Politics & Government

Live in Macon-Bibb? Your monthly water bills may soon come with a new fee

Video: A look at Macon-Bibb County’s storm water infrastructure

Macon-Bibb's stormwater pipe repairs could take a substantial chunk of new funding through a sales-tax initiative.
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Macon-Bibb's stormwater pipe repairs could take a substantial chunk of new funding through a sales-tax initiative.

It could take upwards of $13 million a year to maintain Bibb County’s outdated stormwater system. And in order to cover those costs, a stormwater utility fee could be added to residents’ water bills.

The Macon-Bibb County Commission is considering turning over management of Macon’s storm drain system to the Macon Water Authority. A $5.75-$7 monthly stormwater utility fee would likely be charged in order to operate the system, a county resolution said.

The cost would be higher for multifamily housing units and commercial and industrial properties.

Macon-Bibb’s stormwater system has been beset with problems, including being cited last year for 21 violations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, County Attorney Judd Drake said.

The system was described as “severally degraded and at risk for failure” in a 2016 study.

Stormwater runoff can lead to sinkholes, flooding and erosion.

The County Commission will vote Tuesday on the resolution that would allow the county and Water Authority to begin working on an intergovernmental agreement.

“No matter how we look at this, this is something we have to do,” commissioner Valerie Wynn said this week. “We need major surgery on our infrastructure.”

Some of Macon’s stormwater problems can be attributed to the city having a high percentage of floodplain area compared to other urban areas in the state, the 2016 study said.

Dozens of stormwater utilities across Georgia, including ones in Covington, Clayton and Athens-Clarke counties, have been formed in the last couple of decades.

The county is currently spending $3.5 million annually on stormwater maintenance through the general fund budget and special purpose local option sales tax revenue. It’s projected to cost $10.5 million-$13 million annually to properly maintain it over the next decade, the resolution said.

Macon-Bibb could use up to $2.5 million of SPLOST funds to complete an inventory of the stormwater system as part of the agreement with the Water Authority.

Commissioners Larry Schlesinger and Virgil Watkins said they would like to see if there was a way to charge a lower base stormwater fee than what’s currently being considered.

Schlesinger also serves on the Water Authority’s board.

“No matter how you spin this, it’s another tax on the property owners in particular,” he said at this week’s commission meeting. “Five dollars to seven dollars means one thing to people who live on Howard Oaks Drive in north Macon. It means something different to people who live on Houston Avenue in south Macon.”