Fee could help fund storm water system improvements - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fee could help fund storm water system improvements

By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany was spared from major flooding during these recent storms but city leaders say the drainage system needs some upgrades. They're thinking about having property owners pay up to clear up drainage in the city.

A storm water utility fee could be imposed to help improve Albany's storm system. Leaders say it costs $100,000 a year just to operate the water system and right now they need more money for upgrades and top quality upkeep.

Just about a week ago, a big pump arrived in front of Jim Johnson's home. "The city came in and started running the pumps," said Jim Johnson, "we've gotten to where we can sleep with it."

It's been buzzing away as it keeps water away from dozens of homes in Northwest Albany. "It's nice knowing it's running because it's getting the water away from us," said Johnson.

Albany Public Works Director Phil Roberson says that method is old school. "All of these portable pumps having to move water here and there is not the most effective way to handle our storm water runoff," said Roberson.

So they're looking at ways to make the system more effective.  That road to effectiveness could mean more money for property owners. "You can have everything from a full blown storm water utility which is an independent agency that bills directly to the customer a nominal fee for their impervious area or their runoff based on residential units or commercial units," said Roberson.

Another method is an extra fee on utility bills. "For the storm stations, for the actual improvements in infrastructure and for upgrading storm stations so that we have better capacity to pump rainwater," said Roberson.

The list goes on.  Right now the city doesn't have a financial mechanism in place other than property taxes to pay for storm water improvements. "And even though it's very unpopular and the last thing people want to hear about is another user fee, in reality, with a city as flat as Albany and the topography that we have, it has a need for a way to move storm water through the city so you don't have folks flooding," said Roberson.

That means folks could have to help make sure their homes and businesses are free of water when it storms. "From what we've seen you can go from as low as a $2 a month average to somewhere, if you have a more ambitious program, it could be $5 or $6 a month," said Roberson.

"Well I think we should pay our part," said Johnson.

Johnson doesn't mind pitching in. "It's worth a little extra for that peace of mind," said Johnson. It's still up in the air how much that peace will actually cost.

Phil Roberson says the plan is in the very early stages. They'll continue to study the possibility and make a recommendation to city commissioners in a few months. There would have to be public hearings before any decision is made.

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