Winder officials delay decision on stormwater fund mechanism

WINDER -- The city of Winder still does not have a permanent mechanism in place to fund federally mandated stormwater management measures, since council members voted Tuesday to postpone a vote on whether to bill property owners on their annual tax bills. Without a way to collect funds from residents, city council members voted to continue funding current projects using the city's reserves.

As councilman Ridley Parrish warned Tuesday though, that solution is only a temporary one. Parrish made the motion to postpone a vote to impose a tax and bill residents on their tax bills saying, "This is a very difficult situation and needs a lot more study. It will really impact businesses, churches and everybody, really."

The recently adopted stormwater ordinance comes with a rate schedule that will cost city property owners $380,904 in 2011, and twice that by 2015. Public outcry has been considerable with respect to the stormwater fee/tax and the graduated rate schedule in this ailing economy.

The city of Winder is not unlike other municipalities in that it has been given no choice but to comply with the Federal government's strict regulations and requirements with regard to storm water management. Without compliance, heavy fines are levied. "We're going to see how much we have to do to stay within the law" until the matter is settled in Winder, said Mayor Chip Thompson. "We'll do the rest later."

There are at least two possible fee structures under consideration by the council. Both would apply to all properties -- churches and schools included -- and will potentially generate hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the city's stormwater management initiative.

Tuesday's vote was postponed in order to give council members more time to consider all options. Parrish volunteered to head up a review committee on the issue.