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Fayette eyes new stormwater fee at workshop today

The Fayette County Commission may be adding a new bill for property owners in the unincorporated county.

The commission is expected to decide at its workshop meeting today (July 6) whether to create a new stormwater utility that will result in the average homeowner paying about $70 a year, most likely added to residents’ water bills. It will be called a fee, not a tax.

The fee would be assessed to all property owners, including businesses and churches, for example, according to county staff. The fee would be based on the total amount of impervious surface on a given property, including not just the buildings on a parcel but also any driveway and parking lot.

The commission’s workshop meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. at the county’s Stonewall administrative complex at the southwest corner of Ga. Highways 54 and 85 in downtown Fayetteville.

County stormwater staff contend the utility is necessary because some 7 percent of stormwater pipes are believed to be in poor condition, needing either maintenance or replacement. Another 26 percent of stormwater pipes are in an unknown condition and will need maintenance prior to their inspection, according to a memo from county staff.

Nearly all of the stormwater pipes run underneath roads, and if they fail the damage will affect the roadway, officials have said.

In addition to funding a number of improvement projects, the county will also bring on board three additional personnel to serve as a stormwater maintenance crew.

Currently, stormwater maintenance is funded through the county’s general fund at about $437,000 a year.

Part of the problem with funding stormwater operations out of the general fund is the argument that taxpayers in Fayetteville and Peachtree City would also be footing the bill for work that will be done exclusively in the unincorporated areas, said County Manager Jack Krakeel.

Both Fayetteville and Peachtree City have their own stormwater utility programs, and both assess fees to all property owners within their city limits. So in that respect, city residents could argue they were being “double taxed” for the same service.

The upside of a stormwater fee is that it can be assessed on entities that are immune to property taxes, such as churches and schools, which have significant impervious surface footprints, officials said.

So far, staff has compiled a list of $1.08 million in necessary stormwater projects, with four of them being the most critical at a cost of $630,000.

The highest priority project is Merrydale Drive, as the stormpipe under the road gets closer to the point of causing the roadbed to collapse. Other top-priority projects include Kirkley Road, Emerald Lake Drive and Morning Dove Drive.

The pipe on Merrydale Drive is in such poor shape that it must be checked after each rainfall event, Birrell said.

Lowering that figure to $60 a year will only bring in $1.22 million, and at $50 a year it would bring in $1.02 million, according to county calculations.

The commission will discuss the matter at its Wednesday afternoon workshop meeting, but even if the consensus is to plow ahead, a formal vote will occur at a later date when the utility is codified with a new county ordinance, officials have said.

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