Danedri Thompson
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.”