Council to debate stormwater utility


By Pete Smith

The Carmel City Council began consideration of the creation of a new stormwater utility at its most recent meeting Oct. 7.

The ordinance as proposed would add a fee of $4.95 per month to each residential property’s utility bill.

Commercial property owners would be assessed a variable monthly fee that would be determined by the property’s amount of impervious surface, which doesn’t allow rainwater to naturally drain into the earth, City Councilor Luci Snyder said.

The stated purpose of the new utility would be to maintain the city’s stormwater infrastructure, and the funds collected could only be used for this purpose, Snyder said.

“To me, this is proactive,” councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider said.

In an additional clarification, Carmel spokeswoman Nancy Heck said in a statement, “Apartments and condos will be charged the same rate as all other residential units ($4.95/month for each dwelling unit).”

“The thing that should be clear to the rate payers is that this is a utility user fee. Just as in sanitary or water service, every user, regardless of their taxable status, must be charged,” Heck said.

Which could mean a much larger utility bill for the city’s churches with large parking lots.

Mayor Brainard said the utility’s creation also is necessary to improve the quality of stormwater runoff to meet more stringent water-quality standards from the EPA.

“It’s a classic unfunded federal mandate,” he said.

But not every member of the council sees this as a genuine utility.

“It’s a tax,” said Council President Rick Sharp, pointing to the ordinance’s creation of a “special taxing district.”

In a statement Sharp said, “Currently, … the city has used ‘cumulative capital development’ funds to pay for these types of improvements. …There is a tax levy on your property in support of this fund.”

“Historically the use of (this) money was restricted to a certain few types of work like drainage issues. Unfortunately a couple of years ago the legislature relaxed those restrictions and a city may now use this money for almost anything,” Sharp said in the statement. “Now the administration proposes to … impose a new (tax) to make up the difference all the while claiming we have not raised taxes.”

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