Most to see stormwater bills go down
City reducing fees, adding new credits

COVINGTON - Property owners in the city of Covington are getting a break on stormwater utility fees.

The City Council agreed on Feb. 16 to implement a reduction of fees and new credits that will result in savings for customers.

Property owners will no longer be charged for pervious land, such as lawns, gardens and pastures. Only impervious surfaces such as driveways, roads and rooftops will count toward the fee.

This will reduce annual revenue for the city by approximately $174,000, according to City Engineer Tres Thomas.

In addition, the base billing rate will be reduced from $3.23 per ERU to $3 per ERU.

ERU stands for equivalent residential unit and is the base value from which stormwater fees are calculated.

In Covington, the mean impervious surface area for residential parcels is 2,600 square feet, so that value equals one ERU.

A typical residential property owner, with 19,180 square feet of pervious surface and 2,600 square feet of impervious surface, would see a reduction from $4.42 to $3 in monthly stormwater charges, a savings of 32 percent, according to Thomas.

"Some people's will be higher and some will be lower," he said.

Decreasing the ERU will reduce annual revenue for the city by about $60,000.

The reductions should be reflected on customers' July bills.

In addition, two credits have been added. Properties that are deemed to have a limited impact on the stormwater system will get a 25 percent reduction. Those properties must be .58 acres or greater and have less than or equal to 14.4 percent impervious surface.

Finally, a 15 percent credit will be applied to properties receiving sheet flow runoff from city-owned property. Sheet flow is runoff that is not confined to a ditch, open channel or piped flow. Credit for that type of run-off is handled on a case-by-case basis.

Property owners who believe their property is low-impact or receives sheet flow should contact the city and request a site visit.

All told, the city expects an annual revenue decrease of $258,000 due to the fee reductions and credits.

"We tried to make the budget as lean as possible and cut back anything we thought we could get by with," while making sure the city will continue meeting the goals and objectives of the stormwater program, Thomas said.

The city implemented the stormwater utility in 2004 to offset the cost of a federally mandated stormwater program.

The National Pollution Discharge Elimination System was established by the Clean Water Act of 1972 to control point sources, such as wastewater discharge. The act was amended in 1987 to expand the NPDES program to address nonpoint source pollution such as stormwater runoff.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division enforces local government compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Covington's stormwater plan has six components: public education and outreach; public involvement and participation; illicit discharge detection and elimination; construction site stormwater runoff control; post-construction stormwater management in new development and redevelopment; and pollution prevention and good housekeeping measures. The city also hired additional personnel, such as erosion control inspectors, stormwater maintenance crews and a public education professional, to meet program objectives.

The city has collected about $3.2 million in stormwater fees since 2004, and has spent about $1.53 million thus far.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.