Council considers storm water drainage fee

By Laurie Hamame -



A storm water fee could soon be imposed on Oberlin property owners as officials look for revenue to beef up drainage and minimize flooding.

The city spends around $400,000 per year on storm water-related costs, including personnel, cleaning sewers, issuing permits, and vehicle operation and maintenance.

Council is looking to double its budget to meet regulations set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio laws regarding the amount of pollution deposited into the Plum Creek watershed.

The Ohio EPA requires the city to obtain a permit under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and to create a program to seek out and eliminate — to the maximum extent practical — pollutants carried by storm water runoff.

“We looked back at our permit and what we are doing to manage water quality and what the EPA said we should be doing and we determined that we have to spend an additional $329,000 to be in full compliance,” said city public works director Jeff Baumann.

There are six minimum control measures the city must meet: public education, improved water quality through monitoring and reduction of illicit discharges and pollutants, construction site sediment and erosion control, increased maintenance or repair of the storm water system, development of storm water design standards and regulations, and field inspections and enforcement.

For example, if a resident calls and asks why Plum Creek looks green in their backyard, the city must be able to track the source of the discharge and eliminate it, Baumann said.

Efforts have historically been paid for through the income tax capital improvement fund and Oberlin’s general fund budget, which is made up of revenues derived from property and sales taxes collected by the city.

A new budget of $850,000 combines the current and additional required levels of service. It adjusts for uncollected charges, inflation at two and a half percent per year, and the five percent general fund administrative charge.

The suggested fee is $4.25 per month — or $51 per year — starting in 2019, which is expected to generate $257,000 per year.

That won’t cover all the costs. To do so, the rate would need to be $14.02 per month.

That high price tag is nearly five times the utility rate in Elyria and double the rate in Lorain. It’s not a community-sensitive solution, Baumann said, and not one he wanted to present to the public.

Automatic increases have been suggested to keep up with inflation. By 2023, the rate could raise to $6.61 per month — a $79.32 annual charge — with a $400,000 estimated revenue.

Unlike waste water, which is treated before it is released back into the environment, storm water, and anything it picks up — anti-freeze, paint, oil, and cleaning fluids — goes directly into Plum Creek. Storm water comes in large amounts at unpredictable times, so treating it as waste water would be very expensive.

All buildings containing impervious surfaces — a surface that prevents water from being infiltrated — will be obligated to pay the fee.

An ordinance establishing the base rate for the service charge will appear again on council’s May 21 agenda.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.


By Laurie Hamame