Pickerington City Council last week lent initial support to a proposal to raise residents' stormwater utility fees by 25 cents per month.

Pickerington City Council last week lent initial support to a proposal to raise residents’ stormwater utility fees by 25 cents per month.

On Oct. 18, council voted 5-2 in favor of increasing stormwater utility fees by 6 percent.

The increase, which was proposed by Pickerington city manager Bill Vance and city engineer Greg Bachman, would be used to upgrade infrastructure to better manage stormwater runoff, thereby reducing flooding in some areas and cutting polluted discharges into nearby streams.

“It just seems like these (stormwater issues) keep coming out of the woodwork and I’d certainly rather be ahead of the curve than behind the curve on stormwater maintenance,” council president Brian Sauer said.

Two additional readings of the legislation must be approved before the new fees are enacted. Council is expected to hold its next vote on the matter at its scheduled Nov. 1 meeting.

If the legislation is enacted, it would raise residential stormwater fees from $4 a month ($48 per year) to $4.25 a month ($51 annually) in 2012.

As proposed, those residential fees would increase again to $4.50 per month in 2013.

Single-family residential properties each are assigned one equivalent residential unit (ERU) to measure stormwater runoff. An ERU is the equivalent of 2,530 square feet.

Commercial properties also would be subject to the increased fees. However, city officials said the monthly amounts commercial properties would pay as a result of the increase would vary because those properties’ estimated runoff is based on a property’s impervious area, and is calculated by taking the total impervious area divided by 2,530 to determine the total ERUs.

Because commercial properties face the increased fees, council members Gavin Blair and Cristie Hammond voted against the proposal.

“I’ll be voting no on this because of the 6-percent increase on our commercial properties,” Blair said. “Until I see a drastic need for this, I cannot support it.”

Among those who supported the increase last week were council member Jeff Fix and mayor Mitch O’Brien.

Fix noted a portion of the city’s busiest thoroughfare, state Route 256, has seen flooding and is in danger of extensive damage or collapse if stormwater upgrades are not made. He said that project is estimated to cost $350,000.

“That money has to come from somewhere,” he said. “I personally feel (the fee increase) is reasonable.”

O’Brien, who only has voting authority to break legislative ties on council, said commercial properties should pay their fair share. He added runoff to the 256 corridor that requires stormwater upgrades is fed “almost exclusively by commercial properties.”

“Those commercial properties generate a lot of the runoff,” he said. “It’s my observation that the flooding is occurring in other areas than it used to.”

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