Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New stormwater fee flows in Jan. 1

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 12/23/2013

Forestalled, but not forgotten.

The City of Ottawa is set to implement a stormwater utility fee in January.

Forestalled, but not forgotten.

The City of Ottawa is set to implement a stormwater utility fee in January.

Customers will see the new fee on their January utility bills, Scott Bird, the city’s finance director, said Monday.

Approved in spring 2012 by the Ottawa City Commission, residential properties and units will pay a flat fee of $4 per month, which will be reflected on customers’ monthly utility bills, Bird said.

Non-residential properties — including businesses, industries, churches, schools, non-profits and governmental properties — are calculated by taking the property’s total amount of impervious space and dividing that total by the Equivalent Residential Unit of 2,600 square feet, according to a city news release. As an example, a business with a 10,000-square-foot building and a 40,000-square-foot parking lot has 50,000 square feet of impervious space. And 50,000 square feet divided by the Equivalent Residential Unit of 2,600 square feet equals 19.3 ERU. At $4 per ERU, the business would receive a stormwater utility bill of $76.80 per month, the city news release said.

Development of the stormwater utility fee used recommendations from a city-appointed Stormwater Task Force Committee comprised of residents, non-profit leaders, small business owners and industrial facility representatives, Sam Davis, the city’s stormwater utility management analyst, said.

“Their recommendations helped develop a final proposal given to the city commission,” Davis said in the news release. “One of the main tenants of the stormwater utility is equality and fairness. That is, the fee should be based on how much stormwater each property generates. The more impervious area — where water cannot soak into the ground — a property has, the more stormwater it generates.”

The Equivalent Residential Unit method was determined to be the most fair and equitable method of assigning rates to residential lots, Davis said.

“Using data from the Franklin County Appraiser’s Office, it was calculated that the average amount of impervious space on a residential property is 2,600 square feet,” Davis said in explaining why one Equivalent Residential Unit equals 2,600 square feet.

The stormwater utility is a new program intended to help fund stormwater infrastructure projects in the community and maintain compliance with Environmental Protection Agency regulations, city officials said. While rainwater is completely natural, stormwater is not, the new release said.

Runoff from hard surfaces, such as driveways, parking lots and rooftops picks up pollutants which end up in local rivers and waterways, the news release said. It takes extensive infrastructure to capture, control and convey stormwater from local properties to engineered out-fall areas, according to the news release.

In addition, the City of Ottawa must comply with clean water regulations issued by the EPA. Since 2003, Ottawa has been a participant in the EPA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, the release said. The program requires the city to monitor and prevent pollutants entering local waterways. Failure to prevent and monitor pollutants in local waterways could result in “significant fines” issued by the EPA, the release said.

The stormwater utility fee was to go into effect in January 2013, but was delayed for one year while the city overhauled and upgraded its utility billing software, city officials said. The city is not going to retroactively collect any missed fees due to this software delay, the news release said.

Additional information about the stormwater utility and stormwater management can be found at:

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