Opinion: Progress made on stormwater fee

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By Pete Smith

At a recent meeting of the city council’s Utilities, Transportation and Public Safety Committee the members worked to hammer out a fee structure for a future stormwater utility.

The city plans to create the utility so that a dedicated revenue source will fund improvements to city infrastructure to limit flooding and improve the water quality of Carmel’s streams. The need arose because when it rains, water pools in low-lying areas and water washing off the roads carries things like oil and cigarette butts into otherwise pristine streams.

The initial plan was to charge every residential utility customer in the city a $4.95 monthly fee and assess commercial and nonprofit properties on an individual basis.

That raised some concerns about fairness, with some people even considering it a tax.

However, a consultant for the project noted the reason it’s a stormwater fee and not a stormwater tax is because there are steps residents and businesses can take to lower their fee.

What these incentives include – from installing rain barrels and permeable pavers, to building swales – is still being hammered out.

But the councilors present were leaning toward charging all residential customers a flat $4.95 fee, even if they lived in an apartment or condominium. That conclusion was reached after a study found that there were minimal savings for customers with reduced fees of these complexes because their landlords or board of directors would factor additional utility costs into their rent or dues.

And there was an additional rationale.

“No matter whether you live in a mansion or an apartment, you’re still driving on the same city street,” said councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider. “We’re all using the same city services.”

And there’s also the added bonus of keeping a flat fee for every household – more revenues will be spent on actual stormwater and drainage improvements and less will be spent on administration of the program.

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On a lighter note, the new utility has a new mascot, and city councilors would like help finding the frog a name. Teachers and parents are encouraged to ask their school-age children for ideas and email them to  HYPERLINK “mailto:jthomas@carmel.in.gov” jthomas@carmel.in.gov. No criteria for selecting a winner has yet been determined, but that never stopped a good idea.

 

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