The city of Urbana soon may have a new enterprise fund on the books for stormwater operations and infrastructure as City Council on Tuesday heard the first reading of an ordinance aimed at creating a stormwater utility and establishing a Stormwater Utility Review Committee.
Citing a need to look into ways to maintain and fund improvements to the city’s storm sewer system, council earlier this year passed a resolution establishing a Stormwater Advisory Committee to discuss the current state of the city’s stormwater system and determine whether council should consider implementing a stormwater utility.
City Engineer Tyler Bumbalough said the committee met six times with 13 to 17 members from all walks of life, including homeowners, renters, landlords, individuals from the commercial and industrial sectors, and representatives from Urbana University, Urbana City Schools and local nonprofits.
“We had a good cross section within this committee,” he said.
In the end, the committee decided to recommend council establish the city’s storm sewer system as a public utility and charge a $5 flat rate per meter per month to city utility bills regardless of residential, commercial or industrial classification.
The proposed stormwater utility would be charged to non-city utility customers as well and, if approved by council following three readings, collections would begin in March 2017, Bumbalough said.
Community Development Manager Doug Crabill said during a work session earlier this month that based on the current number of water meters serviced by the city, the $5 flat rate fee would generate $291,180 a year for the Stormwater Fund.
No more than 30 percent of the general revenue per year could go toward operating costs for the storm sewer system, while the remaining percentage would be used for infrastructure.
“The committee wanted to see a focus on capital projects and getting infrastructure repaired and replaced,” Crabill said. “There will be joint oversight of this utility by the city engineer and city wastewater superintendent.”
The ordinance calls for the creation of the Stormwater Review Committee, which would reconvene every five years starting in 2021 to review the utility structure and rates. During the review process, any proposed increase in the flat rate fee can’t exceed 10 percent of the current rate.
For example, Bumbalough said, if the review committee would decide in 2021 to raise the fee, the increase couldn’t be larger than 50 cents per month.
“I know we will get some push-back if we decide to pass this, but I think as people see some of the outputs of what we can possibly do with this, I think they will appreciate it,” council member Dwight Paul said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Stormwater Advisory Committee member Brian Wonn asked council to consider giving residents a chance to vote on whether they want the utility by putting an income tax on the ballot.
A public hearing to discuss the proposed ordinance will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 3, 2017, in municipal court chambers.
Changes to pool management
To try to hold operating costs steady, free up time for city employees to handle more taxing issues, and increase the revenue stream at Wendell Stokes Municipal Pool, council passed a motion authorizing Director of Administration Kerry Brugger to enter into a contract with the Champaign Family YMCA for pool management services for 2017 at a cost not to exceed $78,239.46.
Brugger said the idea of turning the management of the pool over to someone who specializes in that area has been tossed around for years.
“Pool operations isn’t a core operation of the city,” he said. “It’s important to the community, but it’s not core.”
The city has spent on average over the last six years $86,311 a year in expenses, while bringing in on average $55,003 in revenue per year.
“We never bring in enough revenue to cover all of our expenses,” Brugger said. “It’s the nature of the business. It’s a seasonal thing that lasts two-and-a-half to three months.”
While the YMCA will manage the city-owned pool and employ their own workers, the city will still be responsible for capital improvements and general grounds maintenance.
“I don’t know if we really have anything to lose here,” council member Doug Hoffman said. “I think it’s a good deal.”
Update on vacant manufacturing facility
Council waived the three-readings rule and passed on first reading a resolution authorizing commitment of city funds as a match for grant funding for the Q3 Cleanup and Redevelopment Project.
Brugger said the commitment is for the city to invest an amount not to exceed $350,000 over a three-year period to help clean up the former Q3/JMC Inc. facility on Miami Street and turn it back into productive use.
“Over the life of the project, the grantor wants to make sure that the city is committed and that council is behind that commitment,” he added. “It doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to spend $348,000. It means we are going to spend it or we are going to do some of the work (engineering, zoning, building, site prep and clearing) on that behalf. Any of those things we can do in-house, we can charge back against our obligation.”
On Dec. 13, the Champaign County Board of Revision agreed to hand the 605 Miami St. property over to the city free and clear of delinquent taxes and assessments after the city presented a plan to get the site back into productive use.
The cleanup and redevelopment plan, which has yet to be finalized, would consist of a three-party agreement of the city, a developer who would oversee the property and receive nearly $900,000 in grant funding to clean up the site, and Honeywell, who would be responsible for remediating contaminated groundwater issues on the west side of the property for which the company became liable when it acquired Grimes Aerospace.
In other business:
•Burgess and Niple Inc. of Columbus was hired by council to complete the preliminary engineering for the Monument Square Roundabout Improvements Project at a cost not to exceed $24,796.61.
“The brunt of the work is in the surveying category where they are basically doing the base mapping for downtown,” Bumbalough said.
In addition, the firm will work on ways to reroute traffic through downtown during the construction phase scheduled for 2019, he added.
Burgess and Niple will present its findings to the public during a hearing in February, Bumbalough said, with the design phase for the project scheduled to take place during the end of 2017 and into 2018.
•Council heard the second reading of an ordinance seeking to amend the city’s official zoning map by rezoning a 34,543-square-foot, triangular-shaped parcel behind 207 Bloomfield Ave. from R-2 Medium Density Residential District to M-1 Manufacturing District.
Prior to the reading, a public hearing concerning the rezoning request was held and no citizens spoke for or against the ordinance.
The parcel in question, Crabill said, is owned by J&J Champaign, which is moving its operations to the former Lawnview building on East U.S. Route 36. The company’s plan, he added, is to eventually sell the property, which is why the owner is asking for the parcel to be rezoned M-1 to match the other parcels on the property.
•Council authorized Brugger to enter into a unit price contract for concrete work for 2017 with J&J Schlaegel Inc.
“We only had one bid received this year,” Bumbalough said. “With the lack of competition, there has been slight increases in prices.”
Finance Director Chris Boettcher added the increase in prices, depending on the line item, range from 5 to 15 percent.
“The way it looks to me is your contractor knew he didn’t have any competition,” council member Cledis Scott said.
•A 2000 Ford Ranger pickup truck used at Oak Dale Cemetery will be replaced with a newer used pickup after council agreed to purchase a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 from Trenor Motors at a cost of $10,000.
Brugger called the old Ranger “suspect equipment” and said the Silverado is in “very good condition.” The plan, he added, is to put the Ranger up for auction in July.
•To help prevent digester sludge feed lines from freezing at the Water Reclamation Facility, council approved the purchase of heating cable and fiberglass insulation from EJP at a cost of $7,673.49.
Wastewater Superintendent Chad Hall said the purchase order is for material only as city staff will perform the installation.
•Council heard the second reading of a resolution seeking the adoption of an enterprise zone agreement of the city, Urbana MOB LLC (property owner) and Memorial Health of Union County (lessee).
Urbana MOB plans to build a two-story, 30,000-square-foot medical ambulatory care building in the Urbana Commons Planned Unit Development (Walmart) and lease it to Memorial Health. Under the agreement, Urbana MOB would receive a tax exemption of 75 percent for 10 years from the real property taxes resulting from real property improvements to the proposed construction site at the northwest corner of the East U.S. Route 36 and North Dugan Road intersection.
The enterprise zone agreement also features a job creation and retention provision that calls for Memorial Health to create 12 new full-time permanent jobs while retaining the 16 full-time positions currently located at the hospital system’s Memorial Primary Care | Urbana office on Scioto Street.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.