Plans to implement a new stormwater fee on Augusta property owners moved forward at an Augusta Commission work session Thursday.
The group also stated plans to spend part of a budget surplus to demolish dilapidated buildings.
The stormwater fee, typically a few dollars a month attached to the water bill of an average household, is applicable to all property owners, regardless of tax-exempt status. The charge is based on a parcel’s square footage of impervious surfaces such as roofs, decks and parking lots, or anything that prevents rainwater from going into the ground.
The fee would generate the $8 million to $9 million annually that Augusta Engineering Department needs to cover increasing right-of-way and other infrastructure maintenance costs, Engineering Director Abie Ladson said at the work session.
To illustrate, Ladson presented a list of work orders his department has completed or outsourced over the last year. Mowing River Watch Parkway shoulders and rights-of-way three times, for instance, cost $82,500, while mowing 10.6 miles of Old Waynesboro Road shoulders three times cost $135,000. Removing 30 trees cost $65,249.
“Our biggest issue right now is not so much building new infrastructure, but maintaining what we have,” Ladson said.
City Administrator Fred Russell said Augusta was not unique in its trouble affording maintenance of sales tax-funded infrastructure and buildings.
In other business at the work session, plans moved forward to spend $1.5 million on demolition of dilapidated structures across the city.
Commissioner Matt Aitken, who is facing opposition for reelection this year, said using half of a budget surplus left from 2011 on demolition was “huge” for his District 1, which has an abundance of them.
“That’s one of the biggest issues in my district,” Aitken said. “It’s an opportunity to show that we’re going in the right direction.”
Russell said half of the demolition funds would come from a $1.7 million general fund surplus of 2011 revenues over operating expenses, confirmed by a recent audit and resulting in part from
better-than-expected local option sales tax collections and savings in personnel costs.
The other half of the demolition funds will come from the Urban Services District fund balance, which Russell said had available funds.