PTC stormwater bills set to increase by 137%

Hike the same for homeowners, businesses, schools and churches

Peachtree City residents’ stormwater fees are set to increase drastically under a proposal that will be considered by the city council Thursday night.

Most city homeowners’ annual bills would go up between $44 a year and $99 a year, depending on the amount of impervious surface on the property. The city groups homeowners into four tiers for billing purposes. Those in Tier I will see their bill rise from $32.28 to $76.68; Tier II rises from $47.40 to $112.69 and Tier III would rise from $72 to $171.24 a year. The fourth tier, for attached residential (AR) would rise from $22.20 to $52.68 a year.

That is an across the board increase of 137 percent in all residential stormwater bills.

These increases also incorporate a surcharge to each bill for the impervious streets in the city, a $300,000 amount that previously came from the city’s general fund, according to city staff.

The rate increases would also affect stormwater bills issued to businesses, schools and churches, none of which are exempt from the city’s stormwater utility.

According to city staff, the bill increases are necessary to pay for $7.4 million in additional repair projects, all of which would be financed through a bond issue that would also refinance the 2006 stormwater bond for a total debt of $10.5 million.

Because of the proposed rate increase, city staff is proposing to change the billing system to twice a year instead of the current once a year bill issued to residential property owners.

The city’s stormwater program is designed to prevent pipe and road collapse, flooding and also drinking water contamination, and it has to meet a federal mandate to provide these services, including water quality monitoring of stormwater, city officials have said.

Among the major project estimates expected to be handled with the $7.4 million bond issue are:

• $1.5 million to line stormwater pipes that run beneath city streets and roads, along with other miscellaneous projects;

• $1.8 million to replace the drain system in the Harbor Loop area;

• $1.3 million to replace the drain system in the Golfview Drive area;

• $1.2 million to rehabilitate the two Kedron ponds;

• $911,000 for rehabilitation of the Rockspray pond;

• $450,000 for pipe lining in the area of Woodsdale and Lenox Road; and

• $120,000 for repairs to the stilling basin at the BCS Pond.

The city also maintains a crew of stormwater employees to handle routine maintenance such as cleaning out blocked drain pipes and sweeping debris from city streets. The city also has inspected its entire stormwater drainage system, which is aided by a number of ponds and lakes that impound water to be let out over a length of time into streams.

The problem, as seen in the project to improve Huddleston Pond, is that when the infrastructure deteriorates, it has to be repaired. In the case of Huddleston Pond, the fear was the earthen dam would fail, so the city had to drain the pond until the repairs could be completed. The final cost was $456,000 which was paid for with stormwater revenue.

Stormwater projects to not tend to be inexpensive. The city paid $175,000 on an assessment of the stormwater system and spent about $270,000 for new floodplain mapping. The city also spent $164,000 to remove a home in the Fairfield subdivision that flooded habitually. It was replaced with a regional detention pond at a final cost of $164,000.

Residents do have opportunities to reduce their stormwater bills by earning “credits” for litter removal activities such as the city’s Adopt-A-Mile or Adopt-A-Path programs. The city also will consider adding a 10 percent bill credit for homes which use rain barrels to prevent stormwater from running off the roof of their home.

Although the city could conceivably delay the bond issue, the main concern is that interest rates could increase and thus cost more to the city later, according to city spokesperson Betsy Tyler in a column on Page A5. There are also concerns that older pipes may fail, requiring emergency replacement and repairs, Tyler noted.

Currently, the city has about $750,000 remaining for capital projects from its 2006 stormwater bond. Regarding that 2006 bond, Tyler noted that when it was issued, the city knew of at least $9 million in needed drainage repairs, yet the total bond issue at that time was just $3.6 million. The lower figure was based on a theory that since the city could not complete all the projects at once, it made no sense to pay interest on money that could not be used, Tyler explained.

The city has $2.6 million outstanding on that bond issue, an amount that would be wrapped up into the $10.5 million bond as proposed by city staff for an estimated savings of more than $200,000 a year.

Bostonian212
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Are fingers being pointed in the wrong direction of responsibly?

It seems that the real issue here is the oversight department within the city responsible for the general maintenance/preventative maintenance of these projects. If they maintained them over the past several years and budgeted accordingly as operating budget, would it not make sense that we would not be in this doom/gloom mess now? The individual making the presentation at the council meeting made it sound like past council faults, etc. as to why we are about to lose lives and property if we don’t fix these problems right away. And no one on the council questioned “how is it that these projects were allowed to deteriorate so bad to get to this presumed potential catastrophic time bomb we are now faced with. I am not an engineer, but it seems that if the city department that has responsibility for upkeep of these did their job annually through preventative maintenance….
And, as Paul Harvey would say…now we know the rest of the story…we citizens get stuck with a 137% increase. Nice job PTC!

MYTMITE
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Thanks, Citizen Steve, it isn't enough that our bill will

increase, now you suggest an additional administrative charge for those choosing to pay twice a month. Instead of gouging us for more money shouldn't we be finding out just why this situation has gotten to this point? I am sure you will say it will only amount to a few dollars but we are slowly being inundated with these "small charges". Enough already.

John Mrosek
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New PTC Agenda: Proof they’re “Kicking the Can down the Road"

The entire Stormwater debacle over huge tax increases has been punctuated by this Council’s complaints that it costs so much because previous councils deferred known stormwater expenses or “kicked the can down the road”. People have used other expressions: “putting chewing gum in the holes”; “using plastic pipe”, etc. But this is precisely what the current PTC Council is doing tonight. Look at one small project on the “Revised Agenda” for tonight and it will show you how the Peachtree City Council generally runs this huge multimillion dollar stormwater beast.

Look at pages 1-2 of the Revised Agenda (surprisingly posted 25 hours before tonight’s meeting). Look under the Consent Agenda [http://www.peachtree-city.org/documents/2/02-07-2013%20revised%20packet_201302061601189761.pdf ] ). This is the part of the agenda where the public CANNOT speak. In fact council says nothing. They simply approve mundane matters without comment Council will say nothing. Under its “Consent Agenda” the City will retroactively approve an easement and approve money for partial work and to homeowners on a small project they call the “BCS Pond Stilling Basin”. Huh ?

Do you rememeber when this last appeared before Council ? Almost no one knows anything about this small stormwater project but it is a reflection of how PTC generally handles or refuses to handle stormwater issues. Attorney Matt Ramsey and his clients wanted to be paid for access to the pond over the clients’ private property. Council said no; it was deferred. Now they are kicking most of the work down the road. When it comes to spending tax dollars, why is this on a “No Comment” section of the Agenda? Why not with the Stormwater Tax Agenda item? Because they don’t want you to know about it.

The City Council has not voted on approving the payments for acquisition of the temporary easement. Two months ago City Hall agreed in writing to fund the removal of trees and to pay the homeowner for replacement trees..

We are asking Council, tonight, to explain why the BCS Pond repair numbers went from $69k to $500k to $120. But they won’t answer and they won’t discuss.

Now we know why. The Council knows (and has had an engineering report since 2007) that tells them they have to do $500k in work on this one “BCS Pond Stilling Basin”. Council is disregarding most of the work and only appropriating $120,000 tonight.. This is work that in house and two outside engineering firms have told them they have to do, going back six (6) years. They simply refuse to do most of it.

Which brings up the main question--- when are they doing the remaining $380,000 of the work? In another six (6) years? Never? Will it double or triple ? And is this how they handle all of their stormwater projects ? Why not acquire a PERMANENT easement for the rest of the work and for inevitable maintenance. The City plans to spend the same money again twice: tearing down trees, putting up replacements. Or they have planned to NOT do the work.

In my Op-Ed piece in the Citizen June 7, 2011 ( “Stormwater Fees Necessary To Assure We Have Clean Water”[http://www.thecitizen.com/blogs/john-mrosek/06-07-2011/stormwater-fees-necessary-assure-we-have-clean-water ]) I said at the end: “How are our local governments doing with stormwater control? More on that later.”) This blog is the answer, after nearly two years.

All Council is doing tonight is doubling our stormwater taxes, wasting our money and not doing the work. And, most importantly, the City is holding the federal Clean Water Act in contempt.

John Mrosek
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1 QUESTION FOR 2/7 PTC COUNCIL MEETING

Dear Mayor and Council:

Would you answer 1 question at tomorrow night's meeting? Small project mistakes lead to huge budget deficits. Although I am not familiar with most of the stormwater projects to be discussed on tomorrow night’s meeting agenda, I am familiar with the BCS Project: it affects our property and my neighborhood. Studying this one project might answer the question of why the stormwater utility appears to have such challenges

ANSWER ONE QUESTION TOMORROW NIGHT AT THE COUNCIL MEETING (FEBRUARY 7, 2013):

Why do City budget figures, within one year, for the repairs for the “BCS Stilling Pond Basin” (according to City records) change from

· $60,000.00 in February 2012 ( http://vault.peachtree-city.org/weblink7/docview.aspx?id=22477 ) to

· $500,000.00 in May of 2012 ( http://vault.peachtree-city.org/weblink7/docview.aspx?id=26875 ) to

· $120,000 on February 7, 2013 (as reported in today’s Fayette Citizen newspaper).

I have not received information sufficient to answer this one simple question. Your response will be appreciated.
.

Spyglass
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Hey Council...most of us can add

going to two bills a year isn't going to fool anyone.

On the surface of it, this seems excessive...

Anyone on Council care to expound?

Don Haddix
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Haddix: Expounding

Old bill plus new bill plus shifting the cost of the streets, etc from the General Fund to the Stormwater Fee. But you get no offset reduction in your property tax bill to compensate. An effective tax increase on both your property tax and Stormwater bills.

Two bills was a proposal by a Councilmember to soften the hit.

Citizen_Steve
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Semi-annual

I suggest you allow annual payments, but also offer semi-annual with an upcharge to cover the cost of administration. Many companies take that approach.

Husband and Fat...
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Spy

The feds made the laws in 2003. 10 years later, we are now addressing it. This tax should have been in effect a long time ago as we clean up the infrastructure that is corroding and past its shelf life.

Councils past and present just kicked the can down the street putting chewing gum in the hole to seal the dam instead of addressing the issues.

NUK_1
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AHG

Agreed, but I think Spyglass' point is why go to a two-a-year billing system for this? That seems to waste more money and resources just billing/collecting for what isn't a huge amount.

I know my property tax bill comes due all at one time, not twice a year My HOA dues too. My ad volerum tax, same. I don't think it's "easing any burden" on homeowners by just billing them the total amount due and expecting it to be paid. Sounds like a political dodge to temporarily quiet angry taxpayers.