Storm warning for Fayette’s taxpayers
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.]