Augusta Commission to discuss stormwater fee

Augusta’s rainiest August in 97 years flooded roads, sent untreated sewage into waterways and drove at least 12 families from homes that were heavily damaged.

It also provided a painful reminder of what a new stormwater fee, up for discussion at Monday’s Augusta commission committee meeting, might be able to remedy, although funds from the fee wouldn’t be available until late next year.

The fee, assessed on all property owners regardless of tax-exempt status and based on the water-permeable square footage of each property, could generate up to $10 million a year, according to Engineering Director Abie Ladson, who will present information to commissioners about the fee Monday.

Stormwater management is required by state and federal laws and the funds could be used to complete an inventory of Augusta’s aging – in some cases century-old – system of ditches, culverts, pipes, storm drains, manholes and other infrastructure, Ladson said. “We don’t know where all these are even located,” he said.

From Aug. 1 until Friday, the Augusta Cares hotline received 97 calls related to clogged storm drains and ditches, sinkholes, cave-ins and other storm- and flooding-related issues across the city, according to a report obtained from Augusta Cares Coordinator Martha King.

The calls, which exclude those that might have been made directly to engineering, included eight reports of stormwater runoff causing flooding, seven of stormwater causing erosion, four cave-ins around storm drains, six reports of sinkholes around city infrastructure, 35 reports of clogged or impeded storm drains, 27 clogged ditches and five requests for storm drains to prevent flooding that happened during the period.

Ladson said the sinkholes were often caused by the use of corrugated metal pipe underground, a poor choice of material that hasn’t lasted long.

The fee, if approved, also could be used for construction of regional detention ponds to address flooding issues on a wider scale, acquisition of property located on floodplains and vegetation maintenance, a duty assumed during the 2010 government restructuring that often impacts stormwater maintenance, he said.

“I think what you’re going to see over the next 10 years is a continuing dilemma with our infrastructure,” said City Administrator Fred Russell. “We have pipes that are 50 to 60 years old and older and, as with most governments, the maintenance is somewhat lax.”

Ladson’s presentation is Item 15 on the agenda for Augusta’s Engineering Services committee meeting, which is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. after the continuation from Tuesday of a legal meeting where commissioners will discuss options for Augusta Municipal Golf Course, which shut its doors Wednesday.

Other committee meeting items up for discussion include:

• Authorization of a $1.6 million agreement to relocate water and sewer mains for the widening of Wrightsboro Road from Jimmie Dyess Parkway to Bobby Jones Expressway

• Approval a 98-page resolution related to the refunding and reissue of $98.9 million in outstanding water and sewerage bonds

• Review bids received for resident relocation and property acquisition in the Hyde Park-Wilkerson Gardens drainage project, on hold since March

• Discuss the elevated crosswalk, estimated to cost from $1 million to $2 million, to connect the Augusta Convention Center and the new parking deck

• Approve a beautification agreement with Johnson, Laschober & Associates for the Broad Street median between 13th and 15th streets.

City committee considers stormwater fee, spending budget surplus

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