Creation of stormwater utility is proposed
by Joyanna Love Senior Staff Writer
Jun 08, 2014 | 935 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Stormwater Regulations Board voted to recommend to Cleveland City Council the creation of a stormwater utility with the stipulation that the issue will come before the advisory board on an annual basis.

Chairman Kent Berry abstained from the vote.

The Stormwater Utility Ordinance is scheduled to be considered by the Cleveland City Council at a later date

Many board members had concerns that if the utility, and the stormwater fee that went with it, were implemented there would be no end to the fee.

“It’s a good thing to do in my opinion when it’s not oppressive,” Berry said.

He said there needs to be a way to end the fee if it looks like it would become oppressive to city residents.

The stormwater fee was created as a part of the Cleveland City budget for the coming year. The Stormwater Utility Ordinance outlines why the fee is being created, how it will be charged and how it will be used.

Stormwater coordinator Chris Broom said the stormwater ordinance was patterned after the Municipal Technical Advisory Service model Stormwater Utility ordinance.

City manager Janice Casteel said initially residential utility users with less than 2,500 square feet will be charged $1 per month and nonresidential utility users larger than 2,500 square feet will be charged $2.

This revenue will be used to fund a study to determine how much impervious land every property in Cleveland has. Impervious land, such as concrete or asphalt, forces water to run off the land rather than being absorbed by it. This data will be used to calculate the exact amount people will pay in the future. The amount will be determine be multiplying the base rate set by the City Council by the unit.

Director of Development and engineering Jonathan Jobe said a firm to complete the impervious study has not been selected yet.

Board member Mickey Torbett said he was in favor of phasing in the stormwater fee as was being proposed.

“This is the way to do it,” Torbett said. “Let’s make sure what the fee is, as low as we can get it and still accomplish what we need to accomplish.”

Casteel said the ordinance will be amended at that time to reflect the specific rates.

Jobe said the state average is $3 a month.

The Stormwater utility and the stormwater fee are being created to bring the city of Cleveland in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. As a part of the act, Congress has mandated that stormwater issues be fixed. Establishing the fee will provide a revenue stream to ensure that needed projects can be completed.

Casteel said the city will also be applying for grants. The city will be able to fix some of the stormwater and flooding issues outlined in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study.

The only exemption for the stormwater fee are properties that do not have water runoff. No exemptions can be given to churches or nonprofits. Casteel explained even government properties and schools will be required to pay the fee.

While county residents will not be charged the stormwater fee, county governmental buildings and county schools within the city limits will be charged the fee.

Vice Mayor and member of the advisory committee Avery Johnson said the City Council wanted to solve the flooding issues that keep being presented.

“We have needs in every district,” Johnson said.

Establishing the Stormwater Utility and fee also enables the city to come in compliance with accounting best practices listed by the Government Finance Officers Association in the city’s yearly audit. Each year GFOA has told the city it should not have stormwater as a separate fund unless it has its own funding source.

The city has also participated in a flood study through the Army Corps of Engineers, which provides opportunities for the city to receive funding up to 65 percent of the project for flood mitigation projects.