Stormwater fee puts city in tough spot
Have you ever heard anyone talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place? Well, welcome to Ironton, the real-life incarnation of that old clich\u00E9.
The city is in that exact situation when it comes to the Environmental Protection Agency's mandated Combined Sewer Overflow plan and requirement to maintain and improve the city's stormwater system. Just coming up with a plan to see how bad the problem is will cost the city nearly $1 million. Actually fixing the system could cost as much as $20 million over the next 20 years.
On one side you have the state and federal EPA saying, "You don't have a choice, just get it done." On the other side, you have the already strapped residents and business owners saying they can't foot the bill any longer.
So city officials are left to try and scrounge up more than $1 million a year out of an already tight budget. Many people believe that fees are the only options to pay for the unfunded mandate, so the city's engineering department took on the daunting task of figuring out how much square footage of business and residential property there was in the city and how much money was needed.
The city has to meet the EPA requirements but the only way to do that is to have a revenue base. If people and businesses decide it is cheaper to move, then nobody wins.
So what is the answer? We're not sure yet, however, we hope that all the number crunching has been done correctly. If the latest plan that will cost residential property owners $14.55 per month, but businesses much more, is really the best scenario, then the city has little choice. Without drastic measures, some sort of fee will have to be adopted.
The only silver lining is that Ironton's water and sewer rates are currently lower than many of the surrounding communities. This in part is why the stormwater fee will be so expensive - and the fact that the city’s 53 miles of sewer system is in poor shape and has not been maintained over the years.
The fees may be tough to swallow now but Ironton may be poised on the edge of revitalization. If the tax base grows, maybe the fees can be reduced in the future. Those who love our town will find ways to make it until that happens.
We just hope these mandated expenses don’t wash the city down the tubes while we wait for better times ahead.