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East County Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2019 2 years ago

Manatee County explores costs for improving stormwater-related services

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A consultant still must recommend how to deal with neighborhoods already paying stormwater fees.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

County officials are still grappling with how best to pay for the management of stormwater systems countywide, but preliminary recommendations  are to spend an additional $7.4 million annually to improve levels of service.

During an April 16 workshop, consultants from HDR Engineering said that would translate into $15.01 a month or $180.12 per year for the average household, when combined with stormwater’s existing $13.67 million budget. By comparison at today’s levels of service, costs would be $10.33 per month or $123.96 annually for the average household.

HDR recommends a tiered-fee approach by which the county could charge three different rates depending on the size of a home. Nonresidential properties would be assigned a value equivalent to a dwelling unit.

The board on April 23 authorized HDR to perform a detailed analysis of non-residential properties and other considerations so it can develop its final recommendations with maximum rates to be charged. When the study is done in about three months, commissioners can better evaluate their options and whether to move forward with the fee.

Manatee County Interim Public Works Director Chad Butzow said the proposed levels of service would allow Public Works to proactively maintain stormwater systems, which ultimately will help reduce flooding or other water-related problems from heavy rains or natural disasters.

Butzow said handling resident requests for maintenance of ditches and canals, for example, can exceed one year. The proposed changes would be realistic and provide improved response times.

“It’s a noticeable improvement,” Butzow said.

The proposed changes also would allow the county to improve its routine maintenance for stormwater-related systems. For example, cleaning a particular canal could go from once every 14.9 years to once every seven years. Ditches would be cleaned once every 10 years, compared with once every 20.7 years.

HDR is recommending the county fund stormwater-related costs through a property tax assessment. Currently, funding comes from a mix of sources but 70%, or $9.6 million, comes from the solid waste fund.

“The utility would need some sort of infusion to continue at this pace,” Butzow said. “The trend we’re on is not sustainable as a whole.”

HDR also has been tasked with evaluating how communities such as those in Lakewood Ranch, whose residents already pay for maintenance of stormwater systems within their communities, should contribute.

 “That’s going to be very important to citizens,” Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said. “We need to make sure we’re being fair across the board.”

Commissioners are expected to restart the conversation about stormwater fees after summer.

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