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Winder council to hear proposals for stormwater fee

WINDER — Four specially called meetings in Winder over the past two months have been dedicated to one topic: How to collect enough money from property owners to pay for necessary infrastructure and management costs associated with protecting the water supply.

Councilman Ridley Parrish, who was tasked months ago with chairing the city’s stormwater committee, said he felt confident that Thursday’s meeting would result in a final recommendation to city council members. As it turned out, that would not be the case. As Parrish stated, “this is such a complicated matter, I don’t feel comfortable presenting just one solution for consideration.”

Ernie Graham, former city administrator and current consultant to the city, presented several possible ways Thursday to collect the necessary funds, whether the means of collection might be a tax or a fee.

The target cost for collection this fiscal year is $475,000, $320,000 of which is the professional management contract, and $155,000 of which is the price tag for projects identified as immediate repair priorities.

Graham presented scenarios in which water and sewer rates might be increased by a flat fee or a percentage, others in which a property tax increase based on 1.52 mills would work, and a final solution that seemed to be received well by committee members. In this final presentation, Graham suggested that the professional management contract fee to be paid to H.S. Feldman be funded by increasing water and sewer rates.

In addition, the $155,000 required this year for FY2011 repairs and maintenance could be collected by tax parcel. This final solution presented would also have the least impact on Winder property owners, an estimated $51.60 per year.

Each of Graham’s proposed solutions will be presented to city council members at Monday’s work session, though committee members will likely not vote on the matter at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Winder is just one area city faced with state and federal mandates requiring proper stormwater management and watershed protection. Several Gwinnett cities, as well as the county, have had to devise ways to collect these fees from residents and property owners to pay for the costly measures. While Gwinnett officials decided that basing a stormwater fee on the amount of impervious surface on every parcel of land in the county, Winder leaders aren’t so sure that they want to take that approach.