What would have been the beginning stages of implementing a stormwater fee, a proposed deal with Amec Foster Wheeler, was voted down Monday by the City Council.
A majority of the council cited residents’ input and the disdain for passing on another fee to the taxpayers. Voting against the agreement were Councilmen John Abel, Tim Golden, Mark Luft, Lloyd Orrick and Mike Ritchason.
Mayor John McCabe and Councilman Rusty Dunn voted for the proposal in the hope of receiving more education on the fee.
If the agreement of $11,987 had been approved, Amec Foster Wheeler was to hold public meetings and help the city implement the fee.
In previous meetings, City Engineer Mike Guerra said residents would have a flat rate of $4.90 a month, while larger businesses and organizations of property of 3,300 feet or larger would have an adjusted rate.
“I think I’ve heard more on this issue than anything since I’ve been here,” Ritchason said. “… To say it’s unpopular is a huge understatement. The feedback we’ve gotten … this is something people are not happy with.”
Abel also heard the same sentiments from residents.
“I have literally heard nobody around the community say they want this,” he said.
Orrick said he was ready to support the study to educate the public, but after hearing what others had to say, he didn’t think the fee would pass.
“There’s no money in the general fund for it. There’s also no money for the roads. So, what are we going to see next, a 50 cent a gallon (gas) tax so we can pay for our roads?” Orrick asked. “We seem to be going in the wrong direction on making this city affordable for everyone.”
McCabe said the public and council should get more information about the fee before deciding against it.
“This, what is before us this evening (Monday), is nothing more than the possibility of becoming more educated about a very volatile issue,” McCabe said. “… I don’t see this as a waste of time or a waste of money, because we have to see this as an opportunity to become educated on an issue that has an awful lot of questions that need to be answered.”
A quarterly financial report by city Treasurer Jim Wolf in July indicated that the stormwater utility fund was drawing a deficit of about $400,000, which was being paid for through the general fund.
At the June 13 council meeting, Guerra said if a stormwater fee is not implemented and the cost of funding the utility is put into the tax base, it would exempt churches, government agencies and not-for-profits that do not pay taxes. He added that those organizations are the biggest producers of stormwater based on impervious size, placing more of a burden on the city’s residents.
Residents at the meeting asked if other communities have implemented a stormwater fee. Guerra said Morton, Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana have a stormwater fee while Peoria is in the process of deciding whether to implement one.