County engineer: Stormwater fee ‘barely allows’ top priorities
[Editor’s note: The following was written in response to a Fayette resident questioning the county’s use of fees collected from the stormwater utility fee.]
A copy of your comments regarding the stormwater utility fee was forwarded to me. I’m writing you to 1) acknowledge receipt of your letter; and 2) clarify some points that many people are confused over. No one likes additional fees and the frustration can be especially high when it is based on bad information.
Some points of clarification:
1. The purpose of the stormwater utility fee is to repair, replace, or upgrade existing stormwater infrastructure within the unincorporated county. Damaged or failed systems are already jeopardizing county roads and private properties. The situation will only worsen with further neglect. This is a problem across the country, and federal regulations, environmental protection, and public safety all demand action.
2. The stormwater utility and the Fayette County Water System are two independent entities with vastly different structure, organization, purposes and funding sources. Both do, however, operate as an “enterprise” fund; i.e., the revenue they collect can only be used for maintenance, operations, projects, etc., that support their purpose.
3. New parks — There has been substantial coverage in the press and various websites about a passive park associated with the Longview Road Dam project. Fayette County is owner of this dam and is responsible for bringing the structure into compliance with state safety standards. One option for compliance is to rebuild the dam. The cost will be approximately $1,409,800 for this option.
The Board of Commissioners has indicated that they would support re-building of the dam only if the lake and surrounding land were donated to Fayette County so the amenity can be enjoyed by all county citizens. We are negotiating with the property owner and it is uncertain what the final solution will be. Under any option, water system funds will not be used for this project.
4. Existing park — Last year the Water System funded and completed construction of Lake McIntosh Park along the new drinking water reservoir. The decision to develop this park was made by a previous board and the intent was to make the lake accessible to the public in a manner that could be controlled, since the lake’s primary purpose is for water supply. The Lake McIntosh Reservoir and Park are independent of the stormwater utility.
The Longview Road Dam project ... is among the largest of the stormwater utility projects, which has a total combined cost estimate in excess of $18 million. A list of all the projects is available upon request.
The current utility fee schedule generates approximately $600,000 per year. Although that is a substantial amount of money, it barely allows us to work on the most pressing projects. Stormwater management will be an issue that county commissioners, staff and citizens continue to deal with for many years.
Phil Mallon, PE