Stormwater fees will be 'a bitter pill'
Across-the-board fees have not been approved or announced, but a few figures have trickled out concerning how Greencastle is going to fund federal water cleanup mandates, other storm water management projects in the borough and its new stormwater utility.
The pollutant impact fees will be based on each property's impervious area, such as roofs, driveways and parking lots where water runs off instead of soaking in. Borough Council President Steve Miller and Vice President Larry Faight confirmed after Monday night's meeting that the Greencastle-Antrim School District is at the top of the list for impervious area and faces an annual fee in the $50,000s. That is equal to about one-quarter of a mill in property taxes.
The methodologies for mapping, done by Miller who is a retired engineer, and the fees are undergoing legal and engineering review.
The fees are expected to be approved and released at a special meeting later this month, with the first bills going out at the end of June. By that time, appeals and credit processes also should be in place.
"When the rates are published, it is what it is, but its going to be a bitter pill to swallow," Miller said.
The average residential bill will be $252.62 a year, Borough Manager Eden Ratliff announced at a town hall meeting last month. Bills will be based on each 100 square feet of impervious area, but what has not been released is what the square footage is for the "average" property.
The borough needs to raise $780,000 a year — beginning this year — to comply with federal Chesapeake Bay cleanup mandates administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and deal with other stormwater issues in the borough, both overseen by a newly created stormwater utility. A stream bank restoration project to comply with the borough's five-year MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) permit which expires in 2023 is earmarked at $1 million, while work to ease flooding in the Orchard area has a projected debt service of $65,568 a year for 10 years. Money also is being raised for future MS4 requirements. which have not yet been specified.
When people learn what they will be charged, "they will be knocking down the door we just replaced," Councilman Duane Kinzer said, referring to the recently completed renovation at borough hall.
Costs to community
"This topic is not-heartwarming for anyone," said Ratliff, who with Assistant Borough Manager Lorraine Hohl, has been hosting town hall meetings on the topic and meeting with owners of the properties with the greatest impervious areas.
One of those is Charlie Eckstine, who said he's been told the annual fee for the former Antrim Builder's property which he owns will be $6,700. The 3 1/2-acre site is mostly stone, with some blacktop and no building. He said he's heard some churches will be charged more than $5,000, the Little League $4,000 and the playground over $3,000. Because it is a stormwater fee, it will apply across the board to non-profits that are exempt from property taxes.
"What's this going to do to our community long-term?" asked Eckstine.
Council agreed with a recommendation from Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. to write to state and federal authorities, including President Trump, concerning the impact of MS4 implementation on small communities. Thomas encouraged community residents and other municipalities to do likewise.
Thomas said the federal clean water standards have some common sense, low-cost approaches, but the high costs as it is being administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection were one of the top topics among municipal leaders at the recent Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors annual conference.
"DEP has all these requirements that aren't in the federal law," Thomas said.
Eckstine applauded Thomas' idea and said perhaps there should be a meeting with elected officials and DEP.
"They need to know what a burden this is," Eckstine said.
A brochure about MS4 has been compiled and is available at borough hall, 60 N. Washington St.
Town hall meetings concerning storm water are planned in borough hall on:
Thursday, May 23, 7 p.m.
Thursday, June 6, 10 a.m.
Thursday, June 13, 7 p.m.
In addition, Ratliff and Hohl are available to speak to group on the topic.
For more information, call 717-597-7143.