Fees whip up a storm

Commission Chairman Steve Brown (back to the camera) explains a point to the overflow audience upset at new stormwater fees. Photo/John Munford.

Dozens demand answers, changes during hearing on stormwater fees; Brown: March 4 meeting may air alternatives to fees

They came angry and they came agitated, in no mood to hear why Fayette County was assessing a new stormwater fee on residents, businesses and churches in the unincorporated county.

Despite the contentious atmosphere in an overcrowded large meeting room Feb. 13, citizens got their chance to vent and suggest other ideas for funding the repair and replacement of miles upon miles of corrugated metal stormwater pipe that runs underneath roads.

It wasn’t easy from the get-go, as new County Administrator Steve Rapson began with a brief presentation on stormwater infrastructure and funding that included video of a road washing out, its pavement being swallowed up by the ground due to a failed stormwater pipe. Someone in the audience asked where the video was from.

“Maine” was the response, which elicited cackles of derisive laughter from a significant number of audience members.

The video is pertinent to Fayette County because it is this type of problem the county is trying to prevent with its stormwater program, Rapson noted. By being proactive, the county can repair many pipes before a road might wash out, thanks to a leaky, rusted pipe laying underneath, Rapson said.

“You want the police department and fire department to show up,” Rapson said. “They can’t do that if the road erodes because the stormwater infrastructure has not been repaired.”

Rapson in his presentation explained that the county’s stormwater infrastructure is aging, creating problems that need to be addressed, similar to replacing the roof on a home every 10 to 15 years. In this case, the corrugated metal stormwater pipes have a life expectancy of 25 years, and many are starting to reach that age all over the unincorporated county.

Furthermore, Rapson said, the county has to meet multiple federal and state mandates, which come without outside funding, to prevent flooding and also keep a watch on stormwater quality.

Rapson presented photos of failing stormwater pipe and other stormwater structures in need of repair. A recent repair on Kirkley Road cost $229,000, and a fix on Merrydale Drive cost $92,000, Rapson said.

The county is looking at an estimated $15 million to fix all of its stormwater problems over the coming years. The stormwater billing system is projected to net $643,000 in revenue this year, and so far some 66 percent of residents have already paid their bill in full for a total revenue of $426,570, according to Rapson.

That prompted two residents in the audience to shout in unison: “Give it back!”

Among the ideas from residents during the meeting was a proposal to extend the stormwater fee to all county residents, including those in Peachtree City and Fayetteville, which both already have their own stormwater utilities. Brown had previously said that was the main reason city residents weren’t included in the county’s stormwater utility, adding that the county is not proposing to fix stormwater problems in either city.

“City people also use our roads,” said one resident who was upset with the burden being on unincorporated residents only. “It’s not fair and we can’t afford it either.”

Brown later noted that such a plan would essentially double-tax city residents for the same service.

Peachtree City property owners recently got the news that their city-assessed stormwater fees would be more than doubling in many cases this year. The City Council is scheduled to vote this week on floating a $9.48 million bond issue to pay for repairs to the city’s stormwater system. (See related story above.)

A number of other residents argued that the county should remove the stormwater fee and add the stormwater costs to property tax bills so at least the homeowner would be able to get a state and federal tax deduction for the increased expenses.

Several residents criticized the use of impervious surface calculations to determine each property owner’s stormwater bill. Others were critical of not having the funding brought to them as a question in the November election.

A handful of residents condemned county spending in other areas, saying the government needed to trim its regular budget to fund the necessary stormwater repairs.

Brown insisted that significant, steep cuts are coming for the county’s budget and while his suggestion to repurpose money from the West Fayetteville Bypass to other projects failed, he is willing to take the heat now “because the county screwed up.”

“We cannot afford for our roads to collapse,” Brown said.

As for property taxes, Brown said the commission will not raise the county’s millage rate as a number of budget cuts are coming to prevent such an increase.

“You are going to see some drastic changes, I promise you,” Brown said, referencing about three pages worth of cuts he has proposed for the first budget meeting.

In his interactions with residents who brought up specific stormwater problems, Brown’s standard response was to volunteer to visit with the property owner to help resolve the situation. While it became a running joke to some, by the end of the meeting the crowd was using that punch line in a somewhat friendly manner.

One homeowner, who lives on Ellison Road, noted that he has a significant retention pond on his property which also detains stormwater from other adjacent parcels, but he will get no credit for that on his stormwater bill, although he would qualify for a credit for having rain barrels.

Brown said he agreed that such issues needed to be addressed.

Another homeowner complained that he got a $1,300 stormwater bill even though he has a 12-acre lake that impounds rainwater and drains into the Flint River.

Resident John E. Jones of Lawson Lane asked Brown to commit to canceling the recent stormwater fee at the next commission meeting and devise another way to fund the stormwater repairs.

“I can’t commit to doing it at the next meeting,” Brown said, noting that he couldn’t add it to the agenda for the following evening’s meeting. “We are taking these things into account, and it took four months to get a system in place today. We are taking everything into account ... We will look at everything to figure out what we need to do.”

The commission got nearly three hours of feedback last Wednesday at this meeting, and each commissioner was present to hear all the criticism.

The next stormwater town hall meeting is slated for Monday, March 4, in the commission chambers at the county government complex in downtown Fayetteville. Rapson said that at that meeting staff will address pros and cons of various solutions to fund stormwater system repairs.

Rapson noted that county staff has been instructed to hold off on issuing any surcharges and penalties for any late stormwater bills. He also said the county would avoid putting liens on anyone’s property for not paying their stormwater bill.

If the commission decides to ax the stormwater utility fee, the county has records of how much each property owner has paid and refunds would be issued, Rapson noted.

Spyglass
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Looks like a "Just for Men" convention.

:)

BobbyBiplane
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Is it possible ...

that I agree with the village idiot?

Mr. Sussberg, I have to come out of retirement to voice my agreement with your thoughts.

Bob

Larry.Sussberg
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Bobby

Bobby BiPolar, welcome back.

Larry.Sussberg
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Appropriate dress

We are better off with a smart pair of jeans than an empty suit so ultimately lets judge him by what he accomplishes.

On that point, our PTC mayor could wear a tuxedo and it wouldn't make a difference!

Thanks

moelarrycurly
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Chairman Brown

It would be appropriate to run meetings of this county wearing business attire and not jeans. In fact, it would be more than appropriate. The attendees in this photo all have outdressed the County Chairman. Please, realize the impression you leave with the public and dress accordingly.

AtHomeGym
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MLC & Attire

Personally,I'm more interested/concerned about what Commissioners SAY & DO than what they wear. Realize we all have our priorities.

Gort
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Speaking of dress codes, I

Speaking of dress codes, I couldn’t pick out SLindsey in the group photo of this gala affair,…

https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/575451_10200640801329250_185...

S. Lindsey
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Gort that looks more like your rotund figure

just without the guns of course...

Gort
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Well, I have to admit, I do

Well, I have to admit, I do have a cow catcher hanging over the belt buckle but most guys in their 60’s usually do. For example, look at the picture of the ‘storm water fee’ meeting, at the top of this page, but enough about me already.

Did you get to speak at this meeting?

S. Lindsey
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Yep...

...and the end result the Tax is on hold.

Now don't get me wrong they ARE going to put it somewhere else ....this I realize....BUT....it had better be applied with some reason not this cobbled together "impervious" BS...

btw- Granted not close to my 60's yet but you don't have to have that "Cow catcher" you can do something about that..

Tell you what when the economy collapses and we are all trying to survive get with me I will whip you into shape what are your skill sets.. surely you have something to offer on the Post Obama America...

Gort
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Well, enjoy your victory,

Well, enjoy your victory, temporary as it is. Someone is going to pay those bonds off. If the taxpayers don’t pay for them in a separate bill, it will be concealed in another.

BTW, if you’re so sure the, “economy collapses and we are all trying to survive,” why are you letting Fayette do the storm water projects at all? 8 - )

BTW2, don’t you worry about my cow catcher. If it gets out of hand, I own a few wheelbarrows and can use one of them to carry it around in if I have to! 8 - )

AtHomeGym
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Gort & Bonds

What bonds are you talking about---the PTC ones? Doesn't apply to we unincorporated folk.

Gort
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AHG, The bonds will come

AHG, The bonds will come after the project survey is complete and costs are determined. The county will use bonds just like PTC has too.

AtHomeGym
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Gort & Bonds

You have no idea what the Commissioners will do--I still have hopes they will reallocate SPLOST funds from future to current projects. Gwinnett County recently did with $12M.

Gort
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AHG, SPLOST funds? A sales

AHG, SPLOST funds? A sales tax on the general public to pay for projects that are the responsibility of property owners! That sounds like wealth redistribution, doesn’t it?

AtHomeGym
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Gort & Responsibility

So just what do you think is "responsibility of property owners"? We're talking mostly about Corrugated Steel Pipes underneath roadways. How does that get to be property owners responsibility?

Gort
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AHG, I believe it’s the

AHG, I believe it’s the property owner’s responsibility for two reasons.

1. The corrugated pipes under the streets are there to drain away excess water runoff from the properties that border the roadways. It’s the property owners that receive the benefit.

2. The fact that the county sent the storm water bills to the property owners makes me think the county does too.

AtHomeGym
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Gort, CSP & Responsibility

Gort, are you sure you don't work in the FC Stormwater Dept? You apply the same illogical rationale towards decision making and assignment of responsibility. Now if some certified professional had visited my property and pointed out where runoff was a problem and I needed to fix it--fine. But that didn't happen. I'll say this one more time and leave it--due to the natural elevation, existing undisturbed mature forest and cultivated vegetation, NO STORMWATER LEAVES MY PROPERTY! I've been here 26 yrs and haven't seen any CSP under any street or roadway in my neighborhood. Well, we'll see what they come up with and how they choose to implement it.

S. Lindsey
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What if...

You live in rural Fayette and there are NO storm drains at all Gort?

The County can send any bill it wants doesn't mean you actually owe it..

Just because Government does something Gort doesn't make it right.

John Mrosek
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"Just because Government does something

"Just because Government does something doesn't make it right." AMEN... I agree SLindsey.

That's is exactly why we are suing Peachtree City over their Stormwater Utility.

Assume that the County is directing their stormwater into some waterway and they pass their stormwater over your property. That's where we are at. The City has estimated the total cost of cleaning up the stormwater issues of 20 years found on our property (and the four other neighbors) to be $500,000. They then said "You private property owners pay for it". That ain't happening !

We sued because we want it in writing so we don't have to go through this a third time. Peachtree City refuses to give us that protection in writing.

Yup, "Just because Government does something doesn't make it right."

PTC Observer
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AHG - Also doesn't

Apply to those in Coweta, like Gort.

S. Lindsey
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Understand this Gort.. In a Zombie Apocalypse..

...I don't have to outrun the Zombies...I just have to outrun you...

Gort
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SLindsey, Yeah, right, the

SLindsey, Yeah, right, the zombie apocalypse.

You know, you really have to stop licking the lead end of your ammo stash! Heh, heh. 8 - )

S. Lindsey
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Just like a Bear Gort...

I don't have to outrun the Bear... I just have to outrun you...

Remembering your "stroll" among us at Starbucks.. I know I can outrun you so you might want to tone up just a little.... Just saying.

Like I said let me know... you can join me in one of my daily sessions..Considering your stance on the 2nd..You never know when you might have to "sprint" away from some scary looking dude in a parking lot..

Better to run then waddle..

Gort
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SLindsey, well thank you for

SLindsey, well thank you for the offer to help me out. I’ll be retiring soon enough and may just have some time for it.

BTW, I always thought of the rise of the TeaParty to be the sign of the zombie apocalypse!

BTW2, Do crazy looking dudes sprint away from you in parking lots?

S. Lindsey
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Gort...
Gort wrote:

BTW2, Do crazy looking dudes sprint away from you in parking lots?

Prey always recognize Predators.. The smart ones avoid me the stupid ones engage me..

Gort
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SLindsey, really, tell me,

SLindsey, really, tell me, how many times have you had to engage “some scary dudes in parking lots” this month?

S. Lindsey
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Once..

... in Riverdale and your point?

Husband and Fat...
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MLC

I agree we want our commissioners to be dressed appropriately. However, in a town hall type meeting, one would expect some less casual dress so that the common people feel more at ease. A nice pair of pants, shoes, and a dress shirt is what one would expect. I bet he thought it was going to get hot in the room and wanted to dress comfortable, lol

One has to give kudos to the chairman for the way he is handling this situation.

moelarrycurly
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H and F

My comments only go to appropriate dress. Does the county have a dress code for office workers and admin.? I have no problem with casual dress in a workshop format. I do have a problem with casual dress in a special called meeting.

AtHomeGym
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MLC & Dress C ode

Very difficult to enforce in a Government environment--not so hard in Private Industry--depending on Union status.

Husband and Fat...
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I don't disagree, but I give him a one time pass

You are absolutely right in a traditional business approach. One should dress a step above the norm.

I have not been a raving fan, however, I give him a pass this time as I think he wanted others to see him as the common man at this town hall meeting. It was going to be hot in the room and he didnt want to sweat thru his good suit or get it dirty running away from the mob chasing him, lol

Maybe he will dress nicer for us next meeting.

moelarrycurly
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Just the jeans, Daddy-O

the rest is fine. Jeans, not appropriate. I have no problem with the lack of a jacket.

Robert W. Morgan
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The dip had a 3-piece suit on in 2000. Him and BRAWN.

Like him or not, he had respect for the office of Mayor in PTC. He dressed up for opening night, had his toadies (which included Tennant then) dress up and did high fives before the meeting.

I am more concerned with what he does than how he dresses, but certainly agree that jeans are not appropriate for the leader of our county. Especially not Mom jeans.