WARREN Council mulls adding fee to residents' utility bills

The fee would fund federally mandated storm sewer work.
WARREN -- Residential property owners would see a $2.50 storm water drainage fee tacked onto their utility bills later this year under an ordinance being considered by city council.
The ordinance would create a storm water utility. If it's passed at council's next meeting May 8, it would take effect 30 days after being signed by the mayor.
Under federal law enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city must have a water pollution control program addressing storm water discharges in place by January.
"The first two years we'll be completing a hydraulic study" of the storm water system, said Tom Angelo, director of the city's water pollution control center, at a water pollution control committee meeting Tuesday.
The study will map out the whole city system and identify problem areas where storm water discharges into the Mahoning River.
Councilman Doc Pugh, D-6th, pointed out that the city doesn't have a choice in developing the plan.
"We have to do this by law," he said.
Flooding concerns
Although the main goal of the program is to prevent pollution of the river, the director said it also will address flooding concerns.
The water pollution control center received calls over the rainy weekend from many residents complaining about flooding.
"Right now, we have to tell the citizens there's really nothing we can do, which makes them not very happy," Angelo said.
The storm water drainage fees would increase from this year through 2006.
The fees for commercial property would be based on the number of collectible runoff units, or the average area required to park a standard-size vehicle. The fee would be assessed monthly to the property owner.
A storm water board will review the rates and make recommendations for 2007 and beyond. The five-member board is an advisory panel made up of three members appointed by the mayor and two members appointed by the chairman of council's sewer and water pollution control committee.
The board will hear appeals of the fees.
Revenue collected through the fees would be placed into a storm water utility fund to be used only for storm water management, operation, maintenance and capital improvements.
Storm water utility
The legislation also would establish a storm water utility to be responsible for storm water system planning. The utility would be under the director of the water pollution control director. But Angelo emphasized that it doesn't involve adding new staff. Staff will be shifted from the sanitary sewer division.
The plan was developed by a five-member board, representing different aspects of the community, assembled last year. Public education and participation in the program are EPA requirements.
Besides public meetings and the involvement of the five-member board, Angelo said the plan will involve asking for participation in program development from nature and civic groups.

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