Facing flooding, council approves hike in storm water discharge fee

Increase of $2 per month will pay for sewer repairs, sump pump projects

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Customers of the Perry Water Works will see the last postcard billings in September or October, according to action taken Thursday by the Perry Water Works Board of Trustees.

The Perry City Council voted unanimously Monday night to increase the monthly storm water discharge fee from $3 to $5 starting Jan. 1. The fee is paid by all Perry Water Works customers.

Assessing some results of Tuesday morning's smoke test of the city's sanuitary sewer system were, from left, the Perry Public Works Department's Mike Landals, Matt Van Pelt, Assistant Director Josh Wuebker, City Administrator Sven Peterson, Finance Officer Susie Moorhead, Public Works Director Jack Butler and the Public Works Department's Jose Arceo.
September’s smoke test of the Perry sanitary sewer system revealed some unwanted connections with the storm sewer system. Participating in the test were, from left, the Perry Public Works Department’s Mike Landals, Matt Van Pelt, Assistant Director Josh Wuebker, City Administrator Sven Peterson, Finance Officer Susie Moorhead, Public Works Director Jack Butler and the Public Works Department’s Jose Arceo.

“This is one of the things that we discussed a little bit as a possible outcome of all the flooding this summer,” said Perry City Administrator Sven Peterson. “We’re looking at a $2 increase across the board to a $5 flat charge.”

The fee has not been increased since it was first assessed in 2008. The rate increase will generate an estimated $60,000 in new storm sewer funds annually, Peterson said.

“There’s quite a bit to fix out there,” Peterson said.

The storm water discharge funds have been recently used for videotaping, inspecting and cleaning parts of the city’s sanitary sewer system.

“Nobody likes to see rate increases,” said council member John Andorf, “but I think it’s probably necessary to help address some of the problems that we’ve had.”

Perry Public Works Director Jack Butler, left, works to open an inlet at the corner of Fourth and Evelyn streets during today's rain.
Perry Public Works Director Jack Butler, left, worked to open a clogged storm water intake at the corner of Fourth and Evelyn streets during July’s rains.

Peterson said the storm water discharge funds are also used to solve problems such as the standing water in the ditches along Willis Avenue near the Pizza Hut and the large puddles that form along Second Street near the American Concrete plant. The latter stretch of roadway is part of next summer’s scheduled street overlay project.

“There’s not much point overlaying that if there’s going to be standing water there,” Peterson said, “so we’re going to try to come with an innovative solution that will get the water out of there for much less cost than it would be to run all new storm sewer there.”

Perry City Council member Phil Stone posed a hypothetical question to Peterson.

“I have my own answer to this, Sven, but I’ve had people say, ‘Well, I’m noways near a storm sewer, but yet I’m still paying this tax.’ How do you answer that?”

Peterson noted the funds also go toward new curbs and other storm-water-related issues.

Perry's sanitary sewer system is in the middle of a four-year process of cleaning and videotaping. The program is part of the city's long-term plan to improve the operating efficiency of both the sanitary and storm sewer systems. Source: Bolton and Menk
Sump-pump projects could find a place in Perry’s four-year program of cleaning and videotaping the sanitary sewer system. The program is part of the city’s long-term plan to improve the operating efficiency of both the sanitary and storm sewer systems. Source: Bolton and Menk

“Another project that’s been done with this,” he said, “and one that we’ll be looking at is the sump pump project, where we’ve run sump pump lines from homes and then a small sump-pump sewer line down the street to catch all the homes. We were seeing a lot of that this last week when it rained and then froze. You see everybody’s sump pump freezing in the street. That gets it straight out to the storm sewer. We need to be thinking about some more projects like that.”

Stone also made Peterson’s point, noting the storm water discharge fee “could still help with people who are not right on a storm sewer and could help their property as well.”

Perry Public Works Director Jack Butler also offered an answer to Stone’s hypothetical question, saying Perry residents are “getting by dirt cheap because in most communities they actually sit down and measure the footprint of your house, how much roof line you have, your garage, and then they base (the fee) off of that.”

Butler said when the question of a storm water discharge fee was first studied by the Perry City Hall and Public Works Department in 2008, they found other cities “went and measured your roofs, and you got billed a certain percentage for how much footprint you had on the earth.”

He said Perry residents, particularly owners of building with large footprints, such as factories, would have objected to such a strict method of assessment.

“If we would have set that up the way they do in a lot of other communities — Oh, man, we would have had some angry citizens and business owners in town,” Butler said. “If we would have done like the majority of other communities do, it would have been a huge impact on the citizens and business owners in town because it would have been a whole different system on how it would have been billed out.”

Butler also emphasized the important work the sewer discharge fees pay for.

“We do value having this,” he said. “It does pay for a lot of work we do around town. We’re getting some curbs going, some sump pump lines going. We’re rebuilding intakes with this money. So that was the easiest way and the most cost effective for residents.”

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