June 18, 2008

City Approves Stormwater Utility Fee

By David Anderson, The Free Press, Kinston, N.C.

Jun. 18--Residential and commercial users of Kinston's water and sewer service will pay an extra $4 a month.

The City Council approved an ordinance this week to establish a stormwater utility fee, which is responsible for building and maintaining the city's stormwater drainage system. According to the ordinance, the council and the city manager will oversee the utility.

City officials began holding discussions last May to find a way to obtain the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to repair Kinston's aging stormwater system. Storm drains, ditches and underground pipes were rapidly deteriorating, in some cases they were collapsing, but the city did not have enough money to make all of the repairs.

In a June 13, 2007, presentation to the Utility Advisory Commission, city Water Resources Manager Stephen Miller said about $1.4 million was needed to repair pipes and ditches, clear debris from storm drains and prevent flooding along local streets.

The city had appropriated $23,000 that fiscal year for repairs. Five days after Miller's presentation, the council approved the flat $4 stormwater utility fee that all municipal customers have been paying over the past year.

A Stormwater Stakeholders' Advisory Committee was formed last summer to determine exactly how the utility would function and how the fees should be charged.

The group included local residents, civic, political, business and industrial leaders; they decided to keep the residential customer fee at $4, and commercial customers would pay $4 until Jan. 1, 2009, when the fees would be assessed according to how much impervious surface was on each business' property.

The council members agreed Monday, though, to hold a public hearing later this summer on the impervious surface fees.

Miller said Tuesday that the stormwater fees are expected to bring in about $440,000 by the time the fiscal year ends June 30.

The money earned through the stormwater fee this year has been spent on multiple repair projects around town. Miller said those projects include replacing a pipe under Manchester Drive in the Farm Gate subdivision; replacing storm drains along Stockton Road, Davis Street and Beasley Street; and repairing a section of sidewalk along Darby Avenue that fell in after the aging pipe under it collapsed.

Miller said crews have also been maintaining ditches and handling public complaints over ditches that are eroding or filled with trash and debris, complaints "that we weren't able to take care of very well before we had the utility."

The utility is also responsible for street sweeping, because it helps keep trash out of the ditches, Miller said.

David Anderson can be reached at (252) 559-1077, or [email protected]


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