October 25, 2014

Council to consider new utility

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com

City council members instructed city staff to prioritize and fund potential storm water projects within city limits during a work session Nov. 8.

Celia Duran, city engineer, showed council members a variety of photos showing poor drainage in a number of yards in Gardner. The slide show featured yards with standing water after heavy rainfall or with damaged vegetation from poor drainage.

She said city staff fielded approximately 60 complaints about drainage issues last  year. Between 20 and 30 of them could be issues the city may want to address, she said.

“A lot of these may be multiple lot issues and that may be why we want to get involved,” she told council members.

For example, she showed photos of one yard on Pine Street. She said runoff from a Bethel Estates parking lot caused standing puddles after heavy rains.

Typically a parking lot wouldn’t drain into a back yard, Duran explained. However when Bethel Estates was first built, that property’s owner also owned the land where the parking lot drains.

Another set of photos showed 1.3 acres that drain onto a property on Cheyenne Street. Duran said in that case, the developer made plans to fix the drainage problems, but never did.

“If we had a utility and we had funding, maybe we could get involved,” she said.

Currently when a home owner calls the city with a drainage complaint, Duran said city staff can only offer advice. She said council members could choose three options – take no action due to lack of funding; take no action since the issues are private property issues, or direct staff to determine costs and prioritize projects and provide alternatives for funding issues.

“Obviously, we need to do option three,” council member Steve Hale said.

Mayor Dave Drovetta said that option would require a mill levy increase or a new fee in next year’s budget.

“The first thing we have to do is identify revenue,” Drovetta said.

City staff recommended creating a storm water utility in the city’s budget the last two years. During budget discussions, council members considered creating a new utility that would charge residents a monthly fee to address drainage issues.

“If we could just pitch a little plug for a storm water utility,” Duran said.

Drovetta said there would be a challenge determining which projects received funding. Duran said city staff would use a rating system to determine which projects made the priority list and which received funding first, however, she admitted the rating system isn’t perfect.

Many of the issues residents complained about last year are single lots with drainage issues, Duran said. Those could be fixed for less than $5,000 apiece.

However, she said there are larger, more costly issues in some neighborhoods.

The city is currently using Community Block Development Grant funds to fix drainage problems in Parma.

“Basically, the yards weren’t graded to drain,” she told council members.

The grant program is taxpayer money given as a grant to municipalities through the country. It requires that grant monies be matched.

It’s unusual for the grants to be given for projects that don’t affect large numbers of people, public works director David Green told council members.

“In Parma, we got CBDG, which we were kind of surprised we did,” Duran said.
Fairburn said city staff will bring a stormwater funding proposal and projects list to council sometime next spring.

“We’ll have another wet season to go through,” he said. “But it will be good to take more pictures.”

Comments

  1. Well, another case of socializing costs and losses. I would say if the city of Gardner and developers were doing a proper job to begin with to provide better grading and planning, then many of these problems would not exist. The parties responsible for the damages and costs are not being held accountable. I really don’t appreciate getting hit with this additional tax to take care of some entities’ screwups.

    Right now I believe the city of Edgerton is wanting to take a cheaper route on storm water projects due to the intermodal project and not following the recommendations made by the County. They are selling, I am sure due to developer input, a program that will cost less now but in the long run will the citizens be getting hit later on with costs to make right mistakes made in the past?

    Same ole story – privitizing gains and socializing costs and losses. When you have government entities governing for the special interests, the people will always be paying the price – a higher price.

    Those who create the costs never want to be held accountable – they want to transfer their responsibilities and costs to the people. If you think that is the way to do business, then you don’t have to do a thing – the worthless politicians will be glad to give you the bill. But if you don’t feel that is fair and equitable, you might want to educate and inform yourself on issues, speak out and lastly get off your lazy rearend and VOTE.

  2. We have a history of poor planning and zoning in this city. Look at the houses built around industrial on Center Street; industrial behind Veterans Park; –same with homes. Community development did a poor job “policing” development, and now the city wants all taxpayers to pay for their shortcomings. And we will. Look for another property tax increase, and a new division in government. Does anyone supervise city staff, and set standards? Or do they practice selective enforcement?

  3. In my opinion elected officials are supposed to be a checks and balance entity to protect the people. But they are not since they are not doing their job, they are as much the problem as others. They won’t hold anyone accountable because they don’t want to be held accountable themselves. That again is why apathy gives you LOUSY GOVERNMENT. The people also are not holding those responsible held accountable. You have a government entity not working for the people – you merely have worthless politicians and bureaucrats who are transferring that tax burden more and more to you every day while they take care of biz, developers and other special interests. Citizens might want to think about how they are going to put a stop to all of this.

    Every other Friday those council members get their packets, as prepared by city administration and the Mayor, telling them how to vote and how to word the motion on the following Monday evening. I bet if you looked at the records you would find that at every meeting since that appointed council got in office, that you won’t see one vote that is other than what the Mayor and the staff have recommended. I bet there are council members, some for years, have come to council meetings not even fully reading the info in their packets, what more doing any research on their own or fully understanding the issues or even caring about them. They are merely warming a seat on those Monday nights and no more protecting the citizens’ interests than a man in the moon – that is my opinion. The name of the game in Gardner is to go along to get along or to get you what YOU want – dirty, rotten politics that will never serve the people well – that is my opinion.

    And this latest manipulation being served to you on a silver platter is more evidence of how things are handled and how you will always be paying more and more and more and more and more…………………

  4. I’m confused as to what exactly Mr. Hale and the Council are saying here. Are they saying that the City should pay for drainage problems on private property? Are these drainage issues having an effect on public property?

  5. Does the city have responsiblity to fix drainage problems on private property and where does it say that?

  6. I question whether the City Council has the authority to set up this new stormwater funding proposal with voter approval. I am sending an e-mail to the city asking for documentation as to how they have this authority.

  7. I goofed – in my previous post I stated “with voter approval” – it should have read “without voter approval”.

  8. I can’t wait for the City to talk about this more so we can see what the basis for a new public utility are.

  9. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    I would imagine the mechanism for establishing a Stormwater Utility would be the passage of a City Ordinance by the City Council, with service fees set by Resolution authorized by the Council.

    The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to impose some unfunded mandates on cities concerning the municipal discharge of any water into streams and rivers, including wastewater, irrigation water, water from car washing and lawn watering, as well as stormwater. I would think it prudent for a city to prepare now by creating a storm water utility to help address these future EPA requirements.

    Stormwater is the runoff water that flows off rooftops, driveways, parking lots, streets, and other hard surfaces during rainstorms. Rather than being absorbed into the ground, it flows into ditches, culverts, catch basins and storm drains. Stormwater does not go from street drains to the wastewater treatment plant. For the most part, it does not receive any treatment before entering our streams and lakes. Stormwater can cause flooding, erosion of topsoil and stream banks, carry harmful pollutants, destroy aquatic habitats and significantly reduce the life of our streets and roads.

    Hundreds of communities nationwide are currently using separate stormwater utility fees to fund stormwater programs, thus avoiding having to tap into their budget general fund.

    A survey several years ago gave examples of utility fees in cities in Kansas that have a stormwater utility:
    • City of Shawnee: $3.00 per month/residential
    • City of Lawrence: $4.00 per month/residential
    • City of Olathe: $3.75 per month/residential
    • City of Lenexa: $2.50 per month/residential
    • City of Pittsburgh: $2.97 per month/residential

    From the City of Prairie Village website: “The purpose of the stormwater utility is to create a dedicated revenue stream to finance stormwater projects based on a fee structure linking the amount of stormwater runoff created by property owners to the amount of money these property owners pay toward upkeep of the system. Unlike the property tax, stormwater utility fees may be assessed on all properties, regardless of their taxable status. As proposed, fees will be based on the square feet of impervious area on a property. A single-family residential property will be charged a fee based on the footprint of the residence including the garage plus the area of the driveway. Commercial, institutional, and some multi-family properties will be charged a fee representing the actual amount of impervious area. In Johnson County, stormwater utility fees range from $0.01 to $0.10 per impervious square foot per year. The 2009 Prairie Village stormwater utility fee is $0.038 per square foot of impervious area. Fee revenue must be placed in a separate fund and used only for stormwater management purposes.”

    Normally, a city stormwater utility is responsible for the construction and maintenance of a stormwater management system comprised of curbs, gutters, inlets, pipes, and drainage channels located both under and above-ground throughout the city.

    I have read somewhere that a city cannot legally perform maintenance or work on areas within private property. Private drainage problems between adjacent private property owners are still the responsibility of the property owners.

    The “Take Back Gardner” group’s friends at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have a report called “Funding and Gaining Support for Stormwater Programs” as part of their Stormwater Strategies – Community Responses to Runoff Pollution agenda at http://www.nrdc.org/water/pollution/storm/chap4.asp

  10. The city stated the following as taken from the above article:

    “If we had a utility and we had funding, maybe we could get involved,” she said.

    Currently when a home owner calls the city with a drainage complaint, Duran said city staff can only offer advice. She said council members could choose three options – take no action due to lack of funding; take no action since the issues are private property issues, or direct staff to determine costs and prioritize projects and provide alternatives for funding issues.

    “Obviously, we need to do option three,” council member Steve Hale said.”

    Sounds to me like dear ole Hale and others are ready for all of us to take care of costly problems on private property for which we are not legally liable.

    The city has increased our mill levy by 6.513 mills, the sales tax has increased considerably resulting in the city getting more revenue from that source. they have increased the water and sewer rates, I believe they also increased some fees for builders but not certain on this and now they want to hit us with more – before this stormwater risk exposure was handled thru our regular city mill levy but oh, no, now they want a separate charge so they will have more money with the regular city mill levy just like they did on our fire protection that will be costing citizens much more if we go under Fire Dist. No. 1. As I have said before, I believe everyone of those members of the City Hall Gang need “conniver” stamped on their forehead.

    Citizens made a big mistake in not attending that city vision meeting recently – I hate to think what else is on the horizon and how much it will cost us but my heart truly goes out to those who have lost their jobs or can’t find a job – what is going to happen to those people?????

    But I know one thing for sure, I will bet you $5 that they will tell us they don’t have money to videotape all city meetings and put them on their website.

    Start saving or finding your voice or perhaps get a second job, that is if you could find one.

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