City considers rain tax to help pay for sewer work
The Fairfield City Council unanimously authorized McClure Engineering Company to complete a water and wastewater fee rate study for $23,745 Monday night at city hall.
The study will help the city determine what sewer improvements it can tackle at a palatable cost to the community, said city administrator Kevin Flanagan.
The task may prove difficult, he said, as the city enters into a new era of sewer improvements projected to take roughly 20 years to complete and to cost as much as $30 million.
“Considering what we’re taking on we need to set up a funding mechanism that not only meets the burden of operations but of future improvements,” he said.
McClure engineer Terry Lutz presented to the council his overall findings from the company’s flow metering and smoke testing studies during the summer. Lutz said both studies found Fairfield to have outdated infrastructure where stormwater sewers were directly connecting to wastewater sewers.
“Stormwater and the water and waste generated inside of a building are not supposed to mix,” said Lutz.
In order to help pay to fix Fairfield’s sewers, Lutz shared information about a stormwater utility or rain tax, which McClure has helped cities with similar problems implement.
“It creates a revenue stream based on impervious surface, which has to be used for stormwater improvements,” said Lutz.
City councilman John Revolinski said he was interested in the idea, but wondered how the fee would be distributed in an equitable fashion.
Lutz said residential homes would be charged a standard price, somewhere in the range of $2 per month. Larger non-residential entities, he said, could be charged based on impervious surface, or area that does not allow water to soak into the ground.
Lutz said such a method would require using aerial photography to ensure it is “fairly and evenly distributed.”
“I’d love to see it [stormwater utility] pass,” said Flanagan. “We are in the perfect position to have one because our stormwater needs are in direct connection to wastewater improvements.”
Flanagan said the city would not move forward with the utility unless the public showed support of the idea.
“It’s a tool most progressive towns are using,” he said, “but it’s controversial in a lot of places. The community has to say this is right for us.”
Flanagan met with Fairfield Economic Development Association representatives Tuesday to discuss the idea, since the plan would cost businesses more than homeowners.
Flanagan said the city will hold public hearings to hear feedback and to educate residents on the topic before approving a stormwater utility.