Village Council eyes stormwater fee
- Published: August 10, 2022
In its most recent regular meeting July 18, Village Council members held a brief discussion about adding a stormwater fee for residents and businesses in the village. This discussion is part of a larger finance conversation that has largely focused on the rising cost of maintaining utility services within the village.
Preceding the conversation, Council President Brian Housh remarked that the Village needs to find a balance between offering services and paying for them.
“The Village needs more income tax, more property tax and more utility users if we are going to offer the same level of services,” he said. “This is going to be a part of the ongoing conversation.”
Village Manager Josué Salmerón gave an overview of a presentation about the stormwater system by Choice One engineering, which called the stormwater system “inadequate.”
“There’s a lot of gaps in the stormwater system,” Salmerón said. “There wasn’t a cohesive plan on how to have infill development and capture water from the entire village.”
Salmerón said that any additional infill projects would have to be preceded by a stormwater mitigation plan, a plan that would take money to implement. He gave several examples of “public-private partnerships” where private developers worked to mitigate stormwater as part of their construction plan.
“The purpose of this conversation is to reintroduce the idea of a stormwater utility — how do we create one, how do we implement one, what are the advantages and disadvantages?” Salmerón asked.
According to Salmerón, the advantages to a stormwater fee is that the Village would have revenue to continue adding stormwater mitigation and repair the current stormwater system. Disadvantages would be adding an additional fee to utility customers.
Salmerón then proposed stormwater fees — flat fees for businesses and residential customers. The flat fee was one of three options Salmerón said he was presented; the other two included a fee based on the amount of impermeable surfaces on a given property and a fee based on a property’s water consumption.
“We think we should start with something simple and small,” Salmerón said, suggesting a flat monthly fee of $3 for residential customers and $7 for businesses. He said that Council could adjust the fees in the future to be more progressive and also allow for credits based on stormwater mitigation techniques used by individual customers, such as rain barrels.
“The flat fee is something that everyone can wrap their head around,” Salmerón said.
Council member Carmen Brown said that she thought the fee was reasonable.
“I don’t think it’s going to break anybody’s bank, but the revenue that can be generated from it over time can be significant,” Brown said. “I think it’ll be really helpful for the Village to have those funds available.”
In response to a question from the News about how the fees would be assessed for businesses within residences, Housh said that it would be addressed at a future meeting. Another question focused on the choice to pursue a flat fee rather than a fee based on impermeable surfaces was answered with an assurance that every option would be vetted thoroughly in the future.
“This is the first time we said move it forward,” Housh said.
Citizens review board discussion
Brown gave an update on efforts to create a citizens review board, or CRB, which would handle complaints against the Yellow Springs Police Department. The CRB has been discussed by Council since June 2021; at the time, then Council members Laura Curliss and Lisa Kreeger worked with several citizen groups, including The 365 Project, to write a proposal for Council.
After that, Council hired attorney Larry James to review the proposal. Upon hearing James’ report, Council members said they needed additional information before moving forward.
Since the 2021 election, Brown and Kreeger have worked on finding an attorney who specializes in CRBs to review the proposal and answer questions from Council. According to News reports, Council allocated $5,000 to hire another attorney to review the CRB proposal this past March. At the time, Brown said she had been in contact with attorney John Waddy, who has worked on CRBs in the past.
At the July 18 meeting, Brown told Council members that her efforts to contact Waddy had resulted in a conversation where Waddy agreed to review the proposal. Brown made a motion to hire Waddy, but was met with questions from Salmerón and her peers on Council.
Before Brown’s motion received a second, Salmerón said he needed clarification about the contract amount and a scope of work. Brown said that she would leave the specifics to Salmerón, but she wanted to hire Waddy. Brown repeated her motion, and Council member Marianne MacQueen gave her second.
In response, Salmerón said that he would need to “process” the next steps. Council member Kevin Stokes questioned whether Waddy had been fully vetted.
“What I’m hearing is ‘hire without a scope of work,’” Stokes said.
Attempting to clarify the process, Council Member Gavin Devore Leonard asked how hiring Waddy was different from the proposal Council had passed earlier in the meeting to hire a village solicitor, which was covered in the July 21 edition of the News. Salmerón said that the Council had only given him permission to negotiate a contract, not execute a contract.
Council Clerk Judy Kintner said that her interpretation of Brown’s motion was that she was moving to negotiate a contract with Waddy.
“What I’m hearing very clearly is that we need to bring a resolution on the 15th that is approving a contract with attorney Waddy,” Kintner said. “You do not necessarily need to have a motion and a second to do that. It’s okay that you just request that a resolution come.”
Hearing that, Council decided to move forward with bringing a resolution to the Aug. 15 Council meeting.
“I’m glad it’s [the CRB] moving forward, and I’m sorry the discussion was confusing,” Housh said.
In other Council business, July 18:
Council members heard a report from Angie Hsu and Len Kramer on behalf of the Yellow Springs Community Foundation about two programs that will be piloted through the Community Foundation’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, or DEI fund.
Hsu said the DEI fund was a response to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial inequities highlighted by the protests following George Floyd’s murder held in Yellow Springs and around the world.
“We saw the history of racism being talked about in a new way,” Hsu said. “Activists were coming together and reclaiming the conversation and reclaiming the direction of change and the long-term effects of things such as generational wealth.”
In response to the glaring inequities, the DEI committee researched how they could leverage funds to help people who have need, but have “fallen through the gaps” of support systems.
According to Hsu, the foundation and the DEI committee will be piloting a universal basic income program in the fall.
Kramer, who is an Encore Miller Fellow working with the Community Foundation, presented Council with another pilot program focused on the unhoused population in Yellow Springs.
“That population persists throughout the year,” Kramer said, indicating the financial need for the unhoused population.
Kramer said that the Community Foundation is working with Village Outreach Specialist Florence Randolf to gather and disseminate resources, collaborating with the Village, Miami Township and the YSPD to find a place for lockers and potentially showers — all efforts that will aid the unhoused and “ensure a longer-term difference.”
Hsu and Kramer explained that the Community Foundation would be seeking American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA money to help fund the equity programs. After hearing the presentation, Council members agreed to write a letter of support to Greene County administrators, who is in charge of reviewing applications and disbursing the ARPA funds. Council voted unanimously to allow members Housh and Devore Leonard to write a letter of support on behalf of Village Council.
The News will cover the Community Foundation’s efforts in a future issue.
Village Manager Josué Salmerón announced that the Village began work on a parking lot and trailhead that will complete the Yellow Springs-Clifton connector, a bike path that will connect the two villages. Salmerón said that he hopes to have construction completed by the fall Street Fair, which is slated for Oct. 8.
Salmerón gave updates on Lawson Place apartments and the Village’s broadband pilot program.
According to Salmerón, four of the newly renovated units have been leased, leaving one open unit in the 16-unit building. Regarding broadband, Salmerón said that over 80 residents have signed up for the pilot program, and the broadband team has done 30 site assessments. He said that installation has been delayed due to the national labor shortage and a larger fiber project going on in neighboring municipalities.
The Village will resume sponsoring block parties for neighborhoods throughout the community.
Villagers wishing to host a block party can fill out a form on the Village website to register their block party. According to the website, the Village can sponsor up to five block parties per weekend; village staff will bring barriers for the street, and give the host a $25 voucher for Tom’s Market to help pay for supplies.
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