Hudson moves closer to forming stormwater utilityThe City Council on Monday night approved the first reading of a significantly revised ordinance that will establish a stormwater utility if it gains final approval. The reason for establishing the utility is to generate funds for repairing and maintaining the city’s storm sewer system.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
The City Council on Monday night approved the first reading of a significantly revised ordinance that will establish a stormwater utility if it gains final approval.
The proposal maintains the rate structure that was part of first draft of the ordinance considered by the council last December. But the new ordinance also provides adjustments and credits for nonresidential and multi-family properties where things have been done to reduce the flow of runoff to city storm sewers.
The council also approved a first reading of the initial ordinance, but then amended it to the point where some members felt another first reading was appropriate.
The reason for establishing the utility is to generate funds for repairing and maintaining the city’s storm sewer system.
According to a report presented Monday night by Public Works Director Tom Zeuli and consulting engineer Dennis Postler of Infrastructure and Environment, the system includes 70 miles of storm sewer pipe, 3,400 structures such as catch basins and manholes, and about 50 collection ponds.
“The current level of funding for storm sewer maintenance is not adequate and has led to periodic emergency repairs,” Finance Officer Neil Soltis wrote in an issue sheet justifying establishment the utility.
Soltis also noted that Hudson passed a population threshold in the 2010 census that will require it to comply with stricter stormwater regulations for cities its size imposed by the federal Clean Water Act and state administrative rule NR 216. The city currently doesn’t have the funding to perform the required activities, he said.
The rates for the proposed stormwater utility are based on the amount of impervious surface on a property and a measurement called a residential equivalent unit (REU).
A single-family house and each unit in a two-family residence are considered one REU.
The storm sewer fee for one REU would be $7.50 per quarter, or $30 a year. The stormwater utility charges would be included on the city’s regular quarterly water and sanitary sewer bills.
Tax-exempt properties such as schools, churches and government buildings also would be charged.
Multiple-family buildings with more than two dwelling units would be charged one-half REU ($3.75) per unit per quarter.
Commercial, institutional and industrial properties would be charged in tiers, based on the estimated square feet of impervious surface area on the parcel.
The proposed quarterly fees are:
The fees are anticipated to bring in about $310,000 annually.
Adjustments and credits
The proposed ordinance allows a reduction of up to 20 percent for nonresidential and multi-family properties that have stormwater easements allowing the city access to the properties.
Nonresidential and multi-family property owners are eligible for credits of up to 90 percent of the stormwater charge for doing things to reduce the amount of runoff from their properties. Credits may be granted for things like storm water ponds, infiltration basins, green space, undeveloped property and rain gardens.
The property owner will have to prove at least a 25-percent reduction in peak flow of runoff to be eligible for a credit.
A peak flow reduction of 25 to 49 percent would bring a 25 percent credit. A 50- to 74-percent reduction would bring a 50 percent credit. And a 75- to 100-percent peak flow reduction would bring a 75 percent credit.
The maximum credit a property could receive, by implementing additional practices, is 90 percent.
District 6 Alderperson Rich Vanselow voted against recommending adoption of the ordinance during the Finance Committee meeting that immediately preceded the council meeting.
Vanselow wanted a sunset clause included in the ordinance, assuring that the stormwater utility would be dissolved unless the council voted to continue it at a certain date. He suggested it sun-setting after five years.
“I personally don’t want a permanent tax,” Vanselow said. “I’m almost positive this will never go away. Not only that, but the rates will increase.”
City Attorney Catherine Munkittrick advised against putting a sunset clause in the ordinance establishing the utility. She said a future council might forget it was there, creating problems for the city.
Munkittrick instead recommended the language already in the proposed ordinance saying the Public Works Committee would review the need for the utility each year and give a recommendation to the council on whether it should be continued.
Other council members were sympathetic with Vanselow’s concern, but were anxious to get the stormwater utility established.
“The issue today is we have a problem, and how are we going to fix it?” Mayor Alan Burchill said.
“Nobody wants to expand government, but there’s no money for major projects that are coming down,” added Alderperson Randy Morrissette II.
During the council meeting, a motion by Council President Lori Bernard to suspend the council’s rules to allow adoption of the ordinance without a first reading failed when it didn’t get a two-thirds majority vote.
Alderperson Lee Wyland joined Vanselow in voting against proceeding without the first reading. Alderperson John Hoggatt was absent.
Bernard then seconded Wyland’s motion approving the first reading of the proposed ordinance. The motion carried with no one voting in opposition.
The final action on the establishment of the stormwater utility will come at a future council meeting.