Politics & Government

Centerville sets monthly stormwater fee for residents

CENTERVILLE -- Most city residents will pay an additional $4.25 on their monthly utility bills beginning in August.

The City Council voted Tuesday to create a federal and state mandated stormwater utility to deal with stormwater runoff and pollution.

The utility also will provide for general drainage infrastructure maintenance and improvements, inspections, engineering tasks and administration of the program.

The vote was 3-0 with Councilman Edward Armijo absent because he was attending a state-mandated council training event.

While residents will pay the basic flat fee, commercial and industrial concerns will pay according to a formula determining their property's rate of runoff. The category also includes churches and similar large-scale buildings and operations.

Runoff rates are based on hard surfaces that don't accept water seepage such as driveways, parking lots and roofs.

Richard Gruel of Integrated Science & Engineering, who has been working with city officials to develop the utility, said commercial stormwater utility clients who will get a bill of $40 or more will get an advance warning letter prior to August.

He said Centerville immediately will begin figuring costs for every property.

The stormwater fee will become a new line item on residents' monthly utility bill.

Properties, both residential and commercial, may gain credits against the charge by improving runoff and stormwater handling by doing things such as building water retention ponds, having below average impervious surface areas and proven regular septic tank maintenance.

Gruel said money raised by the utility will be used only for stormwater and drainage issues within the city controlled infrastructure. The money will not be used on privately owned systems.

Applications for credits will be taken prior to August, though no specific start date was set.

Councilman Cameron Andrews, who oversees city utilities, said the new stormwater utility provides much needed funding for maintenance and improvement to aging drainage infrastructure.

"Nobody likes to spend money, and we look for every way to save wherever we can, but this is mandated and I have to say, it's needed," he said. "We have underground and other drainage systems that date back to the 1950s and '60s, and some of it is beginning to fail. ... Small repairs can run into big costs. It's a service we provide, and we have to pay for it."

Gruel said the utility will provide stable funding for city drainage needs. Approved client fees should remain level for five years barring catastrophic weather that might cause significant emergency needs.

Mayor John Harley called creation of the long-planned utility a major step for Centerville.

POLICE CHIEF SWORN IN

Also Tuesday, Ronald Rodgers, who was appointed as the city's new police chief in February, was sworn into office.

Attending the occasion were Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton, Warner Robins Police Chief Brett Evans and Perry Police Chief Steve Lynn.

Also in attendance was sheriff's Capt. Ronnie Harlowe, who led Centerville police for three months while the city searched for a chief, and

police Capt. Charles Hadden. Harley said Hadden "kept the department between the tracks" and that it is in good shape today largely due to Hadden's efforts.

Also attending the meeting was Houston County Chief Deputy Billy Rape. Rape was on hand to see Rodgers sworn in and see the council take action related to family property he and his sister, Carolyn Lovejoy, sold the city last year.

The lot provides Centerville frontage space on North Houston Lake Boulevard for property it bought earlier last year behind the Rape lot.

City officials plan to use the land for a central downtown district, which is expected to include a park and commercial development.

Rape said the lot was originally bought by his father, W.H. "Pip" Rape, a former Warner Robins police chief. The family received several offers for the property through the years but was pleased to see it become part of Centerville.

"I think our parents would like this," he said.

The City Council voted 3-0 to pay consultants Clark, Patterson & Lee $80,500 for planning and engineering work to help develop the site. Harley said there will be opportunity for public input before plans are final.

The bulk of the money will come from funds the council budgeted to create an economic development department for the city. Officials said creation and staffing of that department will not happen in this fiscal year.

Contact writer Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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