Stormwater woes

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette Douglas Keith, executive director of the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority, addresses the importance of cleaning up city stormwater drains.

Aging and stressed stormwater management systems throughout Williamsport may have to be replaced, a proposal that likely will result in added fees for those in the city who are customers of the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority.

Two meetings were held on Monday (Presidents Day) to gain feedback and provide information about the plan. The sessions were sponsored by the authority and assisted by engineering staff with Arcadis.

About 45 people attended, most in an official capacity. One meeting was earlier at Williamsport Regional Medical Center and another later at Williamsport Area Middle School.

Frank and Marie Pasnello, of Dove Street, said they are worried because they have enough bills to pay.

“We’re worried if something happens, breaks down and we have to pay for that. We’re homeowners and we’re billed enough,” the couple said.

Williamsport City Council would have to authorize such a plan, according to Douglas Keith, authority executive director. The fees would need to receive final

approval from City Council. Depending on a review by council and positive vote, the fees could go into effect by July 1, Keith said. “The city owns the stormwater infrastructure … we know pipes and pumps,” he said.

For the average homeowner, the quarterly stormwater fee on the bill would be estimated at about $17, or a $70 total for the year, according to Charles Hauser, director of authority engineering.

“Non-residential areas might see a bill of $65 per quarter,” he said. Businesses, churches and other non-profit organizations would see fees that are calculated on the amount of pavement and driveways or their impervious ground, which means areas where runoff flows into the storm drainage systems of the city and into the two wastewater treatment plants.

Tanya McCoy-Caretti, of Arcadis, said stormwater arrives as a result of rain, snowmelt and impervious surfaces, or areas in which stormwater can’t penetrate through, such as sidewalks, rooftops, and driveways.

It is fed from pavements, driveways, sheds, patios and sidewalks — all impervious areas.

A map provided for the attendees showed many non-residential and multi-family properties in the city. The breakdown was 70 percent non-residential and multi-family parcels and 30 percent residential.

The city also faces regulations to reduce stormwater flow and sediment as part of rules imposed by the state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Keith said.

The proposed budget for the stormwater work per year can range from $500,000 up to $1.3 million, he said.

Lycoming County Commissioner Jack McKernan asked whether the costs might change for rate-payers based on whether federal government grants are made available. Keith answered by telling the commissioner should that occur that would be welcomed, but the authority isn’t planning a budget based on anticipating receiving such grants.

Credits are going to be offered for non-residential properties that incorporate best management practices into their parcels, such as retention ponds and wetlands — to name a few. Credits might cut that bill of about $65 a quarter in half, according to Tony Dinn, of Arcadis.

In comparison, the city of Lancaster assesses its residents about $19 per quarter for improvements to stormwater drainage systems, Keith said.