Hampton residents flood public meeting to discuss stormwater utility fund

Sunday, October 20, 2019 | 12:01 AM

It was standing room only to hear details on a planned stormwater utility fund at a Hampton Township Council public hearing Oct 9.

A concept for a stormwater management plan and utility fund was presented by Gateway Engineers, a Pittsburgh-area multidiscipline engineering firm hired by Hampton Township. The utility fund would be used for the collection, management, and pollution control of stormwater.

Municipalities are now being required to adhere to the state’s MS4 program, which includes managing stormwater, water quality, and pollutant reduction, according to Gateway’s Ryan Berner, a certified geographic information systems professional, who presented at the meeting.

He was joined by Gateway Engineer Executive Vice President Daniel Deiseroth, a professional engineer.

MS4s, or Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, are the “conveyance or system of conveyances that collects stormwater within an urbanized area.”

Hampton has 66 miles of pipelines, and approximately 40 stormwater facilities to date, according to the presentation. Much of this is aging infrastructure, put in place in the 1960s and 1970s before any regulations existed, according to Christopher Lochner, township manager.

And a sediment reduction requirement is supposed to be achieved by March 2023, according to the plan.

The cost to implement this program is approximately $1.3 million per year for five years, said Berner, a project manager with Gateway. The township has to renew its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System every five years with the state

“There’s nothing we can do about it. We’re stuck with this issue to maintain compliance,” said Berner.

Deiseroth said it’s also a good idea to be proactive in addressing stormwater problems.

A stormwater utility fund would require every property owner to participate and pay a calculated fee. That way there’s a fair fee distribution and this funding is set aside specifically for stormwater management, according to the Gateway presentation.

The fee is calculated by determining the impervious surface area on a residential or nonresidential property.

Impervious surface areas, such as driveways or roofs, create stormwater and lack sufficient absorption capabilities, like the ground. For this program, this area is calculated and the property owner pays a fee for this portion of their land.

Engineers used digital imagery and site visits on a sample of residential properties to determine a mean value of impervious surface areas for homeowners in Hampton, termed as an equivalent residential unit or ERU.

The median value of ERU per property in Hampton Township is proposed to be 3,300 square feet. This calculates to $115 per year for single-tier resident, or almost $10 per month, said Berner. The fee is planned to be implemented in January.

Nonresidential property owners are calculated at $115 per year per ERU as measured.

To help ease the fee, a credit is being proposed. If a resident has a stormwater facility on their property, they can file an appeal to the township. After inspection by the township of the structure, which must comply with current regulations, a resident could receive a possible 25% credit per year.

Lochner predicts there will be many appeals by residents who feel they have adequate stormwater systems on their property. These will be followed up with site visits and inspections by the township, but due to the expected high volume of appeals, Lochner assumes this will take some time.

Many new developments are required to have stormwater systems so Lochner said this will be considered when determining fees.

Businesses will also be responsible to contribute, and could receive up to a 50% credit, only because they have considerably more ERUs than a residential property, said Lochner. He added the township has to pay the fee for its property.

Several residents questioned why the township didn’t do more in the past with stormwater planning. Jeremiah Lambo, of Laurel Lane, commented the township should now plan for possible future regulations before the next five years are up and Hampton is due for a permit renewal with the state.

“You can’t plan for things you don’t know about,” he said, adding many of these new regulations just started to be put in place around 2010. And municipalities are expected to comply with the costly and ever-changing requirements.

“The federal government pretty much dumped it on us,” said Lochner.

Merrit DesLauriers, of Lakewood Drive, said she feels the township should be more attentive in managing new developments, such as in the case of tree removal allowances, especially when there is a sediment pollution problem.

In response to DesLauriers’ question on how often does the township inspect stormwater retention and detention ponds, Locher said they try for every three years but expects it may increase to an annual event.

Resident Heather Paxton said the community should be more involved in volunteering to clean up roads and stormwater systems, which could help the problem and expense in the future.

Several local municipalities are investigating or have already implemented similar planning, including Cranberry, Moon, and Mt. Lebanon, said Lochner.

Some present were concerned the proposed credit wasn’t researched enough and needed to be more specific in the ordinance presented. Engineers said they didn’t want to put in a specific fee in the case that the credit could be adjusted.

Jeffrey Potter, senior pastor at Parkwood United Methodist Church on Mt. Royal Boulevard, said they raised money to do a project to address this issue 10 years ago and now it seems they have a new burden. He said, like most churches, as a nonprofit they don’t have excess funds to pay for big projects and hopes there will be credits to help them.

Lochner suspects there will be more federal and state regulations passed down to municipalities in the future that will have to be funded. Also, he expects the state will eventually require municipalities to take ownership of all detention and retention pond systems within their property limits.

DesLauriers said Hampton shouldn’t be “focused on Band-Aids.” She suggested to do more research and involve more stakeholders in the process before asking for residents to pay more in fees.

“We need to go above and beyond because we know the circumstances.” she said.

Council agreed tol research more on credit specifics before voting on the ordinance and will address the plan again at the November voting meeting. Also, council will make sure to communicate with residents before the fee is implemented.