The City Council Environment Committee voted unanimously to approve a cost-share program to fund certain stormwater repairs. The Environment Committee met earlier this month to discuss the growing backlog of stormwater repair requests and the need for the cost-share program.
The approved pilot cost-share program will address ‘C’ requests (lowest priority requests on private property) and be funded at $5 million over 2 years ($2.5 million each in fiscal year 2019 and 2020). This would require a 4% fee increase to property owners on their stormwater bills to offset the cost to the Storm Water Services program.
‘C’ projects identified prior to June 30, 2015 would be eligible for the program. City staff will take 6 months to make initial contact with property owners and determine an appropriate cost allocation. There are currently 4,205 outstanding ‘C’ requests. As the list has grown over many years, not everyone who registered a request still owns the respective properties. City staff will contact approximately 2,000 people on the list who still own the property, beginning with the properties that have been on the list the longest. Owners would have to agree to share in the cost of repairs and would have to donate the affected area to the city as an easement, which will allow the city to maintain it as needed. An application fee, estimated at around $200, would be required for staff to begin working on the request. The money would go toward the total cost of the project if staff determined the project was eligible. The application fee would also be refunded if it was determined that repairs would create new problems on other properties or cause impacts that outweigh the benefits.
Staff suggested the exact cost allocation between the city and property owner will be based on a sliding scale that considers how long a project has been on the list, and how severe the problem is. This would mean property owners who have been on the list longer might potentially pay a smaller share of the repair costs.
Councilmembers Phipps and Egleston both voiced concerns about the sliding scale. Councilmember Phipps suggested the sliding scale approach penalizes the city for having prioritized high need stormwater projects. Councilmember Eglestion favored an approach where the cost-share percentage would be the same regardless of how long a project has been on the list, but that the city would prioritize working on projects that have been on the list the longest.
The pilot cost-share program does not address higher priority stormwater projects. The Budget Committee will meet to further discuss ways to address a growing backlog of stormwater repair needs. Staff stated there is insufficient revenue to keep up with incoming requests. There are currently over $1 billion in unfunded regular minor repair projects. The City Council has not increased stormwater fees over the last two years. With no increase in revenue, the backlog of repairs will continue to grow, as will the time it takes to complete these projects.
Storm Water Services plays a critical role in managing the runoff from rainfall, reducing flooding, restoring floodplains and protecting the water quality of surface water county-wide. Increased development and aging drainage infrastructure are adding significant strain to the system and continuing to put the long-term health of our creeks and rivers at risk.
The Budget Committee will meet on 3-29-2018.
The Environment Committee will meet again on 4-9-2018
City Council members in attendance:
- Dimple Ajmera, at-large representative, committee chair, Environment Committee
- Larken Egleston, district 1 representative, vice chair, Environment Committee
- Matt Newton, district 5 representative, Environment Committee
- Gregory A. Phipps, district 4 representative, Environment Committee
- Braxton Winston, at-large representative, Environment Committee
- Tariq Bokhari, district 6 representative
- Edmund H. Driggs, district 7 representative