Report: Batavia should be paying $1 million more on stormwater system

Posted5/20/2015 5:30 AM

Batavia should be spending an additional $1 million a year on maintaining and repairing its stormwater drainage system -- three times as much as it is now, according to a report engineers presented to the city council Tuesday.

And the best way to come up with and dedicate that $1 million would be to charge landowners a monthly fee by creating a stormwater utility, they said.


Consultants from Municipal Financial Services Group recommended charging $4.27 per equivalent runoff unit per month, and keeping it level for five years. $4.27 is an average determined by calculating the amount of impervious surfaces on properties in Batavia, be they residences, nonresidential buildings or government buildings. It does not include roadways. An ERU would be 3,900 square feet of impervious surface. Initially, the firm suggests treating all residential properties as 1 ERU, regardless of their size.

Other options would be to increase property taxes; to adopt a tiered system based on how many square feet of impervious surface a property has; to find the money elsewhere in the general fund; or to stay the course, not doing all the recommended work.

The consultants also recommended, if a fee is imposed, offering incentives to nonresidential properties to come up with ways to handle their stormwater on-site, and credits to owners of residential properties who do things to mitigate stormwater flow, such as installing rain barrels.

Resident Bill Fox spoke against imposing a fee or raising property taxes. "Figure out a way (to do the work) and stop coming to the homeowners time after time after time for every time you need something," Fox said.

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He said he also found it "stunning" that aldermen wouldn't know what happens to rainwater when it enters the sewer, after Alderman Susan Stark said she didn't know how drainage worked before she joined the city council, and that she suspected most people don't know what happens after it enters the "magic drain at the end of the street."

"It's really magic. The water goes away, and it's magic," she said, comparing it to other utilities. "You really don't give too much thought into where does it (sewage) go when you flush the toilet or turn on the tap or the rainwater goes away."

Storm sewer work is paid out of the general fund, which is supported by property taxes, sales taxes and other non-utility income.

Possible drainage projects could include separating combination stormwater-and-sanitary sewers in a part of town west of Batavia Avenue. Doing so would keep stormwater from being treated at the sanitary-sewage-treatment plant. It would also help prevent sanitary sewage from backing up into basements when the sewer lines are filled with rainwater.

The city also anticipates having to repair erosion on the banks of the Fox River, especially where stormwater sewer outlets are located.

The additional spending could step up the pace of relining storm sewer pipes to extend their lives.

The consultant's report will be made available on the city's website. The committee of the whole will discuss the matter more June 16.

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