Chesterton Tribune



New county stormwater Board eyes monthly $10 fee for unincorporated homes

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The new Porter County Stormwater Management Board consisting of the three County Commissioners and County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke agreed Tuesday to take a proposal for a potential monthly $10 rate per equivalent residential unit (ERU) to the County Council for their approval.

If enacted, the fee would apply only to properties in the unincorporated areas of the county and could bring in $4.7 million for drainage improvements. Taxpayers would see the rate included in their yearly property tax bill.

At the first meeting, Executive Director for the County Plan Commission Bob Thompson and Bob Clifford, principal accountant for H.J. Umbaugh and Associates, worked together on coming up with what could be classified as one ERU.

One ERU would be a single or double family unit, including mobile homes. A three-family unit would be one-and-a-half unit, while commercial and industrial properties, including churches and schools, will be assessed as one ERU per every 25 acres.

Clifford said for apartment buildings, one unit would equal half of an ERU, but Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, suggested that it should only equal a third to make it more equitable with commercial properties.

Agricultural lands, which typically see more stormwater runoff, would be “complicated to assess” an ERU quantity, Clifford said.

A more equitable way of figuring the fee might be to develop a system that takes into account the amount of impervious surfaces on a property, such as pavement, roofs or where ever surface water can’t be absorbed, Clifford said. That could take two years to devise however, he said, as the County’s GIS system isn’t equipped yet to identify impervious surfaces.

Thompson said the County decided not to include impervious surfaces in the last aerial survey done. Another flyover would shorten the two-year window but would come at a cost.

In total, there are 36,500 parcels to be included in the stormwater district and roughly 39,100 ERUs, Clifford said. That also takes into account the eight conservancy districts which have been given the chance to opt in to the County’s plan since many already are assessing a fee for flood and drainage control for their residents.

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said at a previous Commissioners meeting that conservancy districts could decide to assign the fees they currently collect to the County’s Stormwater District.

Clifford said there would be 7,698 ERUs total within all the conservancy districts and 7,355 are residential.

Clifford said credits can be given to wetland preserves for their work which Breitzke agreed with.

Representatives of the Izaak Walton League and the Shirley Heinze Land Trust gave statements during the public hearing for the ordinance to establish the Stormwater Management board asking the County to consider not charging fees to them as they use their own funds to control drainage.

The board agreed to take the proposal to the County Council for a vote, which is required to start the fee structure. The Council could make changes if they wish, attorney Betty Knight said.

Once the Council approves, the stormwater board would hold a public hearing on the fee structure, she said.

The fee of $10 per ERU “seems to be the going rate in municipalities,” Evans said. Clifford said after the meeting the fee is a “pretty average rate.”

Evans said he is eager to see the County use the fee collections to begin bonding for drainage improvement projects one-by-one rather than all at once. That would get the projects done faster and the bond could be repaid from the stormwater fees collected, he said.

If all ERUs pay the rates, the County could bond up to $20 million which could be used to relieve some major flooding issues, such as in South Haven, Clifford said.

At the start of the meeting, the board elected officers; Evans as president, Breitzke as Vice-President, and Blaney as secretary.


Posted 9/17/2014




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