Council weighs what to do with storm water funds
The Borough of Greencastle has received a five-year waiver before it must meet state-mandated stormwater runoff cleanup requirements, but it has already collected $630,000 in fees from borough residents, mainly to fund a sediment reduction plan.
What to do with that money was discussed during a work session at Monday's council meeting and will be the subject of public workshops at 6 p.m. Tuesdays, June 23 and 30. A decision is expected at the borough council meeting on Monday, July 6.
The location of the meetings has not been determined. Monday's council meeting was held on the borough hall parking lot with 25 chairs for borough representatives and residents spaced for social distancing and limits on large gatherings under state COVID-19 guidelines. There were just over 20 people at the meeting, but if more than 25 would have shown up, they would have had to stand outside barriers.
The weather was good, but voices sometimes had to compete with noise from lawn mowers and traffic.
Locations such as a church, the Rescue Hose Co., a pavilion at Jerome R. King Playground were mentioned, but a specific site still needs to be established for the workshops.
*** Background ***
Many municipalities in Pennsylvania, including Greencastle and Antrim Township, are facing state mandates to reduce to sediment in the Chesapeake Bay under their Pollution Reduction Plans and MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) requirements.
The borough enacted the stormwater fee last year, based on the impervious surface of each property, and created a storm water utility. The majority of the money was earmarked for the MS4 project, estimated at $2 million. However, some of the money was for other storm water management within the borough, such as flooding in the Orchard and Baumgardner developments, and associated administrative costs.
The average residential fee was $172 a year and the Greencastle-Antrim School District was facing the largest bill, $47,000 a year.
The borough started collecting the money last summer. However, at a joint meeting in November, both the borough and township suspended collection pending common sense clarification from the state on MS4 and its implementation.
The borough subsequently applied for the waiver, which was granted in May by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, extending the deadline through May 12, 2025.
*** Discussion ***
Early in the work session, Councilman Wade Burkholder, chair of the administration and finance committee, pointed out the borough received a waiver, not exoneration, for storm water management requirements.
"Strictly speaking, we're just kicking the can down the road," he said.
Borough resident Charles Eckstine agreed it is just a waiver, but said in five years the whole thing may go away or be redirected to the county level.
"I think we should get our money back," Eckstine said, suggesting churches and the playground get refunds first, followed by the community then businesses.
"It would really help businesses and citizens to give the money back ... a lot are hurting now," said resident Eddie Baxter.
Darlene Reynolds spoke on behalf of behalf of Danco Products, her family's business, which manufactures towing and hauling equipment.
"We had great difficulty paying the fee. We had a bad year last year ... paying this nearly killed us in December," said Reynolds, adding the company had trouble last year getting trucks to put beds on last year, a situation which thankfully has changed this year. "To all of a sudden have to pay $8,000 was like a hammer.
"I think it might be legal to keep the money, but the ethical thing is to refund it," Reynolds said. "It's a very bad hardship for us."
"I think we owe it to our community to offer the money back at this time. My concern is really the people who make up this community," her son, William Reynolds said, noting people are laid off and the school district is struggling financially.
The initial thought was to have the storm water management issue reviewed by the administration and finance committee, but several council members and Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. advocated for the full council, resulting in the scheduling of the workshops.
In addition to whether to refund the money, discussion will include the possibility of a small monthly fee such as those in place in Chambersburg and Maryland; whether to move ahead with the installation of a rain garden at Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library, a $110,000 project for which the borough has received a $50,000 state Department of Community and Economic Development grant; and how to address big projects like flooding in developments that can be funded by the tax base.
"As we move forward, I'd like to remind everyone to keep kindness in their thoughts," Councilman Jeremy Layman said.
Even though the discussion was a little heated at times, when the meeting was over, everyone helped out by picking up their chairs and carrying them back into borough hall.