Snellville leaders hear stormwater presentation

SNELLVILLE - A county water department official discussed Gwinnett's new stormwater utility with Snellville's mayor and City Council members at a council meeting Monday.

Brian Lackey, division director of Gwinnett County Water Resources, addressed Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer and council members in an attempt to bring the city on board with the county's program. The 15 municipalities in Gwinnett have the option of participating in or opting out of the stormwater utility program, which will provide drainage and pollution control services and be funded by a user fee.

According to Lackey, Gwinnett created a stormwater utility this year to accommodate population growth and water demand and to protect streams, ponds, lakes and rivers.

"Currently, the county has 143 streams that violate state water quality standards," Lackey said.

The county water resources staff looked at several ways of funding this newest utility.

"We looked at property taxes, sales tax and water and sewer rates to fund this (utility)," Lackey said.

The county decided on a stormwater utility fee that will increase annually and be based on the amount of impervious surface such as roof space or driveway.

"It was really the only fair way to do it," Lackey said.

The concept of a stormwater utility originated in Florida, but several Georgia counties already have one. Gwinnett's is modeled after Columbia County's, which has already been tested in courts.

Lilburn is the only Gwinnett city that has already decided to participate in an intergovernmental agreement with regard to the utility fee. Other cities, including Snellville, can choose to opt in at any time.

According to City Manager Jeff Timler, Snellville has to make a decision by the end of February concerning permitting within the city limits.

Snellville can continue to use Gwinnett County permitting services or the city can contract with a consultant for the same services.

Timler expects bids from consultants to come in any day now.

"If we see that we can save money by using a consultant, then we'll consider using one," Timler said.