The Atlantic City Council, Wednesday, approved the adoption on the second reading, of an ordinance calling for an increase in the rate property owners pay for a Storm Water Equivalent Service Unit (or, ESU). If adopted on the 3rd and final reading during the next meeting, the ESU, which has not changed in over 10-years, will increase 35-cents per month, to $2.85. The proposed rate increase would 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. City Administrator Doug Harris has said also, that an additional $10,000 is needed per year, to continue to fund annual repairs to the City’s storm water management system, which has been average about $20,000.
The only objection heard during Wednesday evening’s meeting, came in the form of correspondence from Atlantic resident Charles Griffin. In his letter, read by Councilman Steve Livengood, Griffin, claims the “fee” is actually a tax, which is paid only by property owners, is not legal, because the citizens of Atlantic were not allowed to vote on it. Griffin urged the Council to repeal the ordinance altogether.
Snyder and Associates Engineer Pat Hall, was one of the creators of the storm water fee system which was approved by the Council, back in 2003. He refuted Griffin’s assertion about the fee being a tax. Hall said the whole intention of storm water utility is addressed in Chapter 384 of the Code of Iowa. Hall says it addresses City responsibilities for utilities, and services provided to the citizens of the community. Therefore he says, there is a basis for the fee, which is not a tax.
Hall said by setting up a utility, 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 land. For instance, the Cass County Memorial Hospital and Wal-Mart have large storm water utility bills.
Griffin asserted in his letter the people who are paying the fee are receiving little or no benefit from it, a statement Councilman Livengood refuted. He said it helps to control flooding within the City by maintaining the storm sewers. Councilman Shaun Shouse agreed, and said the fee is a “valid way to fund the reasonable transfer of storm water off of all the properties in town and down to the point where they can release it to the river.” He said if they didn’t take care of the matter by means of a fee, then the City would have to increase property taxes. As it is, the increased burden of handling the cost is placed upon those properties that send the most storm water down the sewage and drainage system.
The 3rd and final reading of the ordinance will take place during the next Council meeting, along with a final public hearing on the matter.