A plan viewed as a source of much-needed flood relief in some areas of Augusta and an unnecessary government fee elsewhere goes before the city commission Tuesday for further approval.
The commission, which approved an initial phase of implementing the stormwater fee last year, will vote on spending $484,453 in Sales Tax 6 funds with consultant AMEC Inc., to advance the fee program, including the development of a rate structure, billing system and public awareness campaign.
The year’s record rainfalls have served as a frequent reminder of inadequate stormwater drainage systems in the urban District 1 represented by Commissioner Bill Fennoy, a proponent of the fee.
“We have a lot of flooding that goes on in Augusta,” he said. “Any time there’s a real big rain we have some communities that have multiple water breaks and they don’t have any drinking water, they don’t have any bathing water.”
While other areas of the city may not experience as severe of flooding, Fennoy said he hoped all would buy into the program and pay the fee, as many pay school taxes even without having children in Richmond County schools.
“I think it’s fair for everybody to participate in it,” he said.
On another side of the stormwater debate is Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, who likened his mostly rural District 8 to rural parts of Columbia County, which lack storm drainage infrastructure and were exempted when the suburban county implemented a stormwater management program in 2000.
“Columbia County focused on the urban area,” Guilfoyle said. “It’s the only fair and equitable way.”
Columbia County exempts no one within the district from the fee, including residential, commercial, nonprofit and even governmental users, said Gary Bennett, stormwater utility department manager. The county even charges the fee against its own buildings.
Commissioner Bill Lockett agreed with the plan and Guilfoyle’s desire to opt out areas lacking stormwater systems beyond unmaintained ditches.
“I think Commissioner Guilfoyle has a brilliant idea about us treating parts of his district somewhat differently because they are primarily rural areas,” Lockett said.
Pushed as necessary under federal stormwater mandates and a way to help avoid raising taxes, Engineering Director Abie Ladson estimated the fee of a few dollars a month for a typical household will generate up to $10 million annually to maintain the city’s stormwater infrastructure.