From WILL - News Headlines -

Champaign Council Grants Final Passage to Stormwater Fee

After about two years of discussion, the Champaign City Council has signed off on a stormwater utility fee.

Starting next spring, residents will pay roughly $5 to $15 a month for storm sewer operation and maintenance. But larger properties with more impervious area, or buildings and pavement, will pay more.

Tuesday night's 7-2 vote came after two hours of discussion, including concerns from about 50 members of the city's religious community.

Rev. Claude Shelby of Salem Baptist Church asked council members to exempt churches. He said their financial support is far too shaky to be burdened with the fee.

"We have nothing to do with the act of God as far as the weather goes," Shelby said. "However, on the Sundays when God sends the rain, it runs in the sewers, or the snow, or what have you, many of or members are not there. If they're not there, their offerings are not there."

But council member Tom Bruno said the fee should be one of shared sacrifice.

"The problem, of course, with exempting segments of the society is someone else has to pick up and carry that weight," Bruno said. "And if we closed it at churches, and we defined it by people who believed in a God above, we would probably have constitutional problems."

The two 'no' votes came from Paul Faraci, who's concerned about the fee's effect on businesses, and Kyle Harrison, who says the cost won't be distributed evenly enough, and feels credits and tax breaks tied to the fee could go further. Both also opposed the fee in February's study session.

Members of the John and Washington Street watersheds also praised the plan, calling it the fair thing to do. Mayor Don Gerard says he knows the stormwater fee will help the city in the long run.

The Urbana City Council considers its own version of the stormwater fee at a Monday study session.

Meanwhile, with no discussion, the Champaign City Council unanimously passed a program for municipal electric aggregation. The city will negotiate with a Chicago-area consultant to seek out lower power rates for customers. The Urbana City Council approved the hiring a consultant for its aggregation program Monday night.

The council has also unanimously backed an intergovernmental agreement with Urbana and Normal to seek a 'Sole Source Aquifer' designation from the EPA for the Mahomet Aquifer.

Champaign City Manager Steve Carter said the University of Illinois and other nearby cities may also join the agreement and help share the cost.

The 'Sole Source' designation would make it harder for the EPA to approve a plan to store PCB's in the Clinton Landfill. The Urbana and Normal city councils both signed onto the plan Monday.

Categories: Government, Politics