Stormwater fee rebate approved by council

Shawn Hardy

Greencastle property owners will receive some of the money they paid in stormwater management fees back by Sept. 30.

The rebate was one of a number of decisions related to the stormwater fund and utility made Monday by Greencastle Borough Council. It comes after two work sessions in June to decide how to move forward since the borough received a five-year waiver from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) sediment reduction requirements related to Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.

About $626,7000 was collected before the stormwater fee was suspended and $417,908 will be returned to property owners.

The rebate total includes $60,000 that had been earmarked for a rain garden at the Lilian S. Besore Library. However, that plan was put on hold after library board representatives expressed concerns about the rain garden.

Stormwater decisions 

In anticipation of a sediment reduction project, with an estimated cost of $2 million, and to address other stormwater management needs, council created a stormwater utility and enacted the fee to support it in 2019.

The fee was based on the amount of impervious area on a property, such as roofs, driveways and sidewalks, where rainwater runoffs of instead of soaking into the ground.

The stormwater fees in both Greencastle and Antrim Township were suspended late last year as leaders of both municipalities decided at a joint meeting they wanted more information concerning the cleanup mandates from DEP. The Borough of Greencastle subsequently applied for and received the five-year waiver.

The difference between the amount collected and the amount being rebated will be used for the operation of the stormwater utility, including work like infall replacement.

A reduced fee will be reinstated for the fourth quarter of this year, with billing in January 2021. The amount will go from $5.36 per 100 square feet of impervious area to $1.83 per 100 square fee of impervious area.

It will take time to process about 2,000 rebate checks, which will be done in order from the highest amount paid to the lowest.

Other actions taken in relation to stormwater management Monday:

  • The public facilities committee will look at the viability of a project to address flooding in the eastern part of town, including Baltimore Street and the Orchard development.
  • Staff will make recommendations about getting a new engineer with expertise in stormwater management.
  • The borough will pursue future MS4 waivers and, if possible, exemption from MS4 requirements indefinitely.

Library rain garden 

The rain garden at the library will be part of the review of eastern area stormwater management by the public facilities committee as a result of questions from the library board at the meeting.

The library was not involved in the design of the rain garden, according to Bud O'Mara, board member and treasurer. He said the first time members of the board saw design plan for the rain garden was when it appeared in the Echo Pilot, which was in January.

"It just simply got out of hand, we haven't been talking to each other," said O'Mara, who later added COVID-19 "threw everything off."

Lorraine Hohl, who became borough manager in October 2019, said she did not know the rain garden had not been fully discussed with the library and agreed COVID impacted communication.

The library's plan for a courtyard and parking lot project was approved in 2017 and the project was completed last year. A bioretention pond is included in the plan.

At the time, the borough wanted to run a stormwater pipe on the library property from Linden Avenue to Ridge Avenue.

The library board gave the easement for $1, in return asked the borough to take care of the bioretention requirements and has a memorandum of understanding signed by former Borough Manager Eden Ratliff.

The borough is obligated to design, develop and install a bioretention pond, O'Mara said.

However, the proposed rain garden goes beyond the scope of the bioretention requirements and would take up 75 percent of the land adjacent to Linden Avenue purchased by the library for $150,000, O'Mara said.

"We felt like we didn't know what was going on and it was going to be voted on," said Dana Divelbiss, a member of the library board. "Of course, we want to cooperate, that's why we came."

The $60,000 designated for the rain garden will be part of the stormwater fee rebate. The total project cost is $110,000 and the borough received a $50,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The grant money is available until 2022, according to Hohl.