Beginning in April, city of Urbana utility bills will include a new line item after City Council on Tuesday voted 5-2 in favor of implementing a stormwater utility fee in the amount of $5 per month per meter regardless of whether the user is a residential, commercial or industrial customer.
Council member Tony Pena, who voted in favor of the stormwater utility, said it was the right thing to do for the future of the city.
“We have three-quarters of our community that when it rains hard, they are fine,” he said. “But, we are representing a whole community here, and we need to help those who need help right now.
“If we want new residents to come into this community, we need it to be up and running. We want people to come here, and we want them to move into a safe, sound neighborhood,” Pena added.
The two dissenting votes were cast by council members Ray Piper and Cledis Scott, both of whom voiced their concerns over the new utility prior to the final vote.
“I live in the Fourth Ward and everybody I talked to told me we don’t have curbs and gutters, runoffs or any drains like that, so why should we have to pay $5,” Piper said. “I’m thinking we should put this on the ballot and let the people decide if they want to pay it or not.”
In response to the stormwater issues in the Fourth Ward, the city has compiled a list of five stormwater projects it plans to address when funding is obtained. Three of those projects – Railroad Street Storm Project (Union Alley to Pindar Street), Railroad Street Storm Project (West Light Street to Pindar Street), and the North Drive/Westview Drive/West Light Street Storm Project – would take place in the Fourth Ward.
While Piper expressed his desire to put the stormwater utility to a public vote, Scott said he felt businesses and industries should have been required to pay a higher rate than residents.
“I have a couple concerns, but I like the general idea of it,” he said. “I personally would have rather seen some type of (tiered) billing … just something different between a resident, a business and a commercial entity. I think the residents feel they get a little bit of the short stick on this deal. Plus, it’s a write-off for businesses. Residents don’t get to write this off.”
Utility details, committee response
Community Development Manager Doug Crabill said the passage of the stormwater utility ordinance means stormwater is now a public utility that will have its own enterprise fund like water and sewer. The fund, he said, will be overseen by the city engineer and city wastewater superintendent, and no more than 30 percent of the generated revenue per year will go toward operating costs. The other 70-plus percent will be used toward capital improvements to the storm sewer infrastructure.
Local businessman and landlord Terry Rittenhouse, who served on the Stormwater Advisory Committee that recommended the stormwater utility to council, voiced his support for the measure prior to passage.
“Our committee, we talked in depth,” he said. “We had folks vote for it and against it. There weren’t many folks who were against it. Everybody realizes common sense when they see it.”
After meeting numerous times to discuss the matter, Rittenhouse added, “We came to the conclusion that it was forward thinking to have a stormwater utility.”
As for how the community will receive it, he believes the majority realize it’s something the city has needed for years.
When he ventured into the community to get their opinion on the committee’s proposed $5 fee, Rittenhouse told council, he only spoke to one person against paying it.
“Everybody else, to a man or a woman, said it’s common sense, reasonable, forward thinking and the right thing to do,” he said. “That’s what I believe, also.”
City strikes deal for continued development of Damewood Industrial Park
Council approved a resolution adopting a three-party Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) agreement of the city, Damewood Enterprises (property owner) and Navistar LLC (lessee). This sets the stage for the construction of a 355,000-square-foot warehouse on Phoenix Drive that would be built by Damewood Enterprises and leased to Navistar.
“It’s going to be a nice asset for the community as we continue to develop that area,” Director of Administration Kerry Brugger said.
Champaign Economic Partnership Economic Development Director Marcia Bailey said the CRA agreement, which was also approved by Urbana City Schools, grants Damewood Enterprises a 10-year, 100 percent tax exemption of real property tax.
In return, Bailey said, Navistar has agreed to retain 114 employees currently employed at its ODW Logistics facility (located at 1030 S. Edgewood Ave.), transfer 27 full-time jobs from Xenia to Urbana, and create 13 new full-time jobs.
Bailey added the project, expected to be completed this December, will entail a $12 million building investment with inventory inside the building totaling $16 million.
In order for Urbana City Schools to recoup some of the tax dollars it will lose over the 10-year term of the CRA agreement, the resolution passed by council includes a provision in which the city has agreed to share 50 percent of the income tax revenue generated by new payroll (anticipated to be $1.8 million a year) only brought on by Navistar during the CRA agreement.
The school district, however, will only receive its half of the income tax generated by new payroll each year during the 10-year exemption period if the new payroll for that particular year exceeds $1 million.
Mayor Bill Bean applauded the efforts of everyone involved in the deal.
“We need to keep things rolling,” he said. “A lot of things are happening. This is good for the community, and we are open for business.”
In other business:
•Susan Tehan will remain the Oak Dale Cemetery coordinator for another year after council renewed a base contract with her in the amount of $13,710.
“She’s doing an excellent job,” Brugger said. “Revenue last year was the highest it’s been in the last five years.”
•Council approved a liquor permit renewal for BJ’s Drive Thru, 1021 N. Main St.
•Due to the recent spring-like weather that brought wind and rain to the area, the city’s compost facility will be open through the end of January to allow residents to dispose of twigs and branches. The Street Department, however, will not be picking up debris at this time.
•Council signed off on a resolution authorizing Brugger to apply for a grant through the Dayton Power and Light Foundation.
Crabill said the city is eligible for the grant based on its Tree City USA designation, and if Urbana is one of the communities selected, the funds would be used to replace tress in the downtown area.
•Council approved a resolution authorizing the mayor or his designated representative to apply to the county for Community Development Block Grant funding, which was secured by the city the past two years and used to replace curbs and sidewalks on several blocks of North Oakland Street.
If awarded funding again this year, Crabill said, the city expects to continue the North Oakland Street project.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.