Champaign to Move Forward with Study of Stormwater Utility Fee


The Champaign City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to start exploring a stormwater utility fee to help pay for the city's storm sewer and drainage system.

Property owners would pay a fee based on the square footage of structures that cause water runoff, such as buildings and driveways. City officials also discussed the possibility of property owners earning credits to reduce their fees, by installing rain barrels, water gardens, or other devices to reduce runoff.

Susan Hart agrees that using credits is a good way to encourage those behaviors. She's a member of a steering committee that studies flooding problems in Champaign's Washington West Watershed. But, Hart says, the most important thing for now is to collect the money to improve the city's storm sewer system:

"I think it's good", Hart said of the credit idea. "Yes, absolutely. I think the behaviors are a big part of it but there are parts of the city that need pipe first. And then, of course, we can go into the behaviors, but right now we need pipe."

Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt says the city could use a G-I-S or geographic information system to measure the square footage of impervious surfaces on properties, for the purpose of determining their fee.. Mayor Jerry Schweighart says the lack of such technology had discouraged the city from adapting a stormwater utility fee when it last considered the idea in 2002.

"We were discussing ways of measuring it, and the discussion was measuring the amount of rainfall that came off of your roof, and a lot of other things that were just not practical, and (the council) just kind of lost interest", says Schweighart. "I'm glad to hear we've gotten a lot more scientific in the way of measuring these properties."

A feasibility study to assess how the stormwater utility fee should be calculated will take 10 to 12 months. Champaign Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt says it could take an additional year to set up a collection system for the fee. Urbana city officials are also studying the idea.

Story source: AP