Originally created 02/17/99

County sets utility fund



Columbia County commissioners tentatively established a stormwater utility as an independent fund, which will support itself through fees charged to some Martinez and Evans residents.

A stormwater utility -- based on an approximately $3.50 charge to some residents -- would allow county officials to deal with stormwater damage along Reed Creek and other areas where unrestricted development has magnified the problems.

Tuesday night, county commissioners unanimously approved the first reading of a 10-page ordinance that officially created the utility and provided the power to charge residents.

"This specifies the utility will be operated as an enterprise fund, like the landfill or the water and sewer department," said County Engineer Jim Leiper.

The second and final reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the commission's March 2 meeting in Appling. If the ordinance is approved, Columbia County would be only the second governmental body in Georgia to implement such a fund. The city of Griffith created a similar utility in 1998.

Once commissioners approve the second reading of the ordinance, the real work begins, Mr. Leiper said. Because the utility fee will most likely be attached to the water and sewer bills of residents in the Martinez Fire Department coverage area -- which has been deemed as the utility's initial Urban Service Area -- county officials are having to create a master address list.

"But water and sewer doesn't serve everyone in that area," Mr. Leiper said. "We've got to identify the groups not in water and sewer's coverage."

In other business, commissioners voted to apply for an Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act grant to pay for $1 million of an estimated $1.4 million, 6.1-mile bike path slated to connect the Evans Government Complex to the Savannah Rapids Pavilion along Evans-to-Locks Road. The remainder of the money will be set aside in the county's fiscal year 2000 budget.

Jason B. Smith can be reached at 868-1222, Ext. 115, or jbsmith@augustachronicle.com.