Storm warning for Fayette’s taxpayers

Dennis Chase's picture

Another issue has come up that concerns me. A concern that, it follows the direction that it has started will have an impact on a lot of folks in Fayette County.

The county is moving toward more intensive management of stormwater needs for areas outside the city limits of Fayetteville and Peachtree City. Those two cities already have management plans for stormwater. The first step was taken in December 2009, and the proposal, at least at this point, is going to cost us more money.

Addressing stormwater is mandated by federal and state regulations which require our local governments to establish a program to address two primary goals. First is the obvious need to plan for, and manage, stormwater runoff. Second is to maintain and hopefully improve the quality of our water in our streams. I am a strong supporter of doing everything we can to accomplish both goals.

To take on the complex problems encountered in management of stormwater requires some thoughtful planning. Fayette County already has a Stormwater Department, so we should begin with an understanding of what plans are in place, who is managing them and how much they cost.

Next we need to know what stormwater-related problems exist and where they are located. To accomplish both stated goals, we also need to know everything we can about water quality issues. Another step is to estimate what it will cost to take on the various needs identified in our planning process. Finally, we have to figure out how to gather the money to pay for everything.

All of that involves a common-sense approach that I believe we have a right to expect. However, as I have witnessed in my review of the documents available, Fayette County is skipping those planning steps and going right to the last point, essentially saying, “Show us the money!”

In the last year, expenditures on stormwater-related measures came to just over $400,000. While exact numbers are not available yet, it looks like it will take $1.5 million per year to expand the program enough to take on several areas of need. It could be more, but not likely to be less.

Such numbers are evidently not available in our current general fund, so a new source will be required. The choice is either raise taxes or create a Stormwater Utility to collect “fees.”

The cost of the two methods for county residents is not as simple as it the county is trying to make it sound. And the results may not be the same either.

My main concerns are, first, that we are being asked to put more money into the hands of county officials without knowing what we are paying for. And it is frightening that as of now, I don’t think they know what the money will be used for either.

Second, Fayette County has a history of establishing programs, plans or stated needs and then somehow things change. Worse yet, funds are gathered and then applied to projects that have no basis of need. The West Fayetteville Bypass is an unfortunate example of just such methodology.

I don’t know just how close we are to a final decision by the county commissioners to establish their desired Stormwater Utility. In my opinion, unless we as a county step back and do some real planning, the way it should be done, we will have another expensive mess on our hands.

[Dennis Chase, now retired, was a fish and wildlife biologist with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 26 years. Since retiring, he has worked as a consultant for Fayette County on environmental concerns, is a volunteer with the Line Creek Association of Fayette County, and has published numerous newspaper columns.]

BHH
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Thank you Dennis for bring this up again

We definitely need to identify the problems that need attention before determining to create funding. It seems to me that Mother Nature has taken care of storm water for eons without our help and she will certainly continue to do so long after all of us are gone. If the federal and state governments have needs then they should provide funding for them. But I have a BIG problem with government continually trying to take control of every drop of water in our environment. There is a movement for government to take possession of all waterways including streams, creeks and all surrounding land. When they do we are in BIG trouble because no one will be able to access any wet spot on the earth without government approval. The next thing might be air. Permission to breath please. Everyone should be allowed the freedom to use as needed certain things like air, water, and food. The government is not good at managing our basic needs. That's why we have guarantees to the pursuit of them in the ORIGINAL Constitution.
Storm water is one thing government has NO business messing with. It's Mother Nature's prerogative how she manages it. And she'll do a very fine job of that without my money.

AtHomeGym
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Stormwater related expenditures

One must wonder what in the world they did to spend $400,000? Is that info available somewhere? Who approves such expwenditures? Hey Commissioner Brown, here's something you can REALLY get your teeth into!

NUK_1
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If you think Dennis Chase is against stormwater management....

...at the federal, state and local level, you don't know Dennis Chase at all.

I actually agree with everything he says(a first for me!) in this article about the serious need for PLANNING and BUDGETING in regards to stormwater management and now rather than later, with the key being "management."

If man hadn't decided to populate, build, live and develop in every area obtainable, maybe we could let Mother Nature just wash away everything to WHEREVER and also not give a damn if due to my actions Mother Nature decided to wash away tons of mud on public streets or my neighbor's property. That hasn't been the reality for a long time now and water quality IS a serious issue that requires man-made intervention since "we" caused the problems to begin with and we also happen to need clean water to survive.

I think you need to brush up on exactly what stormwater management is as mandated by the Feds and states, BHH, why it was done, and why it is necessary.

BHH
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You just watch your actions and stop making such a mess.

Most of the money that is being spent is due to road improvements which are budgeted for elsewhere and this is just a ploy to separate items in a project in order to collect money again that has already been paid in road taxes. Next we'll have to start a separate billing for green space maintenance which will include mowing rights of way and replanting every time they make an improvement to a road and other things already paid by road taxes. The storm basins are being created and maintained by private enterprise due to regulations on such things. The things you mention are managed by regulations. The next thing is for the government to grab the land that they required developers to designate as catch basins for storm water run off so they can better justify taking more money to help Mother Nature manage her storm waters and her self persevering wooded areas already known as green spaces.

NUK_1
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BHH: Stormwater

As a Libertarian, it seriously pains me to have to admit that this is an issue better handled by government than private enterprise or private individuals because those groups have shown over and over for a very long time little to NO responsibility in this regard.

As far as road taxes supposedly supporting this, no they don't. A lot of local governments do not collect road taxes or manage state roads anyway but they do "allow" certain activities(like building anything) or industry that can definitely contribute to stormwater run-off going into places no one wants it to.

People and industry had a long time to show they were mature enough to handle this issue and failed miserably. That's why you now have Big Bro mandating it and some complaining about "why?"

BHH
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I know it too

But the idea of a utility bill for such a thing stinks. I have a choice if I want to buy a product or service from a utility company. If I want I can have it turned off. This service is something that I will never use on my property yet I will be required to pay as if I do. That makes it a tax. There is no service being used at my address that I can't have cut off. By calling this a utility they are trying to undermine the taxation process and once it is in place there will never be any need to follow any tax laws for increasing rates and it will never end even if the need diminishes completely.