Dalton To Add Stormwater Service Fees To Comply With Federal, State Mandates

By Bruce Frazier:

Sediment being washed into City storm drains after 2-inch rain event due to lack of proper erosion controls during local development project

Dalton residents could soon notice an addition to their utility bills. In order to comply with state and federal mandates, the city plans to add a stormwater service fee. For residential customers, the fee will be $2.00 for each billing cycle. The Dalton City Council will hear a reading of the ordinance for the new stormwater service fee at Monday’s meeting.

In the past, the city has attempted to use general fund revenues to pay for the various functions of the Public Works Department’s Stormwater Division. However, the general fund has proven inadequate to maintain the different tasks and programs required of the division and a more stable source of funding is needed.

The City of Dalton is required by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to adhere to a comprehensive plan for stormwater management. As required by the state, the program addresses construction site runoff control, illicit discharge detection and elimination, pollution prevention, post-construction runoff control, public education and outreach, and public involvement. To maintain Dalton’s stormwater permit and also Dalton Utilities’ drinking water intake and discharge permits, the city must adhere to numerous state and federal regulations. Violations and failure to comply with the laws can lead to fines levied against the city.

“We are concerned that general fund revenues may not allow the city to complete needed maintenance, repairs, and inspections which would put us out of compliance,” said City Administrator Jason Parker. “If we lose compliance, it could cause the city to be fined.”

The Public Works Stormwater Division has a staff of four crew members who are charged with all maintenance of the city’s storm sewer drainage system. The crew is charged with repairing, replacing, and clearing the stormwater system throughout the year and performing preventative maintenance on all of the system’s structures which include basins, curbs, gutters, culverts, ditches, etc. The city has more than 5,000 stormwater structures and 89 miles of stormwater pipe which could stretch from Dalton to Atlanta if laid end to end.  As part of the city’s municipal stormwater permit, the crew must inspect and maintain all of the pipe and structures during the year. The division is also charged with a number of other tasks including investigation of citizen inquiries or complaints for stormwater management on right of ways, street sweeping of all city streets at least once a year, flood management analysis, right of way litter pickup, household hazardous waste collection in partnership with the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority, etc. As part of its stormwater management program, the City also partners with Whitfield County’s Engineering Department to oversee all state required stormwater and erosion control plan reviews, permitting, and other mandatory reporting requirements.

Haig Mill Lake Reservoir — A properly executed Stormwater Management Program and an effort by all of Dalton’s citizens to help protect our watersheds ensures an excellent quality of life for our community.

“Ever since the city was first required to comply with the municipal NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination) permit requirements back in 2006, there has been no dedicated source of revenue to fund the stormwater program,” said Assistant Public Works Director Andrew Parker. “The stormwater service fee rate structure was calculated based on minimizing costs to contributing users but still ensuring a proactive maintenance and replacement program to help: minimize chances of nuisance flooding, preservation and enhancement of the environmental quality of community watersheds, and achieve compliance with NPDES requirements along the way.”

The proposed fee structure would collect a $2.00 base fee per month from residential water customers. The fee structure for commercial and industrial customers is still being analyzed. The rates will be finalized by February 19th and published with notice sent to customers in their water bills before they are implemented. . The fee structure was based on offsetting the cost of the Stormwater Division to a total of approximately $628,000 a year. This proposed fee structure would be one of the lowest of the 52 local governments that assess a stormwater fee. While other communities have developed separate stormwater utilities with their own administrative budgets, the City of Dalton’s intent is only to create enough revenue to fully comply with the requirements of the state permit and stormwater management plan and to deliver productive operations through Public Works to keep the storm sewer system operating effectively.

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