Weatherford residents have been dealing with drainage issues for years. The city feels it may have a way to help alleviate the problems — at a price.
Director of Capital Transportation Projects Terry Hughes said there are between $7 and $10 million in drainage projects throughout the city. The problem comes from those monies presently having to be taken out of the general fund budget if anything is to be done.
Under a pre-implementation proposal Hughes presented before the city council Tuesday night, a storm water utility fee will be created, with residents and businesses paying based on the area where water can’t penetrate, called an impervious area of their home or business.
“The fee structure is nondiscriminatory, reasonable, equitable and directly related to drainage service needed,” Hughes said.
The city, based on an aerial photograph that is extremely accurate, has approximately 40,870,000 square feet of impervious area, including the driveways, parking areas and roofs of businesses.
“That’s not including residences,” Hughes said. “In the first year of the program, we’re expecting to raise about $800,000.”
That money would go into a dedicated storm water management fund. Those funds would be used for such things as pipe and channel repair, culvert cleanout, street sweeping, runoff management, treatment structures and silt management and disposal.
Some exemptions to the fees include undeveloped property, property with no impact to the city’s storm system, state property and institutions of higher education such as Weatherford College. The city is allowed to exempt its own property, county property, school district property and religious institution property.
The city will be using 3,300 square feet as a base unit after sampling 100 residential properties and finding 3,300 square feet as the average impervious area per residence, Hughes said.
There are 10,065 single-family residences in the city, each one being considered an equivalent residential unit, or ERU. There are also an estimated 12,385 non-residential ERUs in the city, bringing the total to 22,450.
Multiplied by the $3 monthly fee in the first year comes out to $67,350 a month, or just more than $808,000 a year. Hughes said after a council discussion of fees, it was determined to phase them in slowly.
“We decided to charge $3 a month for the first year, $4.50 a month for the second year and then determine if we need $6 a month for the third year,” Hughes said. “By the third year, we should be bringing in an additional $1.6 million per year.”
In the first year, the average Weatherford homeowner would pay an extra $36 per year. There will be an appeal process for those that think their square footage of impervious area is being measured incorrectly.
Businesses would pay more based on their square footage of impervious area. For example, Hughes used a business like Walmart, which has 861,672 square feet of impervious area. Dividing that by the base unit of 3,300 square feet brings up 261 equivalent residential units (ERU). Multiplying the 261 ERUs by the $3 a month charge would make the retailer pay $783 a month or about $9,400 in the first year under the plan.
Hughes said the recent expansion of the city has forced city officials to do something to stay ahead of the curve.
“Why was this not done 40 or 50 years ago,” Hughes, who has lived here since 1963, said. “With the amount of developed property we had at that time, it wasn’t an issue. Now it’s becoming an issue.”
Weatherford is one of only a few cities that doesn’t have a storm water utility. He said forming a utility has other benefits as well.
“When you have a storm water utility, you can apply to FEMA and get what are called hazard mitigation funds,” Hughes said. “That would possibly be more money but you have to have a storm water utility first.”
Hughes said he plans on drafting the ordinance calling for the storm water utility next week after some data is updated. Public hearings will be held to get the public’s thoughts on the matter but Hughes said he hopes to have the utility in place by Jan. 1, 2013.
Trying something new like this has its concerns. Hughes said with the infrastructure being older.
“We don’t know what we have underground right now,” Hughes said. “There’s been no engineering study. The monies we’re getting can help us build a new drainage system and develop a master plan.”