Antrim Township supervisors are leaning toward a township-wide fee rather than a tax to raise money to pay for measures needed under the federal mandate to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

The township currently budgets $25,000 a year for storm water management, but it is conservatively estimated requirements of the township's five-year MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) permit will cost $500,000 to $600,000 a year. The township is to reduce its pollutants by 10 percent in that time.

At a workshop Tuesday, supervisors indicated Sylvia House, zoning officer, should reach out to the engineering firm Dewberry to start working on logistics of a fee.

In addition to streambank restoration estimated at $1.5 million, MS4 has a range of requirements including educating the public, cataloging and inspecting the hundreds of outfalls in the township and inspecting on-lot control measures such as rain gardens and retention ponds. These all require time and staffing to implement, monitor and administer.

In Franklin County, municipalities subject to the cleanup requirements based on the 2010 census and area watersheds include Greencastle, Chambersburg and Greene, Guilford, Hamilton, Letterkenny and St. Thomas townships.

Chambersburg is further along in the process than Antrim Township and charges a $4 per month fee that's included on utility bills.

House cited explained municipalities collecting a fee have a base rate for residential properties and charge commercial, industrial and institutional properties based on an "equivalent residential unit." In Hamden Township, Cumberland County, the cost is $13.25 per ERU per quarter; in Derry Township, Dauphin County, it is $6.50 per ERU per month; and in Highspire Borough, Dauphin County, it is $7.50 per ERU per month.

Supervisor Pat Herarty said he opposes a property tax to support MS4 because there has been no reassessment since the 1960s and people with new homes pay far more mills than those who have lived in their homes for decades.

In addition, Supervisor John Alleman said tax-exempt organizations like churches would not have to pay a tax even though their properties often have large impervious areas, including parking lots, that contribute to storm water runoff.

Supervisors voiced frustration throughout the meeting with the costly federal mandate then admitted they were going to rant for a while.

"D.C. knows what's best for Antrim Township," Chairman Chad Murray said sarcastically.

"This whole thing is an outrage," said Heraty. "We have to use valuable dollars that could be used elsewhere."

Alleman broke it down: the $500,000 is half of what the Rescue Hose Co. needs to operate for a year and one-quarter of what it would cost a year for a police department.

After House said that in five years when the current MS4 permit expires the process will start over again, Supervisor Rick Baer said, "This is ludicrous."