Stormwater fee administration is a ‘nightmare’

South Williamsport Borough is the first of many to follow the trend of charging its residents fees for their stormwater usage through the Lycoming County Water and Sewer Authority — but officials described the fee as an “administrative nightmare” to the authority board Wednesday.

As the state puts more requirements on municipalities to regulate their reporting, administration and regulation, more are moving away from paying for the maintenance of their stormwater systems through their tax base, said Christine Weigle, executive director.

“The municipalities are beginning to look at transitioning from a tax-base general fund revenue to fee-based. Then the question becomes, how do you charge that fee?” she said.

Municipal governments, such as South Williamsport, situated near the Susquehanna River, face the additional challenge of adhering to the Chesapeake Bay Pollution Reduction plan.

Using data provided by the Chesapeake Bay Conservatory, which has mapped all areas near the Susquehanna to measure the amount of impervious square-footage, employees such as John Bickhart, Engineering Services Manager of LCWSA marked over 1,900 residential properties.

The kind of groundcover, either permeable or not, fit within 13 categories and will be factored into South Williamsport residents’ fees, said Bickhart.

Though the actual monetary amount is yet undetermined and dependant on the South Williamsport Borough’s expected taxbase in 2020, Weigle said the borough has settled on a four-tier fee chart.

The table is based on the equivalent residential unit, a location-dependent number, which has become the industry standard.

The ERU for South Williamsport was decided on by taking the largest subsection of homeowners, in this case those who own one-fourth to one-eighth of an acre, and averaging the impermeable surfaces of those homes. The LCWSA determined this number to be 2,631 square-feet, said Bickhart.

A lot of work is still yet to be done in determining a credit system for those who can’t afford the fees, and an appeal system, according to Weigle.

The final fee, “depends on the borough’s budget, not just what they have with their current stormwater structures but also the projects they need to accomplish,” she said.

In other business, the LCWSA approved of 110,237.57 to be paid to Sikora Brothers Paving Inc. for the Tules Run Well Project.

All members were present.

The next LCWSA meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., August 7 at the LCWSA offices, 380 Old Cement Road, Montoursville.