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Many Questions Answered Concerning Clarion Borough Stormwater Fee
(Photo: A map of proposed stormwater projects for 2019, 2020 and 2021 was on display at Wednesday’s informational meeting. A clickable version of the map is below in the story)
About 17 borough residents listened to members of the SWA as well as SWA engineer Bruce Hulshizer and borough treasurer Todd Colosimo.
They were informed that there are 17 miles of stormwater pipes in the borough with most of it built in the 1930s. Most of those pipes may have only two years of possible life left in them Hulshizer said.
“We estimate about $6 million in projects,” Hulshizer said. “That is only known projects. That isn’t giving the highest number. We need to investigate the system. It will be updated annually and budgeted around.”
Hulshizer broke down who owns the property with impervious surfaces in the borough.
Thirty-seven percent is residential, 30 percent is commercial, 29 percent is government/tax-exempt, three percent is industrial and one percent is public utilities.
“Residential customers make up 56 percent of the tax base, but only own 37 percent of the impervious surfaces,” Hulshizer said. “Doing it this way, it’s more equitable because it allows us to charge non-taxable, not trying to get more money from people who are already covering the cost. If we covered it with taxes, 29 percent of the landowners would pay zero percent of the system.”
The tiered system of charging the stormwater fee was explained a bit more as well with a percentage given for how many properties would fall into each tier level and how the fee would be accessed by each tier level.
The fee will be $3.00 times the number of the tier level property fits into too.
Any property with less than 500 square feet of impervious area (IA) won’t have to pay anything.
- Tier 1 ($3.00 per month) is 500 to 1,499 square feet of IA;
- Tier 2 ($6.00 per month) is 1,500 to 2,499 square feet of IA;
- Tier 3 ($9.00 per month) is 2,500 to 3,499 square feet of IA;
- Tier 4 ($12 per month) is 3,500 to 4,499 square feet of IA;
- Tier 5 ($15 per month) is 4,500 to 5,499 square feet of IA;
- Tier 6 ($18 per month) is 5,550 to 6,499 square feet IA; and
- Tier 7 is 6,500 square feet of IA and above. Tier 7 will be charged at a rate of 30 cents per 100 square foot.
While the charge will be a monthly charge, it will be charged in quarterly bills to include the three previous months.
According to Colosimo, the billing will most likely start in October of 2019 and include the months of July, August, and September of 2019.
Hulshizer said 80 percent of the borough’s properties fit into the first six tier levels.
Five percent of the borough properties will have no fee; four percent fit into Tier 1; 15 percent fit into Tier 2; 21 percent fit into Tier 3; 17 percent fit into Tier 4; 12 percent fit into Tier 5; six percent fit into tier six; and 20 percent fit into Tier 7.
All property owners will be afforded the opportunity, if they chose, to appeal the Tier category they are placed in. If the property owner is successful in the appeal, the appeal fee will be refunded. But, if the SWA/Borough finds that the tier level is correct, then the property owner is on the hook for the appeal fee.
A number of different credits will also be available to property owners to help reduce the cost.
Credits could be for the level of service a property owner uses the system for or for helping out the borough in stormwater management with say a retention pond or a rain garden or the like.
Some of the credits include “peak rate control/volume control structural best management practices (BMP),” which can get a maximum of a 25 percent credit and requires a maintenance agreement and, for Tier 7 customers, an escrow; “Low Impact Parcel,” which is defined as a parcel with an IA of less than 10 percent and other requirements and can get a maximum of a 25 percent credit; a “downspout disconnection,” which can get a maximum of a 10 percent credit; an “education credit,” which would include the teaching of a class in K-12 or at the college level, which can get a maximum of a 10 percent credit (churches would be eligible for this credit as well) and a “stormwater partnership credit,” which is still to be determined.
All credits would have to be renewed every three years.
A question from the audience asked if the educational credit was just a “ploy” to have the schools – Clarion University and other tax-exempt properties – have to pay less.
“No,” Hulshizer said. “The idea is if you educate, the next generation will be able to be cooperative in stormwater managed so that properties won’t flood.”
It was further explained that for the BMP credit, the credit would only be for the percentage of IA of the property that is affected by the BMP. So, if 20 percent of the property flows into the BMP, then the credit would only be applied to that 20 percent of the property.
When asked if the credits could negatively impact the SWA budget, Hulshizer said that the credits have already been counted into the budget.
“We estimated a 10 percent reduction because of credits, which is probably high,” Hulshizer said, noting that the estimate was based on other municipalities that have stormwater authorities. “We will revisit that each year.”
When asked why a property that doesn’t contribute any water to the stormwater system could only get a maximum of a 25 percent credit, it was explained that the bigger picture needed to be looked at.
“You have to look at the program as the whole borough’s responsibility,” Hulshizer said. “Even if water doesn’t go to the pipes.”
Some of the costs associated with the SWA include an employee, who will be paid by the borough, which will be refunded by the SWA, to handle administrative duties and the cleaning on inlets that keep water from reaching properties that aren’t using the system.
“It would cost $500,000.00 to map every drop of rainwater and where it goes,” Hulshizer said. “It’s not feasible. A lot happens regardless of whether it goes into the pipes.”
Jason Noto, a Clarion Borough Council member and the chairman of the SWA, said one of the misconceptions is that the SWA will only be replacing or fixing current stormwater pipes.
“We recognize the system is not adequate to handle all the water,” Noto said. “We want to catch more water than we currently do. The idea is to try to do it with an overall plan to manage the whole stormwater in the borough not just replace the current pipes. You have to look at it as a management program.”
Colosimo acknowledged that the borough has areas that are underserved by the stormwater system.
“We want to bring it to areas where it doesn’t exist,” Colosimo said.
Tom DiStefano, a member of the SWA, said people might be benefiting from the stormwater system and not even know it.
“You may benefit from water that doesn’t flow onto your property because of the system,” explained DiStefano.
A map of potential stormwater projects over the next couple of years was also on display at the meeting and can be viewed above or right here.
Upcoming steps in the process will include initiating a storm sewer system assessment, sending postcards to residents to make sure addresses are correct, process credit applications, and distributing the first bill.
A dedicated section on the borough’s website has been created and will soon be updated with more information including appeal forms.
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