Township stormwater fee meeting draws full house

Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com
Brian Harbaugh encouraged other Antrim Township residents to contact their state and federal lawmakers concerning the costs of MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) permit and Chesapeake Bay cleanup requirements at Tuesday night's meeting of township supervisors. (SHAWN HARDY/ECHO PILOT)

An overflow crowd heard the engineering report on Antrim Township's proposed stormwater management fee and spent more than two hours asking questions, offering comments and voicing concerns Tuesday night.

The fee is intended to raise the money needed to meet MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) permit and Chesapeake Bay cleanup requirements.

The township needs to reduce the sediment it sends to the bay by 10 percent — or 245,000 pounds a year over its five-year permit cycle, Jim Bennett, a senior planner with the engineering firm Dewberry, explained. The most cost effective way to do that is through a 5,400-lineal-foot streambank restoration project, with an estimated cost of $1,920,000. Design, bidding, permitting and other preliminary work is expected to cost $452,000. Other minimum control measures in the township's stormwater management plan, including public outreach and engagement like Tuesday's meeting, are set at $418,000 for a total of $2,790,000.

The fee would be based on the impervious area of each property, just over 1 cent per square foot for things like roofs, driveways and patios, where water runs off instead of sinking into the ground. The average residential property has 4,130 square feet of impervious area for a fee of $42.27. If a fee is enacted, supervisors are thinking about paying $42.27 toward the bill on each property for at least the first year, so many residents would pay nothing.

The next steps are to finalize the stormwater management plan, draft and advertise proposed ordinance amendments for the fee and vote at the Oct. 22 supervisors meeting, Bennett said.

'Help us in this fight' 

Township supervisors and staff have been working on MS4 for a couple of years and on Sept. 11, it was the subject of a hearing before the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held at Antrim Brethren in Christ Church.

Fred Young, chairman of the supervisors, made it clear the board is not happy about the unfunded federal mandate. He steered the meeting toward comments and questions, rather than complaints.

"We've already heard it," he said. "We're complaining, too."

Young said supervisors are lobbying hard with state and federal officials and cited the committee hearing arranged by state Sen. Judy Ward, a Republican who represents Greencastle and Antrim Township.

He noted that Sen. Gene Yaw, the committee's chairman, is still accepting written comments and encouraged those at the meeting to write a paragraph or two about how the proposed fees will affect them and their land.

"Help us in this fight, it takes a lot of voices to be heard," Young said at the end of the meeting.

Brian Harbaugh of Precision Manufacturing and Engineering, the only person to testify at the Senate committee hearing who was not a municipal representative, delivered a similar message to the people who filled the township meeting room chairs, stood along the walls and spilled out into the hallway and foyer.

"No offense to the people upfront, but they can't do anything about it," Harbaugh said, referring to the supervisors.

He is in touch with state and federal officials on a weekly basis and encouraged others to do the same, writing or calling "until they're sick of hearing from you ... if nothing happens, next election vote them out."

Harbaugh and his wife Stephanie, expect to pay about $2,000 a year in stormwater management fees to the township for their home and business, on top of $14,000 to the Borough of Greencastle for their business in town. He noted the $47,000 stormwater management fee the Greencastle-Antrim School District is paying in the borough also will be passed along to taxpayers.

Supervisors heard a score of other comments and questions, ranging from whether gravel driveways are considered impervious and how the township stormwater management plan meshes with state and federal measures already required of farmers to who monitors runoff from state roads and what is being done about discharge from sewer treatment plants.

Brenda Mayhugh of Williamson Road asked why, if water flows north to south, cleanup does not start at the top of the state and work its way downstream.

As he replied to several other comments during the evening, Young said Mayhugh was applying "too much common sense" to the unfunded federal mandate.