Council presented information on stormwater fees | News, Sports, Jobs
LOCK HAVEN – Lock Haven City Council continues to seek funding resources to repair its aging stormwater management infrastructure.
At a previous meeting, while discussing capital improvement projects, City Manager Greg Wilson told council that he had included ballpark figures on the cost of improving stormwater infrastructure on 30 years. According to Wilson’s calculations, the cost would be around $30 million in the end, and would add up to around $1.4 million each year.
According to Mark Glenn, president of the city’s engineering firm Gwin Dobson and Foreman, the city has a few financing options, but none are a panacea. Glenn presented the city with information about its stormwater management infrastructure and potential funding opportunities.
Among them are subsidies from the city’s liquid fuels allocation; annual budget allocations for streets/storm sewers; Block grant funding for community development—although often spent on park improvements and some paving; PennDOT’s streetscape funds (Glenn noted that this funding does not include underground systems); and budgetary capital expenditures which can often change based on need each year.
The other option would be an Equivalent Residential Unit (URE). According to Glenn, an ERU is similar to the measurement used for sewer payments – Equivalent Dwelling Unit – and sees a residential property measured and averaged to give a median number. This ERU is used to develop a flat fee for residential and commercial property owners.
“An ERU based on the stormwater generating potential of a property measured by its impermeable surface,” he said. Some examples are a house, a roof, concrete sidewalks or driveways.
“(Storm water) simply goes down with the downspout, on a surface or directly in the street”, Glenn explained.
To determine the city’s average ERU for residential properties, city staff and GDF measured each parcel of land using GIS (residential and commercial), which determined that approximately 53.75% of the area of the town’s properties is residential. This totals approximately 3,222 (420 vacant). In total, an average of 45.95% of these properties is estimated to be an impermeable zone. According to Glenn’s presentation, that’s 8.7 million square feet of impervious area, which averages out to 2,700 square feet of ERU.
Less than half of the city is non-residential and has approximately 4,528 square feet of ERU.
Since an ERU fee would be a flat rate per household, Glenn presented the board with three examples:
— If the ERU were to be $27.29 per year, the city could see funding of $200,000.
— If the ERU were to be $50 per year, the city could see funding of $366,500.
— If the ERU were to be $100 per year, the city could see funding of $733,000.
According to Glenn, stormwater fees are becoming more common as communities face similar challenges to the city with aging infrastructure and poor funding opportunities. The examples he gave were the boroughs of Clarion, Chambersburg, Ebensburg, Baldwin, Gettysburg and Highspire, Harrisburg and Hazelton.
Each municipality has its own annual fee which ranges from $25 to $100. Glenn explained that their numbers are also based on population size.
If council were to move forward with a stormwater charge, Glenn said the following steps would need to be taken:
— Establish whether the municipal administration would oversee funding or whether a municipal authority would be established.
— Meet legal requirements such as establishing ordinances, rules and regulations.
— Produce a project engineering and condition assessment report that would include proposed projects, costs and priorities.
— Finalize an ERU calculation.
— Inform the public of potential stormwater charges and allow comments.
— Notify owners of non-residential buildings.
Whichever funding route the city might take – should the council choose to undertake this decades-long project – Glenn presented facts and information on how GDF would propose to move forward with the project. .
According to Glenn’s presentation, the city has 45 miles of streets and alleys; 50 miles of curbs; 26 miles of storm sewers; 1,300 rainwater intakes; and 300 looks.
With a 50-75 year old system, many of the problems it is currently experiencing include potholes/sinkholes, damaged pavement, missing or damaged curbs and collapsed pipes/poor inlets, a said Glenn.
“In many cases it has reached the end of its useful life,” he said.
Glenn said the biggest problem the city faces with its stormwater system is drainage.
In terms of tax changes, Glenn said the infrastructure would need new curbs, storm drains and pavements on the streets. He noted that it might be possible to coordinate the improvements with the renewal of the city’s sanitary sewers and water lines if they go ahead with the project.
Glenn said GDF is considering a three-pronged approach if the city is to move forward with these improvements. This includes building a storm sewer, installing curbs and paving streets.
“(Storm drains) are really essential. If the storm sewer is undersized or in poor condition, it must be replaced and must serve as the main amenity to bring water from the street to the discharge point,” said Glenn.
Setting up a border “flow line” Also important is that the water reaches an inlet and goes to a discharge point, he continued.
And, the final piece of the puzzle is the street paving which sometimes includes overlay if the need arises, he concluded.