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Fayette to propose alternatives for stormwater fees

New commission has taken heat for fees based on impervious surface

Fayette County staff is expected to address pros and cons of various solutions for funding the county’s stormwater program at a town hall meeting Monday, March 4 at 7 p.m. in the large meeting room at the county administrative complex in downtown Fayetteville.

The county implemented a stormwater utility last year and the resulting bills upset a number of county residents. That heat spilled over in the first stormwater town hall meeting Feb. 13, as some angry citizens demanded that the utility and the stormwater fee be removed.

Some argued it would be better instead to tax county residents for the stormwater improvements so they can write the increase off on their taxes.

Several residents insisted that city dwellers in Peachtree City and Fayetteville should also pay the county stormwater fee.

However, both municipalities already have their own stormwater utilities and associated fees, plus the county is not proposing to fix any of the cities’ stormwater problems, according to Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown.

It may be possible, however, for the county to create a special tax district in the unincorporated county that would allow for a stormwater tax to be created in lieu of the stormwater fee.

At the first meeting, County Manager Steve Rapson noted that the county needs dedicated stormwater funding to repair or to replace failing pipes underneath roads that, if left unfixed, could lead to the roads washing out. The county also has to meet certain state and federal guidelines for water quality in its stormwater management program, Rapson said.

A number of citizens urged the county to ditch its current billing procedure, citing unfairness in how bills are assessed to properties based on their amount of impervious surface. Several speakers noted they had lakes on their property that held back stormwater from other properties, or they had no stormwater runoff away from their parcel, yet they still faced steep stormwater utility fees.

Should the county commission scrap the stormwater utility, county staff will be able to issue refunds to all of those people, Rapson said. But the bill has rankled citizens so much that roughly a third of the property owners had not paid their bill by the middle of this month, county officials said.

County employees have been instructed to hold off on issuing any surcharges and penalties for any late stormwater bills and for now the county will not be seeking to place liens on anyone’s property for not paying their stormwater bill, Rapson said.

The stormwater utility fee, assessed on all property owners including churches, schools, businesses and homes, was projected to net $643,000 in revenue this year.

While that may seem steep to some, stormwater repairs aren’t cheap, as Rapson noted a recent repair on Kirkley Road cost $229,000, and a fix on Merrydale Drive cost $92,000.

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