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No SPLOST, so Fayette set to issue stormwater bills

The failure of a proposed two-year countywide sales tax last week means that property owners in unincorporated Fayette County will get a new stormwater utility bill, perhaps by the end of the month.

It also means the county will have to scale back its proposed $16 million in stormwater projects down to $5 million, a figure the county is projected to finance over a number of years by pledging repayment from stormwater utility proceeds.

The county commission previously had pledged that if the sales tax were to be approved, it would halt collecting the stormwater fees for four straight years.

The measure failed with 57.2 percent of voters casting “no” ballots, so now the county goes to “Plan B” which means relying exclusively on the revenues of the stormwater utility.

“The next step is sending the 2013 billing which was delayed waiting on the referendum vote,” county officials said in a news release last week. “County staff will begin the process of matching projects against available funding.”

The new round of stormwater bills will used a revised credit system, which likely will be small solace to unincorporated property owners, especially those who filled the county commission chambers three times last year to complain about the amount of the stormwater utility bills and the lack of notice given in advance of the bills being mailed.

The upshot is that the legwork done in advance of the sales tax will be used going forward, officials said.

“The county government has a sound, vetted list of stormwater projects, prioritized and ready to undertake,” the news release said. “That planning will not go to waste as the county proceeds with projects in much smaller increments.”

County Manager Steve Rapson said he appreciated all the work, analysis and meetings that led to the county’s stormwater project list, a sentiment echoed by Commissioner David Barlow.

“The Board of Commissioners has vowed to address these serious problems and staff did an outstanding job in short order to pull our detailed project list together,” Rapson said.

Commissioner Allen McCarty noted that the idea to use a sales tax to fund stormwater projects originated with citizens.

“The voters did not like the plan; therefore the county will have to resume collecting stormwater fees,” McCarty said.

The commission thanked citizens who attended meetings, spoke with staff, researched the issue and “made an informed decision on the direction of the county.”

“The board pledges to move forward in a continuing partnership with its citizens for the betterment of the county and will do its best to bring the aging infrastructure back into a state of good repair,” according to the news release.

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