Avoiding disaster showed why utility fee needed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 8, 2005

Nobody in their right mind would stand in the road and play a game of “chicken” with a speeding tractor trailer. Attempting to do so with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency may be even dumber.

City of Ironton officials recently learned that the city was nearly hit with big fines from the U.S. Department of Justice

— likely to exceed $100,000 — for violation of several environmental ordinances and mandatory control standards.

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The city has been warned for years that it must comply with stormwater and runoff requirements but has been slow to do so because of the massive amount of money it could require. The city failed to meet the original deadline and failed to meet an 18-month extension and only narrowly avoided the fines, in large part because the city has adopted the stormwater fee that can pay, first, for the development of a plan and, ultimately, its implementation.

Many have cried foul over the fee that costs residents $14.55 per month and eventually business owners that much for every 3,000 square feet of runoff surface — parking lot, roof, driveway, etc.

We agree that this will be a tough pill to swallow for businesses and residents alike, but the latest run-in shows that the EPA means business and will not likely be so generous next time around.

The city was granted an additional 18 months to have the plan in place. This time frame will be crucial. The city must work quickly to have the plan prepared. It will then have a better handle on what it will cost to implement it.

If the EPA’s “guesstimates” of $20 million over the next 20 years are inflated, city leaders should quickly look to reduce the fee on businesses to a more manageable amount.

If not, then the fee must stay in place — like it or not — until someone else finds a concrete and stable funding system.

No one wants to pay more monthly fees but the EPA will not give residents a choice or a voice. They will set the rate at what they see fit, plus hand out some fines just for good measure.

Ironton is better off swallowing its pride and jumping out of the way than the city is to stand in the way off a governmental agency that will flatten us like a pancake.