Fairborn considering storm water utility fee

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Fairborn considering storm water utility fee

The city of Fairborn is considering implementing a storm water utility fee that would take effect in January 2014 and generate $700,000 annually.

The proposed fee would cost residents $3 per month — a price that would be locked in for the first five years — and coincide with a reduction in the sewer rate, City Manager Deborah McDonnell said.

Fairborn’s estimated value of its storm water system exceeds $136 million, and includes more than 110 miles of storm sewers, 3,800 catch basins and 1,450 manholes. The city has identified 33 capital improvement projects totaling $13.5 million.

“The underground storm sewer is so important for people’s ability to get around and to make sure homes and businesses aren’t flooding,” McDonnell said. “Unfortunately, it costs a lot of money for a system that thoroughly works. It’s time to take a proactive approach to make sure we’re improving and maintaining a system that works properly.”

Of the $700,000 that the fee is projected to generate annually, 10 percent would be spent on state and federal permits; 45 percent on annual operations and maintenance of existing infrastructure; and 45 percent on capital improvement projects.

The first $100,000 will be spent on hiring a consultant to create a master plan, which would include a complete assessment of the current system and formulating a strategy moving forward, McDonnell said.

“Until we get the fund going, we’re not going to have the resources,” she said.

The city also is proposing a 20 percent reduction in the sewer rate for the next five years, as well as declining the five percent rate increase scheduled in 2014.

“I was pleased to see the proposed reduction in the sewer bill paired up with the storm water utility,” Councilman Robert Wood said. “I’m not 100 percent convinced at this moment this is the best course of action, but I’m giving it strong consideration.”

Wood said he’d like to see a mechanism in place that if the fee is changed, it only can be done at scheduled times and public input would be considered.

“We want to do this as openly and transparently as possible,” Wood said.

The first reading of the storm water fee is scheduled for Sept. 3, the second reading and public hearing are Sept. 16, and the final reading is Oct. 7. If it passes, the fee would come into effect in January. A few new jobs would be created in the city’s Water & Sewer Division if council approves the fee, McDonnell said.

A storm water advisory committee — made up of residents and community leaders — was formed last fall after the city hired Stantec as a consultant for $40,000. The committee met once a month for six months and recommended the proposed fees.

The proposed monthly fees per parcel are: residential ($3); agricultural ($9); public ($9); utilities ($21); commercial ($27); and industrial ($78).

“The impact isn’t so major on the residents — $3 is very reasonable,” said Paul Newman, who served on the committee and is executive director of the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce. “The major concern will come from the commercial and industrial side of the ledger. Everybody’s waiting to see how the final analysis will affect them.”

For this year, Fairborn budgeted out of the general capital improvement fund $40,000 for catch basin repair and $40,000 for storm sewer repair. The funds are only used for emergency repairs to the existing system or to provide a temporary solution where the system is not in place.

“Whatever fails first gets the money,” McDonnell said. “It’s reactive. You’re not really managing the system properly and not keeping it clean and flowing.”

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