LOCAL

Township stormwater fee won't start in 2019

Shawn Hardy

If a storm water management fee is created to pay for federally mandated cleanup efforts in Antrim Township, collection will not begin this year.

In addition, supervisors are thinking about paying for at least a portion of the $2,790,000 estimated cost of measures under its current MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) permit from township reserves.

At a work session Tuesday evening, supervisors also indicated that if a fee is developed, they prefer it be based on each property's specific impervious area rather than using an equivalent residential unit (ERU) system, which would round numbers up and down to standard amounts.

About 25 township residents attended the meeting, the latest in a series of discussions aimed at figuring out how to pay for Chesapeake Bay cleanup required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Sylvia House, zoning and code enforcement officer, explained that under its five-year MS4 permit which expires in 2023, the township must reduce the amount of sediment it sends to the Chesapeake Bay by 10 percent — 245,000 pounds per year.

"That's a lot of sediment to remove from our waterways," House said.

The most cost effective way to meet sediment reduction requirements is a streambank restoration project, House explained. Estimates include $452,00 for survey, design, bidding and permitting and $1,920,000 for construction, operation and maintenance. Other MS4 minimum control measures, such as public outreach and education, are expected to add $418,000 for a total of $2,790,000.

"I think the whole board has been candid about how we feel about unfunded mandates," said Supervisor Pat Heraty.

"We have to implement it, as much as we don't want to do it, we have to do it," said Fred Young, chairman of the board of supervisors.

 Payment options 

Several members of the audience urged supervisors to pay for at least the first MS4 project out of township reserves. The township has more than $18.6 million available in unrestricted reserves.

"For this time period, the township should cover it," said resident Bob Coladonato.

That would provide more time to figure out the best way to pay for MS4 long-term and to see how accurate project cost estimates were, Coladonato said.

"I can't see a better use for our reserves than this malarkey," said Supervisor Chad Murray.

Alleman said a hybrid plan, with some money from reserves and some from a fee, also is a possibility.

It is not known what the requirements or costs for the next MS4 permit cycle will be. Even if reserves are used in this round, a funding plan needs to be in place for the future, Young said.

"If we didn't have reserves, how would we fund it?" he asked.

The township has not had a property tax since 2008 and none of the supervisors liked the idea of resurrecting one to pay for storm water.

They also are leaning away from the ERU-based fee presented in February, preferring a potential fee based on actual impervious area of each property.

Under the ERU proposal, the majority of residential property owners would have paid $42.77 per year or $128.31 for the three-year cycle. Large commercial developments with multiple ERUs would pay much more.

"The board is leaning against ERUs and going with actual numbers," said Supervisor John Alleman.

"I can get on board with that," added Heraty.

Impervious area includes buildings, sidewalks, driveways and other areas when rainwater runs off instead of soaking in and it has been mapped and calculated for each property in the township by the engineering firm Dewberry. This information can be found in the stormwater management fee report under the "Stormwater" tab on the township website:

www.twp.antrim.pa.us

Not implementing a fee in 2019 "buys us time to decide what we want to collect," Young said.

Mike Hess of Dewberry was asked to rework the numbers based on actual square footage of impervious area rather ERUs and other related scenarios.

Supervisors are planning to discuss this information at another work session in late April or early May.

In addition to the fee report, the "Stormwater" tab on the township website contains information ranging from resources for kids to the township's pollutant reduction plan.

Amber Reasner, hired in November as the township's storm water technician and assistant code enforcement officer, also is developing a stormwater brochure for township residents.