By WILL ANDERSON
Oct. 26, 2000 (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)DeKalb County officials soon might follow Decatur's lead and impose a monthly fee for maintenance of the county's aging stormwater system.
Although discussions about a stormwater utility fee are still in preliminary stages, county commissioners have said additional revenue may be necessary to pay for future maintenance, repairs and upgrades to the infrastructure.
Carl Glover, director of the county's Roads and Drainage Division, said the money from a stormwater utility fee would enable the county to be more proactive in its approach to preventing flooding and other stormwater emergencies.
At present, the only money allocated for the system is used for repairs, while maintenance and improvements are largely ignored, Glover said.
"We do not have adequate funds to maintain the current system. The money is being used to repair failures," he added. "It has not been funded at a level to ensure that we keep people safe and keep their property from flooding."
Last week, commissioners met with Andy Reese, a consultant with Tennessee-based Ogden Environmental and Energy Services, which has helped cities in Georgia and throughout the Southeast establish stormwater utilities. Reese said DeKalb is not unusual in its neglect of its stormwater controls, and most local governments do only the minimal amount of work to keep their systems operating.
That leaves county workers constantly playing catch-up.
"They can never promise anyone when they're going to fix something. What that leads to is ticked-off people," Reese said.
Charlotte, Chattanooga, Griffin and Decatur are just a few of the cities that have turned to a stormwater utility fee to take care of the infrastructure. Most charge homeowners between $3 and $5 per month, Reese said. Businesses are charged more depending on the amount of impervious surface on their properties.
In DeKalb, a $3.50 monthly fee would generate $6 million to $7 million per year, Reese said. That money could be used to take care of an estimated 2,500 stormwater problems in ther county.
Commissioners plan to discuss the issue in more detail beginning in January. A study will be required to determine exactly what the county needs. If approved, the fee might go into effect as early as January 2002.
Copyright 2000 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution