La PORTE – Citywide complaints following a storm sewer increase on local water bills prompted the La Porte City Council to rethink the charges.
At its Monday meeting, the council introduced a new ordinance, that will amend the ordinance already put in place, establishing a rate for city sewer services for the purpose of stormwater management during their July 1 meeting.
Following backlash from the community, the council set out to re-evaluate the initial rate by working with its Stormwater Committee.
The amendment is intended to be a temporary fix until the city can determine a rate that more effectively serves the community.
“I want to reiterate that this is a temporary ordinance. This is not the end," Councilman Miles Fettinger said. "I think that Walmart getting charged the same amount as me, in a single family home, is a little ludicrous that this is the way that it has to play out.
"There is no way that we will be able to meet the goals of what we are trying to fix [at this rate]. There is a whole laundry list of drainage problems that this fund is designed to fix, as well as [satisfy] the EPA requirements that kind of come down the line anyway. This is just a temporary fix, but it will have to change. We just have to figure out the best way to do that.”
The rate for sewer services for stormwater management is based on the amount of “impervious area” present on residential and non-residential properties. Impervious areas do not allow water to penetrate into the ground, creating stormwater (rain) runoff.
Properties are split into three classifications, and each is charged by equivalent residential unit, or ERU. One ERU is equivalent to an impervious area up to 3,000 square feet
Residential and agricultural properties fall in Class I, and will be billed a monthly fee of $5.49. This class includes duplexes, triplexes, mobile homes and condominiums.
Class II mainly encompasses railroad properties, and assorted unimproved properties, and will be charged $5.49 at one third ERU, accruing a monthly increase of $1.83.
The monthly fee for Class I and Class II properties will not change under the amended ordinance.
Class III includes all properties not covered in the previous classifications. Such properties include commercial, industrial, municipal, utility and tax-exempt properties. Class III will be billed at $5.49 per one ERU, similar to Class I. These properties typically have much more than 3,000 square feet of impervious area.
However, included in the amended ordinance is a statement that "until the city modifies the calculations for ERU’s and determines the objective standards for reductions for on-site stormwater management, Class III properties will be charged a monthly fee of $5.49."
“This is probably going to take some time to establish, as well," Councilman Joe Mrozinske said. "We want to get out and make sure that the businesses, those that are Class III properties, are temporary bills, and that they have the ability to appeal, and discuss how many of them are retaining their water on site, or taking steps to do so.”
Many residents brought their water bills to the June 17 Council meeting to call attention to discrepancies.
“After the last meeting I had several people come up and hand me their bills, and I reviewed several different bills and compiled a list," Mrozinske said. "I noticed several of the properties, at least, have a different consistency [in charges].
"I think we need to go through every bill in the city of La Porte, and take a look at and see if everyone is being charged accordingly, as well as give people the time to have an appeal process.”