A proposal by Clermont County to create a storm water district to monitor, maintain, update and create storm water infrastructure hit a snag last week when the Batavia Township Board of Trustees adopted a resolution opposing the creation of a “storm water fee” to fund the district.
“We’re losing lots of houses here in the county, with them being repossessed,” said trustee Archie Wilson. “With all of these increases in water and sewer and levies coming up, people are losing their homes. I don’t feel right just tacking things on. They call this a fee, but I call it a tax. We have no voice in it, people can’t vote on it. With our police levy, people had the opportunity to vote on it. These kind that creep in and create a new fee – they don’t call it a tax, and people can’t afford it anymore.”
The storm water district would provide a service desperately needed in portions of the county – controlling storm water buildup and preventing flooding in flood-prone neighborhoods. However, the new county department would require extra funding, and as such a fee of $3.81 a month per single family residence and a similar fee for businesses based on the physical size of the business was proposed.
"There are people who don't have the extra $40 a year, and it's not just this," said Wilson. "Their water and sewer bill just went up, the electricity is going up. You have to have electric. The seniors are going to put on a levy. Our fire chief is going to have to put on a levy because he's not going to have enough money in a few years to operate because he's not getting the TIF money. He'll probably move from a 5.5 mill levy to a 6.5 mill levy. They've been holding off a bond issue in West Clermont. If people get hit with all of that, and you're just barely making it, you're going to lose your home. That American Dream is being taxed away from us. They need to see how they can help these people for a few years, it's not a good economy in this county."
Wilson proposed the resolution, and was supported unanimously by other board members Deborah Clepper and Lee Cornett.
"The trustees went along with it and we made a resolution," said Wilson. "The county had open meetings about it (the storm water district), and the trouble about government is you have to have open meetings. But it's a formality. It's already in the plans to happen. You might have a public meeting for comments, but if you look at our township, you're producing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year."
However, Clermont County Commissioner Bob Proud said that no plans have yet been made to form the district, or even decide on whether to form it.
"I can only speak for myself, but I haven't decided at all if I will support it or not," said Proud. "There are still questions I need answered. If the county proceeds with it, the decision is whether to cover the areas that are under the EPA mandate or to do the whole county. If the decision is made to only proceed with those districts, other districts would have the option to be included. I don't support doing the whole county. Before anything is done, I want to make sure all of the jurisdictions are doing what they can to address storm water."
At issue is an Environmental Protection Agency regulation requiring storm water runoff to be controlled rather than allow it to pollute streams. John McManus, of the county storm water management department, said that non-compliance could mean very significant fines.
"It's not required by law to form a utility, but there are requirements from the state in the clean water act that require the county and a number of townships and municipalities to reduce pollution coming from storm water runoff," said McManus. "It's a classic unfunded mandate, which isn't to say it is unnecessary. We absolutely have to protect the rivers and streams. It's challenging, new regulations with no new resources. A utility would help us address these EPA regulations."
The regulations, he said, only focus on protecting streams. Creating a funded district would not only allow runoff to be taken care of before it pollutes a stream, but could help solve property flooding as well.
"The EPA regulations with water quality issues associated with storm water runoff aren't concerned with quantity issues," said McManus. "They don't care about flooding, of which we have hundreds of problems in the county. The catch is, if there is a drainage system with a road, the entity responsible for taking care of the road can take care of that. Once you get outside the road and onto private property, it's everyone for themself. Nobody can provide assistance for private property flooding issues, but a storm water district can make that happen."
If the district is approved by the county, it would most likely take a few months to get set up. The monthly fee would then be enacted. Proud said that the county is currently logging every call, comment or letter concerning the proposed storm water district, in hopes of gauging where the people stand on it.
"You won't have a single person argue with the idea of dealing with storm water," said Proud. "No one will argue that, anybody would recognize that we have a storm water problem in the county. The concern from the citizens comes from how we fund it. That's where the problem lies."