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Stormwater fee paints #036;15 fee in new light

For almost a year, the City of Ironton was divided based upon support or disdain for a proposed municipal fee.

The battle lines were drawn and the volleys - mostly in the form of verbal confrontations - were fired to and fro.

At the time, five members of the city council opposed to the fee were labeled as the "blockers."

They were criticized for doing nothing while the city was falling apart. Today, we wonder if their silent "blocking" now appears to have been based on more logic than many folks - including this newspaper - originally gave them credit.

At the time, the debate over the municipal fee centered on whether or not the city could find enough money through cost-savings efforts or other sources to fill the approximately $500,000 per year deficit in its budget.

Proponents of the fee said not having the fee was tantamount to burying the city. Opponents said city residents were already taxed enough and that the city should learn to live within its means at least until the point at which everyone agreed nothing more could be found through maximizing the efficiency quotient.

Unfortunately the city's "means" is about to change when the city confronts a new mandate to clean up its sewer and stormwater system.

Concern is growing over how the city will handle growing demands from the Environmental Protection Agency to repair the city's drainage system.

Currently a costly plan is being finalized to repair and maintain the 53 miles of sewer lines, some of which presently allow untreated sewage to overflow into the Ohio River during rainy weather.

The effect on residents and businesses could range from a low of approximately $15 per resident to a high of several thousand dollars each month for businesses. The rate structure is based on the amount of non-permeable surface - roofs, paved parking lots, etc. - that a business has.

The likelihood of some kind of a sewer fee has not set well with residents. It has infuriated some businesses that will, no doubt, see diminished profits as they are forced to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more to the city.

The new reality has quickly put the motives of the "blockers" in a new light in our minds. Obviously, the city still needs some revenue, but we need to be very careful throwing more burdens on an already taxed population base. If we keep pushing, eventually, the residents may opt to give up and just leave.