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Stormwater fee among other items on Augusta Commission agenda

Monday, Oct. 14, 2013 8:08 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 9:49 AM
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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.

IN OTHER ACTION

Also up for approval or discussion Tuesday include:

  • A presentation from activist Brad Owens on the city’s recent proposal to designate downtown Augusta as a “slum” to borrow money at lower rates to renovate Augusta Municipal Building
  • A presentation from former Terrace Manor Principal Hartley Gibbons on the court order enjoining Augusta’s use of race criteria in the award of contracts and the city’s existing study of disparities in contract awards. Gibbons has served on the city’s disadvantaged business committee.
  • A presentation of information about Augusta Public Transit’s recent vote to unionize, expansion plans and ridership concerns
  • A first glance at City Administrator Fred Russell’s proposal for the 2014 budget. Russell said he won’t expect the group to approve the document Tuesday.
Comments (12) Add comment
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bubbasauce
20573
Points
bubbasauce 10/14/13 - 10:36 pm
5
0
No storm drain tax on anyone!

No storm drain tax on anyone! Period. Enough is enough! Total BS!!!

soapy_725
43553
Points
soapy_725 10/15/13 - 08:37 am
0
0
A Storm Water Fee is not a tax. Sort of like a Garbage Fee.
Unpublished

Ain't politics great!!! They play the "word" game better than Vanna.

dichotomy
30362
Points
dichotomy 10/15/13 - 08:45 am
6
0
"Engineering Director Abie

"Engineering Director Abie Ladson estimated the fee of a few dollars a month"

Hmmm, that sounds like the same song and dance we heard about the garbage service when it was just a proposal. It didn't take them long to DOUBLE THE PRICE and NOT DO what they told us they were going to do. CUT THE SERVICE IN HALF.....DOUBLE THE PRICE. ONCE A FEE IS ON THE BOOKS THE RC COMMISSIONERS CANNOT RESIST RAISING IT EVERY COUPLE OF YEARS..

Ask them why they have not been maintaining the system with the tax money we give them. Ask them why the Commission, the Planning and Zoning folks, and the Engineering folks have not done their jobs when approving all of the commercial building projects that have caused the flooding. Ask them why YOU now have to pay for what THEY caused with their COMBINED INCOMPETENCY.

Little Lamb
43803
Points
Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 09:10 am
3
0
A few dollars here, a few dollars there . . .

. . . pretty soon you're talking real money.

First we see Abie Ladson saying the fee will be a few dollars a month.

Then we see the commission voting 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.”

If they don't have a rate structure yet, how can Ladson declare it will be a “few” dollars a month?

People have said the fee will be based on how many square feet of impervious surface a property owner has on his parcel. Well, based on that, the owner of Augusta Mall will certainly pay more than a “few” dollars. How about the owner of that fancy ADP complex out on Flowing Wells Road? That's got a lot of impervious surface. The Target shopping center on Daniel Parkway is just about all impervious. Watch for some re-definitions of “few” when that bill is tallied.

Is there anyone reading the Chronicle who thinks that this AMEC Inc. consulting firm will come up with a simple, flat, fee structure that treats all property owners equally? Don't you think there will be some back room dealing whereby some property owners are treated more equally than others?

Little Lamb
43803
Points
Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 09:19 am
1
0
Collection

After AMEC Inc comes up with a fee structure, the next task will be setting up a billing system. In Columbia County, they put the stormwater fee on the water/sewer bill. But I can imagine some commissioners wanting to put the fee on the property tax bill so that renters won't get sticker shock when they pay the water bill. The landlord will, of course, increase the rent to cover the storm water fee, but most low-information tenants will not put two and two together.

If they decide to bill via utilities, property owners not connected to Augusta Utilities water or sewer get a pass — as they should, since their land will be largely undeveloped. But if they decide to bill via property tax bill, those owners not connected to water/sewer will get soaked.

Little Lamb
43803
Points
Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 09:21 am
0
0
Hephzibah

What about the citizens of Hephzibah and Blythe? They each have their own water system, and Hephzibah has a sewer system. I presume those cities take care of their own storm water ditches and drains. Surely they will be exempt from the Augusta storm water fee.

Fiat_Lux
14787
Points
Fiat_Lux 10/15/13 - 09:56 am
3
0
NO MORE!

“I think it’s fair for everybody to participate in it,” he said.

Everybody WON"T be participating in it. It will be just another case of taxpayers having to come up with money out of their own pockets to pay for other people's problems.

This has got to stop. You idiots are taxing us to death, and doubling the price of something without giving a damn thing in return is absolutely for the birds.

But don't worry, Mr. Fennoy, your constituents will still re-elect you. They're the ones who are happy to have you keep on piling their load onto our backs.

Yeah, that's definitely fair.

Fiat_Lux
14787
Points
Fiat_Lux 10/15/13 - 09:54 am
1
0
NO MORE!

Absolutely.

Rather
56
Points
Rather 10/15/13 - 11:14 am
0
1
Put Ronnie ...

Put Ronnie Few in charge. He's in there somewhere.

Sweet son
9649
Points
Sweet son 10/15/13 - 02:17 pm
2
1
It seems that if it is a federal mandate that the feds should

look into their wasteful fund checking accounts and send the money. As bubbasauce and Fiat basically said it is total BS! And if it is an apple then call it an apple! IT IS A TAX PURE AND SIMPLE! They, the commission and the tax mongers, have jumped on this thing because of the emotional sentiment that still lingers after a spring and summer with record rains. The medical center has been flooding since at least the mid 70's because I was there.

How can we the taxpayer stop this? We need a local lawyer to step up and file some sort of court action to stop it and if none of the locals will then go out of town and find one that will. If someone gets a lawyer and sets up a fund to help pay him I will be happy to donate with others to defer costs. I would rather pay a lawyer than pay another dime to the Richmond County government!

dsmith46
35
Points
dsmith46 10/15/13 - 04:08 pm
2
1
Stormwater Fee

I don't really object to the storm water fee (tax), but I do object to wasting a half a million on yet another consultant when I feel sure that all that is really necessary is to get a model from another city that has a sucessful program and implement it here. I'm not really sure if Columbia County's program is good or bad, but I am sure that there is someone in the City Government who could evaluate it.

Little Lamb
43803
Points
Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 04:20 pm
0
0
Disadvantaged

From the story:

Also up for approval or discussion Tuesday include: A presentation from former Terrace Manor Principal Hartley Gibbons on the court order enjoining Augusta’s use of race criteria in the award of contracts and the city’s existing study of disparities in contract awards. Gibbons has served on the city’s disadvantaged business committee.

Here is an actual disadvantaged business:

Sonoma

Little Lamb
43803
Points
Little Lamb 10/15/13 - 05:51 pm
1
0
waste

dsmith makes a good point. Fact is, it was not too many years ago when the standard consultant fee for a study and report was in the $65,ooo dollar range. Now, every study carries price tags in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. First we have this one at $485,000 and Kwatinetz's "incubator" feasibility study is $300,000. No one's salary went up that fast except for the consultants.

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