Stormwater fund suggested to fix drainage issues
BERLIN – In order to gain the estimated $8.3 million needed to fix Berlin's stormwater drainage problems, representatives of the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center recommended to the mayor and Town Council on Monday the creation of a stormwater utility fund.
The recommendation came after the center’s year-long stormwater management study.
"You have been my favorite community to work with in my region," center Director Joanne Throwe said.
Throwe, who was joined by Program Manager Monica Billig, showed a PowerPoint compilation that explained how the center arrived at its conclusions.
The Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland is one of 10 university-based centers in the country that performs studies to assist communities with environmental problems.
The study used extensive data gathering to identify the volume and quality of stormwater that floods the town.
Overall, the goal of any such study is to determine high-priority areas, allocate costs of stormwater management in a fair manner and institute education and outreach programs within the community.
In Berlin’s case, the study concluded that a 10-year revenue stream is needed to cover costs of operations and maintenance, capital improvement and personnel. About $5 million of the total proposed budget would be needed within its first two years.
After a steep decline to about $1 million spent in year three, approximately $5,000 would be used from the fund the remaining seven years.
Under the model the center suggested, about $4.6 million of revenue would be generated from a tax applied to residential and non-residential properties' water and sewer bill. The tax rate would be determined by the average impervious surface area of the property.
To use two local properties as examples only, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, for instance, has 27,000 square feet of impervious surfacing. That would generate an annual fee of about $600. Stephen Decatur High School's 550,000 square feet of impervious area, however, would require a $12,000 yearly fee.
Because the $4.6 million in tax revenue leaves a good portion of the $8 million total bill unfunded, the center recommended other funding mechanisms such as grants.
Areas in Districts 1 and 2 would be worked on in the first year, specifically the areas of Cedar Street, Pine Street, Nelson Street, Maple Drive, Franklin Avenue and Williams Street near the electrical plant.
Year two would include the Henry's Green and Henry's Mill area, as well art West Street near Abbey Lane.
In year three, the Hudson Branch stream at the intersection of Flower Street and Showell Street would be worked on, following the Decatur Farms development.
No projections were given for the following years.
Visibly intrigued at the end of the presentation, Mayor Gee Williams said, "I've heard 'stormwater' and 'flooding' more in the past five years than all 65 years of my life."
Throwe again complimented the town's efforts and reminded the mayor and council how unique of an opportunity this study and its finding is for Berlin.
"I believe it will be a model for other communities," she said.
As the Mayor and Council said this is a multi-layered project, they will spend much time reviewing the results before making a decision on implementing the proposed plan.