projects with funds from the roads, maintenance and repairs budget in the general fund. The proposal is to add an extra $3 or $4 onto the bills.
During a telephone interview after the meeting, Mayor Bryan Jensen said cities like Sheffield Lake have separate storm water utility funds for storm sewer projects.
According to Sheffield Lake Finance Director Tamara Smith, homeowners pay $4.85 a month on their water bills for the storm water utility and the fee generates about $290,000 annually.
Jensen said Avon wants to take a similar approach and by adding $3 or $4 to the bills, it would generate an additional $1 million annually.
“We are trying to come up with a specific fund to address our storm water issue,” Jensen said. “We’ve been thinking since the beginning of the year about how to do this properly and fairly.”
During the recent Service Committee meeting, city Engineer Rob Knopf said that storm water utility rates will be different for regular residential, cluster residential and businesses. Storm water utility rates are based on calculations, which determine equivalent residential units.
Knopf said ERUs are based upon the total impervious area — hard surfaces rainwater cannot permeate — a resident or business has on their property.
The city has to figure out what percentage of each parcel is impervious in order to come up with a rate that is fair to all, Knopf said.
“The impervious areas would be calculated by having a company digitize all of the impervious areas for each parcel,” Knopf said in an email message after the meeting.
Knopf said the simplest method involves having all regular residential units pay one rate and cluster units pay another. Commercial and industrial properties, which will generally pay more, could be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.
“The difficulty isn’t in the calculation, but the maintenance of the storm water utility,” Knopf said. “By calculating individual ERUs for each home, the city would then have to recalculate someone’s billings every time they add a shed or extend their patio. It would be strenuous to bill this way.”
According to preliminary information based on a sampling of impervious areas on property in Avon provided by the city during the Service Committee meeting, the following estimated average monthly rates would apply if that charging method was adopted:
- Regular residential — $3.45
- Cluster residential — $4.65
- Commercial — $164.06
- Industrial — $187.50
- Government — $32.04
- Agricultural — $64.62
Jensen said figuring out who will pay what is the most daunting task. Individual residents can’t be overburdened, but the fees for businesses can’t be so much as to drive business away, Jensen said.
At the same time, the city must find a feasible way to fund storm water management projects for areas that have experienced flooding in recent years, he said.
The city may offer property owners incentives to decrease their monthly storm water utility fee if they utilize rain barrels, build retention areas or, in the case of a business, implement the latest storm water absorption and runoff technologies into their buildings’ designs.
“From this point forward, when new businesses or industries come in we want to also encourage them to do more,” Jensen said.
Elyria’s City Council recently approved charging homeowners an additional $4.33 a month in 2015 and $5.33 and $6.24 in 2016 and 2017, respectively, to generate money for that city’s flooding woes.
In Elyria’s case, the storm water fund will also be used to address state and federal mandates requiring the city to build a better system to manage how much stormwater runs into the Black River and ultimately Lake Erie.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency performed audits of the city’s systems in 2010 and 2012 and found deficiencies in the amount and way sewage and storm water are entering the river.
Avon will now determine what tasks to perform internally for the creation of the potential storm water utility fund and what tasks they will sub out to an engineering firm. Jensen said the city hopes to have a plan in place by early next year.
“We’re not looking to rush anything because we want to do this the right way,” Jensen said.