Susan Hardee Steger
Tropical storm Debbie was a rude awakening to the need of stormwater improvements in Fernandina Beach. Despite efforts from city personnel, the city’s wastewater system during the storm came within 6 inches of overflowing. An overflow results in a complete shutdown of the wastewater system causing sewage and water to flow untreated in the Amelia Island waterways, and subjecting the city to hefty state fines beginning at $5000.
At last week’s city commission meeting, the first reading took place to establish a stormwater fund. For years, city commissions discussed the need for storm water improvements, but the costs are high.
The current plan under consideration was developed to secure “the maximum money for facilities; not administration,” says John Mandrick, city utility director. A previous plan proposed calculating storm water fees based on impervious surfaces. But according to Mandrick,the cost to administer such a plan is high since constant monitoring is required as property owners make changes to their properties.
The current proposal before the commission is a simpler approach. A storm water fee based on property class will be charged. Hit hardest with a $4 monthly fee are single family residents who reside in areas without private storm water systems. Residents, in newer developments with stormwater systems will be charged $2, and condo owners will be charged $1 a month.
Like residential properties, businesses will be charged based on whether or not private stormwater systems are in place. A business in an area with a private stormwater system, will be charged $2 per storefront a month. Other businesses will be charged $4 a month. Since stormwater is not an issue on undeveloped property, there is no fee.
Island county residents do not face the same challenge as city residents when it comes to stormwater. Unlike the city, the county has limited gravity sewers and newer developments have private stormwater systems in place.
Should the stormwater fees be approved, the City’s “Love Your Neighbor” program, funded by contributions received by area residents, will be able to use its funding to support individuals in need of assistance.
Further information on projects targeted for stormwater improvement, and fee structures will be available next week on the city website at www.fbfl.us
Photos courtesy of the City of Fernandina Beach
September 28, 2012 1:20 p.m.