The Atlantic City Council held a brief, special session Wednesday evening, to act on approving the third and final reading of an amended ordinance calling for an increase in the ESU, or Storm Water Equivalent Service Unit rate. The ESU rate, which has not changed in over 10-years, will increase 35-cents per month, to $2.85, effective August 1st. The rate increase should generate $25,000 in additional revenues, which will be used to cover the net increase in debt service cost of $15,000 for repairs to the Bull Creek Underground drainage system and continued funding for annual repairs to the City’s storm water management system.
No one from the public was present to object to the increase or voice their opinions. And, when polled by the Mayor, only one of the Council members, Linda Hartkopf, mentioned she had heard anything from the public about the increase. Hartkopf said the person she spoke with opposed the move. Hartkopf told the individual the only other option was to raise taxes. She said “He didn’t like that idea, either.”
During the Council’s regular meeting on July 17th, prior to the second reading of the ordinance, a letter written by Atlantic resident Charles Griffin was read, which indicated he was opposed to the increase, because he claimed, it was not a “fee.” Instead, Griffin said it was an illegal tax because the citizens of Atlantic were not allowed to vote on it.
Snyder and Associates Engineer Pat Hall, one of the creators of the storm water fee system approved by the Council in 2003, said the intention of a storm water utility is spelled out in the Code of Iowa, along with a city’s responsibility for utilities, and services provided to the citizens of the community. Therefore, according to Hall, it is a fee, and not a tax. Hall said by setting up a utility fee, the City provides itself with a certain amount of flexibility, when it comes to payments for capital improvements, such as the Bull Creek storm sewer improvement project. The ESU is based on the amount of square footage on a parcel of property. Those who have more square footage would always pay more than those who have less.