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Stormwater fee set to surface on water bills

After months of dodging the liquid bullet, Ironton residents will begin to see the effects of the stormwater utility fee on their water bills, but city businesses will still be spared the bulk of their expected charge.

The fee is designed to add $14.55 to water bills every month for residents and $14.55 per 3,000 square feet of runoff surface for businesses.

The stormwater utility fee will fund the Environmental Protection Agency's mandated Combined Sewer Overflow plan and a program designed to maintain and improve the city's stormwater system. The city is projected to need $1.25 million per year to cover the plan.

The fee was passed in late May, and was originally scheduled to take effect in mid-June, but the gargantuan task of implementing the fee has taxed the city's water workers to the limit.

Charlene Thomas, Ironton water administrator, said that implementing the stormwater utility fee had been a major headache.

"Oh, and it still is," Thomas said with a sigh. "Now I'm in the process of creating new accounts for all of the property owners. I was only through two routes as of yesterday, and I'd already created 149 accounts."

Although the fee will be applied to residences, Paul Sheets, engineering tech, said that businesses will not be receiving their $14.55 per 3,000 square feet charge, but rather a flat $14.55 until all the account work is completed.

The major hold-up has been the abandoned and rental properties that are affected by the fee. Although owners of those properties may not have been receiving a water bill before, they had to be included into the system for the stormwater utility fee.

Sheets said he is not positive that he has accounted for all properties.

"We're not 100 percent sure that we have all of the non-residential properties calculated at this point," Sheets said.

"So what we're wanting to do is put the $14.55 on for the first month to get it started, and next month we will have everything in the computer and all the businesses will get hit with the full bill at the same time."

That's good news for businesses, some of which will save thousands by not having to pay their full charge until their October bill, but bad news for residents like senior citizen Jean Frecka, a life-long Irontonian living on a fixed budget.

"Oh, it makes it hard on people, on me, when you just live on a little income," Frecka said. "I only live on $500 a month, I can't hardly make it. I don't know what I'm going to do."

Water meters are being read this week, Thomas said, and bills should be issued at the end of this month with a due date of Sept. 12.