Stormwater fee being re-examined

Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com

Greencastle officials are taking another look at the stormwater utility and associated fee established in late May.

On a split vote at Monday's meeting, borough council opted for an independent engineering review and evaluation by the pubic facilities committee. Depending on how long that takes, the January bill may be put on hold.

Councilmen Duane Kinzer, Joel Amsley, Larry Faight and Wade Burkholder voted for the move, while Steve Miller, Matthew Smith and Frank Webster voted against it.

The stormwater utility and fee were established, in part, to pay for Chesapeake Bay cleanup and MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) permit requirements. Some of the money being raised is also earmarked for other stormwater management projects not associated with MS4, such as addressing flooding in the Orchards area, and well as staffing for the utility.

The fee — based on the impervious area of each property — had been discussed for more than a year before it was adopted and residents and business owners have continued to raise concerns about it.

Brian Harbaugh, co-owner of JCH Associates in the borough and Precision Manufacturing & Engineering in Antrim Township, said he believes the borough needs to rethink the direction it is taking. Harbaugh has played a lead role in questioning the fees and was the only non-government representative to testify at a Sept. 11 hearing before the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held at Antrim Brethren in Christ Church.

He noted the unknowns in the borough's sediment reduction requirements since the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is working from a model and not real data. He also questioned why the borough's stormwater management fee and project estimates are so much higher than in Antrim Township.

Fee discussions have also centered around a stream bank restoration project, possibly involving Paddy Run, done jointly by Greencastle and Antrim Township. However, Brian Harbaugh and his daughter, Stephanie, co-owner of the businesses, brought out that the two municipalities have not formally met to talk about a joint project. Representatives of both municipalities have said since then that they do hope to hold such a meeting.

Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. also remains critical of the stormwater utility ordinance and in his report encouraged a "strategic planning and review meeting by all members of council regarding stormwater costs and set projects that are financially within the borough's means."

Later, he said "there will be another fee by 2020, but hopefully it will be a reduced fee."

Joel Amsley, chair of the public facilities committee, said he feels the right thing to do is take a pause and scrub back through the numbers, what the money is being spent on and the possibility of working with Antrim Township.