County Storm Water Fees Delayed Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

County Storm Water Fees Delayed Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

County Storm Water Fees Delayed Due To COVID-19 Pandemic Featured

By / Local News / Monday, 18 May 2020 02:27

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously in December to create a Stormwater Services program to ensure the continued upkeep of the stormwater management system throughout the unincorporated areas of the county, and relieve property owners of the responsibility of maintaining and cleaning ditches and pipes on their property.

Stormwater Services will be part of the county’s Engineering Department and were set to go into effect July 1, 2020. It will create a flexible way to plan and pay for more resilient water management practices, as well as allow the county to provide a higher level of service for residents.

On Monday May 18th, the Board of Commissioners agreed by a vote of 5-0 that, "As a result of the impacts of COVID -19, residential property owners ( who may be unemployed /underemployed), businesses (that may be struggling financially), and non - profits /churches (that may have experienced a decrease in charitable giving), have experienced financial hardships."

County Engineer Jim lannucci explained the inclusion of a Stormwater Services fee on the August 2020 tax bills would add additional financial obligation to these groups. In order to support the community during this time and not add any additional financial responsibility, staff proposes the following modification to the Stormwater Services Program implementation:

1. The implementation date for the Stormwater Services Program will remain July 1, 2020, with a special revenue fund established July 1, 2021.
2. Initial Stormwater Services fees will not be included on the August 2020 tax bills, but will be included on the tax bills that will be mailed in August 2021.
3. In accordance with the county' s current management of stormwater, property owners will continue to be responsible for maintaining the drainage ways on their property through June 30, 2021; however, the county will work with the property owners to delay work, where feasible.
4. For fiscal year 2020 -2021, the Stormwater Services Program will primarily focus on the following:
a. Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) grant funded work in the approximate amount of $4,700,000.
b. Installation of culvert and related ditch work as part of the Military Cutoff Extension project.
c. Completion of priority projects based on available funding.
d. Develop a list of stormwater capital projects to begin on or after July 1, 2021.
e. Completion of Stormwater Services Program ordinance and technical manual.
5. The county will assume maintenance responsibility on July 1, 2021.
6. Addition of the following 13 positions effective July 1, 2020, with partial funding for fiscal year 2020 -2021 in order to begin providing maintenance on July 1, 2021:
- Program Manager (one position)
- Permit Assistant (one position)
- Technician (eight positions)
- Inspector (two positions)
- CAD / GIS Specialist (one positon)
7. Inclusion of the fee structure in the fiscal year 2021 -2022 budget fee schedule.
8. Fiscal year 2020 -2021 net expenses will be paid from general fund revenues and will be repaid to the general fund with fiscal year 2021 -2022 Stormwater Services Program revenues.

In December 2019 Iannucci explained, “This is something we’ve been exploring since 2017, because proactively managing stormwater in the unincorporated areas of the county is an important and much-needed service for our community,” and, “When this service begins in July, the responsibility for stormwater maintenance will shift from residents to the county and we can implement a more strategic and comprehensive approach to stormwater management.”

FEE STRUCTURE

A nominal fee will support these services and only apply to property owners in the unincorporated areas of the county. Residential property owners will be charged a set fee of $5.65 a month (or $67.80 a year); and commercial properties, nonprofits, churches and any other non-residential properties will be charged a fee based on their impervious surface area.

Properties developed since September of 2000 that maintain stormwater control measures under a county permit will receive a 31 percent discount, since less maintenance from Stormwater Services will be required.

The Stormwater Services fee is not a tax, but it will be collected once a year through the county’s property tax bill (sent in August) and will be listed as a separate fee for property owners in the unincorporated area. This fee will not apply to residents within the city limits of Wilmington or the county’s beach towns.

THE ORIGINAL TIMELINE: The original time-line was to begin in July 2020, when the county would begin implementing the service starting with required maintenance, an assessment of the current stormwater system and conveyances, and prioritizing maintenance for existing drainage easements. During this time, the county will also be managing the contracted work funded through $4 million in Emergency Watershed Protection funds to remove downed trees and sediment in watersheds as a result of Hurricane Florence.

To learn more about the new Stormwater Services program visit www.Engineering.NHCgov.com

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