2013-07-27 / News

Buckeye Lake Village discusses storm water utility

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE – A storm water utility may be a hard sell to the public, but some Buckeye Lake Village officials believe one could provide significant benefits.

Jobes Henderson & Associates President Jim Roberts discussed a storm water utility’s pro and cons at Monday night’s council meeting. Council members took no action on the issue. I

A storm water utility is a “stand-alone” service unit within the local government that generates revenues through fees for service. A storm water utility is responsible for funding the operation, construction and maintenance of storm water management devices, for storm water system planning, and management. A storm water utility generates its revenue through user fees, which go into a specific fund specifically for storm water services.

“It is a user fee; it is not a tax,” Roberts explained. He said a storm water utility would generate some “much needed” funding to alleviate storm water drainage problems, which happen villagewide, and it would provide relief to the general fund, which currently pays for storm water drainage maintenance.

Roberts said council members could create a storm water utility on their own without putting the issue before voters. “I’ve never known of a storm water utility that went before voters and was approved,” he said. Roberts said the fee could be added to water bills.

Wednesday, Buckeye Lake Mayor Rick Baker said if such a fee were to be implemented, it may cost a village resident $3 or $4 extra per month. “But that’s just a real guess,” he said.

Baker said he favored a storm water utility for the City of Newark when he was on its council. “I thought there was a real need in Newark at the time,” he said. As far as Buckeye Lake is concerned, “There are (storm water drainage) problems all over the village. On and on and on there are water drainage problems,” said Baker. Even a small charge to begin with would be a big help, he said, adding that the village was created with a vision for proper drainage, public water, and sanitary sewer services. “It would be a hard sell,” said Baker. “But, what do you do?”

“You’d be surprised to see how much you’re paying for storm water already,” said Roberts Monday night. “It’s just kind of hidden in your general fund.”

“What money do we need for which problems,” said council member Barry Herron. “Why are we doing this?”

“We can’t depend on the general fund to come up with the money,” said Director of Public Works Vaughn Klingler. “You’re running out of money.” He said the village also can’t depend upon grants to cover storm water drainage system maintenance.

Council President Charlene Hayden said a storm water utility would be a small amount of money for a great amount of benefit. “This village really needs a storm water utility,” she said.

Herron said that creating a fee to go along with other levies is just creating another layer of expense for the residents. “It’s never ending,” he said, adding that the need for the revenue needs to be defined.

Klingler said he’s working on a detailed analysis of the village’s storm water drainage issues. “We know everybody will not be in favor,” he said. “But, it’s best to do it now before more problems begin.”

In other council news:

• Director of Development Mike Cassidy said more derelict houses are being demolished. He expects the Moving Ohio Forward program, which reimburses the village for demolition expenses, to fund 17 demolitions within the village. “We could stand to tear down another 20,” he said. “The City of Newark (which is administrating the grant) has been great to work with.”

• Council appointed resident John Hanson to the Buckeye Lake Planning and Zoning Commission. Hayden said Hanson is taking former member Pam Reed’s place. “If you know Pam, you know she has many things going on in her life and she needs to attend to those things at the moment,” said Hayden.

• Hayden clarified that special prices from Border Energy for electricity apply to village-owned properties only, and they are not available, at least through any village program, to any other village businesses or residents.

Tony Szymczak, manager of electric sales for Border Energy, told council members earlier this month that Border Energy can purchase electricity below AEP’s rates, which serves most of the region, and pass the savings to customers. He said if the village agrees to work with Border Energy, electric bills would be paid to AEP as usual. There would be no separate billing. “AEP just turns around and pays us,” said Szymczak. He added that Border Energy also offers a plan that guarantees its customers would pay 10 percent less than AEP’s rate across the board.

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