Storm Water bill passes, but with Carmel City Council oversight

The creation of a new stormwater utility would help to fund improvements to Carmel’s stormwater infrastructure. (Staff illustration)

The creation of a new stormwater utility would help to fund improvements to Carmel’s stormwater infrastructure. (Staff illustration)

By Adam Aasen

After more than a year in committee, the Carmel City Council finally passed the Storm Water ordinance, which establishes a fee for all households to help pay for drainage improvements.

But the Council was split on the idea of who should run this new utility. The prevailing vote was for the City Council itself to act as the managing board – a strategy some wanted because they thought Mayor Jim Brainard would misspend the new funds.

Now, bills for $4.95 will be sent out Nov. 1 throughout Carmel.

Everyone on the council agreed that all of the money raised – between $2.9 million and $3.2 million in revenue per year – would be spent only on fixing drainage issues in Carmel’s oldest neighborhoods. But some trusted the Mayor’s Office to manage the money and others – including Brainard’s consistent critics on the Council – expressed concern.

“I think it’s got to be your way or the highway,” councilwoman Luci Snyder of Brainard, “and every time I turn around you’re trying to take money out of the ‘rainy day’ fund or the Legacy Fund. I’m not going to let you run this and pull money out of it. I’m just not going to let it happen.”

Snyder’s speech was long and detailed and Brainard responded that he thought she was misrepresenting the facts.

In the end, everyone admitted that they didn’t want to run the board, which led to hesitation among some and some question about how the vote would turn out.

A day after the vote, Brainard said he was just happy the ordinance was finally passed and was eager to move on. He still disagrees with the council’s decision, but didn’t want to press the issue.

“The projects that need to be done will get done and the City Engineer will be in charge of them and so I’m looking forward to getting started on them,” he said. “Obviously, I think it’s better to not run things by a committee, but if that’s what the Council wants to do then I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Councilor Rick Sharp said he was concerned that the Mayor’s Office would spend up to $1.8 million in overhead to run this utility, which is a number with which Brainard vehemently disagreed.

“If you look at the mayor’s plans and where the money was being spent, you’ll see why the council had to take on the authority of being the Storm Water Utility Board,” he said.

A document obtained by the Current in Carmel does quote $1.8 million in administrative costs, but the city said that’s an old document that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“All the money was to go into dealing with the issues, either capital projects or maintenance of the existing system,” Brainard said. “To suggest we asked for administrative overhead is simply not correct.”

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