Fee will be used to tackle Porter County drainage problems
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent October 27, 2013 11:52AM
County officials hope to use proceeds from a new stormwater utility fee to fund projects that will prevent flooding such as this high water that closed some roads back in 2009. | Post-Tribune File Photo
Updated: December 1, 2013 6:40AM
VALPARAISO — Members of Porter County’s newly formed Storm Water Committee hope to have a storm water utility fee in place by the start of 2014.
The tasks to be accomplished before then, they noted Friday during a meeting in the county plan commission office, are many, from determining how a fee would be assessed in unincorporated areas, to determining the scope of the projects the fee would help tackle.
The committee, headed by Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, includes several members of the county’s municipal separate storm sewer system, or MS4, committee, as well as those involved with the drainage board and county planning director Bob Thompson.
A “top 10” list of the county’s most pressing drainage problems would cost an estimated $30 million to solve. The utility fee would raise the money to solve those problems, as well as provide bonding capabilities.
Now, farmers with regulated ditches pay a tax on those, and those funds can be used only for those projects.
The committee also has to determine how to handle conservancy districts, so they are not paying for the same service twice, both through the district and through the fee.
How the fee would be structured remains to be seen. Members hope to meet this week with an attorney and a financial advisor, who could help them structure the fee and the program.
According to documents provided during the meeting, Lake County assesses its fee per parcel, based on property class. Vacant agricultural land, for example, is assessed a $1.85 monthly fee, the lowest, while landfills have the highest fee, at $42.10. Fees for occupied residential dwellings are a few dollars a month, depending on the type of home.
There also was frank discussion on how to handle criticism about the coming fee. That, Adams said, should be tempered “once we get moving and people can see what we’re getting done.”
More than 37,000 parcels of county land are ripe for the fee, whether it ends up being a flat rate or one assessed by the acre. County officials have said the fee could raise $2 million or more for much-needed storm water projects.
“I see this as an opportunity. It’s been a long time coming and it’s never going to come again,” said Dave Burrus, chairman of the drainage board. “It’s an opportunity for a predictable funding source.”