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County puts hold on stormwater decision

Citing a need for more information, the Fayette County Commission has postponed a decision to create a new stormwater utility and subsequent fee on residents of unincorporated Fayette County.

At its Wednesday workshop, several commissioners asked for specific data about the proposal, which would cost about $50 a year for the average size home.

The fee would be based on the total size of impervious surface for a given lot, but unlike taxes it would be assessed on churches and schools in addition to businesses and homeowners, officials said.

County stormwater officials argue the utility is needed to pay for millions in necessary pipe repair and replacement, a review of all stormwater pipes and also a three-person maintenance crew.

County staff will be preparing a comparison of the county’s proposed fees to what other similar counties are doing, as well as Peachtree City and Fayetteville. Commissioner Lee Hearn wanted a breakdown of how the fee would affect certain businesses and homes with a certain square footage, including the driveway and patio areas.

Hearn said he also wanted to know what the effect would be on the small, medium and large churches in the county. Commissioner Steve Brown said he didn’t want the stormwater fee to apply to churches “if we can help it,” as many are suffering financially.

Commissioner Allen McCarty argued vehemently that the county should use its transportation SPLOST funds to fix the pipes since they run under the roadway. But county staff explained that wasn’t possible because the stormwater pipes needing replacement don’t match up with road projects specified for SPLOST funded construction.

McCarty then suggested that the county ignore the state mandates that require much of the stormwater work involved with the proposed utility.

County Attorney Scott Bennett noted that if the county took that route, it would stand to lose funding for state and federal projects. McCarty countered that the county isn’t getting much of that money now as it stands anyway.

The county has an estimated 6.7 miles of stormwater pipe running underneath roads in what is deemed as the “worst” condition which need either repair or replacement.

A project to replace one such pipe, which runs under Merrydale Drive, is projected to cost upwards of $100,000.

One of the benefits of adopting a stormwater utility fee is that it won’t leave Peachtree City and Fayetteville residents on the hook, County Manager Jack Krakeel explained. Both municipalities have their own stormwater utility system in operation, so if the county continues to fund the stormwater operations from its general fund, the argument can be made that Peachtree City and Fayetteville residents are paying for work that they are already being charged for, Krakeel said.

Brown said he thought the commission could’ve handled the stormwater costs without asking property owners for more money. He cited the commission’s recent 3-2 vote against redirecting transportation sales tax funds toward other county projects and/or property tax relief.

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