Thursday, July 30, 2009

Financing the Stormwater Utility

Utilities Comptroller Wayne Lassiter's presentation at Mary Munford Elementary School, July 28, 2009

Understanding Stormwater

Department of Public Utilities Deputy Director Bob Steidel was part of a presentation on the stormwater utility at Mary Munford Elementary School, July 28, 2009.

Recorded and posted by Mariane Jorgenson

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Green Alleys

The Department of Public Utilities implemented a Green Alley Demonstration Project at two locations, the alley connecting S. 12th and S. 13th streets, between Main and Cary, and the alley connecting 5th and Main streets, between Main and Cary.

The 12th street location is a doglegged alley with an impermeable surface that slopes toward Shockoe Bottom, an area that has experienced severe flooding in the past. The 5th Street alley is relatively flat, although covered with impermeable asphalt that results in a basin effect during even minor rainfall. By using permeable surfacing, rain gardens, cisterns, and other stormwater management techniques, these alleys were transformed into models for adopting green alley design as a standard, citywide practice.

Retrofitting alleys with green techniques has proven effective at solving stormwater runoff problems in urban areas such as Chicago. Alleys are often holding areas for garbage, construction materials and equipment, increasing the amount of pollution collected in stormwater runoff and carried to the James River and Chesapeake Bay.

This exciting project was the first application of green alley stormwater management in a city within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The alleys were selected for their different physical characteristics and location in high profile areas susceptible to flooding.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More Stormwater Questions Answered

Q. Was floating a bond for stormwater ever discussed?

A. Yes. The Department of Public Utilities has consistently maintained that our plan is to finance some of our capital projects in the Stormwater Utility with long-term municipal bonds. To position the utility for that, we need to build strength in our financial statements by showing that we have a consistent, predictable revenue stream and that our revenue exceeds our expenses by a reasonable amount. We will likely be in a position to do a debt issue in one to two years.

Q. Are the contractors from 15 years ago still responsible for the projects they've built that have not held up?

A. If the owner of a property -- individual or property owner association -- does not maintain a BMP (Best Management Practice) and the City had a signed maintenance agreement with the property owner, the City can place a lien on the property and maintain the BMP. Many BMPs are being maintained by the property owners (there are approximately 200 in the City, and 50 City BMPs). The City's Stormwater Utility will provide the resources to maintain City BMPs, as well as those abandoned by the property owners.

Posted by Mariane Jorgenson

Monday, July 13, 2009

More Answers to Stormwater Questions

Q. How was the fee determined?

A. The stormwater utility fee is based on the amount of impervious area that a property contains and is broken down into a three-tiered rate structure for single family residential parcels. This fee was determined by utilizing property classification data from the City Assessor's Office and impervious area calculations from the City's Geographic Information System GIS.

Q. Can the work be divided up over several years?

A. Yes, based on the amount of work needed under the stormwater utility, it will take several years to complete the work that has been identified. Among other things, the stormwater utility will fund operations and regular maintenance of catch basins, drainage ditches, detention ponds and the like, as well as Capital improvement projects to include storm sewer installation, culvert and ditch upgrades, steam restoration, water quality retrofits, and storm drainage master planning and engineering.

Q. Can stimulus funds be used instead of charging the citizens?

A. The stimulus fund dollars are all assigned to specific, already-designed projects that have been prioritized and approved by state agencies. The Department of Public Utilities cannot divert those funds to serve other projects that have not been accepted and approved. As with other vital utility services such as water, sewer or natural gas, the stormwater utility fee is a fee for the service of controlling stormwater runoff.

A. Why isn't this the homeowner's responsibility?

The stormwater utility is the most equitable system because all contributors share the costs of maintaining and improving the storm drainage system. The City of Richmond must meet stringest water regulatory standards by regional and national agencies. Meeting these standards would not be possible by leaving it in the hands of individual homeowners, and if these requirements are not met, the City would incur exorbititant fines that pale in comparison to the amount charged under the stormwater utility fee.

Q. Why is the fee determined by the size of the roof?

The size of the roof, along with other impervious surfaces, is calculated as part of a single family resident's impervious area because water cannot soak through a roof, but runs off it.